Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 27, 2016

Hollywood on the Lusatian Neisse River: Görlitz, Germany/Zgorzelec, Poland

Goerlitz, GermanyDuring a stay in Prague, Czech Republic, we decided to make a day trip to an interesting town partially in Germany, partially in Poland.

This architectural gem is called Görlitz in German and Zgorzelec in Polish. You can see the tourist information site here.

Goerlitz, GermanyIt may be familiar to many who haven’t yet visited because it is a popular place to set Hollywood films. The Grand Budapest Hotel , The Book Thief , and Inglorious Basterds among others, were shot here.

Unlike many German towns that were largely destroyed in World War II, Görlitz – so far to the east – was left untouched, and its impressive examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Historicist and Art Nouveau architecture make it a pleasure to explore.


Look Mom, we’re in Germany AND Poland!

One of the fun aspects of this town for my kids was how it’s divided between Germany and Poland.

They loved standing on the bridge over the Lusatian Neisse River, which serves as the border marking. They had fun putting one arm and leg in one country and one in the other or hopping between the two. Kids will be kids. Still, it is pretty cool to be surrounded by German or Polish on opposite sides of the river.

The town is made for wandering, and all the picturesque corners, squares and cobblestoned streets add to its charm.

Goerlitz, GermanyAnd its clear that Görlitz takes great care to renovate its impressive architecture, lots of work was taking place during our visit. The photogenic Town Hall clock dates back to 1584.

I tend to avoid Tarantino films, but I did see both The Book Thief and The Grand Budapest Hotel – the latter I especially loved.

I had to stop by the beautiful art nouveau department store on Demianiplatz, which serves as the Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional Mitteleuropa town of Nebelsbad in the equally fictional Republic of Zubrowka.

Goerlitz, Germany

The Grand Budapest Hotel – minus the quirky guests and staff

Sadly, it’s closed for renovations, but we could still peek in to see the impressive, soaring Atrium that was so familiar from the film.

Did I mention enough how much I loved the film? : )

I highly recommend a visit to this pretty German and Polish town when you’re in the area.

We’ll definitely be back to explore the surrounding area some more.

Goerlitz, Germany, from Polish sideGrand Budapest Hotel

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 23, 2016

I completed my Goodreads Challenge 2016

Goodreads Challenge 20162016 is not yet over, but a recent burst of enthusiastic summer reading means I’ve wrapped up my Goodreads Reading challenge early.

Even if it’s only for fun, always nice to get things in before deadlines.

I know some people criticize the Reading challenge, calling it a useless check-list, but I enjoy participating each year.

I’ve always been a bit of a list-keeper when it comes to books I’ve read, so I love having my lists available electronically. I often find my next reads on the site and by seeing what friends are reading, and, bookworm/nerd that I am, I get a kick out of seeing how many pages of novels I’ve read each year.

Strangely, I never have that same desire to quantify corporate reports or technical documents I read for work each year, so I do maintain good priorities…

I still have plenty of novels to read before the end of the year, but nice to pat myself on the back for reaching this (enjoyable) goal for 2016.

Happy reading to all!

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 20, 2016

Why I love New York in August

New YorkWhen people ask me what my summer holiday plans are on the years I return home, they tend to look at me oddly.

“New York in August? Why? Isn’t it miserably hot?”

My family and I try to get back every couple of years for a long holiday in NY, and this is our favorite time to visit. Yes, it can be hot, but certainly no worse than August in our own home city – Rome. And it’s easy to pop into a museum or a bookstore during the hottest hours of the day, or even to cool off in one of the city’s numerous free pools.

And New York is beautiful in the summertime. There’s so much going on, people are in a  good mood and there are tons of activities for adults and kids alike. Here are some of my favorites:

New YorkFree films in Central Park

This is always one of our favorites. In NY in summer, there are always plenty of locations for outdoor movies, but our favorite is the week dedicated to movies about New York each year during the third week of August. Nothing like bringing your beach towels, packing a picnic lunch and watching a movie along with thousands of your ‘closest friends’ on the lawn of Central Park’s Sheep Meadows. Not to be missed when you’re in NY in August…

New YorkRooftop installations at the Met

I’m  a member at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) and it’s always one of my favorite places to hide out for an hour or two if it’s a really hot day. There are plenty of interesting tours or talks you can join each day, included in the price of your tickets, and I always love to choose an exhibition or a wing to explore. But the summertime is also special because there is always a rooftop installation on the Met’s impressive terrace with its views over Central Park. This year was the Psycho house, looking strangely cheerful framed by the green trees of Central Park – though I imagine it would be rather spooky in the dark. My kids’ all-time favorite was ‘The Big Bamboo’ a few years ago: a structure made of bamboo that grew each week, until October when the whole structure was destroyed and recycled. Don’t miss the Met’s rooftop in summertime.

Lasker Pool, New YorkCool off in the free, outdoor pools

I’ve already written about the fabulous Lasker pool in Central Park, at the northern end of the park, near the Harlem Meer. You can see my earlier post about it. Bust Lasker pool is hardly the only one. The city is full of pools that are free, and a great place to cool off on hot days. My son was running at the track at Thomas Jefferson Park, up in lower Spanish Harlem, and he loved to cool off in the big and inviting Thomas Jefferson pool after his track practice. Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park offers another. Enjoy a dip in cool waters on your next August visit to New York.

New YorkJogging in Central Park

Ooh, this is one of my favorite reasons for New York. Obviously, when I am there, I am not living as a real New Yorker, but as a tourist. That means, at rush hour, when New Yorkers are killing each other to get to work, I have the rare luxury of taking my time starting my day. If you’re feeling envious as you read this, rest assured that when I’m back in Rome I join the pack of disgruntled zombies making my way to work in the early morning hours. But in New York I have time for a leisurely morning jog in central Park, jogging from home through the hills that cut through the North Woods and on to the Reservoir, where I loop around and enjoy the skyline views as the morning sun glints off the Chrysler Building. This is definitely one of the things I miss most when I’m back home. * Sigh*

New YorkSports events for kids

This was a great find for us this summer. City Parks runs lots of programs for kids to practice sports over the summer. Both my sons joined the tennis program – taking lessons in Central Park’s tennis center as well as that of Riverside Park. My youngest son also added track and field, working out at Thomas Jefferson Park. They met a great group of kids, enjoyed learning from talented coaches and learned a lot during their time working out in the hot August sun. My youngest son had the chance to compete for Manhattan in the impressive Icahn Stadium – where he was pleased to win both his races: the 100m and 400 m. Both boys also had the chance to take part in a tennis tournament at Flushing Meadows just days before the US Open. How often does a little boy get to have a photos like this, with the symbol of the US Open behind him as he plays? : )

We’ll definitely be back to spend more time in New York in August, one of our favorite times in the city, and will certainly never suffer for want of things to do! Enjoy the Big Apple in the summertime.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 16, 2016

Back to school … err.. writing!

Back to school‘Tis that time of year. New notebooks and pencils, giving up the freedom of long summer days of unscheduled time and getting that derriere back in the chair to concentrate on putting pen to paper and working once again.

Sounds like back to school season, doesn’t it? And, not so strangely, it’s also back-to-writing season for some of us who were – ahem – less productive writing over our relaxing summers.

As I watch my own kids settle back into their back-to-school rhythms, it gives me that push to complete my own ‘homework’ in the evenings after I return from work.

And you, writers? Does the fall back-to-school season help you kick start your writing, too?

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 13, 2016

Etruscan Tuscany in Chiusi

Chiusi, Tuscany, ItalyOn a trip to Tuscany this past summer, I decided to make a stop in a city I’ve always seen from the highway but have never managed to visit.

The area is known for its Etruscan civilization. The ancient city of Clusium, or Clevsim in Etruscan, was one of the most powerful cities in the Etruscan League before it was conquered by Rome in the 3rd century BC.

Chiusi, Tuscany, ItalyToday, Chiusi boasts a small, but impressive, Etruscan Museum. I happened to be visiting the first Sunday of the month, so I was even lucky enough to be able to visit this impressive museum for free.

Chiusi’s National Etruscan Museum dates back to 1871, and it has an impressive display of artifacts.

Chiusi, Tuscany, ItalyAlthough I’ve visited the wonderful Etruscan museums of Villa Giulia in Rome and the Tarquinia museum, it was the first time I saw such a  wide selection of the ‘canopic urns’ typical of the region – and there are many in excellent condition on display.

In Chiusi and the surrounding areas, the Etruscans cremated their dead and would place the ashes in urns. The urns would be closed with a  lid in the form of the head of the deceased, to which wigs, jewels and even helmets for soldiers would have been added.

Chiusi, Tuscany, ItalyThere are impressive tomb displays and the excellent explanations – in Italian and English – provide fascinating information about ancient Etruscan life. Well worth a visit when you are travelling through the region.

Also worth seeing in Chiusi is the Romanesque cathedral of San Secondiano, built in 560 AD and renovated in the 13th century. When we were there, there was a music festival taking place in its airy entry piazza.

For more travel tips around Tuscany, see my earlier posts on the imposing castle of Radicofani, visiting medieval Sarteano, views from the top of the volcano-mountain Monte Amiata, relaxing in the thermal baths of San Filippo ai bagni, the medieval fortress of Abbadia di San Salvatore and its medieval festival, and exploring Napoleon’s Empire: the island of Elba.

Chiusi, Tuscany, ItalyChiusi, Tuscany, Italy

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 9, 2016

Book Review: Fall of Poppies

Fall of Poppies coverThis series of short stories set during World War I, Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War was bound to be right up my alley.

I love short stories and I love historical fiction, and I have a particular weakness for stories set during this time period, an era of marked upheaval as many of the scientific and technological advances that were seen to be improving society were unleashed on the battlefield.

The stories contained in this novel also include works by Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig, whose historical fiction I enjoy so much.

But perhaps the nicest thing about this short story collection is that I got to discover new authors of historical fiction.

ll stories are connected to Armistice Day, and precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (November) that marks the cessation of the fighting. The collection worked well with this common thread. Some of my favorites included:

Hazel Gaynor’s Hush, which focuses on the harrowing first minutes of life of a newborn struggling to live. As the midwife desperately attempts to save the baby only minutes from the end of the Great War, she reflects on the deaths and tragedies experienced by the village – and within her own family – during the course of the war.

In Jennifer Robson’s moving All for the Love of You, Daisy, a young American living in Paris, makes a disturbing discovery following her father’s death regarding a hopeful suitor for her hand her father had turned away without her knowledge. She reflects on the war years when she met the besotted young man, and many like him, back when she worked in a studio creating face masks to cover the burns and severe scarring these returning soldiers suffered in the war.

Lauren Willig’s The Record Set Right shifts between Kenya and England in 1980 and an episode in 1918, a spark of youthful pride that causes a rupture that unfolds over decades and forces an attempt at reconciliation as death grows near.

An enjoyable short story collection told mostly (though not exclusively) through the eyes of female protagonists, all by women authors.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 6, 2016

Tennis & more in Abruzzo’s Campo di Giove

Campo di Giove, Abruzzo, ItalyMy oldest son went to tennis camp in Campo di Giove during the summer, and he loved playing tennis in the cooler mountain air and enjoying walks around the little town of Campo di Giove.

Campo di Giove is a small mountain town in the Abruzzo region, with just over 800 inhabitants. It is situated in the Majella National Park, and is  a great location for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Campo di Giove, Abruzzo, ItalyThe town dates back to Medieval times, but it was largely destroyed in the Earthquake of Majella and l’Aquila of 1706. It has a pleasant main square and gathering place, with a fountain and historic buildings, and it is very pretty surrounded by the Apennine mountains all around it.

The July weekend we were there – unusually for Abruzzo in summertime – there was fresh snowfall on the neighboring mountaintops.

Campo di Giove, Abruzzo, ItalyThere are also good sports facilities, with a soccer pitch and several clay tennis courts. My son loved his time here and can’t wait to get back next summer.

If you’re passing through the region, it’s a great place to stop off and enjoy all the Majella National Park has to offer.

For more ideas of what to see in Abruzzo, see my earlier posts on visiting Ovid’s Sulmona,  medieval Pescostanzo, the impressive castle at Pacentro, mountain biking in the region, summertime in mountaintop Ovindoli or winter in Ovindoli .

Campo di Giove, Abruzzo, Italy

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | September 2, 2016

The origins of greatness

Howard's End“Everything important always begins from something trivial.”

– Donald Hall

A great quote from the American poet Donald Hall.

As any student of history knows, many of the greatest wars and tragedies in history were sparked by events that, with the benefit of hindsight, appear trivial and easy to avoid.

Likewise for authors.

Howard’s End opens with an umbrella accidentally picked up at a London concert hall. In Pride and Prejudice, a new neighbor worth 10,000 pounds a year has arrived in the neighborhood.

These trivial incidents provide the perfect opening to the drama that is about to unfold in these classic novels.

What do you think, readers and writers? Do trivial incidents sometimes spark your story ideas? Do you have a favorite novel in which a seemingly trivial incident sets off the whole story?

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | August 30, 2016

Swimming in the Badesee in Bad Gastein, Austria

Badesee, Bad Gastein, AustriaI’ve already spoken about how much I love it in the Gasteiner Valley of Austria’s Salzburg region.

I stayed her many years ago as a child and then visited recently with my own family and fell in love with it all over again.

It’s a great place to go for outdoor activities in the fresh, clean mountain air.

Badesee, Bad Gastein, AustriaWhen you want to take a break from all the hiking and bike riding in the region, you might enjoy stopping by to take a swim at the Badesee, just along the road cutting through the valley or easily reached by the excellent bike path.

The water is freezing, err, invigorating, and it’s a nice way to pass the time in this beautiful Austrian valley the next time you’re in the region.

Happy swimming!

For more tips in the region, see my earlier posts on hiking the Stubnerkogel, hiking the Graukogel and visiting nearby Hallstatt.

Badesee, Bad Gastein, Austria

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | August 26, 2016

Are all writers hopeless liars?

2016_August_liars“Is the artist a liar, or simply one for whom even a fact is not a fact? ”

-Ned Rorem

I love this quote by American composer Ned Rorem in The Paris Review.

What do you think, writers? Are we merely liars when we make up an entire world and populate it with invented characters story after story?

Or do we simply play hard and loose with facts? Do we eavesdrop on stories and use that as a kernel for a story, and then re-imagine it in our minds?

Perhaps the artist and Pinocchio have  quite a bit in common…

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