Olympic Peninsula

This September, my wife and I took our 1984 VW bus to explore the Olympic peninsula. Our trip started out with a stop in Seattle where I attended a meeting with folks involved in the Work That Reconnects where we took a close look within our own lives around white privilege, oppression, and racism and how it impacts the work we offer as facilitators. Two excellent websites that explore these topics are Dear White People and Awakening the Horse People

The beauty of the Olympic Peninsula was a stark contrast to the impoverished Indian reservations of the Quinault , Hoh, Quileute, Makah, Elwha Klallam tribes that inhabit this area. As we enjoyed the richness of the Olympic National Park, there was a time when indigenous people of this area roamed freely and now have been confined to boundary defined parcels of land.

A reminder of our dark history in treatment of indigenous people of this land which still continues to this day is presented in this documentary.

Images from our travels

Coming Home

Coming Home

Alas, poor Paris.  Amidst the pall of tragedy and political unrest, instead of Paris as our final destination, we rerouted our end-trip and flights home.  After spending our last day wandering in Barcelona and saying goodbye to this gracious city and to our beloved travels, we flew to Zurich and spent the night in a comfortable, super efficient airport hotel.  

In the morning we boarded a mellow and almost-empty flight, eating, reading, sprawling and napping as we flew across the Atlantic.  We landed in Washington, DC, where we passed through high-security customs, with polite customs officials and their luggage-sniffing German shepherd and beagle, automatic passport scanning machines, body scans, the works.

Then we boarded our jam-packed flight to Portland, and spent six more hours in the air, scrunched among coughing and sneezing travelers.  After almost 24 hours awake, we stumbled out into PDX, with a warm, sweet welcome from Jennifer.  And now we are home, coughing and sneezing from our airplane colds, drinking hot ginger lemon toddies and recovering from jet lag.

We feel very grateful and privileged that we were able to embark on this adventure of two months while so many in the world struggle day to day. Our immersion in European culture, made us aware of striking differences with our country around the areas of commercialism and consumerism. The gift of travel remains with us forever.

Werner & Abigail


                               Sagrada Basilica

At last, Spain!  Barcelona greeted us with its gorgeous, balmy climate.  The vibrant urban energy of Barcelona contrasted significantly with the peaceful surroundings of the last place we stayed, the sparsely populated Pyrenees Orientales. Each day in Barcelona, we explored different sectors of the city via the Metro (subway) and extensive walking. Most city blocks contained a bakery, coffee/bar, butcher, produce markets full of wonderful Mediterranean produce, and residential market. 

Our culinary favorite of our entire trip was eating tapas in Barcelona.  The menus are almost always in 3 languages:  Catalan, Spanish and English.  It was easy to order a satisfying meal by selecting two tapa dishes each.  A favorite accompaniment is toast with olive oil and a light coating of pureed tomato, lightly seasoned.  A glass, or sometimes a pitcher, of sangria perfectly complimented the meal. 

Our Airbnb was a short distance from Antoni Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia, a basilica of sacred architecture that almost defies description. The exterior is wildly ornate, and the structures reminded us of the drip castles we built in the sand when we were kids.  The interior, with no right angles, was filled with radiance from numerous stained glass windows.  We visited the gothic section of the city, a park filled with native parrots, the beaches of Barcelona.  One night we went to the magic fountain of Montjuic and watched the spectacular display of color, light and water acrobatics with musical accompaniment.  The fountain was built in 1926 for an international exposition.

                                                           Magic Fountain of Montjuic

Public transportation is a priority in the city, as exemplified by the unique bicycle program where a resident can pay 47 euros/year and have access to one of the 500 bikes throughout the city and use them for 30 minutes without charge. This way, people ride the metro or bus and then jump on a bike to their final destination. Despite the traffic in Barcelona, all the heavily-used bike paths are separated from the car traffic for obvious safety reasons.

After a week of tasting the culinary delights of the city, our recommendations are:

Best tapas: Beluga 1900
Best dinner: Vic Braseria
Best breakfast: Granja Petitbo
Best coffee: Onna Cafe

La Basilica Sagrada Familia

When visiting Barcelona, the influence of Antoni Gaudi is prevalent throughout the city, the most impressive being Le Basilica Selgrada Familia, a cathedral dating back to 1882. The structure reflects Gaudi's vision of natural forms void of straight lines and sharp corners. The construction continues to this day with a completion date targeted for 2026.

The sacredness of this cathedral contrasts with the massive influx of tourists who come to visit this unique archetectural wonder. We spent several hours admiring the non-linear design and brilliant display of light projected through the stained glass upon the walls and columns.

Pyrénées Orientales


The train took us through Mediterranean wetlands as we headed south towards Perpignon, France.  An incredible sight along the way:  flocks of flamingos!

We picked up our rental car in Perpignon and immediately drove an hour west, up into the mountains, through villages and past fortresses, to our next destination:  Serdinya, France, in the eastern French Pyranees.  This area is part of The Calalanes, the primary language spoken here being Catalan.  

This Airbnb was a beautiful, newly remodeled apartment, an entire floor with a large terrace overlooking the village and Le Tet river.  The 4-story house was originally a 17th century mail stop, similar to the pony express, but along an oxcart road.  Our wonderful hosts and new-found friends were Robin, an opera singer and voice coach, and her husband Michel, a concert pianist and music teacher.  During our stay, they performed for us.  A completely magical experience.

The climate in early November was sublime.  In our few days there, we watched the steep, rocky hills and deep canyons change from green to burnished gold.  Our day trips included VilleFranche, a tiny village completely surrounded by the walls of an ancient fortress, where we enjoyed authentic local cuisine .  We also explored the region known as Pyrénées Catalanes, where Werner went explored the high elevation trails while Abby wrote and walked by the lake.


Montpellier is along the French Mediterranean coast, west of Marseilles.  There are several universities in this city, which accounts for the lively energy that is prevalent throughout the city, manifesting in engaged conversation in all the outdoor eateries.

Again, we chose to stay in the heart of the historic district.  Our Airbnb was a walkup studio on the 2nd floor—which means 3 floors up.  Opening the huge door from the street, we trustingly entered a dank and gloomy hallway.  Visions of the tomb of Ligeia!  However, after 3 flights of cement stairs and 2 more locked doors, we entered our light, clean and well- equipped micro apartment, where we stayed almost a week.

The city was energizing and fun.  The cafes were lively and omnipresent; there were hundreds of bars and restaurants in the historic area.  Patisseries everywhere.  The district is a maze of interconnecting, narrow streets.  We loved walking for hours, window shopping, stopping now and then for a flat-white(Australian Latte) and fabulous almond crossants.  We encountered friendly waiters and storekeepers, who were kind to us and made an effort to bridge the language gap. There is a tram system for efficient travel around the city in all directions.

We had a memorable experience as we stood in front of one of Montpellier’s two opera houses, The Opera Comedie, wishing we could enter the lobby for a peak.  A very lovely Frenchwoman approached us, offered us two tickets, and rushed us inside for a showing of The Kid, by Charlie Chaplin, accompanied with enthusiasm by the Montpellier Orchestra, playing Chaplin’s original musical score. The gracious lady, it turned out, was an opera singer, who gave us her phone number in case we had any problems while in her city.

We hiked up to the top of the historic district, close to one of the universities, and had a panoramic view of the larger Montpellier, and a close up view of one of the ancient aqueducts. We visited the botanical gardens as well.

Around midnight in Montpellier on Halloween, there was a lot of activity/festivity/revelry.  From our open window, we heard voices, squeals, large groups bursting into song, in French, of course, laughter, revving motorcycles, the clacking of high heels on the street.  Cheering, even!  There were a lot of stores with Halloween decorations.  A few people were in costume, some with Day of the Dead face paint.

Au revoir, Montpellier!


Fréjus is a city of two personalities, a seaside resort as well as a medieval city. Our Airbnb landed us in the seaside resort, a harbor filled with sailboats and small yachts surrounded by outdoor restaurants in all directions. Ordering food was a challenge with our non existent French. Politely, I asked for a bowl of fruit(fruits) and the waiter proudly brought me a plate of french fries (frites), a reflection on my pronunciation. More than one waiter took on the task of giving us an on-the-spot French lesson.

To explore the region around Fréjus, we rented a car and drove east along the French coast. One could easily see the wealth signified by the villas along the shoreline as we headed toward Monaco. Red rock cliffs arose abruptly along the route, the winding road reminding us of Big Sur, California. Many public access points along the road lead to clear turquoise blue waters, that by Oregon standards were very swimmable.  We jumped into the Mediterranean for a refreshing swim.

Another day we drove west towards Marseilles to visit the fishing village of Cassis. The charm of this village was lost due to the large number of tourists (us included), who descend upon this weekend destination. We visited a calanque, a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone.  In the calanque, to our surprise, was a beautiful yacht harbor.

To complete our visit in Fréjus, we spent 3 more days at another Airbnb in the medieval portion of the town, where narrow streets form a labyrinth of unexpected turns, challenging our sense of direction as we brailled our way along. The medieval section is surrounded by ruins of Roman walls. Our Airbnb was 4 stories tall, each story being a single room. This stack of rooms was connected by an intricately designed, narrow, metallic spiral staircase. We ate in a wonderful, similarly-designed restaurant. The owner/waiter spent the entire evening galloping up and down his spiral staircase, the kitchen being in the basement. Our hosts were a lovely artistic couple, the woman being a teacher of music and the man, a multi-media artist.  Our hostess delighted us by constantly baking buttery French cookies.  Click here to view photos.

Ventimiglia to Nice

After a month of traveling, we found ourselves in Ventimiglia, Italy so named because it is 20,000 steps from the border of France. A coastal town, that offers a large Friday market of endless handbags, department store type clothing, some quality and lots of kitsch. Many street musicians appear at various corners of the market. We wandered the maze of booths and Abby's great find was a cashmere reversible poncho. After relaxing by the sea, we continued to explore the town's old structures and buy some lunch from the local vendors. 

A fellow traveler from the ecovillage, took us to the train station in Manton, an hour later we arrived in Nice, France and pulled our luggage along cobblestone streets to our next Airbnb. Nice is known for it natural beauty and pleasant mediterranean climate. A modern tramway system allows you to explore the city with ease. To Abby's surprise we stumbled upon an antique open-air market close to the promenade by the sea that Nice is famous for. Our first French dinner consisted of duck breast, spinach cheese ravioli, olive tapenade with toasted french bread.

Torri Superiore EcoVillage

One of the gems of our trip was discovering the small ecovillage of Torri Superiore, near the town of Ventimiglia by the French border of Mediterranean Italy. A restoration project of a small enclave of buildings in a 10th century castrum (fortress) began in 1989 and blossomed into a community of about 22 people of all ages who live there today. For the fascinating history of this town, visit there website at the link above.

It has been unexpectedly restful and reinvigorating within these ancient stone walls:  comfortable beds, simple, healthy, delicious locally-grown food, extraordinarily good red wine from Piedmont, Italy on the dinner table each night.  Extra good, strong coffee.  Mediterranean vegetation and climate, reminiscent of Santa Barbara.  

Visit the gallery of photos here.

We are grateful for the generous, sweet residents of Torre Superiore, and the good connections with other guests.  It is encouraging to see 22 people, from small children to elders, living well in alternative community.  We are 2 miles from the Mediterranean, 5 miles from the closest city, Ventimiglia, so named because it is 20,000 steps from France.

Mont Blanc

We have spent a delightful week in the Aosta Valley near Saint-Pierre in a remodeled Italian chalet with a view of the snow-covered Alps. Our small Fiat 500 helped navigate the many narrow streets and hairpin curves. During our stay here we visited Castello Fénis and the next we drove towards the French border to take the Skyway tram to Mt. Blanc, a rapid ascent of 8000 feet within 15 minutes which had quite an impact on us, especially Abby. The thin air could be felt as we climbed the steps to the 360 degree terrace that gave us a spectacular view of Mont Blanc. I could only think of the challenge of the 3000 runners who descend on this area every August to run 100 miles around the mountain. Many of our meals consisted or red wine, salami, cheese, and pasta, plus green salad and a nightcap of Grappa, not to mention the good Italian coffee every morning.


We were delighted to visit our friend Marguerite, who I met at a Joanna Macy intensive 6 weeks ago. Marguerite and her family live in the steep hillside of Piedmont near the town of Ivrea, Italy. We were welcomed into her home, an old farmhouse that has been converted into their living quarters where she creates her art. See http://www.kahrl.com.

We explored the many old villages and braved the narrow windy roads of Piedmont in our Fiat 500. We also visited Marguerite's friend Ellen Berman, who is creating a permaculture environment on land she has recently purchased. Ellen and Marguerite were planning a permaculture workshop incorporating the Work That Reconnects.


Our arrival in Freiburg was a pleasant surprise as we learned that the city is considered one of the more eco-friendly cities in Europe. Freiburg, a vibrant university city in southwest Germany’s Black Forest region, is known for its temperate climate and reconstructed medieval old town, crisscrossed with picturesque little brooks (bächle). Large clusters of bicycles are seen throughout the city. We spent much of our time exploring the narrow cobblestone streets lined with cafes and a variety of shops. Our Airbnb host was a delight and took us to an authentic German restaurant in the foothills surrounded with vineyards. All the food came from the local region as we ordered smoked trout, fresh roasted pork, german potato salad as good as my Mom makes, and wine from the southern Rhine region.

On our final day we visited a large health spa on the outskirts of town and luxuriated in the warm thermal pools and saunas offering a variety of temperatures. A bargain for only 20 euros for the whole day.

My reinvigorated German helped as we ordered food and drink from the cafes. So much of the food in Germany like bread, cheese, and meats that are found in every market would be considered specialty items in the USA.

We left Freiburg with our bellies satisfied and our hearts fullas we headed by train to Milan.


Abby and I are on day three of our stay in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Southern Germany, This evening, we just enjoyed two cappuccinos and a black forest cherry torte. Coffee and dessert seem to be a afternoon staple in this area. There are elements of the black forest that remind us of Oregon, but all the villages are connected with trails for miles and miles of hiking and biking, an outdoor paradise for the eternal wanderer.

We spent today exploring the area visiting Titisee and Feldberg where we took a cable car to the highest elevation of the southern part of the black forest.

Our airbnb lodging is a beautiful wood home where we have our own apartment upstairs for only 57 euros per night. Close by is an enchanting trail filled with black forest creatures of all kinds.

Let the wild rumpus begin!!!

Werner & Abigail



We are visiting Werner's cousin Michaela, her husband Simon, and their two children, Hanna (7) and Julian (5).  This is a new friendship for all of us--we had only met Michaela once, 12 years ago, and then she came with her family to the reunion at The Mill last week.

The children are very present and charming.  They are fascinated by us.  They adore us.  They only speak Swiss German, so we have no common language.  They have about 6 cousins, plus aunts, uncles, and grandparents, all nearby.  An aunt and uncle plus two of the cousins live right next door--the two houses are connectedThe cousins are all beautiful little blond children of similar ages.  And now, this new, tall, surprise of a cousin, Werner!!  

Michaela teaches grade school.  Simon is a TV news producer.  They are family-oriented and delightfully involved with the children.  Their house is ultra-modern and sophisticated, the only house like this in their small, traditional village of perhaps 2000 residents, located about 40 miles southeast of Basel.  Entire walls of the house are glass, with stunning views of the neighboring hills and sky.  Our visit was incredibly simpatico, and we all felt like family together.  They treated us wonderfully and fed us delicious Swiss meals.  The entire visit was a great delight.  We strongly advocated for them to visit us in Oregon.  For the gallery of photos click here.


All the children in the village walk to school unescorted by parents, even kindergarteners.  The children's friends stop by, and they walk to school together.  

The children all walk home from school every day for lunch.

The church bells ring every hour.  But at 6 a.m., they ring the bells for an extra long time, long enough to wake everybody up.

Public transportation by train makes it easy to commute to work in Basel. 

Michaela teaches in public school.  Her work shift is about 45%, though last year she worked longer, about 60%.  She says if they had to work longer shifts, no one would teach.   

All the villages throughout Switzerland are connected by hiking/biking trails.  All the trails are marked by signs saying "Wanderweg," the walking path.  There is good signage indicating the direction and kilometers to the next village.  

We never saw an excessively overweight person in Switzerland.  People of every age are active--they walk, hike, bicycle, and garden.

Switzerland is incredibly clean, tidy, and uncluttered. Beautiful. 

The standard of living is high.  The minimum wage is more than $3000 per month.  The prices are astronomical compared to US, like 3 to 5 times what we are accustomed to paying.

Basel, Switzerland

We arrived in Basel for an overnight visit with Theresa Waltz.  She is warm, deep, attractive.  Folkhart's ex-wife.  Her lovely, well-groomed neighborhood is a short walk uphill from the Rudolf Steiner school, where she taught until she retired.  We climb the spiral staircase to the 3rd floor.  

Theresa's apartment is light, bright, uncluttered, and artistic.  The view is to the north, across Basel.  The hills of the southern Black Forest rise up in the distance.  Theresa gives us her bed.  The sheets are solid colors:  apricot, lemon cream.  I awaken during the night, swing open the windows.  The cool, clear air of Switzerland is luxurious.

Basel is on the border between Switzerland, Germany, and France.  We walk on cobblestones through the historic district.  Once everyone is at work, there are few cars on the streets.  The bicyclists are all ages; even the aged are on bikes.  We visit the famous church, the Basel Müenster.  They began building it 1000 years ago!  We walk out on the old bridge.  The Rhine River flows below us.  The most incredible lunch, an all-vegetarian buffet, Tibits.  Every bite is fabulously tasty.  

The Autumn Equinox
Arrives in Basel, Switzerland
 For Theresa

Dark feather clouds
blanket the night.

Quietude:  no dog barks.
The autumn equinox

enters through a glass door
that opens to the north.

Even the rivers
find themselves dreaming 

into the dark, womanly crest
of geological time.

Sleep’s heavy breathing.
The next deep inhalation.

Sandstone escarpments, 
the wooded hillsides, 

the forgotten memories:
how summer's auburn

blood beech trees
turns now from red to green.

Across the valley, 
beyond the thin blue lines,

the etched maps,
the wandering riverways,

the black forest sighs
into its turning leaves.

 Abigail Brandt
September 2015

Then Theresa drives us to our next destination, Gelterkinden, Switzerland, the home of her daughter, Werner's cousin Michaela, and her family.

                                                                        Theresa and Abigail

Die Mühle

Stone mill-wheel

We are staying in the Swiss countryside at Werner's Uncle Folkhart's sixteenth century mill located in Bärschwil 45 minutes south of Basel.  Forty years ago, he moved to the mill and made it his home.  It is a gallery of antiques, religious relics, and original artworks.  It is a library, the shelves stuffed with books on every subject, from Folkhart's lifetime of teaching at Rudolf Steiner schools.  Here and there, on shelves and windowsills, are Folkhart's remarkable collection of museum quality crystals and precious stones.  Beside the deep fireplace, one of the original stone mill-wheels has been set onto a pedestal.  It must weigh a ton.  It is arranged with chrysanthemums and ornamental gourds, a tribute to autumn.

My beloved mother-in-law Ingrid and her husband Lester are here.  The landscape of relatives changes daily.  We are having a reunion.  Every morning, the dark wooden table is laden with platters of French pâté, thinly sliced ham, alluring cured meats, fabulous cheeses, a delicious assortment of fresh breads and rolls, butter, jams and marmalades, muesli and yogurt.  We drink strong Italian coffee.  And we start another day with another feast.

Before we left the Mühle (the Mill), we had a chance to walk around the property (6.1 acres) and capture the essence of this magical piece of land, abundant with creeks, waterfalls, ponds and lush with all kinds of foliage. There is a lot of upkeep for my uncle and we kept envisioning how an ecovillage would be well suited for this environment. 

Werner & Abigail

Family Reunion

We are close to the end of our stay with my uncle Folkhart close to Bärschwil, a small village 45 minutes south of Basel. Folkhart owns a converted grain mill on five acres from the early 1600's that has 5 apartments and his own dwelling. This week culminated with a saturday night feast among 3 generations on my mother's side of the family. The main course consisted of Raclette, a cheese commonly used for melting in a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese on a open fireplace and scraping off (racler) the melted part over potatoes.

This area of Switzerland is dotted with many small villages connected by walking trails known as Wanderwegs as well as two-lane roads.  A few minutes in any direction and you are in the company of sheep, goats, and cows with bells. Photos from an afternoon walk in Bärschwil can be viewed in the Gallery


Getting Ready

After months of anticipation, we are approaching our departure date from Portland to Basel via Chicago and Frankfurt. The excitement is building as I am making some last minute attempts to buy suitable pants for hiking and wandering the landscape of Europe. The mental river of thoughts continue to build of what needs to be done, what should be done, and what we can let go. Being human is way too complicated, but what choice do we have. We invite you to follow us on this adventure as we embark on a one way ticket across the Atlantic. 

Benedicto: May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view...where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.
— Edward Abbey