France

Danish Roll

I had a little bit of trouble sleeping last night, so I am up early doing some quick writing.  I enjoyed a small glass of cold refreshing milk, especially since it complimented the Danish roll I ate.  I cannot remember ever not liking Danish rolls.  As a young child when my family lived in Europe my dad often raved about the hard German breakfast rolls called brotchen.  There was actually a man who drove a little bread truck to deliver them.  My dad called him the brotchen man.  Brotchen are hard on the outside, and fluffy on the inside, mostly air I would say.  It allows plenty of room for butter and jelly to be placed inside.  They also occasionally bought some lighter pastries that often had a crispy outside with a sugary coating.  I found myself liking what my parents called Danish rolls. I have a small mouth and as I kid I had a hard time biting into corn on the cob,  apples, fat sandwiches and so forth.  Danish rolls were easier for my mouth to bite into than the larger brochen.  My parents also called these Danish pastries.  The pastries and rolls are actually different.  I like the Danish pastries better, but the ones I eat more often now are what I call Danish rolls; at least that is what my wife sometimes buys.  They don’t have the gentle crunch, but are a soft bread with some jelly or cheese mix in the middle.  I do not necessarily go out of my way to have Danish rolls but when they are available as they were this morning in the kitchen pantry, I enjoy them.  I think that is why my wife occasional buys them for the household.  Unfortunately, they are a like Lay’s potato chips: it is hard for me to only eat one.

             As a child I had had no idea what Danish meant.  There was deviled ham, and cottage cheese, so I just thought that was what you called the light, sweet crunchy pastries.  Later I learned there were Danish people.  I knew German people lived in Germany, and French people lived in France, but did not know where Danish people lived.  I did not give it much thought  It was even a few years later until I finally realized Danish people live in Denmark.  When I hear of Switzerland, I think of cheese, chocolate, watches, and banks.  When I think of Norway, I think of reindeer and Vikings.  For Poland it is sausage; for France it is Paris, food and wine; for Holland it is windmills and ice skating; and for Denmark it is Danish rolls.  These are probably some of my earliest remembrances of these countries and for better or worse are still in my mind.

            When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to place on the game board some fun spaces where the player has the opportunity to roll the die and collect money.  One such space I placed directly over where Denmark would be on the traveler’s journey around the world.  At first, most players never give it a thought, but after a few games they begin to pick up the little things on the game board such as Danish Roll is directly where Denmark would be.  If they are playing with a child it is something fun to share with them.

            That first Danish roll I had this morning had a cherry jelly center.  I’m glancing over my laptop and down the kitchen counter noticing the one with a soft cream cheese filling is staring back at me.  I think I’ll give in, and go give him a visit. 

            Please visit our website at www.TreasureTrovegame.com

Brugge

 

Brugge Belgium

            The older I get the more I value my happy memories.  Some years I don’t have as many good memories as others, and it seems the years we traveled more bring back a host of good stories. My early years with the Air Force while stationed overseas was a good time in my life.  Such times I have begun to treasure in my memory bank.

           The year was 1980.  My wife and I were recently stationed in Germany with the Air Force.  After years of school and no money we were ready to travel.  I told her one of the men at work told me we would enjoy visiting a small quaint town in Belgium called Brugge.  We hopped in our little Opel Manta on a Friday morning and drove off.  No kids yet, a little free time, and finally, we had a little bit of money.  About a five to seven hour drive depending on how often we would stop. 

            The weather was beautiful all weekend.  We stooped in Brussels on the way and walked the town square.  Spent a little bit of time finding what we thought was a famous landmark called the Statue of Pis.  It turned out to be a little dinky statue of a little boy relieving himself.  I guess everyone that visits Brussels gets suckered into this silly tourist trap about a block off the main square.

Statue of Pis, Brussels, Belgium

            We arrived in Brugge late in the afternoon.  The window of our hotel room overlooked the cobblestone town square where several eateries awaited.  The church on the square would chime hourly.  I have always liked church bells although most of my life I have not lived near churches that have bells to ring.  The first night we dined at an open air restaurant on the square.  I enjoyed the clickity clack of the cobblestone as people walked or rode their bikes through town.  I also delighted in sipping some delicious purple wine.  I’m not much of a drinker so it doesn’t take much for me to get tipsy.

            The next morning we took a short tourist boat ride down the canals of the small river that traversed through the little town.  Brugge has an interesting past.   It was the primary harbor for the area for centuries.  In time the harbor filled in with silt and Antwerp replaced Brugge as the main harbor to Belgium.  The architecture of the buildings reveals the various people who have ruled over the town for almost a millennium.  In addition to its Flemish , it has been has been under the oversight of the Spanish, the English, the Dutch, and the French.  The tour guide on the boat ride pointed out that each of these cultures may have been present in the area for centuries thereby leaving their influence. 

            Belgium is full of antique shops if that is your thing.  We spent a few hours at a flea market that had some cool antiques.  Some of it was really old.  I was surprised at the significant amount of military paraphernalia such as helmets, canteens and so forth from both world wars. 

            For lunch we drove a short distance to an ocean side café with a cool breeze.  What do you think we ordered?

            a.  crepes

            b.  Brussel sprouts

            c.  Belgium waffle

            Well, you guessed it; a delicious waffle.  By the way, I also like crepes, but will never like Brussel sprouts.  That evening we dined at an Italian eatery nestled on the river within the town. 

             We left on a Sunday morning with unusually warm weather and stopped at a nearby American cemetery called Flanders Fields.  I was a little intrigued with the place because while in high school I had given a brief oral report by a poem written by a soldier who was at Flanders Fields during the First World War.  We had a wonderful visit.  That afternoon we stopped at Waterloo.  It has a decent little museum but the battlefield itself is gone.  Our last stop of the day was a Bastogne, Belgium where the World War II Battle of the Bulge was fought.  All three battlefields visited in one day and not rushed.  It was a delightful trip and one of the ones we most fondly remember of our many while stationed in Germany.

Flanders_Field_American_Cemetery_and_Memorial

Waterloo

 

Bastogne, Belgium

Field of Treasure

      Have you ever stood on ground that you knew was quite valuable?  Like standing on a piece of land that you knew had oil in the ground.  How about a piece of land with buried treasure?  Treasure you knew you could not retrieve but it was there.  Something of priceless value.  You have probably actually done just that.  Stood on very valuable real estate.  Call it hallowed ground.

      In the early 1960’s my family lived a few years in Europe when my dad was with the Air Force.  I was about ten years old.  I had not seen much snow growing up in Texas so I really enjoyed that.  I also enjoyed the traveling.  One of my memorable trips was a family visit to Normandy beach.  We had just seen the movie the Longest Day.  My brothers and I were determined to find Pointe du Hoc were the Army Rangers had to scale a cliff in order to knock out some big German guns.  The day we visited Normandy the weather was cool with a mild rain.  I was uncomfortably cold and I actually don’t remember enjoying it as much as I thought I would.  But there is one thing I do remember.  The white crosses.  Lots of them.  For many years I thought most people were buried with white crosses.  As I grew older and visited other cemeteries I realized most burial sites have tombstones.      

      I returned to Europe in the early 1980’s with a wife and a three year tour of duty with the Air Force.  We had no children at the time.  After years of school we finally had a little bit of time and money so we took advantage of traveling.  One of our more memorable weekend excursions was to Belgium.  We spent an enjoyable Friday and Saturday visiting some small towns.  On Sunday morning I told the wife I wanted to visit Flanders Fields.  She said she had heard of the poem but did not know it was in Belgium.  I told her that Americans had fought and died in Belgium in World War I.  Many Americans know that the Battle of the Bulge of the second World War was in Belgium but are not aware that U.S. soldiers fought not only in France in the first  World War, but also in Belgium.  I informed her it looked to be only about a forty minute drive from where we had spent the night, “so let’s give it a visit.”

Flanders Field American Cemetery

     We arrived at the Flanders Fields American Cemetery early in the morning.  We were very warmly greeted.  It is not as well known as other American cemeteries in Europe such as Normandy or the one in Luxemburg where General Patton rests with his troops.  The Flanders Fields cemetery was beautiful, almost immaculate.  The grass was like a putting green on a golf course.  I was not aware of how just how well the Belgium people maintain American cemeteries.  I don’t recall many other people being there.  My wife and I had a short meditative devotional and then we leisurely strolled.  The graves were marked with white crosses just like Normandy.  That was something I took note of the moment I entered the cemetery.  Towards a corner of the cemetery I paused when I saw the date on one of the crosses.  The same date was on another, and then another.  “What is it?” she asked. 

     “Over a dozen of these men died on the same day,” I replied.   “What is so unusual about that?” she responded.  “Look at the date,” I said.  “November 11, 1918.  These men died on the last day of the war.”  I mentioned to her that the armistice to end the war had been signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.    I will never forget that.  Who of us wants to go to war, much less die on the last day.  Some had to and some did.  I have thought of their sacrifice many times. 

     My grandfather was in the trenches overseas.  It messed up his hearing.  My father has given me some papers regarding his father’s Army unit overseas. The papers were Army orders and official stuff like that.  No personal letters because my grandfather grew up without ever going to school.  He died in the 1980’s without ever learning to read or write. Inside that folder was some Army correspondence regarding the evening of November I0, 1918.   Evidently my grandfather’s unit was to go over the top at dawn on Nov 11, 1918.  One out of three were often killed in the World War I assaults.  Fortunately, he also got orders late the night of the 10th to stand down.  Unfortunately, not everyone on the Western front got the message.

     That ground in Belgium holds some of our nation’s greatest treasure, American fallen combat soldiers.  A heavy price was paid, one I hope all generations will remember.  Any cemetery with American troops is a field of treasure to me.  Freedom is not free.  The Belgium people have honored us at Flanders Field.                 

 

                                                                                                                        

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 

Art Sleuths

Example of Art that was stolen

      In May of 2010 art thieves stole a handful of paintings from a Paris museum and a residence in Southern France.  Their value is estimated at over 100 million dollars.  Video surveillance showed the heist in Paris to have been a lone intruder.  The security system was not working leaving investigators to suspect the culprit may have had some inside help.  After hearing the news I asked myself, “How does one ever sell stolen art?”  I also wondered, “How do art detectives recover such lost treasures?”

          Occasionally art is stolen by a disgruntled employee or someone who has a passion for a particular piece of art: painting or sculptor.  Maybe some rich control freak with an obsessive compulsion drive to collect art hires and plans such schemes.  Who knows?  I think the reason is usually greed: the money.  But that’s the problem.  This type of art is big money.  You cannot just transfer a bunch of money from one country to another, including Switzerland, without authorities being able to track it.  It is also probably hard to exchange large sums of cash without a high risk of being detected.  I suspect this type of theft was well planned and with more than one person involved.  It is also probable that the stolen pieces will be sold for a fraction of their worth to crime syndicates such as large drug smuggling outfits.  The paintings could be hidden away for many years before they are found.  For example, art stolen in World War II continues to occasionally surface.  Those who try to sell such works at some point in the future hopefully will be caught.  Unfortunately, there always seem to be those individuals who are willing to risk the stealing and selling. 

Art Frames left behind from the heist

Thomas Crown Affair movie poster

Movies to a certain degree even glamorize the thieves:  The Thomas Crown Affair, with Steve McQueen; Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief; The Pink Panther with Peter Sellers, are several that come straight to my mind.  However, what about those individuals that attempt to recover stolen art and catch the thieves?   There have been numerous detective and mystery shows for decades where the bad guys are caught but what is it like for a real art detective? 

A book review article in the New York Times by Velma Daniels (I think it was May 30, 2010) covered this very subject.  The article highlighted the fact that a book was just recently published, The Art Detective, subtitled, Fakes, Frauds, and Finds, and the Search for Lost Treasures.  The timing could not have been better.

Peter Sellers

        The author, Philip Mould, owns a London art gallery, is an art consultant to British Parliament, and is an art sleuth.  To those who work within art communities he considered by many to be, “The Art Detective.”  The New York Times article pointed out that Mr. Mould often appears on Antiques Roadshow, which I thoroughly enjoy watching.  The BBC is currently making a film about his exploits titled, “Art Sleuth.”  I will be on the lookout for this production and I hope to see him at some point on Antiques Roadshow.  I also hope he is helping with the investigation in the Paris heist.  Since Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is no longer with us, we need all the help we can get.  Go get ‘em Inspector Mould.

On the board game Treasure Trove one of the situation cards rewards the player drawing the card 10 million for helping to retrieve stolen art.  I encourage you to take a moment and investigate the website displaying the game.

www.TreasureTrovegame.com         

Situation card from the game