Photo 101: Street

Photo 101: Street

Our Day 2 assignment of the Photo 101 course was “Street & Establishing Shot”, which focuses on a wide-angle street scene.

I captured several interesting street scenes during a visit to Philadelphia in 2010 – Urban Landscape, Cheesesteaks, South Philly Musicians, and Chinatown. The photos were taken with my father’s point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot A400 camera. I might not have had an iPhone at that point.

Our Urban Landscape

This first photo suddenly jumps out at you when we encountered it during our drive through South Philadelphia. This wall mural called Our Urban Landscape was originally painted in 2006, and then restored in 2014 (after my photo). 

It is a colorful collage of neighborhood residents, landmarks, and foods, which is painted on the side of the Colligas Family Shop Rite at Front and Snyder. The large faces of the people stand out in the foreground with everything else in the background. See an updated photo on the web site for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Colorful Wall Mural


Pat’s King of Steaks, self-proclaimed “inventor of cheesesteak”, has offered classic versions of Philly’s favorite sandwich since 1930 at 9th & Wharton Streets in Philadelphia (where Passyunk and Wharton meet). Because of their popularity and high volume, the line moves very quickly so you need to be prepared.

It’s located right opposite Geno’s Steaks, it’s long-time rival since 1966 with a constant battle 24 hours a day for the title of best cheesesteak. There’s an interesting article about Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks on the Philadelphia official visitor site, including tips on how to order, like “one whiz wit(h)”. And yes, Cheez Whiz is the most popular topping. Here the Pat’s Steaks sign is in the foreground, with the buildings in the background. In fact, that wall mural with a clock behind Pat’s is my next photo.

Pat's Steaks

South Philly Musicians

Across from the world-famous Pat’s King of Steaks is a towering tribute to seven of South Philly’s music and film stars. This wall mural has huge portraits of Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Fabian, Eddie Fisher, Al Martino, and DJ Jerry Blavat. It was created at this Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue location in 2005, but now is chipped, faded, and crumbling, apparently damaged by roof leaks.

The Mural Arts Program had planned to paint it over for a “dignified retirement”, especially with a proposed four-story development for the lot next door that would block the mural. but the whitewashing plan was scrubbed so see if it could possibly be moved to another wall somewhere. Apparently donations by Frankie Avalon and Jerry Blavat for the restoration project may result in a revamped mural in the fall of 2016, possibly with the additional of James Darren and Charlie Gracie. Again the musicians (and clock) occupy the foreground with a street scene in the background.

South Philly Singers


As we were driving around, we ventured into Chinatown, which had lots of interesting street scenes. Here’s one view of the street with several restaurants (and signs) in the foreground and buildings as the background.

Chinatown in Philadelphia

That’s all for today. More photos to come.

Photo 101: Home

Photo 101: Home

Our Day 1 assignment of the Photo 101 course was “Home”, which reminds me of some of the places where I have lived.

St. Nicholas Hospital - Sheboygan


I was born at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which was my first home (very briefly). Now it has been converted into an affordable apartment housing complex for senior residents.


My parents loved me all my life. These photos of my mother and father were taken when they were married during the last year of World War II. She’s almost 96 in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, but he died 3 years ago.

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I was blessed to have a wonderful family with two brothers and two sisters. We grew up in a small house and my father raised the back roof for more bedrooms as our family grew.


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After marriage and 4 years in the Air Force, we lived in a townhouse in New Jersey . Our 2 boys initially grew up there before moving near Dallas, Texas. There was a nice common area with playground and swimming pool near an elementary school.


Now we’re very lucky to be retired and living on the north shore of Lake Travis near Austin in the Texas hill country. It’s very comfortable in a quiet community which is close enough to our grandchildren as well as downtown when we want to visit.  We have two lovely golf courses and tennis courts nearby which we love to play.  There’s quite a bit of wildlife in our backyard to watch like white-tailed deer, hummingbirds, squirrels, birds, butterflies, etc.

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We have a wonderful view from our deck where I captured this panoramic iPhone photo of a morning rainbow at breakfast after a light rain several years ago when the lake was very low. At least the recent El Nino rains have filled it back up again to about 97% full.

Morning Rainbow

I will be sharing more photos with daily assignments over the next couple of weeks.

Germany: Berlin

Germany: Berlin

After arriving from Leipzig by a fast InterCity Express (ICE) train, our nephew picked us up at the Südkreuz train station near his southwest Berlin home in Zehlendorf. We stayed four nights and had a wonderful visit with him and his family while getting to see so much of Berlin and Potsdam with our own personal tour guide. We also had great weather for sightseeing – sunny and low 70’s.

On the first day, we visited Potsdam which borders Berlin on the west. We saw the Sanssouci Palace that was the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, and walked around its landscaped gardens where we noticed this gilded gazebo.

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We explored the surrounding Sanssouci Park where there was also this New Palace. Later we went to Cecilienhof Palace northeast of Sanssouci that was the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 where the heads of the Soviet Union (Stalin), United Kingdom (Churchill), and United States (Truman) made important decisions affecting post-war Europe and Asia including  partitioning of Germany and Berlin.

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We enjoyed a nice dinner at a cafe on the Lake Wannsee near my nephew’s house. Its at the western-most part of Berlin before crossing the bridge to Potsdam. His teenage children attend the John F.Kennedy international bilingual school nearby since he’s American and his wife is German; they both speak their native language at home with them, which was interesting. We took the family out to dinner twice, and they made special German meals for us the other nights.


The second day we walked all around Berlin. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, which is an 18th-century triumphal arch that was a former city gate where the Berlin Wall had divided the city from 1961 to 1989 when it was opened and Germany was reunified. Also there are various monuments nearby like this equestrian statue of Frederick the Great, honoring King Frederick II of Prussia.

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The third day we rode around Berlin some more and visited the Charlottenburg Palace and gardens, just west of the large Tiergarten park in center city not far from the Brandenburg Gate. There were other interesting sites like silver people that look like statues and come alive when you give them some money.

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There is an interesting mix of old and new buildings throughout Berlin, which we saw on a boat cruise on the Spree River which goes through the city, looking at all the massive federal buildings, churches, and museums.

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On our last day we went to the American Checkpoint Charlie on the former east-west border before the Berlin Wall came down. It’s now been 25 years since the reunification of Germany. Also we visited the Wall Museum next to the checkpoint with lots of information, pictures, and exhibits about the reality of that time.

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The joys of travel … Our 7am flight from Berlin Tegl Airport to Austin via London Heathrow was grounded after we left the gate because it “lost control of steering”. First they went over to the maintenance facility to see if they could repair it, but that was not successful. So they unloaded all our luggage and took us back to the terminal by bus to rebook flights after going through customs and picking up our luggage.

Then we had to wait in line at British Airways for about 4 hours after the initial 2-hour grounding delay to see what we could arrange as alternate flights. Finally we managed to get re-routed from Berlin to Austin via Amsterdam and Atlanta on KLM/Delta so we thought at least we might get home late that same day.

We made the KLM connection in Amsterdam. However, in Atlanta after customs, baggage claim, security checkpoint, bag drop-off, train to another terminal, and long walk to a gate, we just missed our very tight connection to Austin. At least Delta gave us a Marriott hotel voucher, an overnight amenity kit with toothbrush/paste, razor/shave cream, deodorant, etc. and meal vouchers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So finally we got home to Texas about mid-day the next day. It was a fantastic 3-week trip, although it was probably too long, even though we saw a lot.

Click on the following photo to view the Berlin photo gallery (about 148 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Berlin

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Germany: Leipzig

Germany: Leipzig

After visiting Rothenberg on the Romantic Road, we continued driving north toward our next destination at Leipzig. Along the way, we visited several places where my wife’s relatives were born or lived – maternal grandmother at Lindenau in west Leipzig, and great-grandparents at Ohrdruf and Wechmar near Gotha. Also we visited the Wartburg Castle from the Middle Ages near Eisenach because she has a photo of her grandmother’s cousins taken there; it was interesting and we took a picture of her at the same spot.

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We arrived in Leipzig in the evening so we only had time for dinner and a brief walk around center city near the hotel where we stayed. Apparently that weekend was the 24th International Wave Gothic Festival (Wave-Gotik-Treffe) which they have in Leipzig every year with about 20,000 gothic people from all over the world celebrating “dark” music and arts (world’s largest). It was rather strange to see all these weird black outfits everywhere, including in our hotel and everyday you go outside.

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We really didn’t have much time there since we just stayed overnight in Leipzig. It was hard to judge how long our drive might take, especially since we took many back roads, and we thought that we might get there earlier than we did. We had a very nice hotel in the main square, and our view from the bathroom on the 6th floor had an interesting view of the old city hall out the window, which is where we ate dinner in the larger photo below.

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We turned in our rental car in the morning and took a train north for Berlin, where we stayed 4 nights with my nephew and family who live there. Originally we planned to stay in Leipzig two nights but we needed to shorten that to accommodate a schedule conflict he had on the following day, but at least we got to spend more time in Berlin which was better anyway.

Click on the following photo from Leipzig to view the Leipzig photo gallery (about 53 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site. These also include photos from Eisenach, Ohrdruf, and Wechmar.

Germany Trip: Leipzig

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Germany: Romantic Road

Germany: Romantic Road

After catching a train back to Munich from Salzburg, we visited medieval walled villages from the Middle Ages driving our rental car north along the Romantic Road through Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber (where we stayed overnight). These were great, especially the last one – probably our favorite of the entire trip.

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Click on the following photo from Rothenberg ob der Tauber to view the Romantic Road photo gallery (about 149 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Romantic Road

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Germany: Salzburg

Germany: Salzburg

From Munich Germany we took an 1 1/2 hour train ride to Salzburg Austria. It was cold (43) and rainy all day. Although the German national rail system went on strike the night before, we were still able to take our train from Munich to Salzburg on-time with no problems. We wondered what would happen to our return train reservations in two days, but that turned out not to be a problem because the strike was settled by then.

We went on a city sightseeing tour and then walked the old town with rain jacket and umbrella. There was an interesting fortress high on a hill overlooking the city, and there was a big emphasis on Mozart. We had the famous Sacher-Torte chocolate cake with whipped cream at the Sacher Hotel cafe.

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We spent another day in Salzburg and went on the 4-hour Sound of Music tour, which was actually pretty interesting since you visit all the places from the movie. Also we walked the old town some more, and visited the fortress high on the hill over the city. It was slightly warmer (48) and light rain most of the day.

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Click on the following photo to view the Salzburg photo gallery (about 236 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Salzburg

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Germany: Munich

Germany: Munich

After our week on the Rhine Cruise with two additional days in Amsterdam, we flew to Munich for two days on the rest of our extended Germany trip.

We visited the Hofbraühaus for lunch and listened to oompah music. Of course, we had bratwurst, potatoes, and sauerkraut with Hofbraü Dunkel (dark) beer.


We took a short sightseeing tour around the city and walked around center city for a while.

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Then we had dinner (and more beer) at a sidewalk cafe.


The next day we toured the Royal Castles and visited the village of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps southwest of Munich. Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland  that was built by King Ludwig II in the 19th century along with his elaborate Linderhof family castle. It was overcast with rain in lower 50’s, but still a good tour.

Click on the following Neuschwanstein Castle photo to view the Munich photo gallery (about 194 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Munich

The automatic slideshow displays each photo for 2 seconds with a 1 second fade transition. There are options for full-screen mode in the lower-right corner, and a pause button in the lower-left corner. There are also arrows on the left and right sides to move manually forward and backward through the photos.