Portuguese Signs: A Surefire Cure for Xenoglossophobia?

My biggest trepidation about moving to Portugal was my acute case of xenoglossophobia. I’m not making that word up. Xenoglossophobia is the apprehension one experiences in learning or using a second or foreign language.

I wonder if there’s a word for the fear of finding out whether there’s a word for the fear of learning a second language. If so, I don’t have that at least.

The bad news is that my xenoglossophobia is justified. I’m puttering along with learning Portuguese, but I don’t feel as if I’m any closer to carrying on a real conversation in Portuguese with anyone over the age of one (except my ever-patient tutor) than I was three years ago. The good news is that living in a foreign country provides ample opportunity to make fun of some of the signs they have, which helps alleviate a bit of the tension caused by having too much xenoglossophobia.

For instance, I got a kick out of this sign for a sushi restaurant. You can’t tell me you read the “sushitall” and not see shit. Well, I mean, if your eyes are closed they can’t see shit, but when you open them, you certainly can. The graphic artist even kindly highlighted the word with the bigger T in the logo to make it easier to understand that their fish might be “O melhor Sushi de Portugal” (the best sushi in Portugal), but it’s shit-all as well. But hey, shit has about a thousand meanings, so maybe they mean it as a good thing. Sheeeeeit.

In keeping with the bodily function theme, I cracked up when I approached this billboard the other day. I can say with some confidence that there would never be a billboard like it anywhere in the entire United States: America is a little too Victorian for such blunt visuals. The headline translates to: “Do not pour the dressings (i.e. ‘sanitary napkins’) down the drain.” I guess you’re not a superamigo if you do that. On the other hand, that may actually be a sanitary napkin for an elephant, that thing is huuuge! I’m just glad –especially if it is for an elephant– that they didn’t show a used one. Hey, don’t blame me for that comment, they started it!

Also, shouldn’t it be “Superamiga?”

So how much fish do the Portuguese eat when they can offer up an entire coliseum full of fish (“peixe” means “fish”)? It’s notable that they offer “free deliveries to your home,” which makes sense since I imagine that a coliseum full of fish smells pretty, um, pungent. However, it must be a great place to find cats.

Rei dos frangos translates to: “king of chickens.” Somehow being a chicken king strikes me as humorous. If you’re the king of the chickens, does that mean you’re the most afraid of everything? It’s kind of like being the head scaredy-cat, or the Lord Dodo Bird.

I have to give the Portuguese a lot of credit. They’re so polite and considerate that they created a whole little house (that’s what “casinha” means) you can go into just to fart! Unfortunately, it was closed when I walked by and so I had to pass gas in the American way: go stand by a couple, let ‘er rip, and then take off so each of them thinks it was the other one who did it.

Well, since we’ve pretty much reached rock bottom already, we might as continue the theme with this sign at a Taco Bell in a mall food court. I had two issues with it. The first is, no matter how shapely and attractive that woman’s behind is, I really don’t want any butt at eye level when I’m filling up a soda. It’s kinda hard to tell in that picture, but it’s right there: there’s only one thing you see when you’re filling your cup with soda: her butt. The second is their combined Portuguese/English headline: “Free Refill Gratis.” “Gratis” means “free,” so when you combine that with the English “free refill,” you have “Free Refill Free.” Yup. As opposed to charging for the free refill?

I just had to add this because during these Covid-affected months we deserve a little Covid humor. Of course, I do have to wonder what she’s charging. If he’s cute and speaks English, we might buy him just to be our live-in translator. One other thing: this was in Portugal… why is the sign in English? Maybe he’s in premium condition and just a little too expensive for the average Portuguese? On the other hand, it could be the desperate cry of a lonely American wife who moved to Portugal with her husband, and now finds herself stuck in a small apartment with a guy who farturas too often. Carolyn… don’t get any ideas!

If you look at the picture and read the dictate that women should “use mascara,” I couldn’t help but picture it as a Soviet admonishment to its women: “You’re not attractive enough to populate our glorious motherland without mascara! Wine just won’t be enough!”

Actually, “máscara” translates to “mask,” but that makes me even more confused. Why do they have a billboard imploring people to wear masks and then show two people in a restaurant who clearly aren’t? And why does the guy have a phone earpiece in his ear? Is he an undercover máscara cop who is going to call in the swat team as soon as she accepts the wine? I also wonder why they seated two single strangers in such a way that they’ll have to look at each other as they drink their wine and eat their meals, especially when the guy is already staring her a little creepily. My Soviet version is a little more understandable than all that!

Okay, I’m sure a native Portuguese can explain this to me, but “Costas de” means “the back of,” and “cão” means “dog.” So this literally translates to: “dog back.” Now, this isn’t China so I don’t think there’s a big warehouse filled with the backs of dogs down that road, but I also worried that it might be a way they say “beware of dog” here. I gotta say, if your dog’s viciousness qualifies it for a warning from a permanent road sign, it’s a place I’d just as soon steer clear of thank you very much. I also wonder if they tried to dog-proof the hydrant as a result of its proximity to a bunch of dog backs, but I’m pretty sure any self-respecting dog will figure out how to get to it.

I created a lot of angst and confusion among the employees when I went to this restaurant and asked them which species of monkey they used in their hot dogs. I just wanted to make sure they didn’t make the common mistake of confusing monkeys with apes, such as chimps and gorillas. I mean, I could probably eat monkey meat, they’re just another animal, but chimps share about 99% of our DNA, and I ain’t no cannibal, y’know? In the end, we decided this was just false advertising. The hot dogs were clearly made from cat meat.

I am still confused, however, as to why a restaurant in Portugal would use “monkey” instead of “macaco,” and “Hot Dogs and Friends” instead of “Cachorros-quentes e amigos,” but I guess monkey see, monkey do. There was, by the way, no other monkey theme we could detect in the restaurant. And I thought maybe we’d get to throw feces at each other or something.

While the “retard” portion of this condom packaging is amusing enough, I can’t help but wonder if the same individual who might have been the reason for the use of that word also happened to be the one that came up with the slogan: “Feel make Feel.” Ah, well. We’ll also leave it up to our imaginations to consider how interesting it would be to hear a woman asking her prospective sexual partner if he brought along a retard.

This particular sign wasn’t in Portugal, but it just goes to show how pervasive the English language is, from superamigos to monkeys to free free drinks to boobs, if it’s in English, it apparently carries a little extra gravitas… depending on the cup size I suppose.

I meant about the drinks. Oh behave!

As long as we’re swimming around in a pool of potty humor, we might as well show you some of the cute ways they direct people to public toilets in Europe. From displaying the actual biological differences between the sexes, to the use of humor, to very understandable graphics that say it all in one glance, they certainly aren’t bashful about the reality of bodily functions here.

But then again, I’ve always been a bit of a rebel myself.

Of course, even in America they don’t always understand how to make a sign in English.

By the way, if you look at the word “sign” long enough, and start pronouncing it “sigg’n,” you’ll go mad.

Signs

And the sign said
“Long-haired freaky people
Need not apply”
So I tucked my hair up under my hat
And I went in to ask him why
He said, “You look like a fine upstandin’ young man
I think you’ll do”
So I took off my hat and said, “Imagine that
Huh, me workin’ for you”
Whoa! Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

And the sign said
“Anybody caught trespassin’
Will be shot on sight”
So I jumped on the fence and I yelled at the house
“Hey! What gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out
But to keep Mother Nature in?
If God was here, he’d tell you to your face
‘Man, you’re some kind of sinner!'”

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read?
You got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can’t even watch, no, you can’t eat
You ain’t supposed to be here

The sign said, “You’ve got to have a membership card
To get inside”
Uh

And the sign said,
“Everybody welcome
Come in, kneel down and pray”
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn’t have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper
And I made up my own little sign
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me
I’m alive and doin’ fine”
Woo!

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
!

— Five Man Electrical Band

A Stone Age Circus in Portugal

Ever since Mr. Coronavirus waved his disease-ridden middle finger at the entire world, I’ve had to make up for the loss of exercise from our community pool (which might look like a large pond of green Jello by now if they haven’t been chlorinating it) by taking more walks than I ever have.

According to the Health app on my iPhone, I walked an average of 3.1 miles (about 5 kilometers) a day in October, which is just short of 100 miles (about 16,093,400 millimeters). See, the metric system is so awesome because it makes it so easy to convert measurements. Look Ma, I walked over 160 million micrometers last month!

Anyway, as a result of all that walking, Carolyn tells me I could probably hammer a nail with my butt. So I tried it. Unfortunately, I had the nail turned the wrong way. (It is quite difficult to see back there!)

One of the two benefits of that misguided attempt includes the expression of the emergency room doctor. After he asked why I was there, I told him it was because I had been nailed in the butt.

The other is that I can revel in even more priceless expressions when I tell people that I now have two butt holes.

Sometimes you’ve gotta sacrifice your body for your art.

So what does A Stone Age Circus in Portugal mean, you might ask, as you carefully steer the topic away from my bottom?

Cue the projector!

When I saw all of the huge rocks they dredged up, I gained additional appreciation as to why I find it so hard to grow new plants in our soil. It’s hard to grow stuff when there’s likely a boulder just a couple of inches (50,800 micrometers) down!
It looks like they’re adding a pool, which also serves to provide them with an ever-increasing supply of boulders…
… which they cleverly use to build quite a massively thick wall. The Portuguese are very good at making do with the materials at hand, and there’s no better example than this Great Wall of Sesimbra!

Okay, now cue the circus music: Da da daddla da da dah dah dah!

Later on during my walk I noticed this long rope stretched across a chasm. I was puzzled by it. Were they starting a bridge? Were they roping off some accident? Did too many planes fly that low? Did someone lose a roll of toilet paper in the wind?
So I walked closer to investigate, and lo and behold, it turned out it was either some daredevil escapade or this is where they practice for the circus. A lone man had inched his way along the rope, and was now dangling over a drop to certain death.
Here he is dangling upside down, after trying to walk it, getting about two wobbly steps in, and then plunging downward only to be saved by his safety straps. Boy howdy, what some people do for fun!
You have to admit, they picked a pretty area; I never tire of the scenery as I take my walks. I just didn’t know I’d be treated to a circus preview while doing it!

I posted a couple of videos of the guy crossing the chasm here on Facebook.

Follow up Q &A:

Q: Did you really try and drive a nail with your butt?

A: No.

I asked for any conservative to tell me why they believe they way they do. I received a response that left me speechless.

Okay, that headline was a joke. At least in terms of writing, I doubt I’m someone who will ever be called “speechless,” as the following will attest.

But since Covid has robbed my wife and I of the ability to wander around Europe for a while, I’ve not had much to contribute to the ol’ Bald Sasquatch. We find ourselves simply puttering around the house, getting her healed from knee replacement surgery, and keeping up on the news. Oh, and still trying to learn Portuguese, although that has slowed down quite a bit due to that damned Covid.

As to the news, the political meltdown in the US of course dominates much of the world’s headlines. After finding my ever-increasing liberal viewpoints burnished by residing in Europe, I’ve had an equally ever-increasing curiosity at to just how American conservatives –especially the religious ones– view liberal ideas, especially given how much better Europe works than the US in terms of creating a happy, healthy, and safe populace.

Well, I got a reply I could sink my teeth into. While I hate lumping large groups of people into one belief set, over the years I have found very strong consistency of thought amidst American conservatives. I find it to be very rare that I can mention any one of the many basic conservative tenets and find a conservative who doesn’t agree with it. So, while acknowledging the following commentary can’t possibly represent every individual conservative’s mindset, I post it in order to help any other liberals who have been, like me, confused as to why they think the way they do.

I have added my responses in red to the original post, but I also added the original post in its entirety without my comments at the bottom if you’d prefer to read it and make up your own mind as to what was said.

I should add that I do not know the writer; it was forwarded to me by a religiously conservative person who used it as a response to my questions. I will admit that since I do respect and love said person, I found myself extremely saddened by the amount of vitriol and propaganda-acceptance found in the following diatribe. Ultimately, that’s why I decided to share, because we need to understand both sides first before there can be any healing… and there needs to be healing in the US. Divisiveness gets us nowhere. Besides, I do believe in this quote:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Anyway, it helped me to understand more, so I thought I’d share. I know it’s a lot of reading, and I promise, once we’re able to travel again, this will return as mostly a travelogue blog.

Here’s the diatribe with my responses:

Dear Liberal or never-Trumper:

If you are a Liberal or a never-Trumper who can’t stand Trump, and cannot possibly fathom why conservatives would ever vote for him, let me finally fill you in.

It’s not that we love Donald Trump so much. It’s that we can’t stand you. And we will do whatever it takes — even if that means electing a rude obnoxious unpredictable narcissist (your words not ours) to the office of President of the United States — because the only thing we find more dangerous to this nation than Donald Trump is you.

Right off the bat is a load of hooey. Liberals didn’t put Trump on the Republican ticket, Republicans did. You had a whole load of conservatives standing on that platform, and you chose the most amoral, uninformed, bigoted, sociopathic, inexperienced guy up there. One who sold you a bill of goods that he was some sort of great businessman, when there is a ton of information out there indicating otherwise, information you ignore because you made your bed out of old stinky sheets and now want to blame someone else for making your bed with them.

How is that possible you might ask? Well, you have done everything in your power to destroy our country.

•From tearing down the police, to tearing down our history, to tearing down our borders.

That’s quite a broad generalization, but here’s what you’re missing. People are upset at the continued abuse police around the country heap on people of color. Liberals tend to be empathetic toward all people, so, for example, even though I’m white, I cringe when I hear the thousands of stories of black people and how they feel when they get stopped even for a traffic violation in the United States. Some of the defunding-police stuff might be extreme, but what has the right done to corral the worst actors in the police force? They defend them, generally. So who is defending the black people? The only answer conservatives seem to give is “obey the law and everything will be fine.” Maybe fine for you, but not for a whole lot of people out there you apparently have no empathy for.

As for tearing down history, you might be well served to learn the actual history of the United States. It is one of genocide; it is estimated that as many as 95,000,000 to 114,000,000 Native Americans were killed as the US took over the land from them. It is one of misreported history; we are only just now learning how horrific Christopher Columbus was, and despite that, we still have a day named after him. I’m guessing the movement to change that day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be met with complete disdain from you, because the history you prefer was written by people like you.

We also of course credit him for “discovering” America, when not only did Leif Erikson beat him to it, but more importantly, millions of native Americans were already living there. So if you want to complain about “tearing down history,” you might be more accurate and call it “revisiting the history written by white men.”

And of course, the Constitution itself codified slavery. And then once slavery was over it dealt with the “negro problem” by assigning them 3/5ths of the value of a white man. The history of the Civil War has been consistently rewritten and downplayed by white men as something other than a fight over slavery. So yeah, it needs some revisiting, even if just by point of emphasis.

There is nothing wrong with learning true history, even if it’s ugly. I am pretty sure there’s not a German alive who hasn’t been thoroughly schooled in how incredibly awful their country was under Nazism. They do that to help prevent it from happening again, and because it’s important to learn the truth. If your definition of “tearing down history” really means “keep the real truth away from the people,” then you’re damn right we want to tear it down.

As to tearing down borders, it’s all about making immigration reasonable and fair, and understanding that many families are willing to risk life and limb to get away from a horrendous situation in many of those countries. When immigration processes take up to 20 years, you’re not giving a lot of people much in the way of alternatives. If sympathy for the poor and downtrodden is a crime of the liberals, then I’m sure most of them would gladly cry “guilty!” Yes, I’ve heard some Democrats talk about completely open borders, but I doubt that’s the sentiment of most liberals, as opposed to figuring out a way to make it fair.

•From systematically destroying our schools and brainwashing our kids into believing socialism is the answer to anything (despite being a failure everywhere), while demonizing religion and faith, and glorifying abortion, violence, and thug culture.

I guess I’d need to know better what you’re talking about in “destroying our schools.” Generally, liberals want education to be more accessible to everyone. It’s the conservatives that set it up so that our best and brightest end up starting life significantly in debt, while almost every other advanced country actually encourages higher education. Why are you blaming liberals for that? Making college excessively expensive was entirely a Republican action. Restricting funding for education in favor of a monstrously oversized military is another Republican action. And yet you want to blame it on Democrats? In fact, why don’t you look at the state of education levels in red states vs. blue states. I think that says it all.

As to Socialism being a failure everywhere, that’s another propaganda line many if not most conservatives swallow hook, line, and sinker. Despotic regimes on both the right and the left fail to make life better for their people. You can call those systems whatever you want, but they don’t define the centrist ideologies of European Socialism. In fact, Europe sits firmly to the left of the US and trounces it in every Quality of Life metric you can think of, from crime to health to education to, well, pretty much everything, including freedom. Do your research before you call Socialism a failure everywhere.

As to demonizing religion and faith, most liberals only chafe when any group insists that everyone believe that they do, where all other beliefs are ostracized, marginalized, or condemned. We get it that you think you believe in The One True Religion. So does everyone else who believes in their religion. What you don’t get is that any fair and reasonable society needs to respect all other beliefs, especially religious ones. It isn’t so much that liberals don’t respect Christianity, we just generally don’t respect the lack of respect that so many Christians give any other belief system.

Additionally, I, for one, am extremely tired of the persecution complex expressed by so many Christians who neglect to remember that they’ve already won so much systematic installation of religious belief in American institutions. “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, not when it was written. “In God we Trust” was added to money in 1956. These are not foundational beliefs from the start of the nation, in fact the founders did everything they could to prevent exactly that kind of thing from happening. Liberals prefer to be inclusive and sensitive to people of all beliefs, so forcing atheists, for example, to labor under the yoke of “You better believe in God, or you’re not a true American,” is simply not what America was founded upon. To put it another way, would you want to handle money that glorified Muhammad? Since I’m sure you wouldn’t, why do you think it’s okay for a country to make every citizen do that with your God?

I know of no liberal who glorifies abortion, violence, or thug culture. Liberals simply say, “I may or may not ever get an abortion myself, but I’m going to trust the mother to make up her own mind, and not force my beliefs on her.” And it’s not the liberals who have armed themselves to the teeth. In fact, it’s conservatives who spread the lie that Obama was buying up or confiscating all the ammunition, when it fact it was due to the increased purchases by conservatives who were terrified he was going to take away his guns, one of the many lies that never dissipates even though it never happens. 

•From calling us racists every time we expect everyone of any skin color to follow our laws equally, to telling us that our “tolerance” of lifestyles we don’t agree with isn’t nearly enough — ironically all while lecturing us on hate speech.

If you’re white and well off, everything’s grand in the US. We can understand why you don’t want things to change. You’re at the top of the food chain! You have your health insurance, and you don’t fear for your life when you get stopped for a speeding ticket, and you’re not looked at with suspicion every time you walk into a store.

Let me ask you this, what has right-leaning America done to help right the wrongs of the past? What has it done to help black people rise up from poverty? Under right wing oriented leadership (even under Obama the US still leaned more right than most advanced democratic countries), blacks still only own TEN PERCENT of what whites do. After all these years of leaning right, how is this acceptable? How can that be called a fair system? Again, if you look past white-washed history, you can see how the country systematically kept its foot on the neck of people of color and the already downtrodden, and it’s something that continues to this day.

While you gaslight us about 52 genders, polyamory, grown men in dresses sharing public locker rooms with little girls, and normalize the sexualization of young children, you simultaneously ridicule us for having the audacity to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” or hang a flag on the 4th of July, stand for the national anthem, or don a MAGA hat in public.

It’s so funny… in Europe there is generally tolerance for all sorts of sexual orientations. What has happened as a result? Nothing. No one’s afraid of grown men in dresses molesting little girls in locker rooms. No one’s afraid of their heterosexual kid deciding to be homosexual because he saw something like it on TV. If you’re going to have a fear, make it based on something real. And no one I know hates “Merry Christmas.” What they do hate is the idea that you have to accept it even if you’re a Jew, or a Muslim, or an Atheist, or whatever. Liberals prefer tolerance and acceptance. They don’t much like a lack of tolerance or acceptance, and so you get an earful when you insist that everyone behave and believe like you.

By the way, your mocking of “52 genders” etc. demonstrates a decided lack of knowledge about the science of human sexuality. Do a little research. You might discover that biology plays a huge role in how people behave sexually. Ignorance breeds intolerance and bigotry. Yours is on full display with that paragraph.

So much for your “tolerance.”

Liberals are all for tolerance, but they’re not so tolerant of intolerance or bigotry. I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t either: 1 John 2:11. “But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

We’re also not interested in the fact that you think you can unilaterally decide that 250 years of the right-to-bear-arms against a tyrannical or ineffective government should be abolished because you can’t get the violence in the cities you manage under control.

Another oversimplification of an issue that has been highjacked by conservative fear-mongering. Most liberals just want some sanity in gun laws. The second amendment is easily interpreted as “guns for militias.” (Although I don’t know why it needs an interpretation, it actually uses the word “militias.” Do you belong to a militia?) It doesn’t say that everyone should be able to run out and buy a gun, especially the types of mass-killing guns that people 250 years ago couldn’t even conceive of.

That free-speech should be tossed out the window, and that those who disagree with your opinions are fair game for public harassment.

This has gone on from both sides, you certainly can’t only call out liberals for harassment. And it has nothing to do with disagreeing with opinions, it has everything to do with refusing to dialog to find some sort of acceptable compromise. The far right has been just as entrenched and unforgiving as the far left, but if you want to paint everyone with the same brush by starting with the extremists, you might as well try to ban all Muslims from entering the country. Oh wait, your hero already illegally tried that.

That spoiled children with nose-rings and tats who still live off their parent’s dime should be allowed to destroy cities and peoples livelihoods without repercussions.

Talk about being judgmental! What business is it of yours if someone has nose rings and tats? Truth be told, the most awful, entitled, and spoiled children are those who were born into wealth. The US tried to do something about it by passing laws to make it more difficult for families to inherit wealth, which allowed them to just grow wealthier and wealthier simply by having wealth in the first place (by far the easiest and most common way to be wealthy in the US). But the Republicans erased that, paving the way for the greatest wealth disparity in history. Again, if you learn actual world history, you’ll find that’s always a recipe for disaster, but that history is ignored by conservatives because “this week we get to stay rich.”

That chaos, and lawlessness, and disrespect for authority should be the norm.

Again, I don’t know any mainstream liberal who believes that. What they do see, however, is that blacks in particular are finally fed up, especially with a white supremacist like Trump leading the way. What has been done to help the blacks? The war on drugs? The thing Nixon started precisely to keep blacks on the bottom of the economic heap? It worked: blacks make up 13% of America’s population, but account for 40% of the prison population. If you’re going to have any answer to that other than the country’s policies keeping them on the bottom, that answer will have to be racist. So while no one enjoys seeing rioting and civil unrest, I ask you, what has the country done to help blacks climb the same ladder of prosperity that whites are accorded? In general, most attempts at it are derided by the right, while they offer no solutions otherwise (much like they do with health care). So while there’s not a desire to see unrest, most liberals simply can’t blame them much. Wealth disparity historically has always ended up in violence. You could have stopped it, but you didn’t want to learn your history. Riots are the language of the unheard. You could stopped and listened, but instead you bemoan lawlessness in a land of laws that has systematically kept the blacks on the bottom rungs.

Also, if you did take the time to learn the real history of the United States, you’d find a history replete with riots, protects, and violence against the status quo, which has always been about rich white men getting richer at the expense of everyone below them.

This is your agenda. And you wonder why we find you more dangerous than Donald Trump?

We don’t wonder, we know why. You want to protect what you already have, regardless of all the people who will never get a chance to have the same. So you call us dangerous and unhinged while supporting a President who is clearly the most dangerous and unhinged President in American history. And then blame his election on liberals. Wow. And I have to say again, you think liberalism is all so dangerous, but Europe is replete with liberalism and as a result is kicking America’s ass. Why are you so afraid of a better life?

Your narrative is a constant drone of oppressor/oppressed race-baiting intended to divide the country in as many ways as you possibly can. You love to sell “victim-hood” to people of color because it’s such an easy sell compared to actually teaching people to stand on their own two feet and take personal responsibility for their own lives and their own communities and their own futures.

But you won’t do that, you will never do that, because then you will lose control over people of color. They might actually start thinking for themselves, God forbid!

Man, it’s hard to know where to start with such a racist rant. To think that blacks owning only 10% of what whites own has anything to do with liberal sympathies is the very definition of gaslighting. The truth is that it has everything to do with a very white, male-dominated country doing everything in its power to keep it that way. Ironically, thinking for themselves is exactly what liberalism is all about. Part of the reason Democrats are so scattered and less unified than the right is because they actually believe everyone should think for themselves. I’ve met very few conservatives who don’t walk the party line, issue by issue. If you call yourself a religious conservative, I can tell you point by point what you believe. That’s a lot harder to do with liberals.

This is why we will vote for Donald Trump.

•Not because he is the most charming character on the block.

•Not because he is the most polite politician to have ever graced the oval office.

•Not because he is the most palatable choice, or because we love his moral character or because the man never lies, but because we are sick to death of you and all of the destructive crap you are doing to this once beautiful and relatively safe country.

Again, you nominated him. It’s your hate that got us into this mess. None of these things happened under Obama, or even the Bushes. You nominated and elected the worst possible human being to ever sit in the oval office, and then pretend it’s all the liberal’s fault. Own your own shit.

Your ineffective and completely dysfunctional liberal “leadership” has literally destroyed our most beautiful cities, our public education system, and done it’s damndest to rip faith out of people’s lives.

The states and cities labor under the overarching laws of the Republic. If cities are dysfunctional, it has as much to do with where money is directed and where emphasis is placed. Is it placed on infrastructure, or education, or arts and sciences? No, the emphasis is placed on How To Make More Money, and a gargantuan military. And then you say it’s all the Dems fault when the American system fails American cities.

That said, from a personal perspective, I visited New York City last year, and since I’d visited multiple times in the 70s and 80s when it was an awful pit, the differences I saw were amazing. Crime is way down, Central Park is safe, and the city is working (pre-COVID anyway, COVID has certainly turned a lot of stuff on its ear). And the city has been largely run by Democrats. But more tellingly, if you look on a state by state basis, the red states dominate the BOTTOM rankings for education, crime, health, you name it. If being red is so great, why do all the red states suck?

Also, I’m always bemused by the idea that liberals are trying to rip your faith away. If you’re so certain of your faith, why are you so easily scared that someone is going to take it away? Again, liberalism is all about letting people believe what they want to believe, not forcing anything down anyone’s throats, which is exactly something American evangelicals try to do by infiltrating politics. Which is much of the reason the US is in such political turmoil today.

However bad Donald Trump may be, and he is far from perfect, there is no possible way he could be any worse for our country than you people are.

We are sick to death of your stupid, destructive, ignorant, and intolerant behavior and beliefs — parading as “wokeness.” We are beyond sick of your hypocrisy and B.S.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t shake my head over the hypocrisy of Christians turning their nose up at the homeless, or being satisfied with tens of millions of Americans having no health insurance in a country that routinely charges $300 to $700 for a bag of saline, whereas a bill I received for the same thing, after an uninsured neurosurgery operation performed in a private hospital in the EU, was 95 cents. I’m pretty sure you could put exactly that in the dictionary under “B.S.”

We are fed up with your disrespectful divisiveness and constant unrelenting harping and whining and complaining (while you live in the most privileged nation in the world), while making literally zero contributions of anything positive to our society.

Case in point. It is the ultimate hypocrisy for you to bemoan divisiveness while continuing to support a President who calls anyone who disagrees with him by a childish name, and who routinely and constantly divides and disenfranchises all Democrats. I never would’ve believed that any American, much less 40 some-odd percent of them, would tolerate leadership by divisiveness… and then blame it on liberals. And no, the US is no longer the most privileged nation in the world, unless you’re in the top 10% of the economic scale that is. And only that if you’re at least going to define privileged as the most healthy, educated, happy, safe, and free. That title now goes to the “woke” Europeans. By the way, the whining and harping is incessant from the right. You just don’t think it is because you agree with it.

Your entire focus is on ripping things down, never ever building anything up. Think about that as there is something fundamentally very wrong in the psychology of people who choose destruction as their primary modus operandi.

If Donald J Trump is reelected, don’t blame us, look in the mirror and blame yourselves.

You’re a bit focused on the current rioting, which was never on the mainstream liberal agenda. It has happened, and we’re all sad for it, but until the right begins to listen and show sympathy for the large groups of people it has fought to keep down, it’s hardly unexpected. Additionally, the riots you blame on all liberals made up only about 15% of the BLM protests, and most of those were instigated by extremists on both sides. But that becomes your flash point and ultimate descriptor of all liberalism. Let’s conveniently forget about the 85% that were peaceful.

Because you are the ones that are responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.

You are the ones who have created this monster that you so despise, by your very actions. By your refusal to respect your fellow Americans, and the things that are important to us.

No, I’m pretty sure most liberals are fed up with Republicans doing everything they can to prevent people of color and others from voting. They’re also fed up with undermining previously understood acceptable behavior. Replacing Supreme Court justices only when it suits the party, or a President showing his tax returns and divesting himself of all potential conflicts of interest, or blocking Obama at every turn in a manner that can best be described as treason, are all examples of party before country. Speaking of which, before and when Obama was elected, conservatives went crazy, they said the country was going to be destroyed, he was going to take all your guns, and invite Muslim sympathies into the government, and hell, he wasn’t even born in the US! “Woke” people got sick of all those lies and fear mongering, especially when all Obama did was begin the process of catching the US up to the rest of the world in health care as well as leaving the country economically far better off than when he found it. The only thing Trump has done is make sure the wealthy got even wealthier, and spent the country into a lot of debt doing it. What happened to the fiscal responsibility platform? It gave way to “We get to make the richer rich!” So yeah, we’re pretty sick of all that.

You have made fun of the “fly-over states,” the people who “cling to their guns and religion,” the middle class factory workers and coal miners and underprivileged rural populations that you dismissively call “yahoos” and “deplorables.”

One politician called some people deplorables, and suddenly all Democrats are accused of it. Again, what most liberals are sad about is that the red states suck when it comes to Quality of Life metrics, and most everything else. The blue states are carrying the bulk of the heavy lifting of the US. But facts never seem to matter.

You have mocked our faith and our religion.

No, we chafe at being forced to hear about your religion, or worse, your obvious desire to turn the US into a theocracy. It’s supposed to be a country that provides liberty and freedom for all, including practicing your own religion any way you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But believe me, being a Christian and supporting Trump certainly creates a certain amount of built-in mockery. You really think Jesus would support Trump? Pu-lease.

You have mocked our values and our patriotism.

If anything, that clearly goes both ways. But if patriotism essentially means you cannot kneel in protest, or that businesses can turn away people based on their sexual orientation, or that people of color have to “stay in their place” and not have their issues addressed, then yeah, that patriotism doesn’t sound so cool.

You have trampled our flag and insulted our veterans and treated our first responders with contempt and hatred.

My God, there’s an awful lot of spewed hate here, and nothing in the way of facts. One fact I can provide is your leader mocking an American hero because “He doesn’t like people who get captured” as well as tons of other mockery, including calling soldiers “losers and suckers.” If you would just once call out any one of the thousands of idiotic and hateful things he has said by publicly responding with something like, “Donald, we know you’re trying to work for us, but those people don’t deserve mockery like that,” you’d earn some respect. Instead, your silence and your support paints you with the same hate and contempt that Donald exudes. Of course, John McCain stood up against that and as a result Trump mocked and belittled him even after his death. Don’t complain about insults if you’re going to tolerate your own.

You have made environmentalism your religion, while trashing every city you have taken responsibility for.

I don’t know where you get this stuff, but you might be well served to actually dialog with some mainstream liberals. And I’ve got news for you, the large cities in America ARE the US. If your policies only support the country folk, then yeah, you’re not supporting the entire country.

You scream from the rooftops about “global warming” and a “green new deal” while allowing tens of thousands of homeless people to cover your streets in literal sh*t and garbage and needles and plastic waste without doing a single thing to help them.

Really? That’s all the Dems fault? The completely failed War on Drugs, and excessive investment into the military instead of social programs are nowhere to be found on the blame scale?

By the way, we do have memories. It wasn’t so long ago that everyone on the right was screaming, “There’s no climate change! It’s all a hoax!” Now everyone but the most ignorant diehards accept that there is accelerated climate change, but we now are left arguing as to what to do it about it. But see, you were wrong then, and gradually changed your minds only when it was obvious you were looking foolish. You’d look a lot smarter if you admitted you were wrong at some point instead of just trying to change the narrative.

But we’re supposed to put YOU in charge of the environment while gutting our entire economy to institute this plan when you can’t even clean up a single city??

You complain — endlessly — yet have failed to solve a single social problem anywhere.

I’m curious what social problems you think Republicans have solved.

In fact, all you have done is create more of them.

We’ve had enough. We are tired of quietly sitting by and being the “silent” majority. So don’t be surprised when the day comes when we finally respond. And trust me it’s coming, sooner than you might think.

The US has been to the right of center for just about ever. Many if not most of the problems the US is experiencing has largely been caused by this. And again, it’s funny how Europe has solved a number of these issues with far greater success, all coming from the left of the US. Explain how that can be, please.

If Donald Trump is reelected it will be because you and your “comrades” have chosen to trash the police, harass law-abiding citizens, and go on rampages destroying public property that we have all paid for and you have zero respect for.

No, if Donald Trump is reelected it’s because Republicans nominated him in the first place, and are so brainwashed by right wing ideology that it can’t see that most of the people of the world are incredulously watching a country they used to respect fall apart under the leadership of Trump. Man, if Obama were President today you’d be ripping him a new one for being the man in charge while the country went up in flames. You still blame him with your guy in charge. Amazing.

If Donald Trump is reelected it will be because we are sick of your complete and utter nonsense and destruction.

You’re really focused on this destruction thing. Let’s rewind to before Trump. That stuff wasn’t happening. Trump exacerbated it all by pushing national policies that exacerbate wealth disparity and blaming the left for everything (which you obviously have swallowed hook, line, and sinker, which should give you pause given his 20,000 and counting lies– it’s so weird to me that so many people can listen to a man who lies as he breathes but decide he’s not ever lying to you…) and increase bankruptcies and poverty due to America’s idiotic health care system, and on and on. And the world is horrified. And the voiceless do the only thing that has been left for them.

How does it feel to know that half of this country finds you FAR more despicable than Donald J. Trump, the man you consider to be the anti-Christ? Let that sink in.

Sad. Because I don’t know one liberal, hell, one person, who is more despicable than Trump. He’s a sociopath. He’s a man-child. You screwed up. Own it and earn some respect. Because most of the world sure as hell doesn’t respect American conservatism at all as a result of your unwavering support for an obvious liar, cheat, blowhard… the list could go on forever.

We consider you to be more despicable, more dangerous, more stupid, and more narcissistic than Donald Trump. Maybe allow yourself a few seconds of self-reflection to let that sink in.

It’s a shame that you feel the need to color everyone who has liberal views with the same brush. No one likes your hatred of so many people. We just hate Trump because he’s truly an awful man. But the thing that really gets me is when supposed Christians –followers of a man who preached love and forgiveness above all else– have descended into such hatred. And believe me, we don’t need a few seconds of self-reflection to understand that you hate.

This election isn’t about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. This is about Donald Trump vs. YOU.

If that’s the case, I’ll take me. I’ll take virtually anyone over Trump. The fact that he can stand there and say what he says and you refuse to condemn ANY of it makes you an accessory to heinousness. They also thought they could control Hitler, by the way, as tiresome as that trope is now. We can only hope he doesn’t lead the US down anywhere near the same path, but he’s certainly capable of it, and that should terrify everyone. It’s amazing that it doesn’t.

On the morning of November 3 if Donald J. Trump is reelected, the only people you have to blame is the left-wing media drones and yourselves.

You did this. Yep you did.”

I’ll concede something to you, the far left isn’t doing anyone any favors, any more than the far right is. But the far left shouldn’t be used to define most liberals, any more than the KKK should be used to define what you’re all about (at least I hope not). The idea that you want to blame anyone but Republicans for nominating Trump is amazing. If anything, it proves that you will believe whatever you want to believe, which is pretty much what the American elite has coerced and bribed you into believing. So nope, this is all on you.

I’ll finish with a quote from which you purport to take your religious instruction: 1 John 4:20. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

And so it is the hate you spew that sometimes pushes us to mock your faith, because clearly you are more consumed by hate than love. As for most liberals, they do despise Trump because of who he is, but we don’t hate conservatives, we just lament their hypocrisy and platform of hate.

All that said, I of course received no response. Indeed, I have yet to find a conservative who is willing to answer for, and to, all of the questions that their beliefs create. Be a hater, fine. Just don’t wrap yourself up in the pages of the bible and the American flag while doing it. The only thing worse than a hater is a hypocritical hater.

And here below is the rant without my comments. While I found it hate-filled and devoid of facts, it does help to understand where at least that right winger is coming from. Sadly, however, I don’t believe anyone who harbors this amount of hate will ever listen to anything other than what he or she already agrees with. We must move on without them.

Dear Liberal or never-Trumper:

If you are a Liberal or a never-Trumper who can’t stand Trump, and cannot possibly fathom why conservatives would ever vote for him, let me finally fill you in.

It’s not that we love Donald Trump so much. It’s that we can’t stand you. And we will do whatever it takes — even if that means electing a rude obnoxious unpredictable narcissist (your words not ours) to the office of President of the United States — because the only thing we find more dangerous to this nation than Donald Trump is you.

How is that possible you might ask? Well, you have done everything in your power to destroy our country.

•From tearing down the police, to tearing down our history, to tearing down our borders.

•From systematically destroying our schools and brainwashing our kids into believing socialism is the answer to anything (despite being a failure everywhere), while demonizing religion and faith, and glorifying abortion, violence, and thug culture.

•From calling us racists every time we expect everyone of any skin color to follow our laws equally, to telling us that our “tolerance” of lifestyles we don’t agree with isn’t nearly enough — ironically all while lecturing us on hate speech.

While you gaslight us about 52 genders, polyamory, grown men in dresses sharing public locker rooms with little girls, and normalize the sexualization of young children, you simultaneously ridicule us for having the audacity to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” or hang a flag on the 4th of July, stand for the national anthem, or don a MAGA hat in public.

So much for your “tolerance.”

We’re also not interested in the fact that you think you can unilaterally decide that 250 years of the right-to-bear-arms against a tyrannical or ineffective government should be abolished because you can’t get the violence in the cities you manage under control.

That free-speech should be tossed out the window, and that those who disagree with your opinions are fair game for public harassment.

That spoiled children with nose-rings and tats who still live off their parent’s dime should be allowed to destroy cities and peoples livelihoods without repercussions.

That chaos, and lawlessness, and disrespect for authority should be the norm.

This is your agenda. And you wonder why we find you more dangerous than Donald Trump?

Your narrative is a constant drone of oppressor/oppressed race-baiting intended to divide the country in as many ways as you possibly can. You love to sell “victim-hood” to people of color because it’s such an easy sell compared to actually teaching people to stand on their own two feet and take personal responsibility for their own lives and their own communities and their own futures.

But you won’t do that, you will never do that, because then you will lose control over people of color. They might actually start thinking for themselves, God forbid!

This is why we will vote for Donald Trump.

•Not because he is the most charming character on the block.

•Not because he is the most polite politician to have ever graced the oval office.

•Not because he is the most palatable choice, or because we love his moral character or because the man never lies, but because we are sick to death of you and all of the destructive crap you are doing to this once beautiful and relatively safe country.

Your ineffective and completely dysfunctional liberal “leadership” has literally destroyed our most beautiful cities, our public education system, and done it’s damndest to rip faith out of people’s lives.

However bad Donald Trump may be, and he is far from perfect, there is no possible way he could be any worse for our country than you people are.

We are sick to death of your stupid, destructive, ignorant, and intolerant behavior and beliefs — parading as “wokeness.” We are beyond sick of your hypocrisy and B.S.

We are fed up with your disrespectful divisiveness and constant unrelenting harping and whining and complaining (while you live in the most privileged nation in the world), while making literally zero contributions of anything positive to our society.

Your entire focus is on ripping things down, never ever building anything up. Think about that as there is something fundamentally very wrong in the psychology of people who choose destruction as their primary modus operandi.

If Donald J Trump is reelected, don’t blame us, look in the mirror and blame yourselves.

Because you are the ones that are responsible for the rise of Donald Trump.

You are the ones who have created this monster that you so despise, by your very actions. By your refusal to respect your fellow Americans, and the things that are important to us.

You have made fun of the “fly-over states,” the people who “cling to their guns and religion,” the middle class factory workers and coal miners and underprivileged rural populations that you dismissively call “yahoos” and “deplorables.”

You have mocked our faith and our religion.

You have mocked our values and our patriotism.

You have trampled our flag and insulted our veterans and treated our first responders with contempt and hatred.

You have made environmentalism your religion, while trashing every city you have taken responsibility for.

You scream from the rooftops about “global warming” and a “green new deal” while allowing tens of thousands of homeless people to cover your streets in literal sh*t and garbage and needles and plastic waste without doing a single thing to help them.

But we’re supposed to put YOU in charge of the environment while gutting our entire economy to institute this plan when you can’t even clean up a single city??

You complain — endlessly — yet have failed to solve a single social problem anywhere.

In fact, all you have done is create more of them.

We’ve had enough. We are tired of quietly sitting by and being the “silent” majority. So don’t be surprised when the day comes when we finally respond. And trust me it’s coming, sooner than you might think.

If Donald Trump is reelected it will be because you and your “comrades” have chosen to trash the police, harass law-abiding citizens, and go on rampages destroying public property that we have all paid for and you have zero respect for.

If Donald Trump is reelected it will be because we are sick of your complete and utter nonsense and destruction.

How does it feel to know that half of this country finds you FAR more despicable than Donald J. Trump, the man you consider to be the anti-Christ? Let that sink in.

We consider you to be more despicable, more dangerous, more stupid, and more narcissistic than Donald Trump. Maybe allow yourself a few seconds of self-reflection to let that sink in.

This election isn’t about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. This is about Donald Trump vs. YOU.

Does Europe really deserve the reputation so many Americans give it?

Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a perfect government or political system. As soon as humans are involved with anything, there will be problems. Despite that, we all hear and hold a lot of opinions about what style of government is best. But how much do we know about why we believe what we do?

Political opinions are almost always based on theoretical ideas, or perhaps more commonly, on how our parents taught us. But our parents were just as ignorant then, if not more so, than most of us are today. So whether it’s theory or family history, shouldn’t we subject our opinions to some ongoing scrutiny, no matter when we landed on what we believe? 

I mean, how do any of us really know whether steering a country more right or more left is going to be better for most of us? Shouldn’t we all at least try to get on the same page, or at the very least figure out together which page is best instead of just calling each other stupid? Because we do have an excellent (and really only) way to figure all that out, and it’s simply to compare.

As an example, if you want to know what form of government creates the greatest happiness, you can start by looking at the countries who rate highest in happiness, and then review their politics and culture to see how they do it. If you don’t believe happiness is important at all, then you can tell the top three, Finland, Denmark, and Switzerland, to pound sand (the US ranks 18th). But maybe happiness isn’t your thing; there are lots of categories to choose from.

Ultimately, I can’t think of a better way to prove which style of government provides the best results for its people. Theories are great, but they’re just that: theories. Why not look at real-world results?

For instance, we can look at an idea like Communism, both current and historically, and see the results. The basic premise of Communism isn’t such a bad idea, as a theory. I understand why it gained traction. But in the real world when it has been implemented, the result is almost always a populace that’s not particularly happy or even well fed. So I think all but the most hard-headed or misguided of us can agree humanity should toss Communism out the window. I can’t imagine why anyone would champion that cause when there is so much history and evidence that the majority of people suffered under its yoke, despite the promise of its theory.

Most European countries are governed by policies that are a fair ways left of anyplace the United States has ever been. As a result, I see a lot negative information propagated about Europe from within the US. A friend of mine, who we met here in Portugal, is an escapee from communist Czechoslovakia as well as someone who lived in the US for a couple of decades afterward. He wholeheartedly agrees with my assessment that Americans are some of the most propagandized people in the world, with the added detriment than most of them don’t even know it. Propaganda isn’t just a tool of Communist overlords, it comes from a lot of places, and Americans are subjected to an incredible amount of it. As a result, a lot of Americans have been led to believe the “socialist” European countries are genuinely awful places to live mostly because of their left-leaning governance.

Regardless, Europe offers an excellent comparison to the United States. It is the most similar in culture and also has a larger collective population than the US. (Which negates the argument I’ve heard numerous times when I’ve offered up comparisons about any given country vs. America: “Well, they’re a lot smaller, so you can’t compare.” A convenient argument when you realize that the US is the third most populous country in the world. I’m guessing any comparisons to India and China would be similarly met with, “Well, they’re a lot bigger, so you can’t compare.” Okay, you just don’t want to compare. Which I’ll never understand: what else do we have?)

Also, of course, the US was spawned from Europe, most of our closest allies are in Europe (or used to be before the Trump administration), and after living here for three years I can attest that culturally and standard-of-living-wise, it’s the most similar place I can think of to America.

In other words, Japan does a lot of things really well, but it’s a completely different kind of society, and so would be much harder to compare to the US. It’s also difficult to compare many aspects of China, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, etc., because their priorities and style of living are definitely not “western,” like the US and Europe.

So while the US has veered even further right under the current administration, we should be asking for evidence that it’s the direction that will make “America great again.” Europe gives us exactly that.

I came up with a list of categories that I call “Quality of Life metrics.” These are things that a government has some of the greatest responsibility for, and if a country does them well, results in the happiest populace. And I gotta tell you, Europe is kicking America’s butt in virtually every category.

There are countless studies and reports on the internet about each of these; indeed, the rankings from virtually every one of these categories come from different sources, so you can’t scream “Fake news!” because they were all culled from, for instance, CNN. You can do your own research, or I can provide all the links, but just know that I thought of every “Quality of Life metric” that I could, and in every single case the US is lagging behind. Is it a coincidence that America’s politics have been to the right of all these countries for decades? Or is that perhaps the cause? And if you don’t think it’s the cause, what do you think the cause might be?

The interesting thing for me is that after living in Portugal for over three years, and traveling all over Europe during that time, I have seen firsthand how true the data is. I generally reject most anecdotal or empirical arguments on their own because it only reflects 0.0000000132% of the world’s experience (you, divided by the world’s population), which you have to admit is pretty damn tiny. Studies and data, on the other hand, can compare the experience of millions. Still, it’s nice for my wife and I to have firsthand confirmation that this isn’t all just smoke and mirrors in an attempt to try and deceive right-leaning Americans.

So here are the categories. I’m pretty sure each and every one of these issues are important to everyone, and like I said, every study I have seen shows the US lagging behind left-leaning countries in every single one of them.

• Safety

• Crime

• Education

• Infant mortality

• Birth mother mortality

• Longevity

• Income inequality

• Happiness

• Health

• Best places to raise children

• Homelessness

• Pollution

• Health Care

Oh man, I’ve gotta take a pause at health care. It is easily one of the most egregious examples of America’s divergence with the world resulting in horrendous results for millions upon millions of people. I don’t know why the factual statement of: “The citizens of the United States pay the most per person for health care in the entire world, but the quality of health care overall is rated at or near the bottom when compared to all other advanced countries” doesn’t result in street riots to do something about it. Like, for instance, mirroring or learning from those countries where that statement is turned upside down. And if you don’t believe it, I dare you, I double dare you, in fact I beseech you, to prove it to me otherwise.

Again, our experience in comparatively poor Portugal, with its dual public and private health care systems, has also proven this to be true for us personally. Between my wife and I, we’ve had multiple surgeries and other medical issues, and virtually always feel better taken care of than we were in the states, and at a fraction of the cost for everyone involved.

Additionally, US News and World Report recently published a “Quality of Life” study, using its own similar categories. Again, Europe dominates (actually Canada was number one, which means being in North America doesn’t somehow automatically consign you to the backwaters of Quality of Life metrics), followed by Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia, etc. The US landed in 15th. Countries 1-14 are are governed to the left of where America is. Coincidence or causation?

Even in regards to freedom, America’s supposed calling card, the US was ranked only 15th in the world by the Cato Institute, and did just as poorly in other studies I’ve seen. So being right-leaning certainly doesn’t offer up any kind of guarantee of even freedom. In fact the top 14 are all to the left of the US.

One can even look at religious freedom, one of the guiding forces behind a lot of conservative political thought in the US. Australia, Norway, Canada, and the Netherlands all rank above America, despite their decidedly left-leaning governments. So you can’t tell me that being liberal destroys religious freedom, it just doesn’t.

Portugal, for instance, is just as religious as the US, and is just as religiously free, but they’ve kept it almost completely out of politics, and the populace is glad of it. And it’s still very free without all the issues that making religion a big public deal creates. Despite the lack of religious overlording, we’ve also found the Portuguese approach to life to be far more “biblical” if you will, than what we generally see in the United States.

To make all of the above even more illuminating, if you were to separate the data by states and countries, the lowest rankings for most of these categories would be absolutely dominated by the “red states.” The US only achieves what comparative status it has by being propped up by blue states.

By the way, I debated with myself for quite a while as to whether to even write the above at all. I know my voice is but a single grain of sand on the beach, and that my opinions are not particularly sought after. I’ve also come to understand the reality that nowadays almost no one changes their mind (something I’ve found to be quite ironic with the amazing amount of information the internet now offers up at our fingertips). But I lament that reality. In fact, as a result some years ago I came up with a “bumper sticker quote” that I wish more people believed: “If you haven’t changed your mind about something significant in the past year, you’re simply not thinking.”

The reason I came up that is because I believe absolutely no human being on the planet, from all the geniuses down to little old you and me, can possibly know more than a fraction of a percent of what goes on in the world, much less the universe. We are all woefully ignorant. As a result, we should all lust after additional information and knowledge with which to double check or refine our thinking. Unfortunately, nowadays many people on every location of the political spectrum only listen to or read information they already agree with. That is the definition of a closed mind, and a closed mind has never proven to be good for anybody, much less the person with one.

In the end, the facts that I love to write, that I have experienced something the vast majority of Americans never have (living in Europe for over three years), and that I have spent a fair amount of time digging up studies, facts, and data on these topics, resulted in what you’re now reading.

So at least I did something, dammit, even if it’s just to add another grain of sand to a very large beach.

How I Lost my Sole in Cochem

IMG_2530Cochem, Germany, is simply one of the most charming towns you’ll find this side of Oz.

Due to our impeccable timing (the beginning of the Coronavirus as well as arriving there late in the day), it offered itself to us as a sleepy little town. In fact, it often seemed as if we were the only tourists in the entire place!

Despite that, I’m guessing even during normal times it’s still a fairly sleepy little town. With only 5,000 inhabitants and nothing more of note than its charm, I don’t think it’s a common tourist destination. Of course, that may be one of the reasons we liked it!

The most exiting thing that happened to us there is that one of my shoes decided to come apart, resulting in half of the bottom of my shoe flapping about every time I took a step. We were walking past a construction site during the sole’s attempted escape, and so I began rummaging through some of the surrounding detritus in the hopes of finding a length of twine or maybe ten wads of chewed gum; anything to hold the shoe together.

A man approached us from within the building that was under construction while I was digging through the garbage, and upon seeing my predicament, kindly offered me some duct tape to help keep me walking.

But after walking another 20 minutes my other shoe, obviously being jealous of all the attention given his twin brother, decided it was going to get into the game and flopped apart in exactly the same way. We were too far from the construction site to ask for another length of tape, but then we spotted a shoe store in town. The manager also kindly helped me by allowing me to use some of her shoe glue.

Drunken Duck

Unfortunately, that didn’t last a terribly long time, so I mostly walked around Cochem like a drunken duck.

It’s sometimes very good to visit places where no one knows you or will ever see you again. That gives you total freedom to walk around like a drunken duck, complete with duct tape wrapped around one shoe! Quack quack!

IMG_2534Cochem Castle dominates the skyline, but it’s not a castle of particular note otherwise. It was long in ruins until 1868 when it was purchased by a businessman for a paltry sum and then reconstructed.

IMG_3282We didn’t get a chance to go inside because of the hour, but that same hour allowed us to grab a photo of its main tower shining in the sun.

IMG_3289But mostly it was the town itself that delighted us, with its narrow cobblestone streets amidst traditional German architecture.

IMG_2516It also has a beautiful river running through it, I mean, is that the definition of picturesque or what?

IMG_2523As you can see, it was packed with tourists. Actually, it could be that they all ran for cover upon seeing a rather large bearded foreigner stomping around like a duck.

IMG_2522Since there isn’t a lot of other news to relate about Cochem other than the views, we’ll just mosey on through the rest of this entry with a series of captionless photos. Enjoy!

IMG_2519IMG_2511IMG_2510IMG_3288IMG_3274So that’s Cochem, Germany. A town we’d never heard of, but one we enjoyed visiting all the same!

Now, trust me when I say that I haven’t given up on writing words, I’m sure to the dismay of many a peruser of this blog (“You use too many words, Dad, just show us the pictures!”), but since Tuntange, Luxembourg is another town we stopped in that really offers nothing of note, historically or otherwise, except for its beauty and a large estate/palace we wandered through for a while, here goes a series of pictures without my bothering you with any more words. That doesn’t happen often with me, so enjoy it while you can!

IMG_3330

You don’t get to see an estate like that every day! (Well, unless you live there.)

Where We Had to Trier Harder to Find That Fukang Restaurant

When I first began learning Portuguese, I attempted to say something in it to one of our Portuguese friends and she immediately burst out laughing. I wasn’t sure what (besides my usual horrific pronunciation) made her crack up, so she proceeded to tell me I had just loudly and perfectly pronounced a very naughty Portuguese word, even though I was trying to say something else and had no idea what I had just said.

FuKang 2
Just another Fukang restaurant.

Which reminds me of a long time ago when we had a pastor and his family over for dinner, and one of our very young sons asked him if he could please pass over the “Kenfucky Tried Chicken.”

(Why we had somebody over for dinner and fed them KFC I’ll never know.)

Anyway, in keeping with the theme, you might automatically qualify for hell even if you innocently say something like, “I’m going down to that Fukang place,” or “Do you know what the Fukang restaurant has on special today?” or “Would you please throw out those Fukang leftovers, they’re starting to smell like a Panda’s ass!”

But when it’s all said and done, it’s just a Fukang Chinese restaurant. Since I’ve now written all that down for perpetuity, I can only hope they have decent Chinese food in hell. I do think Chinese fortune cookies there might be very entertaining, so at least there’s that.

IMG_3243We also saw this graffiti while in Trier. I’m not sure what the first word is, but “deine” is “your,” in German, so I’m thinking maybe “stretch your clitoris?” Or “strudel your clitoris?” How am I supposed to know what weird deviant things the Germans are up to nowadays? I’m also a little dubious about the graphic matching the words, but what do I know about German physiology? Maybe that’s what it looks like after you strudel it? We were left confused but a little intrigued.

Now I’m going to hell for sure.

IMG_2475But the star of our story isn’t Chinese words that sound like English swear words, or sexually-oriented graffiti, it’s Trier, Germany, a town we visited while we were in Luxembourg. We just used that lead-in, because later on I use the word “butt,” and this way anyone that would be offended by that has already run for the hills.

IMG_3224I had never heard of Trier, until I learned that in English it used to be called Treves, which I think I had heard of, but I have no idea in what context. If someone would’ve asked me to tell them everything I know about Treves, or Trier, it would pretty much have started and ended with “I think I’ve heard of it.” Now of course we’re experts.

IMG_2479I get a special kick out of visiting previously unknown-to-us places, many of which have their unique and special charms that make a visit absolutely delightful. I call them the “B” or “C” level attractions: not the first places you think of going to during an overseas trip, but once you live here and can meander anywhere, you stumble across some very delightful locales. Trier was certainly one of those.

Trier is also the birthplace of Karl Marx, who was born there in 1818, and went on to forever be famous for giving American Capitalists apoplectic fits every time his name is mentioned. That’s his house, which we didn’t tour because, y’know duh, we didn’t want to get Communist cooties all over us. Besides, they wanted to charge an admission fee. Karl Marx is surely spinning in his grave that his home is now beholden to the scourge of Capitalism! No wonder he became such a Groucho!

IMG_2490This is the Electoral Palace: the seat of the district government. This is why governments are always the butt of so many jokes, because of course wherever there’s a seat, there’s almost always a butt.

IMG_2477They have a lot of Roman history in Trier, seeing as how it’s only about 1,300 km (a little over 800 miles) from Rome, which was nothing to those guys in their heyday, what with all their advanced horse technology and all. Today, Trier is only about a 30 minute drive from Luxembourg, which is part of the reason we visited. It’s kinda fun to pore over a map and exclaim, “Let’s drive to Germany!” Which is almost as much fun as poring over a map and exclaiming, “Strudel your clitoris!”

IMG_2488 (1)If you look over an historical timeline of Trier, you’ll see that it was invaded and destroyed seemingly continuously. The Celts, Romans, Huns, Germanic tribes, Germanic Franks, Germanic Hot Dogs (just kidding), Vikings, French, and Prussians all had a hand in either conquering or controlling Trier. Which is what led to their most famous bumper sticker: “Go Conquer Someone Else- Trier Harder.”

IMG_3234With a population just over 100,000, it’s only a small city, but it is considered to be Germany’s oldest. The main old town area is easy to walk and has several impressive cathedrals and other ancient buildings. This church kinda looks like it’s right on the water, but that’s just wet pavement from a rainy day.

IMG_3238As usual, they built to impress should God ever want to pay a visit and feel comforted by all the expense and grandiosity they created just to make him feel at home. Huge organs are of course a must, because at his age, God is getting pretty hard of hearing.

IMG_3231Bavarian architecture dominates the area, making one feel like you’re back in Leavenworth, Washington, USA, which is modeled after a Bavarian village. Oh wait, Trier is an actual Bavarian town. Whew! Now we don’t have to go all the way back to Washington just to see Bavarian architecture!

IMG_3227This is the the Porta Nigra (Latin for “black gate”): the best preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps.

IMG_3225I got a kick out of this building. When you look closely, you can see a door on the right that features quite a steep first step, and there are no indications that a staircase ever made its way up there. Maybe that’s where the inspiration for the song “Stairway to Heaven” came from? Or maybe that’s a door specially made for angels so they don’t have to get their feet wet before entering? On the other hand, maybe they just had a stupid architect.

IMG_3240When reading over a timeline of the city, I came across the following:

1933: Hitler came to power, but his party only received 32.1% of the vote in Trier.

1938: The Siegfried Line was built (Westwall). Hitler attended the opening ceremonies, but refused to spend the night in Trier just because of that 1933 vote.

Three guesses as to who else this sounds like. Perhaps petty retributions over a lack of support are a part of the personality of any dictator, wannabe or otherwise?

IMG_3223It was a somewhat cold and rainy day, although we were able to avoid any downpours or anything else particularly nasty, other than the ghosts of Hitler, Marx, and a Germanic hot dog.

IMG_3222We really couldn’t get enough of the Bavarian style. It’s so charming and old-world-y. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the town, where we fit right in because we’re also so charming and old— . Well, yeah, just old.

They also had an impressive Roman Amphitheater, which held many of those infamous gladiator contests. Built in about the 2nd century A.D during Antoninus Pius’ rule, it could accommodate approximately 20,000 spectators. Maybe 22,000 if Russell Crowe was on the card, and even up to 25,000 standing-room-only if the famous Roman Gladiator Cheerleaders were also visiting from Rome.

Russell Crowe todayUnfortunately, as you can see by this photo, Russell hasn’t exactly kept up with his gladiator training of late.

However and ironically, while on a previous tour in Rome we were told that in real life, the gladiators actually tended to be a little pudgy, which allowed them to better absorb sword blows and avoid cuts to minor organs like, oh, say, their liver or heart. So maybe this is his real gladiator body. So go ahead and get stabbed now Russell, you’ll probably be fine!

IMG_3248No visit to a German town would be complete without tossing back a couple of steins of beer.

I was a little miffed, however, that they made us clean up the mess. Who knew that “tossing back” didn’t mean what we did?

… And they lived happily ever after

It occurred to me the other day that Carolyn and I are actually now living that exact fairy tale ending. We didn’t feel that before because we always had another adventure awaiting us. We were to go to Spain and Mallorca next, with the rest of Europe beckoning, just as it has ever since we arrived.

But then Mr. Covid scuttled those plans as well as all other traveling in the near future. Happily Ever AfterSo we’re simply living life one day at a time. Since we’re retired, we essentially have no increments of change or excitement to look forward to. This is our life without travel. No wonder old people just talk about their health! I promise I won’t bore you with that here; suffice it to say once you are well into the second half of your life, pieces of your body just start falling off without warning, and other parts you didn’t even know existed start hurting for no reason at all. Plus doctors want to just start removing organs because the organs apparently get tired of doing whatever it is they were tasked to do in the first place. So treasure your youth when you have it, because no one wants to tell you the ugly truth about what it’s like when that’s gone. And we won’t be the first. Just be afraid. Be very afraid.

Otherwise, Carolyn and I are getting along great and we’re keeping ourselves occupied and entertained, even if it’s with activities whose descriptions would offer absolutely no interest to anyone else whatsoever. The interesting thing is that we’re in a sort of steady routine… it’s hard to tell one day from another; we have no touchstones to even know what day of the week it is. We have had more than one conversation where one of us thinks something is going to happen tomorrow and we both get confused until we realize that I thought it was Monday and she thought it was Thursday but it was really Saturday, plus whatever I thought was going to happen on Tuesday already happened last Friday but I forgot all about it. Then of course neither of us can remember what we were talking about in the first place.

Welcome to Happily Ever After!

So anyway, one of the results of being in a routine is that doing anything outside said routine is viewed with some suspicion or unease. Just like this blog. I still hadn’t finished my entry for our trip to Luxembourg… somehow with no further plans on the horizon and the blogging itself being outside of the routine, I just kept putting it off and putting it off. I may not even remember what the pictures were! But, dammit, I’ve gotta get it down before we forget it all, so without further ado, here is the next entry from our trip:

Vianden Castle

IMG_2473Vianden Castle gets its very own entry because 1) we took a lot of pictures, 2) I’m breaking out of my routine by doing this blog so I can only handle one topic at a time because it’s just all so weird now, 3) it is one of the most impressive castles we’ve ever visited; indeed, it’s one of the largest and finest fortified castles west of the Rhine; in fact, CNN included Vianden on its list of the 21 most beautiful castles in the world. And most importantly, 4) the photos were in the first folder I saw on my computer.

Vianden Castle was built between the 11th and 14th Century on the foundations of a Roman castle and a Carolingian refuge, looming over the quaint town of Vianden like a shepherd guarding its flock.

IMG_2470One little known fact about the town of Vianden is that they used hobbits as slaves. We know this because of the size of the doors where they lived beneath the homes.

IMG_2468Some of the hobbits eventually earned their freedom and so were able to live in nicer places, often labeled with a “58,” which, as everyone knows, is a numerical code for “hobbit,” because there are six letters in “hobbit,” and 6 is between 5 and 8, and the word “eight” ends in a “t” just like hobbit, and 8 minus 5 is 3, times 2 is 6, and that’s exactly how many letters are in hobbit! I mean, you can’t just make these eerie coincidences up, right?

IMG_2371One of the hazards of waiting so long to blog is that now neither of us remember if this was a church inside the castle or inside a church in the town. Heck, maybe it’s not even in a church, it could be part of an Oompa Loompa factory. Anyway, a picture’s worth a thousand words so make up your own.

IMG_2369We do remember this was a kitchen inside the castle. Funny how one always remembers specifics when it comes to food, huh?

IMG_2358You can get idea from this tower just how long Rapunzel would have had to grow her hair to escape. Of course, she wouldn’t have gotten far, dragging twenty pounds of hair thirty meters behind her. A pretty stupid story, really. But it had a really hairy ending.

IMG_2356In 1820, the Dutch King Willem I sold the castle to a businessman, who promptly sold everything, including all the doors and windows (true story… I know you think I make lots of things up, and sometimes I do. But if I say “true story,” then I’m not. Most of the time anyway). After this, Vianden Castle fell into decay and became a doorless and windowless ruin.

IMG_2354In 1966, restoration started, and in 1977 the Grand Duke of Luxembourg transferred it to State ownership. By then large parts of the castle had been rebuilt based on old images.

IMG_3214Vianden Castle is now a museum and is also used for official State occasions.

IMG_2355A view of the town of Vianden from the castle. Isn’t that the very definition of quaint?

IMG_3113And it gets even quainter with other views. In fact, it’s downright quaintalicious!

IMG_3085Just imagine this place as it was in the 14th century with masses of unbathed people jostling around horses and their inevitable poop, and knights tromping around inside metal cans with no place for their sweat to go except into their iron shoes. The middle ages always makes me wonder how our sense of smell didn’t devolve and disappear as a result of simply being overwhelmed. But, maybe their noses figured out how to just be whelmed. Hence, the term “nosewhelm.”

Which is a word I just made up but I had you going for a second, didn’t I?

IMG_3077Fortunately, there was no historical scratch and sniff on the tour so I just basked in Carolyn’s perfume. She always smells very nice.

IMG_3106How did I get this picture of the castle you might ask? Did they have balloon rides? Did I hurl my phone in the air as far as I could after pressing the auto-click camera button? It doesn’t take much of a super sleuth to notice some strange ghosting in the image, however. Is that a ghostly building in the shadows? That’s actually a reflection; this is a picture of a picture that was on one of the walls in the castle and it’s a helluva lot better than anything I could shoot so there you go.

IMG_3115There’s a cute little balcony for some Romeo and Juliet-style romance.

IMG_3092And here’s my own personal Juliet giving you some perspective as to just how immense the castle is.

IMG_3102Of course, forty years later, Romeo is sitting at one end of the table for dinner, Juliet is on the other, and they’re barely speaking. Living happily ever after my ass.

IMG_3099Wells can be a very deep subject.

IMG_3098I’m thinking that fireplace, as big as it might be, really didn’t put much of a dent in the cold air in this room during the winter. At least the knights could keep their nuts warm. Actually, I couldn’t find any reference to nuts native to Luxembourg, so maybe they were just keeping their barley warm. True fact: Middle Ages food for poor people revolved around barley. Grain provided about three quarters of their calories in the 14th century. That seems like barley enough. Doh! I oat to know better.

IMG_3082Not an easy thing to conquer especially if you’re wearing 15–25 kg (33-55 pounds) of armor. A funny joke would have been to line the walls with magnets.

IMG_3104This is the exact same face she made when I told her Trump won the election.

IMG_3219The town of Vianden is very small and quaint, and we were delighted to discover that there are a lot of Portuguese in Luxembourg because the pay is so much better. So while we don’t know a lick of Luxembourgish, and Carolyn only a little French from high school, we were able to communicate with the Portuguese because of our knowledge of, well, English. They spoke English well so we didn’t have to torture them with our Portuguese.

IMG_3216While in Luxembourg we talked with a number of Portuguese. The general theme was “Luxembourg is nice, but we really miss Portugal.” Plus they confirmed what I wondered… sure it’s nice to earn more, but everything costs more too. They all seemed a little homesick to me.

IMG_3215Still, it’s a very cute town, even if it was almost completely devoid of tourists because we were the only ones dumb enough to be touristing as the Covid pandemic started to hit. But hey, we didn’t catch anything because that meant there were very few people to catch it from even if they had it! So who’re the dumb ones now?

IMG_3070This was our plan for visiting the castle and town. No, seriously, the castle is also the sight of one of the most important battles of the Luxembourg Resistance during World War II. They actually fought inside the castle. This is what Wikipedia says about the battle:

On Sunday morning, 19 November, the Germans attacked the town with 250 soldiers of the Waffen-SS. After bombarding the town and the castle with grenade launchers the German soldiers began to attack the castle itself which was defended and fortified by four members of the Luxembourgish militia.

After heavy fighting around the castle, six German soldiers breached the defences via the gate of the castle, only to be involved in house-to-house fighting inside the castle. After sustaining several casualties, the Germans withdrew from the castle and concentrated their force on the town, but the strong resistance offered by the militia forced the Germans to abandon their assault and withdraw to the other side of the river to Germany.

Eighteen German soldiers were killed during the main battle. The 30 men of the Luxembourgish militia suffered only one dead, with three being seriously wounded, and three more slightly wounded. A single civilian was killed when a grenade exploded in her home.

When the Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge a month later, the 30 men of the Luxembourgish militia, being hopelessly outnumbered, abandoned Vianden and withdrew to the unoccupied south of the country. Most of them continued their engagement by helping the U.S. Forces during the battle.

IMG_3071Ah Vianden, such history, such beauty, we are honored to have seen ya.

 

Taj MahalOh, and here’s the Taj Mahal for my daughter Cortney. An inside joke. We’ll see if she gets it.

The Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg… Parte Dois (Part Two)

Walking BadOur recounting of the top castles in Luxembourg was rudely interrupted by a post about taking a walk. My apologies. But in this age of the coronavirus, nothing is more important than getting out for a walk. Now get out there (but stay away from everyone!), exercise those legs, and then come back to this blog. Now. Get out. Really. You’re becoming a potato. This will still be here when you get back. Go on! Shoo!


Done? Now, don’t you feel better? Okay then, you can sit in that chair for the rest of the day, totally guilt-free. You can’t tell me baldsasquatch.com isn’t looking out for your health, in addition to all of our amazing knowledge, trivia, and bad puns we provide. Besides, the truth is that we can’t lose half our readers to one heart attack!

Anyway, I originally used the Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg title because I thought it would be funny if someone searched on that and we came up and someone read it thinking it was written by castle experts. Turns out, when I plug that exact phrase in Google, we are now currently the top hit on the second page! Woo hoo! I better pull my doctorate in Medieval Construction and Castleology credentials out again!

IMG_2375I’m gonna lead with Brandenbourg Castle, just to illustrate the lengths we go to just to inform and entertain you, dear reader. Oh wait, um, except there’s a bit of broccoli in your teeth. You better get that. Anyway, here we are driving down a back road hoping like hell there isn’t a large band of forest people around this bend who hate Americans that live in Portugal. Or maybe they just hate rental cars. You never know.

IMG_2376After an arduous journey through an area that would feel like home to any hillbilly from Deliverance, we finally found this gem. That is, as long as you think a gem is a piece of petrified squirrel poop.

Oh, well, such is the life of a Professional Castle Hunter.

Anyway, blame its ruinous state on the French. In 1668, they attacked the castle, which subsequently fell increasingly into ruin. It is now owned by Luxembourg, but I’m guessing they might be willing to listen to some offers.

And now on to:

Larochette Castle

IMG_3393One of the coolest castles we saw in Luxembourg was Larochette Castle. Here we see the castle from the other side of town, on a viewpoint that must have been designed solely to provide one with a great view of the castle, and rooftops.

IMG_3388Built in the the 11th century, the castle was destroyed by fire at the end of the 16th century. Once the fire insurance paperwork is settled I’m sure they’ll get around to rebuilding more of it.

IMG_3368We couldn’t get inside, but a walk around it revealed some fascinating scenes. Talk about livin’ on the edge!

IMG_2680A stairway to Kevin.

IMG_2679You’d think someone back then would’ve stared at this cliff for a while, chin in hand, and mused aloud to the architect, “Yer thinking maybe that cliff will be staying put then?” Apparently so, because almost 1,000 years later, the cliff is doing just fine, thank you, while the house above now features plenty of natural air conditioning.

IMG_2677We thought it was just an old ruin you couldn’t get into. Turns out that Castle Hunting should not be a late winter pastime. This castle, like so many others we drove up to, is closed from October until Easter. Doh!

IMG_3376This is the Verlorenkost watchtower (which literally translates to “Lost Food”- honestly, Google it under German if you don’t believe me). The reason for that name is that there’s a legend that a cook was carrying pots full of food when she stumbled, breaking them all and ruining the food. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. Well, I can, but you can’t. And I didn’t this time. Next time I probably will though.

IMG_3372Behind these natural columns are doorways that lead into a secret dungeon where the Duke of Larochette used to keep his stores of chocolate bars, fortified wine, and girlie magazines out of sight of the Duchess. Okay, you see the difference? I made that one up. Everyone knows they didn’t have chocolate bars back then.

IMG_3371

John_LarroquetteSome people mistakenly believe that the actor John Larroquette was descended from the folks who built this castle. We’d like to put those rumors to rest right now. We know his ancestors had nothing to do with the castle because we just made it up. So sue me in Night Court.

IMG_2683This little fella began following us all around the castle. He was one of the friendliest cats we’ve ever encountered, aside from being a gorgeous, albeit very well fed, specimen. Plus his expression is perfect to place right next to any one of my bad jokes.

In fact, watch this, see how it works:

What did the janitor say when he jumped out of the closet?

“Supplies!”

 

Larochette Cat

See how that works?

Okay, so we got to two more of the castles, and now I’m wiped out. This quarantine stuff really wears you out! After my nap, I’ll think about doing the next entry in a couple weeks, when I’m rested up again.

 

Larochette Cat

Okay cat, that’s enough. You don’t have to give us that look every time I try to be amusing!

Larochette Cat

Fine.

Unleash the hounds!

Cat being chased

Takin’ a Walk on the Pandemic Side

IMG_3468Obviously this is a weird time for the entire world. In fact, due to the coronavirus, more people are now in “lockdown” than were even alive during World War II.

To pass the time, other than trying a jigsaw puzzle (which we gave up on after a few days… we decided we’d rather have our dining table back… which is a good enough excuse to obscure the fact that a 1,500 piece puzzle with large areas of single colors is a puzzle only fit for someone whiling away the hours on death row, or the certifiably insane), we are keeping busy by engaging in some minor hobbies in addition to my taking long walks in the area surrounding our house.

So even though I haven’t finished the entries for our Luxembourg trip (which seems like a lifetime ago), I thought I’d post photos from my last walk. It’s kinda strange… here we have that one time where you are handed the perfect “That’ll get done when I get around to Round Tuitit” time, and when life actually gives you that round tuit, you really don’t feel like doing most of those things you’ve been dying to get done. I think we all just need to feel like there’s something more than can always be done, even if we actually never will get around to them.

So thanks for giving me the round tuit, Mr. Coronavirus, but now that I think about it, I think I’d rather have a square one. So I’ll just have to keep putting off those things I’ve been putting off until I get a square tuit. In the meantime:

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 4.11.43 PMThese two dung beetles provided some inspiration for me to make it a long walk. I mean, if one beetle can push a ball of shit five times as big as its body the equivalent of several kilometers, I can certainly add some extra kilometerage to my own expedition, especially since I’m sans ball of shit. Full of shit, maybe. But ball of shit, no.

IMG_3463I probably have 50 versions of this scene in my photo library. Every time I start out on a walk and see this, I have to admire it and take the shot.

IMG_3474Here we are looking the other direction after hiking for a while. I know I don’t have this exact perspective already in my photo library so yay!

IMG_3479This photo might make for a great jigsaw puzzle scene. That is, as long as someone else pieces together the whole water area. The town of Sesimbra is beyond the first promontory. If you look close you can see a hotel on the second one. Sesimbra is nestled right between the two promontories.

IMG_3483You wouldn’t know it, but before the lockdown it was a rare sight to see this much of the ocean without also seeing some boats. Today, not a one.

IMG_3485The waves crashing against the shore create the only noise you can hear when you’re out walking nowadays, especially in the nature preserve. Well, that and your breathing, depending on the incline you just walked and how many candy bars you ate the previous week.

IMG_3482There are paths everywhere. Despite that, most of the time I encounter no one, in fact almost no living thing at all. However, lately, because of the quarantine, I do encounter more people hiking than I used to. A friendly “boa tarde!” (good afternoon) is exchanged virtually every time, although I’ve noticed the younger people generally prefer “ola!” Or maybe they just want me to give them a cola, I dunno. This different language stuff is hard.

IMG_3493Once you get to the main road (the ocean you can see in the previous picture is beyond the horizon here), there are scattered houses, some of which are abandoned. This home here is in an area with about a dozen abandoned houses in an apparent failed development. Either the developer ran out of money, or they were building in a public nature preserve and the government told them to knock it off. Apparently, after the dictatorship was toppled in 1974, people built all sorts of things where they shouldn’t because the government was in chaos. Eventually, of course, things got under control.

They look a little nicer from a distance. Up close, they’re just shells of bricks and mortar.

IMG_3492Typically, abandoned houses in Portugal just sit and slowly (very, very slowly) dilapidate themselves to death. Since the construction style doesn’t seem to have changed for decades, if not centuries, it’s hard to tell if these ruins are fifty years old or two hundred. But man, you can’t see it so well but this place has a million euro view of the ocean and Lisbon. Amazing to let it go to waste.

IMG_3496Funnily enough, after they’re abandoned, almost all of them are plastered with “vende” (for sale) signs, often just with spray paint. This one has far more potential than most, obviously, because they get a printed sign in both Portuguese and English, which isn’t very common. Usually it’s just “vende” and some phone number that was probably disconnected in 1993.

IMG_3495This was a great home until that giant bowling ball came crashing through.

IMG_3449You don’t really think of forests when you think of Portugal, but while they don’t compare to the grand expanses of evergreens in the Pacific Northwest, they still have plenty of trees you can wander through. Almost no one in Europe has any idea what a sasquatch or Big Foot is however.

IMG_3499Lately I’ve been going one way through the nature preserve and then returning via the main road, especially now that there are fewer cars out.

IMG_3507This is normally a fairly busy street. Today, due to the coronavirus, I feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend. There are no zombies though, because it’s daylight. Duh.

IMG_3494Today, you can just walk and walk in almost total silence (if you tune out the huffing and puffing of course).

IMG_3506But all that silence sometimes makes you wonder if maybe you are in fact the last man on earth.

IMG_3527And then a dog suddenly snarls and barks and lunges at you from behind a fence, clearly desiring nothing more than tearing into your flesh… it’s today’s zombie!

Actually, this is a Portuguese Shepherd. It used to be German, but he emigrated.

Seriously, the main danger I face when taking these walks are from dogs that attack suddenly, constrained only by a fence or chain… usually. Plus I don’t always trust the chain or fence. I’ve never had a problem, but there are plenty of times I’ve encountered dogs running around untethered, and some of them don’t act too happy to see me.

The other danger is from the cars… which is why I’m loving walking that highway right now. In Portugal, a driver will slam on his brakes thirty meters from a crosswalk (nicknamed “zebra” because of the stripes) if he sees someone even start to take a step in its general direction. But perhaps because of some subconscious need to balance the pedestrian vs. car scales of equality, when they pass by someone on the side of the road half of them don’t move their steering wheel at all, and so whiz by while nearly grazing your arm at seventy kilometers an hour.

Which is why I am very careful around houses on that highway… once in a while a dog will come out of nowhere from behind a fence, barking and growling like they’ve been starved for a week, which creates an automatic reaction in my body to jump back. But there are no sidewalks so I’m usually right on the road, meaning I have to make sure I don’t automatically jump back into the road because if I did, and a car was coming at the same time, I’d go from being a meaty dinner for the dog to becoming a pancake for the paramedics.

IMG_3513But, I do get to see some amazing views even while dodging the dangers. Here, Lisbon is off in the distance. Sometimes the views are so clear it just takes your breath away. Kind of a Vista d’ Coronavirus you might say.

IMG_3523This is the view we get after we drive down our side road and stop to turn onto the main highway. While we don’t have that kind of view right from our house, we get to see it every time we go out and about.

IMG_3533But the thing that really gets my goat is, well goats.

IMG_3532For some reason, the grass is always tastier on the other side of the fence. And because they have horns (and don’t know it because they never look at themselves in the mirror), once they poke their head through they sometimes can’t get back out. I had to grab this knucklehead by the horns and twist and turn and fight him until he finally got his head back out. But not only did he not bother to thank me, he just stuck his head right back through again. Fine, eat your stupid greener grass you stupid goat.

IMG_3521

“Poupe” was one of the more puzzling and humorous words we encountered when we first moved here. Most gas stations have a big “poupe” sign on them. Now we know it means “save.” We were relieved to learn this, because otherwise we thought all those stores with poupe signs were advertising their toilet facilities, or in this case, how you can somehow create energy by pooping.

IMG_3517It seems that over 90% of the housing, perhaps all construction, features the beautiful terra cotta tile roofs that make any viewscape of Lisbon so spectacular. But if a builder ever veers from that standard, they pretty much do whatever they want.

IMG_3520Another oddity next door to that one, this looks like a pretty cool house with an amazing view of Lisbon across the water… and yet is apparently abandoned. I’m just waiting for the “vende” to be spray-painted on the wall so I can find out if we can maybe get it for a song. We’d need the big discount just to rehabilitate the yard. Or to buy a goat.

IMG_3515This is an old windmill that doesn’t have to do any work at all for this restaurant right now due to the coronavirus. Where we live is so windy we’re surprised there aren’t some wind turbines in our area (even though Trump tells us they’d give us cancer). Still, Portugal is very progressive with energy, recently producing more power from clean energy sources than it actually needed. Which may be another reason the windmill isn’t running, I dunno.

IMG_3536This is in our neighborhood, and I always find it amusing. Someone built a car ramp right on the edge of a cliff. Let’s hope they never accidentally lurch forward… both the car and driver would end up, well, let’s just say the hospital admittance form would probably use the word “crumpled” in the “patient condition” box.

IMG_3534After a long walk, home sweet home, obscured by the greenery.

The Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg

Lego CastleI decided to finally put my doctorate in Medieval Construction and Castleology* to better use than building medieval towns with Legos®, so we set about identifying and exploring the best castles in Luxembourg. Because the only thing cooler than making a castle with Legos®, is seeing a real one in person.

(I hate those ® things. If I write Legos without the ® are they going to sue me? Lego! Lego! Lego! Ha! Bring it on you crazy Danish peoples!)

Anyway, there are about 130 castles in Luxembourg. We needed to narrow that down, so we made a list of the important criteria necessary for such a vast and complicated expedition. The list is as follows:

  1. Find it on a map and drive to it.

Once armed with these strict guidelines, we put the pedal to the metal and criss-crossed Luxembourg to check out these amazing medieval sites. Of course, Luxembourg is only 82 km (51 miles) long and 57 km (35 miles) wide, so it only takes about an hour to get from one end to the other (20 minutes if you pretend Germany’s autobahn extends into Luxembourg), but still, it was a massive undertaking, eclipsed only by the logistics needed for the Battle of the Bulge, because, y’know, all they needed were nuts.

You’ll only get that if you know your trivia about World War II.**

So let’s start out with these first five, carefully presented to you in no order whatsoever.

Useldange Castle

IMG_2644Useldange Castle is thought to have been built in about the 12th century. The castle and its chapel were damaged during a war between France and Burgundy. France obviously won, because Burgundy is now only a wine, a color, and an anchorman, not a country.

It is mostly in ruins but they did a nice job of restoring various parts of the castle, including installing a metal spiral staircase which allows you to climb to the top of the tower for some great views of the little town.

IMG_3353The town of Useldange sports a bustling population of just over 600 people, which means it’s not much useldange to anyone anymore.

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle was kind of a bust to visit since it is closed to visitors in the winter. Such is the lot of Castle Hunters such as ourselves. Still, it is an impressive castle, dating back to the 11th century. It fell into complete disrepair in the 18th century, but was restored in 1893 and opened to visitors in 1928. Just not to us, because it wasn’t summer. I wonder if that ploy worked against invading armies? “Sorry, but put your stupid catapult away, we’re closed!”

The bustling town of Beaufort has a population of just under 1,500.

Bourscheid Castle

IMG_E2379
Bourscheid Castle sits on a site with archeological evidence of structures dating back to Roman times. It is estimated to have been built around the year 1000 (or as they called back then: “Y1K.”) It is one of the most important medieval castles in the area, as well as the largest.

The castle is open to visitors, unfortunately we got there 15 minutes before closing time and watched the lady operating the entrance desk spot us and then hurry to slam the door shut and flip the sign to “Zougemaach” (which is Luxembourgish for “closed”) before we could make it to the door. Oh, well. Not a big loss because it’s mostly open air anyway, so we stuck our faces up to the fence and saw it for free. Ha!

We enjoyed the cute conical caps, making us think of gnome hats. Despite our not being able to go through it, we could see that it is a reasonably impressive castle, earning itself a well-earned place in the top ten castles of Luxembourg.

The town of Bourscheid counts a little over 500 residents as its bustling populace.

Mersch Castle

IMG_2669Well, yeah, as you can see by my expression, Mersch was kind of a bust. That’s just part of the deal with castle hunting, sometimes you see something amazing, and sometimes you see something that used to be a castle and now houses the administrative offices of the county, or maybe just looks like a pile of Lego pieces because it’s in ruins.

But it’s relevant to this list because it’s also one of the castles that belongs to the famous “Valley of the Seven Castles.” There are even signs on the highway pointing to a drive where you see all seven castles. But they didn’t pick the seven castles for anything other than they were all castles in the same general vicinity. It’s not worth making that drive, except to cherry pick the better castles. Except that the tower on the left sort of looks like a surprised Pinocchio, so there’s that.

But unlike all of the other bustling metropolises with their populations of 500 or 600 people, Mersch has over 3,000! We could barely stomach the traffic congestion.

Clervaux Castle

IMG_2586Clervaux Castle dates back to the 12th century.

IMG_2578As you can see, not all castles look medieval and like they were only built for combat. In fact, Clervaux Castle was built in a kind of bowl, with hills looming above on all sides… meaning it was one of the rare times we didn’t get any kind of a view from a castle.

IMG_2563The castle was the site of a pitched battle during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and was destroyed by fire. It was subsequently rebuilt.

IMG_2579The neighboring Church of Clervaux.

IMG_2558Clervaux Castle doesn’t look very castley from this angle, but neither does this umbrella-wielding knight look very nightie.

IMG_3318A monument to the Battle of the Bulge, which is still a pretty big thing around these parts.

IMG_3315Which is why they erected this monument. I guess he won because he’s not fat.

IMG_3314However, due to the Coronavirus scare, the poor little town, with its bustling population of just under 1,500, was seemingly deserted. We talked to a proprietor (one of a multitude of Portuguese expats we encountered) who said that normally it was busy with people year round. Little did we know that was just the beginning of a long, sad tale of quarantines and limited travel around the entire world.

Next up: The best of the rest.

 

* I got my doctorate in Medieval Construction and Castleology from Trump University. Which means, of course, that I’m lying, which is about the only thing anyone could have learned from that defunct con job of a school. I just thought it would be funny for anyone who happens upon this entry by searching on “The Top Ten Castles of Luxembourg” to think they’d really struck gold with such amazing expertise and knowledge! But nah, we’re just a coupla Yanks who like castles.

 

** Nuts!