Tag Archives: Cats

What a crazy trip!

9 Jan

So we have finally made it home to Pasadena, after driving about 3500 miles in 2 weeks, the last stretch from Sacramento to home through a death-defying torrential rain storm–the first significant rainfall  in SoCal in a year, and one that is now causing all kinds of mudslides and flooding in the areas affected by the fire. Before putting this wild ride to bed, I’ve just gotta share a few more weirdnesses that took place along the way.

Get this: so we drive from Chico to Sacramento on Saturday, and park at our old friends the Detwilers’ house–we had a lovely visit with them while we stayed in their “little house”. (The pictures above, by the way, are from Chico–perhaps more on that later. Suffice it to say we had a lovely, if wet, visit in this college town, and could very easily live there if it comes to that!) Our car is parked on the street outside their house in the upscale part of town where they live. We bring in everything in the car except a plastic bin of gifts and books and notebooks in the trunk. We forget to lock the car’s front door when we at some point go out to retrieve a coat later in the day. In the morning, I go out to get another book, open the trunk, and notice that things seem to be a in some disarray, but assume G. had just messed stuff up when unloading. We go out to visit a realtor, and I notice that the glove compartment is open; again, I just assume we’ve forgotten to close it. When we get back to the house after a few hours, Peter is all excited: their neighbors about 4 houses down the street, by chance seeing Peter, ask if he knows any George visiting, because another neighbor walking her dog in the early morning has found on her lawn a passport for someone named George!!  Yep, it’s G’s passport. We then realize that we had left our passport wallet, with ALL FOUR of our passports in that plastic bin in the trunk, and finally twig to the fact that someone, probably kids, had indeed rifled through all our belongings, looking for whatever they could find of value.  Sigh…Apparently this is a common occurrence in Sacramento, going down rows of cars looking for any that are open and taking what they can find.  Surprisingly, I have never heard of this method of thievery, much to Peter’s astonishment.

We then started looking down the entire street to see if we can find the other missing passports (they took nothing else, even leaving a pair of binoculars). Sure enough, we found the wallet, with one other passport in it, under a truck a few feet away, and George found my two passports still tossed in the trunk.  Whew….Of course, we still felt like idiots, and a bit amazed that this whole set of what Jung would call “synchronicities” led to our car being uncharacteristically unlocked on the very night that little mischief-makers hit that street to carry out their vandalizing activities.  And in a more positively serendipitous example of synchronicity,  Peter just happened to be out as the neighbor was working in her yard, asked him if he knew a George, and she knew the neighbor who had found the passport in the first place.  This is what comes of living in the same neighborhood for decades, and knowing one’s neighbors.  We were then able to go down to the dog-walking neighbors and thank them for retrieving the passport and going to the trouble of trying to contact us. She had even searched for George’s name online, had found our website, and written to us!  A synchronistic world indeed!


On the Grapevine, January 8 2018.

This was just one in a string of wild occurrences on this trip–from having to detour in Utah down to New Mexico to get to Colorado, forgetting our computer bag in Utah, George losing his debit card, and having to drive home in the first rain to hit the state in months. We were trying to get home quickly because George has a bad tooth, and was anxious to get to his dentist’s this morning.  (He also has the toddler’s cold that we have been passing around the family now for weeks.) He got up bright and early, drove down to the office–to find that they had no power because of the rain storm!  They were all sitting around in the dark, unable to see any patients. We’re still waiting to hear from them as I write this.

A wild ride, yes?  Finally, the feral kittens that we so dutifully got neutered and released back into their colony have, apparently, not figured out how to hunt or be good feral cats. They just sit at our back porch, bleating for food all day.  Oh, dear, not quite what we expected to happen by having them fixed….Welcome to 2018!  In the end, though, nothing was life-threatening, all resolved itself with no trauma except financial, and we made it back in one piece.  Let the wild rumpus begin!




Cats, artistic and living, part II

3 Aug

In our last segment, we were just leaving Barcelona for Greece–home to more cats than I imagined could ever survive in the urban wilds!

They were everywhere–in the ruins of the Roman Agora, on the Acropolis, at bus stops, and by the hordes at every restaurant we went to. The Greeks seem to have an accepting attitude about them, neither condemning them nor particularly nurturing them (a lot of people do feed them), but just considering them part of the environment. I have written about the street cats before, saying that I did feel a bit uncomfortable about the sheer numbers of them and so many of that seemed malnourished and uncared for.
But there are also people who do care for them, and many Greeks have pampered indoor cats, too.


Evy’s very pampered indoor cat.

For a country now so overrun with cats, I found it interesting that so little ancient art included any feline imagery at all. There is, of course, the famous Lion’s Gate at Mycenae, and some lions in some friezes and 8th-century and Byzantine objects, but no cats of the domestic sort that I could find.  Were there no house cats in ancient Greece? There must have been, given that Egypt had so many.

Croatia was filled with felines, too, and our stay in Mlini on the Dubrovnik Riviera included resident house cats as well as those on the street. And I couldn’t help but be amused that at the rather intimidating border crossing into Montenegro (we were forced to turn around and go back for auto rental papers), the stern border guard’s demeanor was somewhat softened by the appearance of the officer’s champion mouser. That’s her, the white one with orange and black spots, below basking in the sun as we turned our car around.

In Montenegro we found in its lovely bayside walled city of Kotor Venetian-inspired architecture and sculpture as well as the Venetian-inspired Cats’ Museum about which I have already written (see my entry for April 13). And so many cat-themed objets for sale in its tony, upscale shops!

Other artistic objects in Croatia were a little thin on feline themes, except for all those lions in churches in Split and elsewhere. But I loved this frock in a Rijeka shop window!

From Zadar, we travelled on up the Croatian cost to that most multicultural town, Trieste. The town was one of our favorite places, as you can tell by my previous blog entry (see May 2). Some local cats, some street animals, but only a few feline-themed art pieces.

Right to the south of Trieste is the old Venetian outpost of Muggia, and as a Venetian product, the Lion of Saint Mark figures in much of the town’s symbolic imagery. When depicted with closed book and sword, as seen on the side of the Muggia Town Hall, it was a sign of war, a warning to aspiring conquerors that Venice would come to its rescue if attacked. Other lions in town are more welcoming, with open book and no sword.

Our weeks in Ljubljana, back in Vienna, and then in Germany were lovely, but yielded little in the way of cat imagery. (Except for this one bit of hilarious graffiti in Ljubljana’s Tivoli Gardens–which seems appropriate for our experience of that young and breezy town)



But I will end this account with our Toronto friends, all of whom have cats of various shapes and sizes. Welcome back to North America!

I just had to figure out a way to organize all these images of cats! I suppose I could write more ancillary text focussing on some cultural aspect related to the place and the context in which I encountered each of these animals and/or objects, but for now I’ll just hope that some of you will enjoy looking at all of them!

Cats, artistic and living, part I.

26 Jul


As most of you who followed our travel blog will know, one of my favorite photographic subjects on this trip was cats. I took photos not only of real cats that we encountered everywhere, but also of cats found in artworks in museums. Sometimes I stretched the definition of “cat” to include lions, so many of which appear in heraldry, ancient art, and monarchical images. So I have ended up with LOTS of felines!  It is most interesting, I think, to present these images by location, commenting on what they might tell us about the place:


In the city that inspired Eliot’s famous Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the source for the musical Cats, we saw, surprisingly, no street cats at all. This may be because we were in such a ritzy part of town and we didn’t go out late at night. We did find lots of sculptural lions, though–the one above is in the foyer of the British Museum, an ancient one and part of Lord Elgin’s pillaging of the Parthenon–and the National Gallery was filled with some marvelous painted examples. I love Pinturicchio’s cat, playing with Penelope’s yarn.


When we arrived at our lovely garden house in Prenzlauer Berg, we were greeted almost immediately by one of the neighbor’s cats, Pepe. Why are orange cats so likely to be so friendly?  Later he was joined by his companion Timmy, for wrestling matches on the lawn. Having them cavort made us feel so at home! And they made it possible for us to meet all of our sweet neighbors.

Artistically, we were lucky to find an exhibition at Die Brücke Museum of Max Kaus, a very interesting if little known Berlin artist, who often painted images of cats along with his wife. Max Beckmann was also a cat lover, apparently, from the number of them that appear in his intense paintings and prints. And for sweetness verging on kitsch, the Märchenbrunnen–the fairy-tale fountain–in the Volkspark Friedrichshain consists of endearing sculptures representing famous fairy tale figures, including this cat in the statue of Red Rose (Dornröschen).

While in Berlin, we made a trip to Danzig and region, my grandfather’s West Prussian birthplace. There we spotted another type of cat amid the fascinating old Mennonite houses–almost like Norwegian Forest cats. Here’s one lounging on a house stoop in my grandfather’s village.




We had some delightful interactions with real cats during our three-month stay in Vienna, all of them indoors. We never saw a cat on the street, Vienna being the tidy place that it is!  But our apartment building in Sigmundsgasse had two charming occupants who made themselves right at home in Nora’s apartment, even though they officially lived across the hall. These two were Kapidu and Puki, who often followed us up the stairs in hopes of receiving a little offering for their company. We were happy to oblige.

We also found cats in the unlikeliest places, including the gorgeous Lilith, effusive mistress of the Johannes Farber Gallery, and a sleeping Lucy at a country inn in the Kamptal. She never budged from her pillow on the bench the entire time we were there.

We were at the country inn where Lucy resides with our most enthusiastic cat fan, Heidi, Nora’s sister. After years working for Dior in Paris and in Asia, she returned to Vienna and opened a shop of cat objets d’art. Her Biedermeier apartment is filled with all manner of cats,  in the live form of the very princely Schatzi, and in artworks galore, most of them cat-oriented.

As a farewell present, Heidi gave us one of her many objects, a little tin toy of a cat with a baby pram. It’s adorable! heidistincat

I looked in vain for painted images of cats at the Kunsthistorisches. Not even the Spanish paintings had any! (If anyone has found a cat in a painting at the KHM, please let me know!) A host of cats appeared, of course, in the KHM’s superb Egyptian collections, which allowed me to spend more time in those rooms than I normally do–very enlightening. If in Vienna, be sure to look at the ancient rooms of the

Kunsthistorisches as well as in the galleries with the Bruegels and Velasquezes. A few genre paintings at the

Wien Museum included a few frisky kittens in some Biedermeier paintings, and a few glimpses of felines appeared in some Albertina offerings, but the only contemporary cat objects I saw were in shop windows.


We began to see street cats in Lisbon, although most of them in the Bairro Alto, the old district where we stayed, sat precariously on balconies or slept in shop windows.

The cats we saw here were of all colors and sizes. Most of them, even the ones in the street, looked fairly healthy and well-fed.

Lisbon is the city of magnificent tiles, so it is no surprise that the most delightful, the most rambunctious, images of cats we saw here were in some of the remarkable tiled murals in the gardens of the city.  First were the lovely tile friezes surrounding a pond in the Jardim Botánico Tropical in Belem–tigers and lions, but no domestic cats (although we did see some ferals here, too). Nothing, however, can beat the amazing Palacio dos Marquesas da Fronteira, still inhabited by the original family, with a garden overflowing with the most fanciful tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries,  showing cats doing all kinds of comical things, sometimes with monkeys. I still haven’t gotten any satisfactory answer about what the “iconography” was meant to impart, but they are just so delightful one doesn’t really care–and perhaps that’s the point of them.

Lisbon’s cultural pride and joy is the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum of Art, an absolutely splendid collection of artworks, both Western and Middle Eastern. But there were other cats in other museums in the city, too, and carved lions everywhere.


Finally, the university town of Coimbra offered delightful renditions on the side of its lovely Cathedral. In all, the cats of Lisbon were, like the city and the country itself, dignified and fanciful at the same time.



Oddly, we saw no street cats in Poblenou, the section of Barcelona where we stayed, although others told us that Spain–perhaps in other cities–was overrun with ferals. We did get to meet Annie Graul’s cats, and I assume other Spaniards have house cats, too.


Cats in paintings were rather thin on the ground as well, but oh, those lions in the Romanesque sculptures!  Not only in Barcelona, but in Girona as well.

Before entering into true cat land–Greece!–I think I will pause here, and continue with our feline meanderings in the next entry.  You get the idea, though! Taking images of cats kept me occupied and involved–kind of like Pokemon Go, I guess–and now I have to do something creative with all of them!

Cats of Kotor

13 Apr



Between Google shenanigans and Croatian connectivity issues, I am being driven crazy trying to download the many photos I want to include in my blogs, but there is so much I want to write and am afraid I’ll forget if I keep postponing it, that I’m just going to put up text and what photos I can. I’ll just have to add the images later when I get somewhere with decent internet connections, and when we can get back a computer that isn’t a stupid Chromebook which will only let me do things ”the Google way.” This in itself is worth a blog entry, but right now I want to write about more interesting topics.

Yesterday we drove from Wolfgang and Nora’s house in Mlini, outside of Dubrovnik, over to Montenegro, the border of which is only about 40 minutes away. (Be sure to carry your auto documents with you, though; we forgot our rental papers, and the P1100192border control made us turn around and go back for them!) We had a lovely lunch and found a great bookshop in the first Montenegran town we came to, Herceg Novi. The bookshop owner was a frustrated poet, extremely well-versed in English, French, and Slavic literature; we bought his book of poems, as well as a book on the character of the Serbs that he recommended. The shop even had a copy of Charles Bukowski poetry in Montenegran (or Croat, I’m not quite sure)! 


We then continued on to Kotor around the stupendous bay with forbiddingly gargantuan mountains on each side. The drive offers stunning views, but is at times a bit daunting to negotiate. The road is sometimes so narrow that one car has trouble getting by, but the traffic comes both ways, and George felt like he was going to drive into the water. 

Kotor is an ancient walled town nestled into the rocks and on a nearly-hidden bay surrounded by the craggy hills of the region. Its picturesque maze of alleyways and charming churches has now made it a favorite stop on the Adriatic cruise-ship circuit, and the super-rich (mostly Russians) have docked their yachts here.  Consequently some accommodation has been made for the bling-tourist set in the form of chic shops and Eurotrashy cafes, although the setting makes it nearly impossible to destroy its charms entirely. We parked in the one parking lot that charges 10 Euros (!), and meandered the streets looking at some beautiful structures, finding evidence of the centuries-long Venetian rule of the place in the form of St. Mark’s lions on many buildings and the city walls.

Looking for a cafe, we turned into one of the small plazas and saw the most amusing site: on the side of one of the old buildings, a sign said Cats Museum. We had to investigate. The exhibitions were essentially collections of books and postcards with images of cats through the ages, but the purpose of the Museum is to support the efforts of an international group based in Venice, Italy, to feed and care for street cats

all over Europe. For reasons that are a bit unclear, the organization chose Kotor, because, as its website explains in its charming English translation, ”As a seat for our Museum we chose Cattaro (Kotor) in Montenegro, a city on the extreme part of Dalmatia for various reasons: its quietness, charming position and its situation of ” ideal city for cats” as the population  is fond of felines”. And so the town has adopted the idea of P1100242being a feline-friendly place: feeding stations have been placed all over town, and most of the souvenir shops have cat-related items. (And yes, I DID purchase one:  a kitchen mitten with Kotor cats on it…)

After walking through the narrow streets of the walled city and wandering across the picturesque bridge where the Skurda River flows rapidly into the Bay of Kotor, we paid the outrageous parking fee of €10 and headed

around the other side of the Bay to take the car ferry back across the inlet to drive back to Croatia (this is the scary side to drive on, since the car is on the water side when other cars come barrelling around the corners). A beautiful day, filled with cats, gorgeous scenery, and old buildings. What could be better? Oh, and finally, a Montenegran cat lounging at the border control.