COLORS OF GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

The path to Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair in Tennessee  from our home in Georgia is through gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  One of the reasons we enjoy participating as vendors at the fair is so we can enjoy the park during our free time before and after the show.

You never know what you’re going to see.  In July, 2015, we came across “Lawrence Elk,” but we didn’t have such luck this past July.

Now that we are doing the fall show as well, we expected to see black bears, wild turkeys, and fall colors.  Bruce was in luck seeing a bear, we both saw several turkeys; and, best of all, we had the pleasure of enjoying the array of autumn colors of the leaves during the drive home.

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See some of Bruce’s art glass at http://www.CookedGlassCreations.Etsy.com 

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BEAUTIFUL BOTANICALS

If you find yourself in Atlanta and would like a peaceful place to get away from the noise of the city, Atlanta Botanical Garden is a lovely place to unwind, and get in a good walk.  Although we were there to enjoy the Dale Chihualy blown glass sculptures, I couldn’t resist photographing the gorgeous orchids and other beautiful botanicals.  Here are my favorites from our afternoon of wandering through Atlanta Botanical Garden:

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CHIHUALY IN THE GARDEN

Yesterday, Bruce and I visited Atlanta Botanical Garden to enjoy “Chihualy in the Garden,” a spectacular exhibit by internationally acclaimed glass artist, Dale Chihualy.

The show featured 19 installations throughout the beautiful 30 acre-garden, including these:

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Next up:  Atlanta Botanical Garden Florals

A SHARED PASSION

Since joining U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) in 2010, I’ve met so many wonderful people I would have never met otherwise.  Participating in any swimming event means being around others who have a shared passion:  SWIMMING.

My past few days have been happily filled with swimming and being around many amazing people who share my passion.

Two of the days were spent (in part) in Atlanta volunteering in the hospitality suite for the 2016 USMS Convention.  In addition to getting to spend time away from the pool with a few of my teammates, it was a great meeting delegates from around the country and seeing people again who I had met at previous competitions.

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Bumping into Tim Waud brought back fun memories of this:

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That’s Tim in the patriotic hat representing USMS as Head Coach for our team at the 2014 FINA World Championships in Montreal.  I’m the one in the white shirt, and all the other gals are my awesome teammates!

 

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I forgot to bring my camera back to the convention today, so this is a grainy picture of me with three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowdy Gaines.  If you watched swimming in the last few Olympics, that was Rowdy’s enthusiastic voice you heard on NBC.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Bruce and I headed in the opposite direction to Warner Robins for the Georgia Golden Olympics, a qualifying meet for the upcoming 2017 National Senior Games which will take place in Birmingham, Alabama next June.

In addition to several of my other teammates, my favorite teammate, Anne Dunivin, came to compete in the meet.  Type the name “Anne Dunivin” in the search box up above, and you will see I have written about Anne several times.  She is a rock star in the swimming world.  Why?  Because she is going to be 100 years old on October 17th, and she is still passionate about swimming!

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Anne, with daughters Virginia and Barbara

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Queen Anne!

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Anne, ready to race!

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Anne, in great form racing the 100 Yard Freestyle.  She won gold!  (Of course, it helps to outlive your competition!)

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Anne and her daughter, Virginia.

Anne was in demand at the meet.  She was interviewed by a local newspaper and two TV stations (WGXA and WMAZ)!  Here she is giving an interview for WGXA:

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That’s Bruce getting a kick out of listening to the interview!

See the interview here:  http://wgxa.tv/news/local/100-year-old-woman-proves-youre-never-too-old-to-be-fit

It was a long day (10 hours!) in the 94-degree heat, but it was well worth the 90-minute drive south to spend time with Anne and her daughters, cheer Anne on, and qualify for the National Games.  I ended up with four gold medals and one bronze medal in the meet; and, I was the only woman to compete in the 200 Yard Butterfly.  (Hey, you have to show up to win!)

The picture on the left is with four of my medals, and again after I picked up my final medal.  I swam in the first event (400 Yard Individual Medley) and last event (500 Yard Freestyle), so it was a very long day.  It was dark by the time we arrived home!

Today, after returning home from the USMS convention, I received a wonderful message from Julia Galan of Swimspire.  She had asked me to write another article for her website, and she notified me that it went live.  Here it is:

http://www.swimspire.com/six-suggestions-solo-swimmer/

Julia had asked me to submit a photo of Bruce shooting underwater swimming video and another of me swimming.  Little did I know, she dug up some photos her dad had shot of me at 2014 USMS Summer National Championships to add to the article, too!  It was such a happy surprise to see the article on her website with some fun photos that brought back great memories!

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Julia, with her brother, Peter, and her dad, Florian

These past few days have been so joyful, inspiring, and FUN!  I hope you have a passion– or discover one– that brings you this much joy as well!

 

CONQUERING THE IRONMAN PENTATHLON (U.S. MASTERS SWIMMING)

The following article was written in the middle of the night following my participation in the SouthSide Pentathlon last Saturday.  I have never been able to sleep through the night following a swim meet, so I have made a habit of rolling out of bed and hittin’ the keys.  

This article will appear in the next “Georgia Masters Newsletter,”  for Georgia’s U.S. Masters Swimming regional team.

CONQUERING THE IRONMAN PENTATHLON

By, Elaine Krugman

Since joining U.S. Masters Swimming in 2010, I have competed in a pentathlon swim meet each September.  Sponsored by the SouthSide Seals, one of the small local teams that fall under the Georgia Masters regional team umbrella, the SouthSide Pentathlon is a fun meet.  Rob Copeland, along with other members of his swimming family run the meet and do an outstanding job.  This year, Megan had the results out in a flash!

Remembering back over past pentathlon meets, one of my favorite Masters Swimming memories was the 2010 Peachtree Pentathlon (as it was called then when it was held at the Kedron pool in Peachtree City), when I participated as a newbie in the Sprint Pentathlon which included the 100 Yard Individual Medley, and 50 Yard races of each stroke (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle).  In the 50 Yard Breaststroke, I made National Qualifying Times (NQT’s) for my age group—exactly to the hundredth of a second!  Being so new to Masters Swimming, I was shocked and very excited.  It meant I could swim an additional race at Nationals beyond the three races allowed for all swimmers.

Little did I know that would be the last time I would make NQT’s in an electronically-timed meet.  (Hand-timed meets typically result in faster race times, and that was the case for me when I last made NQT’s in 2013.)

I embody the motto for Georgia Masters: “The older we get, the faster we were.”

Since that first pentathlon meet, I have looked forward to competing in it each year.  In 2011 and 2012, I raced the Sprint Pentathlon, because I was a sprinter.  (Everything I did was fast:  walk fast, talk fast, move fast—it was the only speed I knew!)

In 2012, that all changed.  I discovered the joys of distance swimming when I competed in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet.  I entered the 3K and 1K races and swam faster as I progressed through each kilometer.  When I told Coach Mike Slotnick (co-host of Masters swim meets at Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center) about it, he declared, “That’s a sign of a distance swimmer.”  I replied, “But, I’m a sprinter!”  (His declaration became a regular thing during subsequent training sessions when we swam together, and he noticed my speed increasing as the session progressed, rather than the opposite.)

Mike finally had me convinced, and I started training for the long pool events:  1650 Yard / 1500 Meter Freestyle, 400 IM, and 200 Butterfly.  After successfully completing (meaning I wasn’t disqualified and I didn’t drown) the 200 Butterfly at a meet, Rob Copeland challenged me to compete in the Ironman at the next SouthSide Pentathlon.  “You’re on!” I replied with enthusiasm.  “Uh-oh, what have I gotten myself into…” was what I later mumbled to myself.

In 2014 (there was no pentathlon meet in 2013), with much hesitation (and a stomach full of butterflies), I registered for the Ironman.  Top-Ten swimmer, Marianne Countryman did too, so I knew I wouldn’t win my age group; but, my goal was to just complete the darn thing without getting disqualified on any of my events—and, without the lifeguard having to jump in to save me.

I succeeded at both goals, and a funny thing happened after touching the wall after my last event, the 200 Yard Butterfly (Yes, they save the hardest event for last!).  In between panting like a dog and gasping for air, I said to the swimmer in the neighboring lane, “That was fun!  I’m doing this again next year!”

Unfortunately, I had to pass on the 2015 meet due to a setback after having hip surgery, but I was back at it this year with much anticipation and preparation.  Prior to the meet, I had “raced” the Ironman four weeks in a row, completing the events in 35-40 minutes with short rest in between races.  My race times were horrible under those conditions, but I figured it would make the actual meet seem easier in comparison.  It worked.  I actually took the most time off my last event of the pentathlon, the 200 Yard Butterfly, and I even had something left in the tank to anchor the 400 Medley Relay at the end of the meet!

I was proud of our small group of Ironman competitors.  Out of the eighty swimmers at the meet, only eight of us took the Ironman challenge; four women and four men.  Since we were all in different age groups, we all won first place (Hey, you have to show up to win!)

The youngest “Ironman” was Nautical Miler, Gina Grant (18); and, the oldest was John Zeigler (70).  Other Ironman participants included Sara Edwards (39), myself at 54 years-old, and Ellen Clay (57) for the women; and, meet host Rob Copeland (59), Joe Hutto (64), and 1984 Olympics Bronze Medalist for Sweden, Michael Soderlund (54).  (As a side note, Michael also competed in the 1980 and 1988 Olympics.)

Hey, Ironman guys and gals, let’s do it again next year!

*As a side note, I finished first of the four women, and I beat one of the men.  Woohoo!

RIVER VOYAGER IN REVIEW

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The previous three Vantage Deluxe World Travel river cruises I had taken in Europe were with my mom, and they were on boats that have since been retired from their fleet.  Vantage had three new boats built, and we boarded the newest of the fleet in Budapest.  Introduced into service this year, we were about to embark on the 14th sailing of the River Voyager.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the new, modern feel of this boat; but, once we had a good look around, it was love at first sight.  The jazz theme of the décor definitely hit a soft spot in my jazz-loving heart, and the additional outdoor seating in front of the forward Blue Note Lounge as well as behind the Cotton Club café was a nice surprise.  (In retrospect, given the high water level in the rivers these extra outdoor lounge areas on the lower decks were a huge benefit, because the captain had to close down the top sun deck of the boat while cruising under low bridges.)

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Aft deck of Cotton Club Cafe

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Cotton Club Cafe

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Mid-ship stairway

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Along the wall leading into the Blue Note Lounge

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At the far end of the lounge, there were floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the forward deck.  The drapes were closed at this moment in preparation for a lecture.

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The top deck of the ship was closed during portions of the cruise due to low overhead bridges.

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The cabins were wonderfully appointed, and the bathrooms were actually larger than those on the older boats.

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I didn’t photograph the cabin; however, I did get this (distorted!) shot of the bathroom.  The lower right is a very large drawer with a pull-out trash can beside it.  There was plenty of counter space  (on the left), and a shelf full of wonderful toiletries.  There was plenty of room in the shower, and I loved the adjustable shower head and glass door.  The toilet was to the right, and towel racks were located on the walls to the left.  It was actually quite roomy in there!

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This is a public restroom located mid-ship.  Nice!

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The other side of the same public restroom.

Technologically, the River Voyager was very modern, and a great WI-FI system was accessible from anywhere on board.  The front desk staff even loaned out iPads at no charge as well as brand new bicycles with saddle bags and helmets.

The staff on board was fabulous!  Not only were they unfailingly friendly and warm, the service was outstanding.

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Captain Ziggy & Hotel Manager, Enio (and Renata’s husband)

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Concierge, Renata (Enio’s wife) & Tour Director, Vicky

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Our cabin steward, Bowo.  We named our towel dog after him and kept him throughout the cruise.

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The dining room had open seating, so we always gravitated to Robert’s section, because he was our favorite waiter.

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Our favorite assistant waiter, Halil

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A well-deserved break for the crew!  That’s the head chef on the far end.

The food?  Fantastic!  Our Balinese chef did a wonderful job with his staff in his surprisingly small kitchen, and we found ourselves raving at every dinner over the food and presentation.

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Chef Ketut (“Chef”) had a great sense of humor, too, as well as a wide, cheerful smile.  Later in the cruise during the galley tour, when asked how long it took to cook the whole pig they brought out during our traditional Bavarian lunch buffet, he replied, “Cooking the pig wasn’t the problem, it was catching it!”

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As it turned out, that lunch was quite a highlight!  Complete with soft pretzels graciously handed out by Chef, flowing beer served by the staff, and a buffet of sausages of every description (with sauerkraut, of course!); it was fabulous!  (Thinking back, I don’t think I had eaten sausages and sauerkraut since my last cruise in 2011!  Meat isn’t a normal part of my daily diet, but as they say, “When in Rome…”)

Although the previous river cruises were on ships with a maximum capacity of 145 and the River Voyager could cruise with 175 passengers, I would say that is the only negative of the newer river boats.  I like the intimacy and quaintness of small boats, but the trend is going towards larger boats (and larger ships) for economic reasons.  Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to book a cruise on this very same boat again!

As for the passengers, in general, I have found them to be much more experienced travelers than mega-ship cruisers.  Conversations over meals or around the ship were always lively and interesting with plenty of travel stories to go around.  I especially enjoyed hearing about other river cruise experiences, and the advice we received about itineraries was very helpful.

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Marg & Wendell, our dining partners for lunch in Heidelberg, and a few times on the ship.

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We first met Betsy and Mary on our pre-cruise tour, and then in Vienna, Betsy and I ended up going to the hospital together with Renata as our escort and interpreter.

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Betsy, Renata, and Me at the hospital

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Partying it up during the Captain’s farewell cocktail party.

Over all, I can’t say enough good things about our experience.  The best part?  Seeing Bruce enjoy it so much that he already has our next Vantage river cruise picked out!

 

CONCLUDING OUR CRUISE IN COLOGNE

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Our cruise didn’t actually conclude in Cologne, but it was the last city we visited on our journey before cruising to Bonn for disembarkation.  We had one last day in Germany, so like most of our “port” days, the morning was spent on a walking tour, and we enjoyed the afternoon on our own.

Cologne was different than many of the towns and cities we visited in that it (mostly) had a modern feel and look to it.  Being that 90% of the city was destroyed during World War II, there wasn’t much left standing in Germany’s most-destroyed city.  Cologne Cathedral did survive the bombing, though, and it is now the most-visited German landmark with an average of 20,000 visitors entering its doors each day!

Although construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248, work was halted in 1473 leaving it unfinished.  Work restarted in the early 1800’s, and it was finally completed in 1880.  As it stands now, it is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires.

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The city of Cologne is so proud of those tall spires that building restrictions require other buildings in the city center to be shorter in height than those spires.  As a result, the cathedral can be seen from all around the city.

Like all old cathedrals in Europe, it is constantly undergoing renovation; so, there is a permanent workshop on site and 65 full-time employees doing the work.  I’m quite sure their jobs are very secure…

Speaking of “65,” the cathedral still has 65% of its original stained glass windows, and they are absolutely stunning when the sun shines through!

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Beyond the cathedral, Cologne is a TV and media hub for Germany as well as an important cultural center.  It is also home to one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe.

On a personal note, one of my favorite things about Cologne is the Lindt Chocolate Museum.  When my mom and I visited Cologne on our 2011 river cruise, we spent a very rainy afternoon there, and it was fabulous!  It was a gorgeous day during this visit, so Bruce and I opted for just a quick look in the café and gift shop.

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The remainder of our afternoon was spent walking and taking in the sights.

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We were a bit sad it was our last day of the cruise!  Our day in Cologne ended with enjoying the sunset on deck and sharing a last evening with our new shipboard friends, Margaret and Bill.

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My next and final cruise post will be about life aboard our ship, River Voyager.  Stay tuned!

ROMANTIC RHINE RIVER

August 7, 1986; I remember it like yesterday.  Thirty years ago, Bruce took me on our first date.  We dined in Del Mar, California, at Bella Via and listened to the Bruce Cameron Jazz Ensemble.  It was a perfect night.

Three years later, we bought a house (coincidentally!) down the street from Bruce and Betty Cameron, and we married three years after that.

It has been a wonderful thirty years!

What better way to celebrate our thirty years together than cruising the romantic Rhine River through the Middle Rhine Valley?  Rolling hills of lush wine vineyards, fairy-tale castles, quaint towns—there isn’t anybody else in the world I would have rather shared it with than my amazing husband and best friend, Bruce.

After departing Rudesheim, we spent our afternoon on deck enjoying the beautiful scenery along the Rhine Gorge on our way to Cologne.  Castles dating back to the year 1000 amazed us, and the twists and turns of the Rhine delighted us.  It was a day to remember…

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Ehrenfels Castle (now in ruins) dates back to 1208.

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Mauserturm, 14th Century

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Reichenstein Castle was first built in 1100 and rebuilt in 1900.

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Sooneck Castle dates back to the late 1200’s.

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Furstenberg Castle (now in ruins) was built in 1219.

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Stahleck Castle was originally built in 1135!

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This was one of my favorites!  Pfalzgrafenstein Castle sits on the tiny island of Pfalz, and its sole purpose back in the day (early 1300’s!) was to generate revenue from boats traveling along the river.  Notice the castle in the background:  Gutenfels Castle.

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Another view of Gutenfels Castle

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A closer look at Gutenfels Castle

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Shonburg Castle, located above the town of Oberwesel (known as the “City of Towers”), is a bit of a mix of architectural styles.  Originally built in 1149, the castle was destroyed in 1689.  Since 1885, it has been built bit by bit into its current condition.  The newer section houses a famous hotel.

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Oberwesel, the “City of Towers” has 16 towers!

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Katz Castle is located above the town of St. Goarshausen.  It was first built in 1371; however, it was bombarded by Napolean in 1806.  it was rebuilt in the late 1800’s and is now privately owned and not open for visitors.

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Started in 1245 (and expanded several times since), Rheinfels Castle is the largest castle on the Rhine.  At one time, the castle covered five times its current area; however, most of it now is a ruin.  The other part includes a luxury hotel, wellness center, and restaurant.

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Maus (meaning “mouse”) Castle is located above the village of Wellmich and dates back to 1356.

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Vineyards blanket the landscape along the Rhine.

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Marksburg has the distinction of never having been destroyed.  Built in 1117, this castle was used for protection rather than as a residence for royal families.  Located above the town of Braubach, it is one of the principal sites for the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge.

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Located in Oberlahnstein, Martinsubrg Castle was built in the late 1300’s.

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Schloss Stolzenfels (Stolzenfels Castle), located in Koblenz, is a former medieval fortress castle.  It was a ruined 13th-century castle gifted to Frederick William in 1823, and he had it rebuilt as a 19th-century palace in Gothic Revival style.  Today, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Upper Middle Rhine Valley.

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Lahneck Castle, built in 1226,  is a medieval fortress located in the city of Lahnstein, south of Koblenz.  The 13th-century castle stands above the confluence of the Lahn River with the Rhine, opposite Stolzenfels castle.

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The Koblenz Cable Car crosses the Rhine where it meets the Mosel River.

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We completed our cruising journey for the day in Cologne where our ship tied up for the night and following day.  Check back for my next post on Cologne!

 

RAMBLIN’ AROUND RUDESHEIM

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What a charming wine-making town!  It’s no wonder Rudesheim am Rhein is one of Germany’s most visited tourist attractions.  Only the cathedral in Cologne (our next destination) draws more visitors from other countries.

Located on the Rhine Gorge, this quaint town of 10,000 residents is just too cute!  The Old Town is so adorable, I just wanted to wrap my arms around and hug it.

My mom and I had visited Rudesheim on our 2011 European river cruise, and I remembered swooning; it was love at first sight.

Riding the cable car up to Niederwalddenkmal (Niederwald Monument) was a lovely way to take in the views before returning to ramble around the town.  Built in 1870’s to 1880’s, it commemorates the Unification of Germany.

There is a lot more history to it than that, but you’ll have to Google it if you want to know more.  I was too distracted by the beauty of the vineyards below to pay much attention to our excellent guide who went on, and on, and… well, T.M.I.

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After returning by cable car to town, we enjoyed a leisurely ramble around.  The River Voyager was tied up along the riverbank in town, so it was very convenient to maximize our time without worrying about not returning to the boat in time for our afternoon departure.

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Coming up next:  Rhine