Sounds of Silence

Silence comes from many sources, as darkness comes in many shades. Silence from those whose lives were taken or voices silenced. Silence through technology that brings people together by keeping them apart. Silence from commercialism that values things more than people. Silence from fear that has sparked new life to nationalism all over the world. Our world becomes ever smaller and ever darker.

And so on the darkest day of the year, listening to the sounds of silence, let’s remember that when all the evils from Pandora’s box were released, all that remained was hope. People may be the cause of these problems, but people are also surely the solution.


The Sound Of Silence
by Paul Simon

(Click here for my new favorite version of this song by Disturbed.)

Frankfurt Holocaust Memorial Wall
Jewish Holocaust Memorial Wall in Frankfurt

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Brussels cobblestone street

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp

Dublin pub
Church behind McD’s and money exchange in Vienna

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

Watching the light show through camera phones in Frankfurt (German Reunification Day)
Paris subway station

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Downtown Dresden
“Welcome culture” for Syrian refugees caricature in Frankfurt

“Fools,” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

Frankfurt Red Light District
Red Light District in Amsterdam
Tourist season in Amsterdam

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming

Panier district of Marseille
Revolution mural in Leipzig
Graffitti-allowed wall in Prague

And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

Signs of globalization in Bucharest
Political palindromes in a London underground station
Political palindromes in a London underground station

And tenement halls

Housing in Bucharest

And whispered in the sounds of silence”


European Feast

European Feast

In honor of not cooking this Thanksgiving, here are some of my all-time favorite food and drink pictures from all over Europe over the last three years. Guten Appetit & Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: I wasn’t too big on taking food pictures until recently. A few not pictured favorites include mussels in Belgium, Indonesian food in the Netherlands, Sacher torte (a kind of chocolate cake) in Austria, stuffed peppers in Romania, Scotch and shortbread in Scotland; Guinness in Ireland, fondue and Raclette in Switzerland, pasta-sauerkraut-cheese stir fry in the Czech Republic, smoked salmon in Sweden and Norway, and gelato, coffee, pizza, etc., etc. in Italy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


I’ve been a wild rover for many a year
And I’ve spent all my money on whiskey and beer

– “The Wild Rover”


St. Patrick
St. Patrick

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are a few more pictures from my trip last month along with some of my favorite Irish song lyrics (about Dublin, death, women, drink, etc,). Sláinte!


Molly Malone statue in Dublin
Molly Malone statue in Dublin

In Dublin’s Fair City
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through streets broad and narrow
Crying “Cockles and mussels alive, alive-o!”
– “Molly Malone”


Monasterboice Cemetery
Monasterboice Cemetery

Rolled him up in a nice clean sheet, and laid him out upon the bed
A bottle of whiskey at his feet and a barrel of porter at his head

Wasn’t it the truth I told you? Lots of fun at Finnegan’s Wake

– “Finnegan’s Wake”


Jameson's Irish Whiskey
Jameson’s Irish Whiskey

I counted out his money and it made a pretty penny
I put it in my pocket and I took it home to Jenny
She sighed and she swore that she never would deceive me
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy

– “Whiskey in the Jar”


Guiness ad in Dublin
Guiness ad in Dublin

The years have made me bitter, the gargle dims me brain
‘Cause Dublin keeps on changing and nothing seems the same
The Pillar and the Met have gone, the Royal long since pulled down
As the grey unyielding concrete, makes a city of my town
– “The Rare Ould Times”


Ha' Penny Bridge at night
Ha’ Penny Bridge at night

History Turns to Story in Ireland

Celtic crosses in Monasterboice cemetery
Celtic crosses in Monasterboice cemetery

Storytelling and folklore, Guinness and whiskey. It seems these features blend well together in Ireland, for the most part creating a rich and fascinating culture.

Northern Ireland

It’s interesting to see how history and fiction blend together. James and I spent most of a long weekend in early February in Dublin, but we took two memorable daytrips from there as well. The first was to Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom and at one time in heated conflict with the Irish Republic. We crossed the rope bridge Carrick-a-Rede as the wind tossed it and us along, climbed parts of the volcanic rock structure Giant’s Causeway, stopped to see Dunluce Castle which Belfast-born author C.S. Lewis used as inspiration for the Narnian castle Cair Paravel, and visited the architecturally mixed city of Belfast. Giant’s Causeway is so named because, according to many colorful variations of legend, the Irish giant Finn MacCool built it during a conflict with a Scottish giant.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge
Along the way to the bridge
Along the way to the bridge
Giant's Causeway
Giant’s Causeway
Giant's Causeway from the top
Giant’s Causeway from the top
Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle
St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast
St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast

Celtic History

Our second tour further emphasized how hard it is to understand just how ancient the remains of Ireland’s history are. Here we explored Ireland’s Celtic history and literally stepped into the ancient past.

Our guide was one of the 10% of the Irish who consider themselves fluent in Irish Gaelic. In fact, English is his second language, although like the majority of Irish people, he is also fluent in English. Irish Gaelic is taught in schools and, as English and Irish are both official languages, all signs in Ireland are written in both languages. (In Northern Ireland, a noticeable difference is that only English is used.)

On this trip we visited two Celtic burial grounds: the Hill of Tara and Loughcrew. There are few burial mounds remaining today, as the stones from the mounds have been used over the course of history for other buildings. Incredibly, we were able to enter a 5,000 year old tomb in Loughcrew. Celtic writing carved in the walls and passage ceilings, coins and dried up figs placed between the stones could still be seen inside.

Hill of Tara
Hill of Tara
Trim Castle
Trim Castle
Loughcrew Celtic burial grounds
Loughcrew Celtic burial grounds
Celtic writing inside the tomb
Celtic writing inside the tomb
Irish coutryside view from Loughcrew
Irish coutryside view from Loughcrew site


Back in the present, modern-day Dublin is exactly what you would expect it to be like. Home of many famous writers – James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, etc. – the city is still full of friendly, loquacious people who take any question as the opportunity to tell a story. And, of course, Dublin has no shortage of cozy pubs.

Guinness ad in Dublin
Guinness ad in Dublin
O'Neill's pub
O’Neill’s pub
Inside O'Neill's
Inside O’Neill’s
Pub in Temple Bar district
Pub in Temple Bar district
Jameson's Irish Whiskey Distillery
Jameson’s Irish Whiskey Distillery
Glasnevin Cemetery
Glasnevin Cemetery

The highlight of Dublin this time for me though wasn’t the haunted history tours, the literary pub crawl, the Guinness storehouse, or the Jameson Distillery tour. It was the Book of the Kells and the Old Library at Trinity College. Like something out of a medieval mystery story, the Book of Kells is a biblical text handwritten and illustrated in an island monastery, stolen and lost or hidden away during its history. It eventually came to land in Trinity College where different sample pages of it and a few other medieval texts are on display daily.

The Old Library above the Book of Kells exhibit is the quintessential library: full of high rounded windows to light its dark wood interior, narrow wooden ladders to reach musty hardcover books in every section, a spindly spiral staircase leading up to the upper level, and quiet rustling. Crowds of tourists browsing open copies of historic books in display cases in near silence. We even came across a folktale of the Lorelei, a mythical character for which a rock on the Rhein near Sankt Goar, Germany was named. Once more example of folklore and history, past and present colliding harmoniously.

Old Library at Trinity College
Old Library at Trinity College