Travels & Traditions: What are they Eating in the Photograph? - #1105

BURT WOLF: When it comes to eating and drinking there are two great truths:

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): If you don’t eat and drink you will soon depart for the great beyond, and no matter how much you eat and drink at any one time you will soon be hungry. As a result, eating and drinking are at the center of all life, and packed with significance way beyond the idea of nutrition. And anything that important is a fit subject for an artist.

BURT WOLF: The earliest drawings that we know about are in the Lascaux caves of France. They date back over 30,000 years and illustrate hunters going out for meat. Where’s the beef has always been an important question.

The ancient Egyptians covered the walls of their tombs with pictures of things to eat and drink in the afterlife.

The art of the middle ages was packed with scenes of cooking and eating.

Leonardo Di Vinci’s Last Supper shows you what people were eating and drinking during the Renaissance.

The subject matter of Cezanne’s still life paintings came right out of his local market.

And since the middle of the 1800s, things to eat and drink have been in photographs.

This program looks at some of the great food related photographs. And explains why the photographs are important from an artistic viewpoint.

It also tells the story behind the foods that are in the pictures.

And I gathered a group of great chefs to demonstrate their favorite recipes for the foods that are in the photographs.

I also called in some photography experts to help us understand the images.

Jeff Rosenheim is a curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and a leading figure in the world of photography.

Andy Smith is the editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, and the author of more than 300 articles on the subject of eating and drinking.

Kathryn Howard Oremland has a degree in Fine Art from New York University in photography. Her dissertation at Sotheby’s Institute of Art delt with the use of food as a medium for contemporary art. She also worked at Kreemart, an organization that enables contemporary artists to work with desserts.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And I’m here for the hamburger and because I promised to pick up the check.

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): Speaking of the hamburger, one of the great pictures that we have in the history of American photography is this Philippe Halsman study of Marilyn Monroe at the beginning of her career. It was made somewhere outside of Los Angeles for a Life magazine picture story. And it's among the most popular pictures online today, for obvious reasons.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And would you care to mention some of those reasons?

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): Well no one minds a good picture of someone eating a hamburger, but when it's Marilyn Monroe in this soft top convertible, at the diner, it just tells us about the many pleasures of American culture.

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): Halsman was born in Latvia, came to the States in 1940, and he was beloved by art directors everywhere, because of his bold style and his understanding of the psychological moment. He was on the cover of Life and Look and Esquire and Saturday Evening Post many, many times. And he seemed to be able to communicate with his subjects. 

And he understood how to make a picture that sells eroticism and desire and it works for me.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND (ON CAMERA): I could see why it would work for you guys much more. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Well, when I was looking at that photograph and thinking about it, I was thinking about the history of the automobile, and people traveling and eating. Until the 1920s, when Ford started to make the mass produced cars, people did not eat on the road. And then as soon as the cars came out, somebody in the government figured out how to put together Route 66.

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): This is a wonderful photograph with a number of different culinary symbols in it. At the center of it, you have the hamburger. And the hamburger of course starts off as a street food. And as the automobiles began to clog the inner city streets, the street had to move onto the sidewalk. The hamburger vendors needed to move to more permanent facilities, and one of the places they moved to was the drive-in. They created the drive-in in the 1920s to help feed people who were traveling from city to city on Route 66. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): It's a picture that's trying to sell a budding star. And that's Marilyn Monroe. She'd done "Asphalt Jungle" and she's about to do "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." And this is a picture that is going to be used to market a new star in the firmament of the country.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND (ON CAMERA): It's about the gaze. And it's a very sexual photograph. And it's very appealing to men, and.

ANDY SMITH: The gaze is fascinating. I mean normally when you eat, you look at the food that you’re eating. She’s not looking at her food at all. She’s looking right at the camera.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND (ON CAMERA): There are different foods that provoke different emotions, and Marilyn eating provokes a number of emotions, I'm sure. And it's taken by a man. So it's definitely about the male point of view as to what women should look like.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND: But something that is interesting, is that she's sitting in the driver's seat, which puts her in a position of power, or at least more power than if she were not driving the car herself.


BURT WOLF: To get a better understanding of what they are eating in the photographs, I asked a number of leading chefs to demonstrate their favorite recipe for the food that’s in the picture.

Michael Lomonico is the chef and owner of Porterhouse New York. He took one look at the Halsman photo of Marilyn and headed for his prime beef room.

MICHAEL LOMONICO (ON CAMERA): This is real Prime Rib. In other words it’s actually grated Prime. Most steaks that people call Prime Rib are not Prime. It’s not required by the government. But this is Prime Beef, it’s a Rib of beef and it’s dry aged. So Burt what we do is there’s always the end of the steak that we can’t use. But we trim it, this goes into the Chef’s private reserve. Private stash really. 

MICHAEL LOMONICO: We’re gonna want to grind some of this for a while.

MICHAEL LONOMICO (ON CAMERA): Now when I say don’t over handle it that’s really because we want it to be just packed so that it holds together. And when you over work it, and people tend to do that they take burger meat and they over work it and they put seasonings in it all of those things leach out the flavor of the beef.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): If you’ve got good beef just leave it alone.

BURT WOLF: He adds a little salt, and pepper, then the burgers go on a hot grill along side the prime beef steak. 

MICHAEL LOMONICO (ON CAMERA): A great burger should really remind you of what it is. Beef. Fresh beef.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Great steak.

MICHAEL LOMONICO (ON CAMERA): Great steak, it should be.

BURT WOLF: The buns are toasted and the burgers go on with some sliced onion, tomato and lettuce.

MICHAEL LOMONICO: And a great steak is one thing, but a great burger should be as satisfying as a great steak. 


JEFF ROSENHEIM: This great picture by Cartier Bresson of a picnic on the banks of the Marnes. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): It was made in 1938 by the father of street photography, and even photo-journalism, one might say. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM: And it's a picture of leisure and pleasure.

We really feel like we're practically pouring the wine that the gentleman is pouring. We're looking over the shoulder of the figures, and we're practically there, and yet they don't know it. I don't feel like we're intruding. We're ...


JEFF ROSENHEIM: We're joining in.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND: It's a very interesting point of view from a photographic standpoint. To take photos from behind. Because usually within portraiture or documentary style photography, the expression of the face is more important. But here it's kind of more about the scene. So it's somewhat reminiscent even of landscape photography almost.

ANDY SMITH: It's also a fascinating culinary picture too. Because you have a number of different culinary images. 

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): You've got what most likely is chicken I assume. Is that what they're eating? 


JEFF ROSENHEIM: I love chicken.

ANDY SMITH: It's a perfect picnic food. It can be eaten hot, eaten cold. It's great. You've got a bottle of wine here. And so they're enjoying themselves thoroughly. You've got knives and forks and plates on this. And you've got relatively heavy set Frenchmen. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): It's also possible that the picture was made by Cartier Bresson after the popular front gave the right to most French workers to have 15 days of paid holiday, and this could be likely one of those early pictures in 1938.

KATHIE HOWARD OREMLAND: And interesting thing on documentary photography is that it's an indexical icon, and it is exactly what has happened. And it was shot on film, it's not digital. 

A Picnic illustrates our desire to bring together two opposites in our lives. We like the idea of getting out of our structured home environment, and traveling into the untamed wilderness. "The Picnic" gives us a sense that we are free and adventurous. We love the idea of being close to nature, but not too close. 

BURT WOLF: The moment we get out there, the first thing we do is we try to separate ourselves from it. We mark off our territory with a picnic cloth. We even hold down the edges with boundary stones. We cover the cloth with foods we cooked at home. But what we're actually doing is trading the discomfort of our formerly enclosed dining rooms and restaurants for the joys of prickly grass, pointed stones, flying insects, and unpredictable weather. To me, it proves the old saying, "A change of aggravation is like a holiday." 


MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): Iimagine a photographer takes photographs of things they enjoy looking at.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It’s the same thing.

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): And it’s the same thing, a restaurant and a chef wants to create food that he or she wants to eat. 

BURT WOLF: Mark Murphy is the executive chef and owner of a number of New York City restaurants including Landmark Tribecca and Ditch Plains. I asked him for a favorite picnic menu.

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): So we’re gonna do a roasted chicken, very simply. Some leaks vinaigrette. Also I’ve got a pizza dough over here. 

BURT WOLF: The lardon is pressed into the pizza dough. Lardon is simply large chucks of bacon. Grueyere cheese is sprinkles on top. A little sea salt and olive oil. 


BURT WOLF: Then it’s off to the oven for 15 minutes.

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): And now the next thing we’re gonna do is get the leaks ready. We’re making a little leaks vinaigrette.

MARK MURPHY: The most important thing about leaks you see is that you have to make sure they are separated. To make sure you get all of the dirt out. And another thing a lot of people I think make mistakes at home is when they’re washing spinach or leaks or anything like that is they take this and they dump it out. 

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): Now that’s wrong because now then what you’re doing is you’re taking the dirt out of the leaks. So you have to take the leaks and scoop them off the top. 

MARK MURPHY: Because what you do is now the dirt because it’s heavier than the leaks the dirt’s gonna go to the bottom and not on the leaks. Very important.

BURT WOLF: The leaks then go into boiling water and cook until tender. 

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): So now they’re nice and tender. We’re gonna dump them out. And you want to shock them with a little bit of ice. It helps keep that nice color. Or else just run them under some cold water for a little bit. 

BURT WOLF: Next the leaks are tossed with salt and vinaigrette dressing. 

The chicken is prepared by seasoning with salt and pepper. The cavity is filled with garlic, onion, lemon and thyme. Butter is placed under the skin and the chicken is ready to be tied up. 

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): Take your twine, do a figure eight, put it right behind the legs, get the wings, flip it over, and most important you do one, two, this way the knot doesn’t slip, then you don’t have to ask someone to put their finger there. See how that kind of holds just like that.

BURT WOLF: The chicken is placed on a baking pan, glazed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted at 350 degrees for about an hour. 

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): Cooking isn’t all that difficult, you just have to think a little bit. This is why I started doing this for a living, I didn’t want to think too much, just a little bit. Now we’re gonna go throw this in the oven. 

BURT WOLF: When the chicken is cooked Mark cuts it into hand sized chunks for easy eating at the picnic. 

MARK MURPHY (ON CAMERA): Anybody getting hungry?


JEFF ROSENHEIM: We've got a great picture of the inside of a automat in New York City. It was made just blocks from right where we’re sitting.

It's a picture made during a project by Berenice Abbott, who was most well known for her studies of the fabric of New York City during the depression. It was made for the Federal Art Project. And we're looking at the inside of a restaurant where there are no waiters.

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): Where there are no menus per se. But there is often great food and coffee.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): You walked up to these people, and you gave them your dollars, and they gave you nickels. And you took your fistful of nickels and you put it in this machine. And then the food came out. You had no idea of who cooked it, and then you left. And if you had the nickels, you didn't even have to talk to the lady who made change.

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): But there were some really great things about automats.

BURT WOLF: The food was good.

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): Not just the food was good, in addition to that, you didn't have to pay a tip. You didn't have to talk to people. You could go in, get your food, you could just have it by yourself, and then walk out again, and you don't have to have this huge affair of having a dining with two or three hours of eating.

BURT WOLF: It's like the Internet of gastronomy.

KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND (ON CAMERA): Yes, it's the precursor to the digital era, in a post-industrialized society. But another thing that's important though is that they found that people who eat together generally tend to be thinner. 

KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND: And eating alone in isolation has lead to this kind of obesity crisis, and hiding food, and eating in secret, and not having to deal with people allows you know, for people to eat more because they're not being judged by the people around them.

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): It's interesting to me that this interior of the automat, that she focuses on this section of pies and cakes. 

ANDY SMITH: Pies of course were the main purpose on why you went into an automat. They were really good. They didn't have to be hot when they were there. And you wouldn't really want the entrées, because you couldn't keep them hot, and so therefore they weren't as good. 

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): You might have gotten a sandwich or something like that. But the pies, you go in there for a quick bite, and they were really, really good. 

But this is a perfect reflection of food in the Depression. Where people didn't have any money, and it was very impersonal. This is the most impersonal way of eating. So you just deal with a machine, you don't have to deal with any human being at all.

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): Yet people have a very strong fondness for the automat. 

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): I loved it. I mean I loved it.

KATIE HOWARD (ON CAMERA): Now I have a question because I've never really been to one, except for the one on St. Marks, where it would cost $3 in quarters for something to eat. Did things actually cost a nickel? Or did you have to put in multiple nickels for one item?

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Coffee was a nickel. Then at one point it was 10 cents. I think most of the things I bought were under 50 cents. I'm 111 years old.

ANDY SMITH: But as soon as the Depression was over, and World War II was over, they began to decline, and by the '60s and '70s most of them had gone out of business. And in the end they were sold to Burger King. 


BURT WOLF: When you’re talking pies the place to go is Sarabeth’s Bakery. Sarabeth Levine wrote the book on baking and today she’s making a classic apple pie. She starts with the dough. Butter and milk are combined in a mixer.

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): And the technique here which is very important. Is to very slowly pour the milk in. Because you want it to really just slowly suck in the liquid. But I really want to just get you to see what it really becomes something like a butter cream. You see that?


SARABETH LEVINE: And it’s really terrific. 

BURT WOLF: Flour, salt and sugar are added. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Now we’re just gonna add this like this. 

BURT WOLF: The dough is rounded up and chilled for about an hour.

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Two apple pies. Look at that gorgeous dough. And I’ll be right back to put these over here.

Now, when I cut them very thin.

BURT WOLF: Next thinly sliced apples are seasoned with lemon juice, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and mixed with some flour. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): We’re just gonna mix it all together. That will hold it together.

BURT WOLF: Then the secret ingredient, vanilla bean. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): These are the seeds. What we do is we cut the end, and we stick all these beans in a jar with rum, about an inch of rum. It takes about three weeks for them to absorb. But it’s like a capillary reaction. 

Alright I have to taste this. Um, and wash my hands. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): We’ll be back right after this message. The message is the more often you wash your hands, the healthier you’re gonna be. That’s from the center for disease control. Thank you.

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Alright, that’s gonna sit over here. 

BURT WOLF: Now she’s ready to roll out the dough. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): And I go like this look around the sides. And what this does is this tamping the sides of this nice round piece of dough and it wont split. So if you use the end of this you can bring it back into its round shape. Looks easy huh? 


SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): It is. No, once you get the hang of it.

BURT WOLF: The dough goes into the pan and it’s filled with the apple mixture. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Burt this smells so good we don’t even need to cook it. I have to eat one, this one. Oh my god, this is, excuse me.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): She’ll be back after she finishes her nosh. 

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Go like that with your fingers.

BURT WOLF: The dough is closed up like a dumpling and brushed with some leftover mixture. Then, it’s topped with some sugary crumbs. 

SARABETH LEVINE: And there is your gorgeous, gorgeous crumb pie. 

BURT WOLF: The pie goes in the oven, and after a short musical interlude, it’s ready to eat.

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Look at this gorgeous thing, oh my god. 

BURT WOLF: The automat never tasted so good.

SARABETH LEVINE (ON CAMERA): Burt, this is a nice pie. 


KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND: This next photograph is by an artist named Cindy Sherman. It was made in 1978 and it is called "Untitled Film Still #10." This series of "Untitled Film Stills" are all black and white photographs and Sherman has placed herself within the shot as an anonymous actress. They are reminiscent of foreign films, Hollywood B-Movies, and film noir. Sherman is an important figure in the conceptual photography movement, where the artist is the subject, but the pictures are not considered self-portraits.

ANDY SMITH (ON CAMERA): This is Cindy Sherman?

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): This is Cindy Sherman. She's wearing a wig, and she is performing for the camera. 

KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND: I think she's also wearing a prosthetic nose in this one.


KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND: I do. She likes the use of prosthetics. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM: Wow I didn’t know that.

BURT WOLF: It's a fake nose? 

ANDY SMITH: It could be. 


JEFF ROSENHEIM: She's certainly wearing a wig. 

KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND: Yes, absolutely. Because she's blond.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Weird. Sorry. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM (ON CAMERA): People are creating performances which are then using the documentary value of the camera to record those performances that are different than typical types of documentary street scenes. 

JEFF ROSENHEIM: And in this case, she's playing with the idea of roles, and the roles that women have been asked to play in film, and in photography. And she's challenging notions of what is real. 

ANDY SMITH: But this isn't a typical shot. I mean it's not life in the kitchen. It's a very sexually explicit photograph. Is that what it's intended to be? 

KATIE HOWARD: Absolutely. It's about the sexual exploitation of women within these B-movies. That people wouldn't see if it weren't for the hot actress within it. So she's directly addressing the idea of the male gaze, and this feminine view that women are the symptom of men.

ANDY SMITH: But this is not a sexual gaze. I mean if you look at their face alone, that's not a come on. It's not

KATIE HOWARD OREMLAND (ON CAMERA): No, she intentionally had blank faces, and she made sure to be neutral in her photographs, and not campy, to really kind of reinforce the idea of a B-movie. It's a pregnant moment. You're waiting for something to happen. She's on the floor. She's dropped her groceries. She is almost asking for help in a way

JEFF ROSENHEIM: So what about the egg carton. Tell us about the egg carton.

ANDY SMITH: Well, historically eggs of course are symbols of fertility, and they'll go back millennia, and they end up in today's society as Easter Eggs, and as eggs in Passover celebration and things of that sort. So you really do have the spring festival, and that's part of what this is about. But you've got it's the pose that adds to that. 


BURT WOLF: Our egg recipe comes from the Restaurant Bacher in Austria.

The reason for its outstanding reputation is Lisl Wagner-Bacher who took over the restaurant from her father in the early 80s. She is a self-taught chef who does the shopping and most of the cooking.

Today she is preparing her signature appetizer. An egg is soft boiled for six minutes---peeled---dipped into flour---- dipped into egg wash--- coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried for about 90 seconds. A little sour cream goes on a dish. A puree of potatoes. The egg. And a heaping tablespoon of caviar.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That’s the last photograph? Thank you very much for joining me.

JEFF ROSENHEIM: Thank you Burt.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And thank you.

BURT WOLF: For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: German Immigration to the US - #1104

BURT WOLF: In the year 1001, Leif Ericsson pushed his Viking longboat off the Greenland shore and sailed west. Eventually he landed on the northern coast of what we now call Newfoundland Canada. Tyrker the German, who was Erickson’s father was onboard.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Tyrker was the first German to set foot in the Americas and it was 500 years before Columbus, who by the way had a number of German multilingual translators on board. During the next 1000 years, millions of Germans followed Tyrker to America.

BURT WOLF: Like most other ethnic groups who immigrated to the United States the Germans came because they hoped to improve their economic condition, to find religious freedom and a safe place to live in peace. We tend to think that the largest groups to immigrate to America were from Italy or Ireland. But that is not the case. The greatest numbers of people to immigrate to America were from Germany. Today, over 60 million Americans consider themselves of German descent.

German - Americans introduced soil conservation and crop rotation. They developed the leading companies in food production, steelmaking, piano manufacturing, printing and publishing. They became leading educators, scientists and artists. Symphony orchestras and glee clubs came out of German culture. And, something especially dear to my heart --- the brewing of beer.

Famous German – Americans include Babed Ruth, Elvis Presley and Albert Einstein.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): During the next half hour we’ll take a look at some of the places in Germany where German Immigrants came from, what those cities are like today, and why they’re interesting to visit.


BURT WOLF: In 1621, a group of German millwrights from Hamburg arrived at Jamestown and set-up a sawmill. Germans from Hamburg were also responsible for our first glass factory which became our earliest example of industrial production.

Today, Hamburg has a population of just under two million. It is the second largest city in Germany, right behind Berlin. Its seaport is the largest in the nation and dominated northern European trade for over four hundred years. It’s a media center and publishes half the newspapers and magazines in the nation. It claims to have more millionaires per capita than any other city in Europe.

In 1902, Albert Ballin the general director of the Hamburg - American shipping company built a small city near his home port. It had 30 one-story buildings, a church, a synagogue, a hospital, a cafeteria, dormitories and a playground. It was the point of debarkation for over 5 million people who immigrated to the New World including my grandmother and her one year old daughter --- my mother. Today, the memory of that city is honored with the BallinStadt museum. The original rooms have been recreated. There are documents and exhibitions that cover every aspect of an immigrant’s trip. Mannequins in the period costume are equipped with recordings that tell the story of individual immigrants.

I walked through it with .Myra Beerens the exhibitions coordinator

MIA BEHRENS (ON CAMERA): Between 1850 and 1934 at least 5 million people decided Hamburg as their last stay in Europe. This is a reconstruction of Albert Ballin’s office and as you can see it was a very profitable business, transporting migrants. This is a reconstruction of a dormitory of the former emigration halls of the HAPAG. 

European’s from all over Europe arrived here, especially Eastern Europeans. And waited for the ships to leave for the new world. In average three to five days, unless they were sick. In this case they were brought to the hospital. And were taken care of. The reason was the HAPAG didn’t want to take any sick passengers. Because those who were rejected, for example at Ellis Island had to be taken back by the ocean liner.

Those three colored in buildings are the ones we reconstructed and the museum is in today. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And the buildings that are recreated are in the same spot where they were.

MIA BEHRENS (ON CAMERA): Yes they are standing on the same spot, they are the same size, and they look the same.

BURT WOLF: There are screens that show archival footage from the period. And visitors use a computer program to search their family history. I even found my grandmother. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): There’s an advertisement here that says “Take your ancestors home with you.” I don’t know how I feel about that. 


BURT WOLF: Hamburg was a important departure point for European immigrants to the Americas. But just down river from Hamburg is the city of Bremerhaven and it was equally important. Its German Immigration Center contains an enormous amount of information on the subject and has become a major tourist attraction.

Bremerhaven was established as a seaport in 1827 and though it was originally planned as a site for commercial trade, it soon became a port for emigration.

The ships out of Bremerhaven had a reputation for being safe. The city also had a kind of boarding house that offered reasonable rates and was known for its sanitary conditions. It could take up to 2,000 guests at a time.

By 1848, Bremerhaven was Germany’s leading port for emigration. And by the end of the 1800s Bremerhaven’s North German Lloyd steam Ship Company had became the world’s largest passenger company. Between 1830 and 1974, over 7 million people immigrated to the New World by way of Bremerhaven.

A great deal of material about Bremerhaven’s German Immigration Center can be found on their website.


BURT WOLF: A second major area of German immigration to the United States was Berlin. The area of Berlin has probably been inhabited for thousands of years. The first references show up in the 7th century and by the 1200s it was an important commercial center. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In 1539, the Protestant Reformation reached Berlin and the Hohenzollen rulers were big supporters. Not that they were so interested in reforming the church --- it was more the fact that when they got rid of a church they got the land.

BURT WOLF: Today, Berlin is the capital of Germany and one of its most vibrant cities. And one of the best ways to see it is on a boat tour. That’s the office of the German Chancellor. Like most important buildings in Berlin it has a nickname. In this case it’s the washing machine a reference to its shape. The area is open to constant public view --- a reflection of the idea that the people must be able to see what the government is doing. 

That building is a museum that represents the cultures of other nations. Its nickname is the pregnant oyster. 

And that’s the Berlin train station. The architect and the government are having an argument. The train tunnel is half the size of the one in the original plan because the government ran out of money. The architect says the tunnel must be completed because it is a work of art. The government says it’s a train station --- get over it.


JOHN F. KENNEDY: As a guest of your distinguished mayor who has symbolized.

BURT WOLF: On June 23, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of cheering Germans, declared, “ Ich bin ein Berliner”, I am a Berliner. It was the first time Kennedy had seen the Berlin Wall that divided the city between the communist east and the democratic west. He was deeply moved by what he saw and it permanently affected his view of totalitarian governments. Later that day, he said that it was one of the most important days of his life.

Since then the Kennedy’s have had a special relationship to Berlin, a relationship that is honored by Berlin’s Kennedy Museum. The museum contains hundreds photographs and objects that illustrate the private and political lives of the Kennedy family.

Kathy Alberts, the director of the museum took me on a tour.

KATHY ALBERTS (ON CAMERA): This was taken by famous photographer Will McBride who is a Berlin photographer, still alive. And it shows President Kennedy, Willy Brandt the Mayor of Berlin, and Konrad Adenauer the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. Here on the western side of the gate. Kennedy was on a viewing platform. And he really wanted to see the place where the Adlan had been, because he stayed in the Adlan for two nights in 1939. And he wasn’t allowed to look into the East. As you can see in the picture, the East German Government had draped the gate with red drapes. See the red actually. And I the center the flag of the GDR. And then a propaganda sign right here. The wall still looks quite temporary. Kennedy at this point he really wanted to look into the east. It was a symbolic point and the cold war, and since we wasn’t allowed to do this, and it was the first glimpse of the wall that he received, this made him change his speech that he gave at city hall of Schöneberg later in the day.

So we also have an interesting document about Kennedy in Berlin. And this is this little index card with pronunciation help that Kennedy himself wrote as he was sitting in the mayors room in the city hall. You see the three sentences that he planned not to say in English, written in his own handwriting.

JOHN KENNEDY (ON CAMERA): As a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.

KATHY ALBERTS (ON CAMERA): And so the way he wrote them down the spelling is quite funny. Ich bin ein Berliner, I am a Berliner. The famous sentence. Civis Romanus sum, I am a citizen of Rome. And the last one is Lassen sie nach Berlin kommen. That is Let them come to Berlin. A sentence that he repeats quite a few times during the speech and then in the end he says it in German to emphasize is. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): There was a lot of weird press about Ich bin ein Berliner. 

KATHY ALBERTS (ON CAMERA): Yea, that is of course the most sentence and Jackie says that herself. The New York Times and Newsweek Magazine back then reported that the President had said he was a Jelly Donut. Because there is actually a kind of pastry like that, which is called Berliner, out side of Berlin. Not in Berlin itself, there it’s called Pfannkucken. Normally if you are from Berlin if you were born in Berlin you would say Ich bin Berliner, leave out the ein. But since the President wasn’t born in Berlin, but he wanted to metaphorically draw the connection between himself the free people in the world, and West Berliners, he had to use the little word ein. Using the little word ein the article a is perfectly correct. And the only correct way of saying it grammatically.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It's never easy to emigrate from one country to another. I can understand a country having a policy to keep you out but when they want to lock you in, that's pretty strange. 

BURT WOLF: The most dramatic spot was checkpoint charlie and you can see it's history at the wall museum. Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt established the museum in 1962, just after the wall dividing east and west Berlin was built. It began as a two room tribute to those who made the crossing from east to west. Over 5000 people attempted escape and more than 200 were killed by border guards. Alexandra Hildebrandt runs the museum today.

ALEXANDRA HILDEBRANDT (ON CAMERA): It was not just a museum. It was an institution. Could it help the people who could escape. Could it help escape helpers. So they came here with escape objects and brought it here.

BURT WOLF: The museum is full of stories detailing the escapes.

ALEXANDRA HILDEBRANDT (ON CAMERA): These people they did want to escape and the woman made the uniforms, the Russian uniforms for them. They didn’t have the shoes. 

BURT WOLF: As long as they were in the car they were fine, the moment we got out and you saw them in sandals, you had a problem.

ALEXANDRA HILDEBRANDT (ON CAMERA): Here is a hot air balloon. With this balloon two families could escape from East to West Germany. And the man who did built it up, had nothing to do with aeronautics all his life. He did built it up from a book. This is he.

You can tell also today, they tell me, Alexandra we did escape not because of the better margarine, we did escape because we want our children to grow up as free people. Can you imagine how strong was the wish to be free. Stronger than the fear to die.

BURT WOLF: The walls are covered with pictures that illustrate the importance of freedom.


BURT WOLF: Berlin is also the home of one of the world’s great department stores, KaDeWe which stands for the department store of the west.

Unlike most stores KDW uses some of its prime window space to educate as well as sell. When I was in Berlin their windows illustrated the history of women’s fashion.

There’s a little number from the middle ages.

That’s the height of fashion from the 1700s --- a bodice top that women started lacing up in the

morning and tightened every hour as the day went on.

The Empire dress of the early 1800s --- a soft flowing short waisted chemise of silk or cotton. KaDeWe opened in 1907 and for over a hundred years it has been the largest department store in Europe and for many people the most interesting. Each day 50,000 shoppers come here and they can make their selection from over 400,000 different items.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): My favorite floor is the sixth, it’s know as the delicatessen. In the United States the word delicatessen is used to refer to a store that sells pastrami, and corned beef, and frankfurters, and sauerkraut. All of which came to the United States from Germany. As did the Hamburger. Much of what we think of as traditional American food is actually from Germany.

BURT WOLF: One of the big attractions is the seafood section with dozens of different cooked, smoked, dried and fresh fish.

Each week, a 20-ton truck arrives from Paris. It’s filled with mushrooms from Morocco, string beans from Africa, oysters from Brittany, chilies from Mexico and Pepto Bismol from Switzerland.


BURT WOLF: A third major region of immigration from Germany to North America was the Central Western Area. The best known city in the area is Cologne.

Cologne was built by the ancient Romans in 38AD at a point where the Rhine River crossed a major east-west trade route. It was an ideal spot for commercial development and by the Middle Ages, Cologne had become the largest and one of the richest towns in northern Europe. In 1388, Cologne founded the first city university in Europe. Today, it is home to the largest university in Germany with more than 60,000 students.

Since the middle Ages, Cologne has been a religious center and a destination for pilgrims. Pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit “Holy Cologne”. The city’s great pilgrimage site is its Gothic cathedral. Even today, over five million visitors come here each year, which has made the Cologne Cathedral Germany’s main tourist attraction.

Construction of Cologne’s Cathedral began during the 1200s and did not finish up until 1880, a time span of over 600 years. It’s the largest Cathedral in northern Europe and when it was completed it was the tallest building in the world. The towers go up 515 feet. The architecture style is Gothic in imitation of the great Cathedrals of France.

The stained-glass windows date to the 1300s and are considered to be some of the finest in the world. The choir area was carved in 1322. The Gero Cross that hangs in a chapel on the north side of the choir was carved during the 900s and is considered to be the oldest large-scale crucifix in the Western world. The Cathedral’s greatest attraction for pilgrims is the gold shrine, said to contain the remains of the Three Kings.


BURT WOLF: A fourth major region of immigration from Germany to North America was the Southern Area. The first German settlers to the US came from here. In 1683 they settled in Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia.

One of the major cities in the southern part of Germany is Munich. It is one of the most important cultural centers in the nation. It is also a city of great corporate wealth. The wealth combined with the culture and the natural beauty of the area make Munich a major tourist attraction.

Beneath Munich’s commitment to its culture and its corporations is an even greater devotion to its local customs and its everyday pleasures. Munich has a big-city intellect with a small-town heart.

For centuries the local rulers were into music and they made Munich a great city for music lovers. The National Theater is one of the finest opera houses in the world, with a special interest in the works of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss.

Down the block from the theater is a statue of one of the rulers of this region, Maximilian I. He was hoping to be shown on a horse, but the sculptor felt that for the long haul he’d be more comfortable in a nice chair. The word around town is that his hand is directed to the cafe across the street and that he is gesturing for a waiter. Along with everyone else.

A few blocks down the pedestrian street from Maximilian is Marienplatz, which is in many ways the center of Munich. The area is named after the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands in the middle of the square. The Town Hall contains a mechanical clock which goes into action every day at 11am, noon, and 5pm. The figures are performing the “Coopers’ Dance.” During the early 1500s there was a great plague in Munich. The first group of people to realize that the plague was coming to an end were the barrelmakers, who were known as coopers. In 1517 the coopers came out into Marienplatz square to perform a dance of thanks to the Virgin Mary, marking the ending of the plague and cheering up the city. And they are still cheering up the city.

A tour of Munich should include a visit to the outdoor food market. This may be the spot where Munich began over a thousand years ago when a group of Benedictine monks founded a monastery nearby. Many of the present-day stalls have been in the same family for generations. The square feels like a village marketplace, a gathering spot for hanging out, as well as eating and shopping and drinking beer.

We know that for at least eight thousand years, people have been making beer. There are paintings on the walls of the ancient Egyptian tombs and artifacts in Babylonia and Samaria that illustrate the process.

For most of our history, beer has been the alcoholic beverage of choice in the United States. English and Dutch colonist brewed beer but in the end it was the Germans who came to dominate brewing in North America. Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, Coors, Anheuser and his son-in-law Busch--- are all families that came here from Germany.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In order to find a new source of revenue, the chief accountant for the Duke of Bavaria suggested that instead of buying beer from an out-of-state brewery, a royal brewery be set up right in Munich. And it was a great idea -- kept all the cash in town and resulted in the introduction of the first Hofbrauhaus.

BURT WOLF: The beer is served in a liter mug called a mass. If you are the designated driver you might skip the mass and have a radler, which was designed for people going about on bicycles. It’s half beer and half lemonade.

Gastronomically, the Germans introduced recipes that became as American as apple pie. Hamburgers, frankfurters, potato salad and jelly donuts were once specialties in the German immigrant kitchen. And next time you put ketchup on your hamburger, please bear in mind that H.J. Heinz came from a German immigrant family.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): As I researched the material for this program I was constantly surprised. I never realized that German immigration to the United States was so significant or how much of our culture was imported from Germany. And as I traveled around Germany filming the program, I came to realize how much fun a trip like this could be.

Travels & Traditions: Burt Wolf's Family Vacation, Are We There Yet? - #1103

BURT WOLF: This program is like a post card home. It’s my contribution to reality television --- somewhere between “Survivor” and ‘Animal Planet”. In theory post cards were designed for someone on vacation to tell their friends and family who were not on their vacation, what they were doing.

At full strength, my immediate family consists of me, my wife, four sons, the wives of my three older sons and five grandchildren. Going out to eat requires a table for fourteen. When I was in the army we could move an entire battalion with less confusion.

However, we also offer a mini version that is made up of me, my wife Natalia and my youngest son Nicholas and that’s the team for this program.

I should also address the idea of “vacation”. Each year, I spend four months hosting European river cruises to help raise funds for public television. The idea is to take a group of viewers on a trip that is based on one of my programs. We visit the same sites. Hangout in the same pubs. And travel the same route that made up one of my television programs.

But when one cruise ends there is usually about a week or two before the next one starts. And during that time, we try to take a break. I call it a vacation, my wife calls it work with a superior benefits program. And Nicholas wants to know.

NICHOLAS WOLF: Are we there yet?


BURT WOLF: This time, our first break was in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It was originally founded on the banks of a river where an east-west trade route crossed a north-south trade route. Many of the great cities of Europe started as settlements on the banks of a river where two trade routes crossed.

Prague has been a cultural center for over a 1,000 year with a rich heritage in art, architecture and especially music.

Mozart was living in Prague when he wrote his Prague Symphony. And it was in Prague that Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was first performed. Prague was also home to the great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák.

In one way or another, music has always been part of every life. It is a central element in religious rituals. In dance. In theater. In radio, film, and television. And much of music’s power comes from its ability to influence mood. The ancient Greeks thought that a person’s character was clearly reflected in their choice of music.

NICHOLAS WOLF (ON CAMERA): I like to move it move it, we like to like to move it move it, I like to move it.

BURT WOLF: A few years ago, I heard about a hotel in Prague that was based on music. When I read that it had received TripAdvisor’s award as one of the best Luxury Hotels in Europe, I decided to give it a try. It’s called the ARIA and the musical theme runs throughout the hotel. You see it the moment you enter the lobby.

The mural behind the reception desk is made of up caricatures of famous musicians. 

There are 52 rooms spread out on four floors with each floor dedicated to a specific type of music. The jazz floor. The opera floor. The classic floor. And the contemporary floor.

The management suggested we stay on the contemporary floor, and actually in the Elvis Presley Room. Clearly, they were aware of my previous work.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): You can do anything but don’t step on my blue sued shoes. You can burn my house, you can steel my car, you can drink my liquor from an old fruit jar.

BURT WOLF: They also have one of the best outdoor restaurants in the city. It’s called the CODA which is a musical reference to something that is added at the end of a piece music and gives the audience a chance to "look back" on the main body of work. A coda allows listeners to "take it all in", and "create a sense of balance." The idea of taking it all in is clearly illustrated by the views from the restaurant. The balance is in the food.

When you check into the hotel they give you an iPod for use during your stay. There’s a music and video library with over 3,000 DVDs and CDs which you can borrow. A private screening room to watch those DVDs.

The guests also have private access to the Vrtbovska Garden. It dates back to the 19th century and is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And in cooperation with the hotel, the garden can be used for weddings. And that concludes our musical interlude.


BURT WOLF: From Prague in the Czech Republic we flew to Zurich in Switzerland, rented a car and headed off to St. Moritz in the Graubuenden.

NICHOLAS WOLF: Hey dad are we there yet?

BURT WOLF: The Swiss call their states cantons, and Graubuenden is the largest. It's located in the southeast corner of the country, and includes many of the most famous mountain passes connecting central Europe to Italy. These were the trade routes that controlled commerce for thousands of years. Mountain passes may no longer be the keys to Europe's commerce, but they are still at the center of Graubuenden culture, and very important to tourists. 

Many people think of St. Moritz as the ultimate winter resort for the rich and famous. And that's probably true. It was built on the south side of an Alpine mountain and it gets 322 days of sun each year. As a matter of fact, it's the sunniest city in Switzerland. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Its fame as a resort goes back for over a thousand years. During the middle ages, people came here to sit in the healing waters of the mineral springs. And in 1519, Pope Leo X offered complete absolution to anybody who came to the spa in St. Moritz.

BURT WOLF: An early example of cleanliness is next to godliness. 

During the middle of the 1800s, the English upper class decided that it was time to return to nature and St. Moritz was the spot. They road mules into the forests. They took tea on the porch. They rowed boats on the lake. They played golf. 

But Johannes Badrutt, the man who owned the Kulm Hotel thought that his guests were missing half the fun by not being there during the winter. So he made a bet with one of his English visitors. He invited them for the winter season, and promised to cover all their costs if they didn't love it. They loved it and St. Moritz has never been the same.

Guests would ride through the village on a sledge. Early Bobsled teams showed up. People began skiing. Some people on skies got towed around by horses. Ice hockey teams were formed. Curling was introduced.

The sport goes back at least to the 1500s, when the Dutch and Germans played a similar game. On the surface it appears rather simple. Before the game begins, a pebbler sprinkles water on the ice, which freezes and produces a fine layer of pebbles for the stone to ride on. It’s a round, flat, polished granite stone that weighs 42 to 44 pounds, with a handle coming out of the top. Not really my sport, but I keep trying.

Each winter, St. Moritz becomes the social center for the most important people in Europe. This is a page from the local newspaper listing who was in town for the 1914 winter season. The Grand Duke of Russia. Princess Stephanie of Belgium. Prince (formally known as Prince) of Hungary. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And, most surprising lots of Americans. Newton Schaffer, Jr. and his family from New York. Horatio Hataway from Dedham, Massachusetts. Arthur Palmer from Omaha Nebraska.

And Mo, Curly and Larry from LA. 

BURT WOLF: And all this got started and took place in and around the The Kulm Hotel. The Kulm was actually the first real hotel in St. Moritz. And Johannes Badrutt became the father of winter tourism in Switzerland. 

His hotel is still here and more interesting than ever. Kulm is a Swiss German word that is used to describe the highest point of a mountain – its peak.

The hotel has a number of unusual architectural features. Many of the walls in the public areas are covered with sheets of raw silk that have been hand stamped with a pattern. This was a popular decorative element during the 1800s, but virtually disappeared when printed wall papers arrived.

Most of the public rooms and many of the guest rooms are filled with inlaid wood work an extraordinarily complicated technique where each piece of wood must be cut, finished and placed into the pattern. And it was the wood work that made it feel soft, warm and welcoming.

And this is the view from our room. And it’s the same view that the chefs have when they are working in the kitchen. What a luxury. Most restaurant kitchens don’t even have a window.

Hans Nussbaumer is the head chef and oversees the hotels three restaurants.

The Grand Restaurant is serious about its international gourmet menu. It has a six course menu with two selections in each course and a second menu that is all vegetarian. This is the biggest room in St. Moritz and the first public room in Switzerland to have electric lights. The lights were first turned on to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December 1878.

The Al Par is about 200 yards down the road and specialized in traditional Swiss dishes.

The nearby pizzeria is described as a traditional trattoria-style Italian restaurant. But the cooking is closer to what you would find in a top-notch Italian restaurant in the U.S. And the interior decoration is mountain Swiss.

The hotel has a giant heated swimming pool that looks out on the mountains.

And of course, a classic Swiss wellness and beauty spa. I did quit well in the wellness program, but they told me I’d have to come back next year for a remedial class in beauty. Well nobody’s perfect. 


BURT WOLF: Next we drove over to the Swiss town of Pontresina.

NICHOLAS WOLF: Are we there yet?

BURT WOLF: In 1848 Andreas Gredig purchased a small guest house in Pontresina for his son Lawrence. Nice parental gesture. Lawrence renovated the building and called it Guest House sur Krone. Krone means Crown. And the crown in this family was worn by Lawrence’s wife Anna. Also known as The Decider. Then he opened up a wine shop in the cellar. The wine cellar is still here, primarily because the old barrels are considered valuable antiques. And nobody can figure out how to move them without first taking down the hotel. In fact, many of the original buildings have been preserved. 

They’ve even preserved the cast iron staircase from the 1800’s. Cast iron was a major breakthrough in building materials. It was very thin, but it would support a great deal of weight. The result was a much more open area with lots of light. The old wooden skating pavilion with its sun terrace was built in 1933 and is considered to be a classic example of the Swiss architecture of the period. Today’s it’s an excellent informal restaurant. 

In many European cities you will see windows that jut out into the street. The idea was to give the inhabitants a better view of the street, so you could see if trouble was coming your way. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But this one was used to see if money was coming. Grandma would sit in the window and look out as the guest arrived and if they were well dressed and had expensive luggage she would yell down and the desk staff would give them the best room at the highest price.

BURT WOLF: Here comes a winner. Give him the big room, next to Heidi’s. 

During the late 1800’s this part of Switzerland, the Upper Engadine, became a playground for the rich and famous. In 1928 and again in 1948, Pontresina and the near by town of St. Moritz hosted the Winter Olympics. And the area became even more famous. 

Today the hotel is an interesting mixture of old and new. The owners have preserved and renovated the old billiard room. They have a small bowling alley where you can learn to play a form of local bowling. You use as many balls as you need to knock down all the pins. And the one who uses the fewest balls wins. There’s a reading room, a card room, a bar with a turn of the century feeling – that’s 1899 to 1900.

The main dining room still has its original decoration which is in a style called NeoBaroque. You may recall that the model of the original Baroque architects was flaunt it while you’ve got it. And they tried to express that idea throughout their designs. The guest rooms have lots of wood. Which gives you the feeling that you are in a classic Swiss mountain cottage. But then there’s a modern approach to many other things. Up to date bathrooms. And one of Switzerland’s great spas. 

The area began as a summer resort primarily for the English upper class. And it still maintains much of that atmosphere. But in the early 1900’s they added a series of winter events that has given it a world wide reputation as a winter resort.


NICHOLAS WOLF: Are we there yet?

BURT WOLF: Having just spent two weeks in the land of the wealthy and the well known, I thought it might be interesting to see where the Swiss go. Which is why we headed to Arosa. 

ANNOUNCER: (In German)

BURT WOLF: Arosa is a small town deep in the Swiss Alps. It’s located in one of the most beautiful valleys in Switzerland. Green meadows, crystal clear alpine lakes, and bubbling mountain streams. Everything the Swiss tourist office could have hoped for.

It’s well known as a great spot for a summer vacation or a winter holiday or a few days at a top of the line spa. But to a great extent it’s only known among the Swiss. During the last 150 years most of the idyllic holiday locations in Switzerland were discovered by travelers from other countries. The first to arrive were the English who showed up during the middle of the 1800’s. They were followed by the Americans and the Germans and the Italians and the Russians. If you had the time and the money the top resorts in Switzerland were the places to go. 

During the second half of the 1800’s when the nearby town of St. Moritz was being invaded by the English upper class, Arosa was on the verge of disappearing. It was a mountain farm community faced with a difficult environment. But if you gave up your spade for a spa, things got better. During the 1920’s Arosa was transformed into a mountain spa resort and the Swiss discovered a magnificently beautiful spot. Almost unknown to the international traveler.

And because most of the best stuff was put there by Mother Nature it got there for free. And because in general the Swiss are interested in value, the town has added an assortment of additional free things. You can ride the buses all over town and it’s free. You can climb around the high wire park and it’s free. You can take the cable cars to the top of the near by mountains and it’s free. And so about 15 other attractions.

The town maintains a network of over 125 miles of hiking trails that go from “I think I’ll take a short walk and stop for an espresso” to “Clint Eastwood in the Eiger Sanction.” And just incase you’re not as energetic as you thought the town has placed a series of benches along many of the routes. Thoughtful gesture. 

We also paid a visit to a church that was built in 1492. At the same time that Columbus was setting sale for the Americas. It was used as a Catholic Church until the reformation passed through the neighborhood, at which point it became the location for the town meetings organized by the newly reformed community. It’s still filled with surprises like the fact that today it’s not open. 

Arosa is very interested in maintaining its quiet atmosphere. Accordingly the town does not allow any automobile traffic between midnight and six am. 

They also want you to keep your speed down when you travel through town. And they have an unusual sign to express their opinion. Radar picks up your speed and displays it. If you are under the speed limit you get a smile. And if you’re going too fast you get a frown. 

And every September the town hosts the Arosa International Classic Car Race, which has been described as Monte Carlo in the mountains. 

While we were in Arosa we stayed at the Arosa Kulm Hotel. Originally it opened in 1882 and it was a big deal because it had electric lights, a telephone, and a porter than came down the hill to the stage coach station to help guests with their luggage. In 1920 the hotel was bought by Beat Stoffel who had made a small fortune in the textile business and wanted to do something different. He upgraded the facilities and bought up all the land around the hotel so nothing would interfere with the views or immediate access to the ski lifts. 

Today the Arosa Kulm is listed as one of the deluxe hotels of Switzerland. Allow me to show you around. The entrance area. The bar. The putting green. The spa, where holistic attempts are made at restoring one’s youth. The pool where the water temperature is 30 degrees centigrade, nice and warm, I like that, I made a little pasta, came out well. And great views. The children’s area. The play room. And the kids have their own swimming pool. 

NICHOLAS WOLF (ON CAMERA): We’re there right?

BURT WOLF: Yes Nicholas we’re definitely there. 

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf

NICHOLAS WOLF: I’m Nicholas Wolf. Next time I’m getting an agent.

Travels & Traditions: Touring Ireland - #1102

BURT WOLF: Ireland’s geographic separation from the rest of Europe and the 2,000 miles of ocean between its western coast and North America has allowed Ireland to develop a cultural history that is both rich and independent. Its folklore ranges from little leprechauns sitting on their pots of gold at the end of rainbows to the stories of St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. Today Ireland is a modern European industrialized state but it has held on to much of its folklore and its traditions.

In the year 314, Christianity became the state religion of ancient Rome, and as the Romans spread across Europe so did Christianity. But Christianity in Ireland was different from Christianity in the rest of Europe.

Instead of being centered in a church within a city, the Christian communities in Ireland were located in remote monasteries --- monasteries that attracted scholars and artists. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Some of the world’s great illuminated manuscripts were produced here in the isolated monasteries of Ireland. And as the Ancient Roman Empire fell apart these monasteries became the keepers of Christian knowledge. Ireland slowly evolved into an island of saints and scholars.


BURT WOLF: In 1592, Queen Elizabeth I established Trinity College. On the surface it looked like a generous contribution to the intellectual life of the city. But in reality, it was an attempt to keep the Anglo-Irish nobles from sending their children to Catholic schools in Europe. The heart of the college is the great library.

The English Copyright Act gave the college the right to claim one copy of every book, pamphlet, map and periodical published in the British Isles. And this privilege has continued---the library receives over 100,000 books each year, which means that almost every work of value is permanently preserved for use by future generations.


BURT WOLF: The most valuable item in The Trinity Library, and the reason that hundreds of thousands of visitors come here each year, is the Book of Kells.

ROBIN ADAMS (ON CAMERA): The Drawing Room is an 18th Century building. 

BURT WOLF: Robin Adams is the University Librarian at Trinity College.

ROBIN ADAMS (ON CAMERA): The Book of Kells is often regarded as Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and as a symbol of its contribution to European civilization. Because it survived for 1200 years. 

It’s a copy of the four gospels in Latin written by Irish monks possibly on the island of Iona off the coast of Scotland or possibly in the town of Kells which is about 40 miles from Dublin. Europe was in the Dark Ages. The monks of the time copied the text of the Gospels so they could bring the word back to the people who had forgotten or never heard of Christianity.

BURT WOLF: The book emphasizes the symbols of the Evangelists. Matthew shown as a man. Mark as a lion. Luke as a calf. And John as an eagle.

Each Gospel opens with an elaborate ornamental page in which the text is submerged in the design. Brightly colored animals and human figures are woven into the capital letters at the beginning of the text.

ROBIN ADAMS (ON CAMERA): The production of the manuscript was the work of a whole community in the monastery. We can see four different styles of writing. The community was involved right from the creation of the calf skin on which the text is written. And in the production of the pens used they would be goose or swan feathers. Some of the illustrations are very imaginative requiring the artistic skills and there would be specialists used to create those. 

The pigments were collected from this country, from else where in Europe and perhaps even from Asia. And one of the most colorful pages you find up to 30 or 40 different pigments. So it was quite a sophisticated society to bring those materials together to create the manuscript.

BURT WOLF: The book is filled with errors which are marked off with boxes and dots. It was difficult to produce a perfect page in the years before spell check.

ROBIN ADAMS (ON CAMERA): We believe that the manuscript would have been taken shortly after it was completed to Kells which was inland and safer from Viking attack. And it remained in a stone cell for about 600 years. 

BURT WOLF: The second manuscript of considerable importance in the Trinity Library is the Book of Armagh which was written in 807. It is the only example of the entire Latin text of the New Testament in the form in which it was used in the Celtic Church. The Book of Armagh also contains St. Patrick’s Confessions in which he tells the story of his life. THE STORY OF ST. PATRICK

BURT WOLF: Tim Campbell is an authority and scholar who has written some of the definitive works on the history and culture of Northern Ireland.

DR. TIM CAMPBELL (ON CAMERA): Saint Patrick was born in a place called Bannavem Taberniae. We don't know exactly where that is. Many people think he was Irish, but that's not true. 

TIM CAMPBELL: He was actually born in Britain. He was a son and a grandson of clerics, but when he was a teenager, he was a wayward minister's son. And, he decided he wasn't interested in his father's faith. He lived in a big estate and he was abducted when he was 16 and brought to Ireland to a place called Slemish Mountain.

Saint Patrick was a shepherd slave for six years on Slemish Mountain. He began to hear voices in his head, which he supposed were God's voice talking to him, and that gave him the strength after six years to run away from his master, probably to the southwestern part of Ireland, and jump onto a ship

Eventually he goes home to be with his people again, and he becomes a cleric because of his experience, and eventually a bishop. 

TIM CAMPBELL (ON CAMERA): One night in his sleep the angel Victoricus comes. I call him "Victor the Mailman" because he came with this great big bag of mail, one of which was addressed to Patrick, and it said, "Vox Hibernicus, the voice of the Irish". 

TIM CAMPBELL: More or less, "Dear Patrick, please come back and save us", which he decides then to do. 

BURT WOLF: Throughout the island, altars, idols and elaborate rituals had been in place for hundreds of years. Patrick’s only hope for success was to befriend the chieftains and adapt his message to the structure that had been set up by the Druid priests.

The Celts worship the sun which Patrick accepted, but then he pointed out that some days the sun was around and some days it wasn’t and at some point in the future it might disappear forever, on the other hand, Christ was an everlasting sun. 

It was a powerful argument and very persuasive.


BURT WOLF: A few miles away from St. Patrick’s first church is the ancient hill of Down and the Down Cathedral. It was built in the 12th century and has been a place of pilgrimage for over 1500 years. St. Patrick is probably buried somewhere beneath the Cathedral. The date of his death is given as the 17th of March and each year during the month of March people come here from all over the world honoring his memory. 

Joy Wilkinson is the manager of the Cathedral.

JOY WILKINSON (ON CAMERA): Well, this cathedral was originally built in 1183 as a Benedictine monastery by John de Courcy who came, that when the Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th century. But its history goes back many, many centuries before that because this was where the early Celts used to worship before Christianity came.

JOY WILKINSON: The Coats of Arms are the families that paid for the restoration in the 1700s. These box pews were family boxes. People paid rent for them. It was very important to be seen to be going to church, and it was even more important when you got here to have a good seat.

The columns that hold it up are the original 12th century columns of the original building with medieval capitals on the top. And the molding around the east window is the original 12th century molding.

So it's just a mixture of all the different people that have been responsible for looking after it since it originally was built. 


BURT WOLF: As is often the case, fame arrives just after your funeral, and so it was with

St. Patrick. As soon as he died, the legend of his deeds began to grow and by the middle of the 600s he was on his way to becoming Ireland’s national apostle.

In the year 807, the Book of Armagh directed all monasteries and churches in Ireland to honor his memory on March 17th in what was a spiritual ceremony. By 1607, March 17th was marked on the Irish legal calendar and was officially St. Patrick’s Day. Today it is celebrated throughout the world, though there appears to be a greater emphasis on revelry than religion.


BURT WOLF: For over 700 years, Ireland lived under foreign domination. But in 1921, it became an independent Republic and Dublin became its capital. In 1973, Ireland joined the European Economic Community and Dublin became a center of international commerce. Irish immigration, which had seen the departure of over a quarter of the island’s population, went into reverse. Irish men and women started coming home. Today, Dublin is also fashionable destination for tourists from all over the world.

For over 7,000 years. Celtic tribes inhabited Ireland and to this day, Gaelic, which is one of the ancient Celtic languages, is the second language in Ireland.

The Celts built their Dublin settlement at the point where the Poddle River joined the Liffey River. The spot was marked by a dark pool of water or black pool which in Celtic was called dubh-linn.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): During the 7th century, the population of Scandinavia expanded so rapidly that the land was no longer able to feed the people who lived on it. The Scandinavians solved the problem by raiding other communities and one of their favorite spots was Ireland. Eventually the raiders became famous as the Vikings.

BURT WOLF: And they loved raiding the Irish Monasteries.

It’s not that the Vikings had anything special against Christian monks; it was simply that the Irish monasteries had all the good stuff. The hit and run raiders who specialized in the Dublin area came from Norway. They enjoyed the hitting part, the running part was really not that interesting.

Over the years, the Viking warriors married local Celtic women and blended their Nordic gods into Christianity. The craftwork of the period shows the interaction of both Christian and Celtic symbols.


BURT WOLF: Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral was founded in 1191 and is one of the oldest Christian sites in Ireland. The land where it stands was originally an island where two branches of the Poddle River came together. 

GAVAN WOODS (ON CAMERA): Well this Cathedral and the current building we’re in is 13th Century Old English Gothic. And it was built on the site of an older stone church. The first Norman church here dated back to around 1190. And before that there was a small timber church there that predated the Norman Conquest – a native Irish church.

It’s associated with St. Patrick, the site; apparently St. Patrick used water from a well nearby to baptize locals and convert them to Christianity back in the 400’s.

BURT WOLF: By the middle of the 1800s the building had became rather dilapidated. It was restored by Sir Benjamin Guinness of the Guinness brewery. Inside there is a stained glass window---a gift from the Guinness family. At the bottom of the window are the words, “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink.”--- Clearly a reference to the role of religion, but not a bad thought for the owner of the world’s most famous brewery.


BURT WOLF: St. Patrick has a very special relationship with Guinness. During the 5th century St. Patrick marked a series of wells as holy and used their waters in his rituals. The one called St. James’s Well fed into the Grand Canal which was one of the sources of water for Guinness. Its unusually pure water was believed to be the secret ingredient in Guinness.

The St. James’s Gate brewery opened in 1759. Arthur Guinness was only 34 at the time but he signed a lease that ran for 9,000 years.

Today, Guinness is available in 150 countries and 70 million glasses are sold every week. And they still have over 8,750 years left on their lease.

The Guinness Storehouse, a museum devoted to the story of Guinness, has become the number one attraction for visitors to Ireland. There is a detailed explanation of how Guinness is brewed. How it came to be a world-wide export. And the story of Arthur Guinness.

The tour concludes on the top floor, where the bar offers a 360 degree view of the city and a pint of what is probably the world’s best tasting Guinness, having made the shortest trip possible between production and consumption.

ORLA HANRATTY (ON CAMERA): There are six steps to pouring the perfect pint.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Six steps, ok.

ORLA HANRATTY (ON CAMERA): Yes sir. So the first step being you have to take a nice cool clean glass. Ok. So if you hold it at a 45 degree angle you don’t have to fill it the whole way and it takes about two minutes for the pint to settle.

BURT WOLF: What causes all that smoke in there?

ORLA HANRATTY: That is the two gasses which is carbon dioxide and nitrogen. So this is the two gasses forming that lovely creamy head on the top of your pint. 

ORLA HANRATTY (ON CAMERA): And then when it goes a dark color - which isn’t black, in fact it’s dark ruby red – you’ll know then it’s ready to finish off. Get it just above the rim so you’ve got that lovely dome shape on top of your pint. And that’s your perfect pint.


BURT WOLF: The places where people come together are divided by sociologists into three categories. The first is your home, the second is the place where you work and the third is a neighborhood hangout where people from the area come to talk, to reduce the stress of daily life and to be together with other people.

In Ireland the third group is made up primarily of public houses commonly known as pubs. Very often the local pub is a focal point in the community---the secular counterbalance to the church. Of course, the spirit one confronts in a pub is considerably different from the spirit you find in a church but the sense of group can be similar.

This is the Temple Bar district, a maze of narrow winding streets that run up from the bank of the Liffey River. And this is the Auld Dubliner, an authentic Dublin pub. It’s known for its music.

Next I walked over to the Stag's Head. It opened in 1770 and is a perfect example of a Victorian pub. The Stag’s Head is very much about people “hanging out”. And if you look around you see a lot of old furniture and it’s authentic. The place is loved by Dubliners.

Pubs are at the heart of where Irish people like to meet. You come here and you share your stories and meet your friends. You know that if you go to a pub where you’re known you can go on your own and instantly be welcomed. It’s a place of warmth, of music, of humor, and a perfect place to tell your most exaggerated stories.


BURT WOLF: The 18th century was a great time for Dublin, especially when it came to architecture. It was a period known as the time of the Four Georges---a reference to the four kings of England all named George who ruled from 1711 to 1830. The area around

St. Stephens Green, Marion and Fitzwilliam squares, dates to this time. Georgian architecture was a reaction to the ornamental design of the baroque---it was a return to the simpler styles of classic Greece and Rome.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In 1756 the government of Dublin established the Wide Streets Commission. It was one of the first modern government bodies to deal with town planning. And it had the right to purchase any building that it deemed essential to its task. And if the owners of the building did not cooperate the commission would send their workman over during the middle of the night and unroof the building. 

BURT WOLF: The Georgian architects who worked in Dublin were unusual---they not only built private homes like the Georgian architects in England and the American colonies, but in Dublin they also designed magnificent public buildings. The Customs House was built in 1791 and is considered to be a magnificent example of 18th century architecture.

It was also a golden age for music. In 1742, the composer Fredrick Handel arrived in Dublin and presented his Messiah. It was first offered at the Charitable Music Society’s Hall. Because so many people planned to attend the first performance, and the space was so small, a public announcement was made, requesting ladies not to wear hooped petticoats, and gentlemen to leave their swords at home.

Dublin has become one of the most important cities in Europe and is more attractive for tourists than ever before. The food is excellent. The social life is compelling. And Irish hospitality is as welcoming as ever.

Travels & Traditions: Luzern, Switzerland - #1101

BURT WOLF: The tectonic plates that hold our continents float on a sea of molten earth. About a hundred million years ago, the African plate began moving north and banged into the European plate. The collision took place along a 300-mile ridge. Billions of tons of rock were rammed together. The landscape was warped, folded and pushed skyward, and the mountains of the Swiss Alps were born. 

And people have been living in on and around them for over ten thousand years. The ancient Romans wrote about the tribes who lived in these mountains. The most important were the Helvetians. During the 400s, as Rome fell, German tribes took control of the northern part of Switzerland. The Burgundians from France conquered western Switzerland. But the Helvetians, high up in their central mountain villages, remained free and unaffected by much of Europe’s history. This is an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world, and relatively unspoiled. 

One of the areas most interesting cities is Luzern. During the Middle Ages Luzern was a simple fishing village, but when the St. Gotthard pass, connecting northern Europe and Italy, opened in the 1200s, Luzern became a major staging area. During the early 1800s English poets showed up in Luzern and began describing the beauty of the nearby lakes and mountains. The British upper class, always ready for a holiday abroad, made Luzern a major tourist attraction.

I visited Luzern on a number of occasions both in summer and in winter and was surprised at the great variety of winter sports. Of course there’s skiing. The early technique for making skis was very interesting. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): They’d check out the side of a barn, and find a couple of boards that had a smooth grain running lengthwise. And they would put the tip of one end into a pot of boiling water to soften up the wood. When it came out of the water they’d stick that end between two boards in a log cabin, bottom side up, and waited until it dried. The result would be an eight to ten foot long ski with one end turning up. They’d keep their boots attached to it with old belts and put a little grease on the bottom so they’d move faster. When they wanted to head uphill, they would tie rough rags on the bottom to give them traction. Primitive, but at the time a life-saving form of transportation.

BURT WOLF: But it was also a form of recreation. As early as the 1880s skiers got together and formed clubs to test their skills at racing down hill and ski jumping. Often at speeds of 80 miles an hour.

And if stand up skiing is not your thing, you can sit down. It’s called snow biking and it was originally developed in 1892 by an American who called the equipment an Ice Velocipede. The early models were basically a bicycle fitted with skis instead of wheels. Snow biking became a sport during the 1940s, when two engineers combined their inventions to create a Skibob. George Gfaller, a German, invented a single-track steerable sledge, and Engelbert Brenter, an Austrian, patented the “Sit Ski”. 

The City of Luzern is down in the valley. And one of Luzern’s major attractions is its 650-foot roofed bridge which is the oldest in Europe. Called the Chapel Bridge, it was originally built in the 1300s as part of the city’s fortifications. The triangular roof supports were used by 17th century painters to present the history of Luzern and the patron saints of the city. There are over a hundred images. The water tower alongside the bridge was also built in the 1300s. Originally it was a lighthouse on the top, a dungeon at the bottom and a torture chamber in the middle -- even then multi-use dwellings were fashionable. 

Luzern’s old town is filled with ancient decorated buildings. The paintings present the history of a guild, or a family, or a special event. This building is the site of the first pharmacy in Luzern. It opened in 1530. The sign over the door reads, “There Is No Herb That Will Cure Lovesickness.” 

On the other hand there is some recent scientific evidence that a bottle of good wine, some excellent chocolates and a two week vacation couldn’t hurt.

A few doors down the street are two painted buildings with a history that goes back to the 1100’s. Originally they were the property of the Benedictine Friars of the Episcopal seat of Luzern, who lent them to the town council for their government meetings. During the past thousand years there buildings have been used as a Guild Hall, a City Hall, a school and a coffee house. On October 15th, 1836 they became the Hotel Des Balances, which is where I stayed during this trip. 

It faces out on the River that runs directly through the center of the old city. The hotel balances a 1,000 year old history with some extraordinary modern elements. On the modern side, you have rooms that are crisp and white and filled with contemporary furniture.

One of the things that I noticed was that there were giant mirrors in my room but no works of art. I liked that. Very often a perfectly nice hotel room is compromised by a painting that gets on my nerves. This way I could stand to the side of the mirror and see the great views of the city reflected in its surface.

And the bathrooms are right out of the space program. The faucet for the bath tub was particularly interesting. I turned it. I pushed it down. I pulled it up. I called the front desk to have someone come up and show me how it worked. Tilt back technology that resulted in a great bath. Big bubbles. Small bubbles. Circulating water.

On the historical side, you have an interior that reflects the buildings history.

The hotel has an excellent restaurant that presents the traditional dishes of European cuisine with a special emphasis on Swiss gastronomy.

The bar and lounge area offers a 5 to 7 course menu of bit size dishes. Nice alternative to a full meal. I’m a big fan of light dinners.

My favorite spot for eating and drinking in the hotel is the Terrace.

I am always aware of the fact that a restaurant’s menu is written by a writer. And the food is prepared by the chef. So when I come into a restaurant I usually walk around and check out what’s happening on the tables. And I order what looks good rather than what reads well.

The terrace also has a great view of the river. It looks out on the ancient Water Tower Bridge and the Jesuit Church.

It’s impossible for me to think about the Jesuits without thinking about chocolate, because the Jesuit missionaries who came to the Americas in the 1500s played a major part in bringing chocolate back to Europe.

MICHAEL COE (ON CAMERA): Once it had been decided by the ecclesiastical authorities that chocolate did not break the fast, in other words, during lent and times like that you could take chocolate because it was not considered a food. Once that was done then the Jesuits went into high gear and they had a big commercial operation with cacao, growing cacao commercially through much of Latin America where, you know, the Latin American tropics where the stuff would grow. They drank a lot of it themselves, too. They were big chocolate imbibers. But they definitely shipped a lot of chocolate back and made a lot of money from the New World into the Old World.

A big shipment came into the main Spanish port, which was Cadiz in Spain. And it was so heavy, these crates that supposedly contained chocolate that the porters could barely carry them. And finally the authorities demanded that they be opened up and this ... this so-called chocolate inspected. And they looked at these huge bars of chocolate which weighed a tremendous amount. It turned out that there was about a finger's width of chocolate on the outside of that coating, solid gold bars. This was smuggling of the first degree because all gold belonged to the crown, not to the Jesuits or the church or anybody else. So they had been breaking crown law. And the upshot of that was that it was confiscated, the gold was, and they gave the chocolate to the porters.

BURT WOLF: And there are dozens of great chocolate shops in Luzern. 

And as long as you’re in the neighborhood you should stop in to the Heini bakery and taste a few of their specialties. Cheese, milk chocolate, ice cream... anything related to the cow is important to Switzerland.

When I’m in Luzern my favorite cheese dish is Raclette. The chef takes a half wheel of cheese and places it in front of the heat source. The heat can come from a fire place or an electric raclette maker. As the cheese melts the chef scraps some of it off onto a plate. As the cheese melts, it's scraped off the wheel and onto a plate. The cheese is served as a disc about three inches in diameter and about a quarter of an inch thick. The chef works at the edge of the dining room and the raclette comes to your table as soon as the cheese is melted.

There's a wooden bucket on the table filled with boiled fingerling potatoes. You take out a potato, place it next to the cheese, cut off a small slice, cover it with warm, soft cheese and pop it into your mouth. Alongside the raclette is a bowl of gherkins and pickled onions. The chef keeps an eye on each table. As you finish off the first dish, he starts melting your second, but this time he uses a different cheese. You can order from 3 to 12 rounds of raclette, each with a different cheese. 

Another “udderly” delightful aspect of Luzern gastronomy is the Pretzel King shop. The classic pretzel shape is said to have originated in the church schools of Austria with the intention of reminding children of praying hands. In the shop of the Pretzel King they remind everyone of how great a really good pretzel tastes. They have a ham-and-cheese on a pretzel... they have a salami-and-pickle on a pretzel... they have a pizza pretzel... an almond pretzel... plus a series of sweet pretzels for desert.

A few streets away is the Lion Monument, which commemorates the eight hundred Swiss soldiers who died defending King Louis the Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The royal family had been attacked by the mob, but as soon as the King was able to make a deal with their leaders and felt that his person was safe, he told the Swiss guards to put down their weapons -- at which point they were all murdered by the revolutionaries. A classic sell-out. 

BURT WOLF: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mark Twain visited this monument and called it “the saddest piece of stone in the whole world.”

Just down the river from the monument is the baroque Jesuit Church, built in the mid-1600s. Baroque architecture was a Roman Catholic response to the simple architecture of the Protestant Reformation. The Pope wanted to send a message that Catholic heaven was a big, magnificent and ornate place and much more fun than whatever it was that Martin Luther was offering. The robes of Niklaus von Flue, Switzerland’s only saint, rest here. Von Flue’s major act was to propose an agreement that regulated the division of spoils among Switzerland’s mercenary troops .

OK, listen-up. The guys with swords get 350 an hour. Men with a halberd 400 even. Archers are in for 4 and a quarter, Four fifty if they wear the William Tell hat. No overtime. You got it?

The economy of the Alpine village was based on small herds of cows and sheep and light farming. But with no natural resources, the economy was marginal. Since the farm work could be done by women and children, the men were able to go off and find other work.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And the work that they found was soldiering for pay. For hundreds of years the Swiss fought other people’s battles for a fixed salary and a share of the loot. It was an important source of foreign income. But in order to be able to offer their soldiers to one country without being attacked by another country, they instituted a policy of neutrality and offered their troops on an impartial basis -- if you had the money, they had the men. It was an early form of migrant labor and very important to the history of the nation.

BURT WOLF: Switzerland no longer earns income from sending out troops; what it does do is bring in tourists. Modern package tourism got started right here in 1893 when Thomas Cook organized a group trip from England. That first tour, and much of the tourism since then, has been based on the beauty of the Swiss mountains and our desire to see what’s happening on the top 

A twenty-minute cruise southwest from Luzern will put you at the foot of Mount Pilatus. And the steepest cogwheel railway in the world will take you to the top, which is seven thousand feet above sea level. People have always been fascinated with mountain peaks. The ancient Greeks believed that their gods lived on a mountain. Many societies that live near mountains put their temples on top of them. They are also the best spot for meteorological and geological observations, or to check out your neighbors.

But Mount Pilatus was not always available to visitors. For centuries local residents believed that the mountain was inhabited by dragons, and if you disturbed them they would send down storms and great floods. In 1585 a parish priest from Luzern and a courageous group of parishioners ascended Pilatus and challenged every lake and cave where the dragons were thought to dwell. The priests returned to Luzern and announced that the spell had been broken, the spirits were at peace, and for about thirty-eight bucks you could take a tour of the top. The dragons were Swiss and they knew a good business when they saw one.

Being just down the lake from the factor, Luzern is the perfect spot for you to get your Swiss Army Knife. Charles Elsner was a master knife maker, who originally sold his knives in his mother’s hat shop. When he was thirty he organized the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The objective of the association was to produce a pocket knife for the Swiss military. Now, the army was already buying knives, but they were buying them in Germany. In 1891 the first Swiss-made Swiss army knife was delivered to the army, and this is one of them. It had a long blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and a reamer for punching holes. And that was it. The Elsner family is still delivering pocket knives to the Swiss army, but this is what a Swiss Army Knife really looks like. It’s made of a lightweight aluminum alloy; it has a blade, it has a small screw driver with a can opener, it has a big screw driver with a cap lifter and a wire stripper, and a reamer for punching holes. What everyone who is not in the Swiss Army calls a Swiss Army Knife is this shiny red version with a Swiss Cross embedded in the handle. This is actually the Swiss Army “Officers” Knife. Elsner developed the early version of this knife in 1897 but the Swiss Army never accepted it. Maybe the corkscrew and the nail cleaner were just too much. But the troops loved it, both the officers and the enlisted men, and they purchased them with their own money. And they still do.

BURT WOLF: From the beginning the company, which is now called Victorinox, developed pocket knives for different groups. During the 1890s they introduced the “schoolboy” model, a “farmer’s” knife and a “cadet” knife, and specialty knives are still being added. Today they produce approximately four hundred different versions of the Swiss Army “Officers” Knife. They also produce the knife that goes in to outer space with the astronauts.

During my visits to Luzern the most unusual winter sport that I experienced was dog sledding. The native people in the Arctic have been using working dogs for over 4,000 years. Life at the top of the earth, especially in Alaska, northern Canada and Siberia depends on the daily use of working dogs. And the breeds originally domesticated, the Alaskan Malamute, and the Siberian Husky, are still relied on by dog sled drivers throughout the world. A good sled dog can run for over five hours. The best lead dogs are female. Because they are usually smarter than the bigger and stronger guys in the back.

Dog sled racing is a sport which was invented in North America. During the Alaskan gold rush of the 1800s, miners used dogs to move their supplies. Racing the dogs became a major pastime. The first all-Alaskan dog sled sweepstakes race took place in 1908. Dog sled racing was also a demonstration event in both the 1932 and 1952 Winter Olympics. Today it has a sizable and enthusiastic following and a full calendar of international events. 

During my dog sled trip we passed a number of traditional Chalets. Originally the word chalet described a small dwelling used by sheepherders in the Alps of Switzerland, Bavaria, France and Italy.

Eventually it was used to refer to any small house on the side of a mountain or in a mountainous region. Chalets are made from heavy planks of timber that are framed together like a log cabin. The sidewalls often extend past the corners, forming private sheltered porches. The balconies are detailed with carved railings. The windows are small and the shutters are decorated. The roofs are low and slanted to deal with the heavy snow they must support. The most traditional roofs are made from hand cut wooden shingles.

Olivier Veuve is one of the few master roofers in the world who practices this historic craft. He spends the winters preparing the wood and then cutting it by hand.

OLIVIER VEUVE (ON CAMERA): I am making shingles. It’s to put it on roofs in the chalet in the mountains, or in towns. We have it in the forest. We don’t need big factories to make it; we can do it, our self. It protects from the snow, it’s very elastic, but in the same time it’s very solid. It keeps longer on the roof. New system can maybe it’s okay for 20 years, while this one will be for 50 years. I got into this work because when I was very young I keep the cows in the mountain and I always wanted to do this job when I see this beautiful roofs, and I ask many old people if they can teach me this work, and after long time, I found two old men who teach me. I like it because you work from the forest to the roof, you do everything yourself. And always be outside in the mountain, and it’s nice.

BURT WOLF: For centuries the Valais of Switzerland were dominated by powerful families who created city-states and spent much of their time fighting for control of the land and the peasants. But some areas escaped feudalism and lived in relative freedom.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): They governed themselves through small assemblies -- actually an early form of democracy. 

BURT WOLF: In the 1200s, however, Count Rudolf of Habsburg tried to take control of the forest cantons through his tax agents. Bad move. An arrogant jerk named Gessler was one of those agents. One day he hung his hat on a pole in the town square and insisted that everyone who passed must bow to it. A local farmer named William Tell passed by and told Gessler precisely what he could do with his hat. Gessler ordered Tell to shoot an apple off his son’s head. Tell did so, mentioning to Gessler afterward that if he had missed with the first arrow the second would have gone into Gessler’s heart. They argued and eventually that’s exactly where the arrow ended up, killing Gessler. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But historians are not really sure that William Tell ever existed or that the events of the legend ever took place. Nevertheless, it is the story of the death of tyranny and the triumph of freedom -- two essential elements in the culture of Switzerland. In 1804 Schiller wrote a play about the legend, and in the early 1820s Rossini wrote the “William Tell” opera. So, true or not, it has become a central part of the legend of the founding of the Swiss Confederacy.

BURT WOLF: From Luzern Switzerland, for Travels & Traditions I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Springfield, Illinois - #1010

BURT WOLF: Ah yes, there can be no doubt that Springfield, Illinois, is still Lincoln's hometown. On a more official note, you can visit the Lincoln Herndon law offices where Lincoln rose to prominence as an attorney.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): It was a perfect office for a young attorney, because the federal courtroom was directly underneath. When Lincoln was alone in this room, he would lie down on the floor and open the corner of a trap door that was in the ceiling of the courtroom. He would listen to more experienced attorneys arguing their cases. He worked in this room for four years, starting in 1843 and he learned a lot.

BURT WOLF: Just down the street is the home that he lived in with Mary Todd before he was elected president and moved to Washington. For seventeen years, the family lived in this two-story frame house. It was the only house that Lincoln ever owned and the place where Mary gave birth to three of their four sons. It's always interesting to see and compare the homes of where our presidents lived before they moved into the White House. Kim Bauer is the historical research specialist for the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection at the Illinois State Historical Library. 

KIM BAUER: In most of Abraham Lincoln's life he is beardless. 

KIM BAUER (ON CAMERA): He had no beard up to the time that he was president of the United States. Most people don't realize that because they see all the photographs of Abraham Lincoln during the presidency and he has a beard. There was an eleven-year-old girl who helped make his decision on growing a beard. Grace Bidell, from Westfield, New York, wrote Abraham Lincoln in October of 1860. She tells him that she thinks he's the greatest man that, probably alive and that her father is going to vote for him, but she has four brothers. And out of those four, two are probably are going to vote for him and two don't know what they're going to do. So what she suggests, to Abraham Lincoln, is that he grow a beard, and if he grows a beard, she thinks his other two brothers will vote for him for the presidency. He starts to grow a beard and by the time he heads to Washington in 1861, he has a full-grown beard. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And the hat? 

KIM BAUER (ON CAMERA): Well now the hat is an interesting story too, because Abraham Lincoln quite often when he was going around the circuit as a lawyer, would put letters, legal documents, handkerchiefs, anything that he couldn't stuff into his pockets or if he didn't have a pocket, he would stuff into a stove pipe hat, which is the common image of Abraham Lincoln. So much so that William Herndon, his last law partner, called his hat, Lincoln's hat, his office. And Herndon even goes so far as to say that Lincoln's ears kind of stuck out and the reason why is because he wore these hats that were so full of letters and manuscripts. 

FRITZ KLEIN AS LINCOLN (ON CAMERA): Ladies and gentlemen, we are now into our fifth year since the policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident purpose of putting an end to the slavery agitation. However...

BURT WOLF: Fritz Klein has played Lincoln on stage, on television and in films.

FRITZ KLEIN AS LINCOLN (ON CAMERA): That agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my estimation, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. 

FRITZ KLEIN (ON CAMERA): I try to approach this from a sort of timeless perspective, where they're not just viewing me as Lincoln up there on a setting, but I'm in their world, addressing them and their concerns as much as I can.

FRITZ KLEIN: Lincoln walked with a hunch. I didn't use to, but I do now. Many of the mannerisms I do when I'm Lincoln, and they've crept into my personal life, even though I didn't want that. I've been thrown off horses in front of an audience. I’ve had dogs run across the set in the middle of a performance. One time when I was at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., I was not in character, just as a tourist, walking down into the museum, and a woman saw me, looked up and just screamed right out loud. 


BURT WOLF: Springfield is also the home of the Dana Thomas House, which is the best preserved and most complete early prairie house designed by the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Typical of Wright's prairie style, the exterior is characterized by low horizontal roofs, wide overhanging eaves and ribbon art glass windows. It looks almost the same as it did when it was commissioned in 1902 for Springfield socialite and women's activist Susan Lawrence Dana. More than 100 pieces of original Wright design white oak furniture are still in place, along with 250 art glass doors, windows and light panels and 200 original light fixtures. There's a raised main living level, open floor plan and centralized fireplaces. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Wright was thirty-five years old when he got the Dana House commission and it was a major piece of work. He was in the process of revolutionizing midwestern domestic architecture and this house gave him an opportunity to experiment with some new forms. 

BURT WOLF: This is one of only three Wright-designed double pedestal lamps. It has a hipped roof shade and free hanging moveable glass panels that use the same iridescent glass and pattern found throughout the interior of the house. It is considered to be one of Wright's most important lamp designs. The dining room's butterfly light fixtures are the most elaborate and geometric of Wright's career. The dining room table can be expanded to accommodate forty people, all seated on Wright-designed oak chairs. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): When I saw that dining room table designed by Wright for forty people I thought this house is going to have some kitchen. Wrong. Almost all of Susan Dana's food came in from a catering service. The kitchen is minimal. Maybe you could toast a bagel here you know? In 1902 there weren't any bagels in Springfield so you couldn't even do that. Nevertheless, the Dana Thomas House is well worth a visit. 


BURT WOLF: Springfield is packed with nationally famous historic landmarks, but perhaps its most famous international landmark is its strip of the mother road, Route 66. From Chicago to LA, over 2,000 miles all the way.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Each year thousands of tourists show up in Chicago and buy a used car or a used motorcycle and head out to LA. For about 85 percent of the trip they're on the original Route 66. It was built in 1926 as the first road designed specifically for automobiles and it captured the imagination of the auto buff and it's held onto it too. 

During the 1920s, Henry Ford began producing automobiles that many people could afford. No longer a luxury for the rich, tens of thousands of people started driving cars. But there was one major problem. 

We didn't have a road system designed for them to drive on. America was covered with dirt roads that were originally developed to transport agricultural products to market. We also had some old roads that had been used by stagecoaches to connect one town to another. 

And that was pretty much it. Both federal and state governments quickly recognized the need for a national highway system. And in 1926 began building the great mother road. The ribbon of concrete that ran from the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago down to the banks of the Mississippi at St. Louis, and then west to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean in Los Angeles. It became a symbol of America's progress. And so powerful was its attraction, that hit songs invited us to get our kicks on Route 66.

Route 66 was the first major element in the national road system built for the automobile. And for almost 50 years, it was the main street of America. It changed the way we traveled but it also changed the way we ate. 

As Route 66 headed out of Chicago, on its way to St. Louis, it passed through Springfield. Springfield became the state capitol of Illinois in 1837. And visiting legislators and lobbyists required eating-places. It was also Abraham Lincoln's hometown, and tourists began arriving from all over the world. And they expected suitable eateries during their visit. Springfield is home to an important university, and a major medical center. Tourists and local residents make varied demands on Springfield's restaurants and that has made it an ideal community to study how American eating habits changed during the 20th Century. And that is precisely what John Jakle and Keith Sculle have done in their book called Fast Food.

KEITH SCULLE (ON CAMERA): Well, in the 1890s, Springfield was a really hoppin' place. People were coming to town to do business with the county courthouse, but especially to do business with the state capitol, located just a few blocks away. So in between those two nodes, you had a very vibrant economy for restaurants to thrive. But it was also a very lively street trade: vendors for example, with push carts and so forth. There was a fellow by the name of Ed Crastos who is the most memorable. At least he’s the one that’s come down in the literature who was the guy that sold chili on little tin pans.

BURT WOLF: Springfield has had a long love affair with chili. During the 1960s Springfield was a hotbed of chili activity with three chili canneries producing over four million cans of chili each year. The state government passed a resolution proclaiming Illinois as the chili capitol of the civilized world, and recognized the spelling of chili with two L's. 

KEITH SCULLE (ON CAMERA): People who ate out, at the beginning of the century weren't seen in the best light. They were people that lived downtown on a regular basis. They might have lived in boarding houses, but they might have been about in the communities’ life downtown on the streets and so forth. There were associations apart from family life that those people had. As travel became far more common, people had to, of necessity, eat out. Well, roadside restaurants changed the way the country thought about food, and about the way they actually practiced eating. Very influential. 

MAN IN CAR (ON CAMERA): Can I get a special with a root beer and cheese?

WOMAN (ON CAMERA): I need a cheese special with a root beer. 

BURT WOLF: The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shop is considered to be one of the earliest restaurants to have a drive-up window. This is the ancient forerunner of McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.


WOMAN IN CAR (ON CAMERA): Hi. Two maid-rites and a root beer.

WOMAN (ON CAMERA): I need two maids and a beer!


BURT WOLF: It opened in 1924 and still serves it signature dish. A mixture of crumbled steam ground beef, onions, mustard, and pickled relish on a steamed bun with a side of French fries, and homemade root beer in a frosted mug. And because of modern freezer technology and Federal Express, Maid-Rite ships containers of the cooked meat and buns to Made Right devotees throughout the United States. Root beer goes back to 1869 when a Philadelphia pharmacist by the name of Charles Hyers put together a blend of sugar, water, spices, and tree barks. It produced a mildly alcoholic, naturally effervescent drink. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Traditional root beer usually contained birch bark, dandelion root, molasses and wintergreen oil. But the distinctive flavor that we associate with root beer comes from the addition of sassafras root which used to grow wild all over the eastern part of the United States.

BURT WOLF: The Federal Food and Drug Administration found that sassafras contained a carcinogen. So today's root beer is artificially flavored. But even with artificial flavoring, each year Americans consume over 200 million cases of commercially produced root beer. In addition, there are thousands of people who make their own root beer at home. Ah, but is it made right? 

KEITH SCULLE (ON CAMERA): By the 1930s, things had changed to some degree. The professional people in the community still found it desirable to eat at home for the most part. They had no need to eat out and on the road. Now, however, people who were traveling and by then in automobiles, and that meant more and more people traveling, found it convenient, in fact, necessary to eat on the road. And restaurants began to change their pitch a little bit. They began to have a little pizzazz in their decor. Some of the food began to change its pitch a little bit. They were presentable. They were desirable places to eat. They were even fun places to eat. 

BURT WOLF: Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Springfield developed a middle class approach to restaurants offering foods that were attractive to travelers and office and factory workers. Good eating meant friendly service and ordinary but reliable food in sizable portions. The town’s signature dish is called the horseshoe, toast on the bottom, hamburger in the middle, cheese sauce on top and French fries around everything. The place to taste a traditional horseshoe is Norb Andy’s.

The thirties also saw the introduction of the first Mel-O-Cream Doughnut. Mel-O-Cream Doughnuts are a local specialty. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I'm a hole-in-the-center kind of guy myself, with maybe a little glaze or sugar on the outside. And I've always wondered who put the hole in the center of the doughnut. Well, no less an institution than The Smithsonian in Washington D.C. has reported on the subject. They tell us that a young man named Hanson Crockett Gregory of Clam Cove Maine, was watching his mother make some doughnuts, and asked her why they were always soggy in the center? She said if she cooked them till they were done in the center, they were burned on the outside, and so she took them out early. Well, young Hanson, culinary genius that he was, took a fork, poked a hole in the center of the uncooked doughnut, so when they fried up, they were perfect, thereby creating the first ringed doughnut in history. 

BURT WOLF: And as long as we're dealing with doughnuts, here's a couple of additional bits of trivia. During World War I, a Salvation Army worker in France prepared a batch of doughnuts for some American troops, which proved to be extremely popular and regularly requested. When word got around that the American units loved doughnuts, they got nicknamed Doughboys.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The folklore around dunking says that an actress by the name of Mae Murray was having breakfast one day, in Lindy's Restaurant in New York City, and she dropped her doughnut into her coffee. Well, she didn't miss a beat. She picked it up, continued eating, and announced that both the texture and the flavor had been improved; thereby, dividing the doughnut-eating world between those who dunk and those who don't dunk. I dunk. 

BURT WOLF: The years that followed the end of the Second World War saw a continuing rise in the number of roadside eating places. The Cozy Dog Drive-In opened on Route 66 in 1950. For over 100 years, the frankfurter, on its bun has been part of American gastronomy. But Ed Waldmire changed that. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Ed was visiting his brother in Muskogee Oklahoma, when a diner cook served him a frankfurter that had been baked in a batter. It took about 15 minutes to cook it in something that was really a homemade waffle iron. But Ed realized that somewhere in that dish was an idea that could change the gastronomic history of America, and he began experimenting. 

BURT WOLF: Eventually he developed a secret recipe, and the equipment necessary to produce a corn batter encrusted, deep-fried frankfurter on a stick. His wife named them Cozy Dogs and developed the logo. Ed introduced them at the 1946 Illinois State Fair. And his reputation was made. 

It was a perfect food for people in motion. And so Ed opened the Cozy Dog House on Route 66. In recognition of his contribution to American road food he has been inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): But in spite of the fact that there are a number of patents in connection with the making of a Cozy Dog, knock-offs have proliferated throughout the United States in the form of a corn dog. But a corn dog is not a Cozy Dog. And the authentic version is only available here in Springfield Illinois, made by Ed's son, Buz.


BURT WOLF: Springfield is the land of Lincoln but it is also the land of corn. As soon as you pass through the suburban areas, you are surrounded by cornfields. In the old days, cornfields were used only for growing corn. But these days, the big idea is multi-tasking. And so cornfields are being put to additional use. This is the Springfield Corn Maze.

DOUG SCHMIDGALL: Flags in the air.

BURT WOLF: During the growing season, it is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. But not when it's raining or the fields are muddy. It all started in 1993 when a producer from Walt Disney teamed up with a designer of mazes to put a maze into a cornfield. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): A maze is a puzzle with many junctions and paths. You go in one place, come out another. The trick, of course, is to figure out which path will lead you out. The great American authority on corn mazes is a guy named Brett Herbst. He has a company that teaches farmers how to put a corn maze into their field. You know, another word for corn is maize. So it's only fair that a field of maize have a maze. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): How did you come to put a maze in your field?

DOUG SCHMIDGALL (ON CAMERA): I've seen advertised in a magazine, about three years ago. And thought it looked kind of nice, and I decided to go ahead and try one.

BURT WOLF: Something in a magazine special that appealed to you?

DOUG SCHMIDGALL: I liked the design that I'd seen from the air. I believe it was a design of a tiger, or something like that. It looked kind of neat. This one is a design like a dragon. We had a little contest and a young man by the name of Wade Morrison give us a design, and we etched it out. On one side, there's the head with the fire coming out of it, and the other side is a tail, kind of like a hammer on it. And it's got wings on it and everything like that.

BURT WOLF: How much do you charge them to go in?

DOUG SCHMIDGALL: A dollar for the easy maze, and $2 for the hard maze.

BURT WOLF: What do you charge them to get out?

DOUG SCHMIDGALL: Fifteen dollars to get out if I got to come find them. 



BURT WOLF: The Rees Memorial Carillon here in Springfield is one of the largest and finest in the world. Its open tower has sixty-seven bronze bells that were cast in The Netherlands. The total weight is 90,000 pounds. They’re played manually by means of a keyboard and today Jim Rogers is on the keyboard. And finally, you should pay a visit to Lincoln's tomb.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The death of Abraham Lincoln on April 15th, 1865, came only six days after the surrender of the Confederate Army. The celebrations that were taking place to mark the conclusion of the War Between the States came to an abrupt end.

BURT WOLF: As the nation mourned its president, the National Lincoln Monument Association started planning a memorial in Springfield Illinois, where Lincoln had lived from 1837 to 1861. The monument holds the remains of the sixteenth president, his wife and three of their sons. The 117 foot tall tomb is constructed of granite quarried in Quincy Massachusetts. Near the entrance is a bronze bust of Lincoln. The shiny nose is the result of visitors rubbing it for good luck. 

On Tuesday evenings during the summer months, the 144th Illinois Volunteer Reactivated Infantry demonstrates Civil War military drills and conducts flag retreat ceremonies. 

At each ceremony, a selected visitor receives the United States flag that flew over the tomb during the previous week.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Springfield, Illinois, lots of Lincoln, interesting museums, an important strip of America's mother road and down home cooking. It's the perfect spot for a family vacation. I hope you've enjoyed this visit and I hope you will join us next time on Travels and Traditions. I'm Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: San Fransisco, California - #1009

BURT WOLF: Most of the cities in the United States were originally settled by small groups of people who shared the same values, the same religion and the same hope for a new life in the New World.

There is, however, one extraordinary exception…San Francisco.

This town was settled by 25,000 people who showed up one afternoon to find gold. They came from all over the world and just about every ethnic or religious group you can think of and as they mixed together they established the traditions that make San Francisco what it is today.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Native tribes had been living in the neighborhood for thousands of years when the Spanish wandered in in the 1700s and began building missions along the California coast. Nothing much really happened here until 1848 when gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

BURT WOLF: Word of the find spread throughout the world and each day hundreds of people arrived to seek their fortune in the gold fields. And each day the fields yielded over $50,000 worth of gold. Within three years of the original discovery the population went from 850 people to over 50,000. They worked in the fields or in the support structure that was set up in San Francisco. The cultural diversity was amazing---it was the most unique population in the world. Almost everyone was a new comer and a risk taker.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): And right there, in the gold rush years is where you find the origins of the traditions that make San Francisco what it is today. When you were working in those fields you never knew where your neighbor was gonna come from. What his religion might be or his beliefs or his lifestyle. You also never knew who was going to strike it rich and live a life of wealth beyond your wildest dreams and perhaps share it with you. So tolerance was very important and some of those guys really struck it rich so there was a love of opulence and that is what San Francisco is about today. It may be the most tolerant city in the world and it has a great love of opulence, makes it a great place to live in but it makes it a great place to be a visitor.

BURT WOLF: The second most significant event in the history of San Francisco was the great earthquake. On April 18th 1906, at 5:16 in the morning, every church bell in San Francisco began ringing. There was a deep rumbling sound throughout the city. Within 48 seconds over 5000 buildings collapsed. In less than a minute the great San Francisco earthquake was over, but the real damage was caused by the fires that followed the quake and lasted for five days. In 1906 the buildings and the streets were filled with gas lines and gas lamps and when they ruptured the city went up in flames. As soon as the fires were out, reconstruction began. And once again cooperation between all groups became essential for survival. 

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods. They overlap and though you can’t always spot the street where one ends and another begins, once you’ve arrived, it’s easy to see that each neighborhood has its own distinct ethnic history, religion, culture, and food.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): North Beach is the ancestral home of the Italian community in San Francisco. In the 1830s it was a cattle ranch that supplied fresh meat to passing trading vessels that popped in for supplies. Many of those ships came from the northern Italian city of Genoa. And when the sailors heard there was gold they decided to give up their rigging for digging they also sent word back home about the gold which meant that thousands of additional Italian men came here and made a five month exhausting journey only to discover that the good stuff was already gone. Yet it was better here than back in the old country. The land was good for farming, the sea was filled with fish, it was easy to make a new life in a new land.

BURT WOLF: Churches…Coffeehouses… Bakeries … Restaurants…

The entire community honors its Italian heritage.

North Beach is also the home of the City Lights Bookstore. It was founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and was the first bookstore in the country to be devoted entirely to paperbacks. It also became the epicenter for the beatnik literature of the 50s and 60s. After North Beach was destroyed in the fire that followed the earthquake the residents lived in Washington Square while they rebuilt their homes. It was one of the first communities to recover. Within ten months North Beach was up and running. One of the men responsible for the rapid recovery of the city was A.P. Giannini, owner of the tiny Bank of Italy, which served the Italian immigrants. He became famous because the day after the great earthquake he rescued the money and the ledgers from the rubble of his bank. The next day when the other banks refused to open A.P. set up a table on the San Francisco waterfront and began making loans on the basis of a handshake. Today it’s known as the Bank of America. Mr. Giannini would love it.


BURT WOLF: At the same time that the Italian community was putting together North Beach, those who had made their fortunes during the gold rush were building their great mansions, and the greatest of them were about to be built on Nob Hill. The word nob is a contraction of nabob, an Indian word that means prince and that’s who moved in here, the princes of industry.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Nob Hill is the highest hill in San Francisco, it was so hard to get to the top that no one wanted to build their home here until 1873 when the cable car was invented and the railroad barons of California agreed to build their mansions here and a cable car company of their own running down California Street to Market where their offices were. You don’t find many big homes made by the gold miners because they didn’t actually make that much money --- the real fortunes were made by people who sold things to the gold miners like Leland Stanford, who was a grocer, or Charles Crocker, who was a dry goods salesman. Their homes are up here. There was almost one exception, Bonanza Jim Fair, he made a fortune with the largest silver mind discovery in the history of the world and he was just about to build his dream home when he died.

BURT WOLF: His daughters inherited the property and began construction of a hotel. But just before it was scheduled to open it was gutted by the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake. Reconstruction on the hotel began as soon as the fires were out and it opened with a fantastic party just one year to the day after the quake. The Fairmont Hotel quickly became the social center for San Francisco society.


BURT WOLF: The first Europeans to build anything in San Francisco were the Spanish. Starting in1769 they began building a chain of missions between San Diego and San Francisco. The Mission Dolores was built in 1776 and is still standing. It’s San Francisco’s oldest building. The ceiling is covered with ancient Native American designs that were painted on with vegetable dyes. The decorative altar came up from Mexico in 1796. The original bells were cast in the 1790’s and hang above the entrance area.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): When Mexico won its independence from Spain; California from San Diego to San Francisco became part of Mexico until the 1840’s when it was taken over by the United States. During the early years of the 20th century over 10 percent of the population of Mexico immigrated to the United States with hundreds of thousands of those people settling in California. One result is a distinct Hispanic influence in San Francisco.

BURT WOLF: The most dramatic visual manifestations of the Mexican community are the street murals. There are over are hundred of them in the Mission District alone. Many are the work of the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center that was set up by Susan Cervantes in 1977 to encourage, train and support the artists who wanted to paint murals. You can stop into the center and pick up a map that will guide you to the murals or you can sign up for a walking tour.

BURT WOLF: Why did the mural movement get started in San Francisco - why are there so many murals here?

SUSAN CERVANTES: Well I think that there are so many because there was a mural movement that started in the late ‘60’s right after the Civil Rights which is still continuing today. And it inspired the African American artists and Chicano artists to really understand their own cultural heritage and their roots.

BURT WOLF: Tell me about this specific mural.

SUSAN CERVANTES: What it is is family life and spirit of mankind and that was the theme that everyone agreed to have on it - this is a family oriented neighborhood --they wanted it to show community, they wanted to show people getting along with each other and sharing that community and love.

BURT WOLF: So the mural reflects the dozens of different ethnic groups that are in the community and how important it is for them to get together and love each other.

SUSAN CERVANTES: Well, yeah, the one thing about this community is that it is very diverse and it does reflect that diversity in the basis of the people that are painted in the murals and this is what’s really important to everyone to know that is part of everyone’s heritage. It’s just a wonderful way that they worked and shared and respected each other’s efforts.

BURT WOLF: So it’s a way for someone in the community to discover their own history and then put that in the mural and then to present that history back to their own community in a huge painting.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): The Spanish were the first Europeans to settle in the neighborhood and the Chinese were the first Asians. In 1848, at the time of the Gold Rush, China was in total chaos. The Manchu dynasty was falling apart and unable to govern. There was widespread starvation and the peasants were in rebellion. Thousands of Chinese left their homeland in search of their golden opportunity which they believed was buried in the mountains just outside of San Francisco.

BURT WOLF: The earliest Chinese workers to arrive in the mines were known as coolies, which comes from the Chinese ku li meaning bitter strength. They did the toughest jobs for the least money and set up their own community in San Francisco. When the gold rush came to an end the Silver Rush started and they were back in the mines again. And when the silver petered out they went to work building the railroads and as always at half the price of whites. At one point nine out of ten workers on the Central Pacific Railroad were Chinese. Today San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest and one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia…the population is estimated at about 100,000. 

The entrance to the district is Chinatown Gate. The words at the top translate as: “Everything in the World is in Just Proportion.” I’m not sure that’s true but it is certainly a goal to work towards.

The Chinese community is a powerful political and economic force in the city and Chinatown is a fascinating place to visit. The main shopping street for both residents and tourists is Grant Avenue. It was named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant who wasn’t much of a shopper, but a devoted tourist. Before he became President he spent many years touring the southeastern part of the United States.

You might also like to take a walk through Waverly Street, known as The Street of Painted Balconies. It feels much like the traditional streets of China. And if your stash of powdered antler horn is running low you’ll love this block.

The French and many other European immigrants influenced the early cooking of San Francisco. But the biggest impact came from the thousands of Chinese laborers who worked in the gold fields, and on the railroads, and at the wineries. They built their own town within a town. Today it is the largest Chinatown outside Asia. Originally it was almost completely a male society. The men lived in small rooms without kitchens. All their meals were taken in nearby restaurants. Hundreds of restaurants, and at all levels of quality and expense. Today some of the finest Chinese cooking in the world is right here in San Francisco.


GROUP (ON CAMERA): Good morning Shirley.

BURT WOLF: Shirley Fong-Torres is known as the wok wiz. 

SHIRLEY FONG-TORRES: All right, now.

BURT WOLF: She's a cookbook author, a historian, and television chef who has created a walking tour of her neighborhood that she calls “I Can't Believe I Ate My Way Through Chinatown”. She also runs daily tours that cover the history, culture, and folklore of the community. 

SHIRLEY FONG-TORRES: So our first stop will be to Sam Wo restaurant for our Chinese breakfast. This is Cheung Fun, in Chinese, in Cantonese means long, and Fun means the rice noodle. This is cold, and inside is lean barbecue pork that they make here, and then there's coriander and green onions and some scrambled eggs. So it's sort of like a breakfast roll. And so you just pick it up with your either your fingers or your chopsticks as a little snack.

One of my favorite produce markets is right there on the corner. Let’s try this. This is called Dow Mil. I hope you order this in a restaurant. We do this cause we just want you to taste it. It's a pea sprout comes from the snow pea family, and when you bite into it, you see that a little bit of an aftertaste. Now that's a lion dance to signify the grand opening of a new restaurant or a business. It's a loud celebration. 

SHIRLEY FONG-TORRES (ON CAMERA): So, to find a nice, good duck, we look for one that has ... that's carmelized, that has, not too fat, like that one has a little bit too much fat on it. But not too skinny because then there won't be enough meat. You want one to have a graceful neck and nice legs and thighs, kind of body I'm trying for. Oh! Back to the duck. Now, which one do we think?

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): We were gonna go with the end one.

SHIRLEY FONG-TORRES (ON CAMERA): The end one. Okay. We'll pick that one.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): That was your pick, so I don’t wanna….


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Mm, mm, mm.

SHIRLEY FONG-TORRES: Hurry and eat. We have to go lunch. And I love this place because they have excellent dim sum and then also great entrees, and the food we're having today is actually more like a banquet because we have been eating so much on the street already. And the Chinese realized there was a business here. They could open up a restaurant and these non-Chinese would come in and pay money for their meals, and, so, Chinese food started to become popular. 


BURT WOLF: The second Asian group to immigrate to San Francisco came in the early years of the 20th Century, and they came from Japan. Over 25,000 Japanese arrived in California and many headed straight for San Francisco. Today, there are over 12,000 Japanese-Americans in San Francisco, and they make major contributions to the city's business, cultural and gastronomic community. 

The word around town is that when it comes to Japanese food, Ebisu is at the top of the list. It's owned by Steve Fuji, a major authority on sushi, who taught classes on sushi preparation and presentation at San Francisco's DeYoung Museum.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I'm ready to learn how to make sushi.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Okay. So, you put seaweed on a bamboo shade. And like so. This is the shiny part.


STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): It's outside. And the dull sides go inside.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): So, it's the dull side that goes up.



STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): And then, you put rice. Leave about half inch or so from the top.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): And you go, like so. And then you just bring down easy like so. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): I’m just spreadin' it out.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Yours is spreading out better than mine. I’m going to be in remedial sushi making. I can tell.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): And then come to the end. The wasabi. And like so. That’s Japanese green horseradish.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Green horseradish. Okay. 

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Okay. You put this in the middle.


STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): So, bring this mat like so and then bring it over and then when you lift this one up, it’s almost half inch lips over here.


STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): And then pick up the mat, one side, okay and then push it over. Just a little. Not too hard. Okay.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): And then, like this. There you go.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Did I do that?


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Oh. Look at that. Give me a match. 

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Okay. With a knife.


STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): You run the water down. So, will not stick to rice.


STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): That’s why a lot of people do go like this.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): You have to run the water down. Okay.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): You're right-handed. I'm left-handed. So, you cut them in half.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Cut it in half.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): You got a half? I don't think so.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Well, okay. 

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Okay. Turn this over.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Turn that over. 

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Should be even. Right?

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): No. I'll make it even. Wait a second. Okay.


BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Now, it's even. 

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Cut this into three pieces.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Into three pieces.

STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): Right. Then when you put them in a dish, should be height that be all same. And the fish in the middle. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): So, the first thing I noticed is they're not all the same height, and my fish is not in the middle as effectively as yours. 



STEVE FUJI (ON CAMERA): But as it goes, you will learn.


BURT WOLF: Starting in the early 70s, restaurants in and around San Francisco started developing a style of cooking that became known as California cuisine. They began to use local products produced to the restaurant’s specifications. A perfect example is Hawthorne Lane. Ann Gingrass is the chef and David Gingrass manages the house. The room is beautiful, sophisticated and comfortable. The open kitchen can be seen but not heard, and the food which blends European, Asian and American elements is excellent.

The apple carpaccio was the first appetizer. Next, crispy fried prawns with toasted garlic sauce and fresh spring rolls. A taste of stir-fried lamb with eggplant and garlic chips served in radicchio leaf cups. The main course was spiced marinated grilled chicken with curried noodles and carrot and peanut wontons. And for dessert, a lemon chiffon passion fruit cake with shaved white chocolate.

Since the days when the miners came into San Francisco with their pockets filled with gold, the restaurateurs of this city have made it their business to supply their customers with the best of everything.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): In 1952, the Buena Vista Cafe decided to try and reproduce the perfect Irish coffee, as it was made in the Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland. It wasn't easy. They even went back to Shannon to try and figure out what they were doing wrong, and they didn't get it right until the mayor of San Francisco, who once owned a dairy, figured out that they had to let the cream rest for 48 hours before they whipped it to the ideal consistency. At last, the perfect Irish coffee had been recreated in the United States. There was much rejoicing throughout the land and many people lived happily ever after. 

BURT WOLF: And here's how they did it. First, a heatproof glass is selected and pre-heated with hot water. Two sugar cubes go in. Then the glass is filled to the three-quarter mark with hot coffee, and the sugar is dissolved. A jigger of Irish whiskey is stirred in. Now, they only put the whiskey in because it helps hold up the lightly whipped cream which is poured in gently over a spoon.

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): Not even the Blarney Stone was left unturned in their search for the perfect Irish coffee. Here is to the pursuit of excellence.

BURT WOLF: In 1849, the Boudin family arrived in San Francisco and opened a French bakery. They used French baking techniques but incorporated a sourdough process to create a sourdough French bread. Since then, San Francisco has become famous for its sourdough bread, which is made from a combination of flour, water and wild yeast.

LARRY STRAIN (ON CAMERA): That's the mother dough that we’ve perpetuated since 1849.

BURT WOLF: My guide is Larry Strain, the president of the company. The flour and water are mixed together and exposed to the air in order to attract the wild yeast. Once the yeast takes hold, the mass turns into a starter, or culture, which is the foundation of sourdough bread and acts as a leavening agent like any yeast or baking soda. Each time a new batch of bread is baked, some of the original starter is incorporated in the new batter and some of the new batter is turned back into the original starter. The Boudin bakery is still using the starter that got started in 1849. 

BURT WOLF (ON CAMERA): What makes sourdough bread taste different in one part of the world than it does in another is the local wild yeast that grows in the area. The wild yeast in San Francisco is so specialized that it is known as lacto bacillus San Francisco. Now, of course, you could buy sourdough starter in San Francisco and bring it home to any city in the world and make sourdough bread. But it would never taste the same as it does in San Francisco because your local wild yeast would want to join in the fun. 

BURT WOLF: San Franciscans have an extraordinary interest in good eating and drinking. They take it seriously in terms of pleasure. But they also take it seriously in terms of business. There are over 3,500 restaurants in San Francisco. You could eat in a different one every day, and it will take you 11 years to get through them.

Travels & Traditions: Belgium - #1008

BURT WOLF: Brussels is the capital of Belgium. It is also the capital of what is trying to become a United Europe. And it is an ideal city for the honor. The population of Belgium is made up of three different cultural groups that speak three different languages -- French, Dutch, and German.  The people of Belgium are polite, tactful and neighborly.  Perfect for the capital of a new Europe, and ideal for a visiting tourist.

The revolution of 1830 that produced a free and independent Belgium started here at the Brussels Opera House. The opera being performed had an aria in which a singer cried, ”Far better to die than to live in slavery. Away with the foreigners!” The audience took the words to heart, got up, walked into the streets, and started the revolution that got rid of the Dutch. Opera is still very important in Brussels.

To have an opera start a revolution is surprising, but so are many things in Brussels. Brussels is the headquarters for NATO and home to more than one thousand international corporations. It is sophisticated and cosmopolitan, and at the same time, filled with historic sites, cultural attractions and helpful people, most of whom speak English and enjoy speaking it with Americans.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Belgium is easy to get to. It’s right in the center of Western Europe and flights come in from major cities all around the world. If you’re coming from England you can come on the Euro star train that runs through the tunnel underneath the English Channel. When you get to Belgium you will be sitting on an imaginary line.  It’s a line that divides the speakers of Romance languages in the southern part of Europe, like French, from speakers of Germanic languages in the northern part of Europe, like Dutch.  The line runs right through the center of Belgium.

The fact that most Belgians speak two languages is constantly brought to mind. All street signs are symbolically in both French and Flemish.


The most famous symbol of Brussels, however, is the Manneken Pis... a bronze fountain in the form of a naked boy. It was constructed in the early 1600s and there are a number of stories about its meaning. But all the stories make the same point:  the people of Brussels are courageous, they have stood up to oppression, and the statue expresses their attitude towards the oppressors.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: In 1746 a bunch of French soldiers stole the statue. The King of France was in town at the time, and he was so annoyed and embarrassed that he had the soldiers arrested and put in prison, he had the statue returned, and then he made the statue a Knight of St. Louis -- which meant all the French soldiers had to salute it.

The King also gave the statue a uniform of gold brocade. The idea of having different uniforms for the statue caught on and today there is a museum with over six hundred costumes.  He dresses for special occasions. Carnival... flight training class... Dracula’s Birthday... Mozart’s Birthday... and Elvis’s Birthday.  He was always close to the king.

The museum faces out on the Grand Place, which is one of the great squares of the world. It was once the main marketplace for the city, a fact which is echoed in the names of the streets that lead into the square:  Butter Street. Meat and Bread Street. Herring Street.  During the 1400s the Hotel de Ville was built on the square as the center for the local government, and the food market became less significant.

On the first Thursday in July, the square is the site of the Omegang pageant. Over two thousand costumed participants parade past the King of Belgium. The event dates back to 1549, when it was first presented to King Charles V.

The streets surrounding the Grand Place contain dozens of shops offering Belgian Lace. By the middle of the 1500s Belgium had become the lace making capital of Europe. Brussels was the center of the business and over ten thousand people in the city, mostly young women, were employed in production.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Lace making used up so much of the available labor pool that it soon created a shortage of serving maids -- a situation that was unacceptable to the wealthy families of Belgium. And so a law was passed that said that lace could only be made by girls under twelve.

The lace makers of Brussels created handiwork that was considered to be the best; the threads were the finest and the designs the most beautiful. During the past hundred years the fashion for lace has declined, and today it is an item of special interest. Fortunately, there’s still quite a bit of interesting lace in Brussels.

Brussels has some of the most elegant shopping areas in Europe. One of the most charming is just off the Grand Place. It dates back to 1847 and is known as the Royal Arcades. It consists of three shopping galleries covered with glass roofs and lined with fashionable shops.


If, however, you are just looking, then try the museums. Brussels has dozens of interesting collections and exhibitions and three of the most interesting are right next to each other.

The Museum of Art and History is one of the most significant in Europe. It covers the entire history of art, with outstanding examples from almost every period.  The museum has a fascinating collection of church altars that were made in Brussels and Antwerp during the 15 and 1600s. At the time, a painter got paid three times more than a sculptor.  As a result, sculptors working on a church needed to supplement their earnings. One way was to make the carvings for an altar.

The Royal Army Museum and Museum of Military History has weapons and equipment covering centuries of European conflict including over 300 vintage aircraft.

And even though it’s just next-door, Auto world is a trip. You can trace the history of the motorcar from 1886 to 1975. Four hundred and fifty cars from twelve different countries.

The Royal Museum of Central Africa is also fascinating. During the 1880s Belgium’s King Leopold II took control of the entire Congo basin in Africa, an area half the size of Western Europe, and he ran it as his private property. He commissioned this museum to house his Congo collection. If you’d like to do some of your own collecting, there are at least a dozen excellent African art galleries in the city.


At the end of the 19th century, regal architecture was very fashionable in Brussels. Brouckere Square, named after a mayor of Brussels, was at the center of the city’s social life. And the buildings on the surrounding streets reflected the community’s interest in the majestic.

A good example is the Hotel Metropole. It opened in 1895 and was designed to express the great luxury that was available in Brussels at the end of the 19th century. The entrance hall is a French renaissance foyer in marble. Vaulted ceilings... crystal chandeliers... Oriental rugs. The reception area looks as it did over a hundred years ago... polished wood... brass trimming.  Beneath the Corinthian columns of the bar are palm trees, a reminder of Belgium’s expansion into Africa.

The hotel was also designed to express the coming attractions of the 20th century... the age of high technology. There’s an outside terrace and a cafe that were already famous in the 1800s. Contemporary designers often feel that less is more, but the Belle Époque boys who built this room clearly believed that more is more.


Food lovers agree that some of the finest food in Europe is served in the homes and restaurants of this city. The major influences on Brussels’ food came from the French, but you can also taste elements that came along during the years when Belgium was ruled by the Spanish and the Austrians.

Waterzooi is one of the most famous dishes. It’s somewhere between a soup and a stew. Chicken is poached in a broth of aromatic vegetables and saffron and finished off with a touch of cream. Saffron came to Belgium with the Spanish.

Another Flemish classic is beef stewed in beer. Cubes of beef are browned with onions, stewed in rich Belgian beer, and then flavored with a touch of red currant jelly and red wine vinegar. The jelly and the vinegar give the dish a sweet and sour edge. It’s served with boiled potatoes, and more of the beer that it was made with.

A specialty of the town of Liege is a warm green bean and potato salad with a bacon vinaigrette. Potatoes and green beans, still hot from cooking, are mixed together with freshly sautéed bacon, then dressed with a warm vinaigrette.

The Belgians’ love of cooking with beer shows up again in chicken braised in beer with Belgian endives. This is a popular family meal, often served as soon as the first endives come to market in September. The Belgians also make some of the worlds finest chocolate, and the chefs of Brussels use it to make a classic chocolate mousse.

For a look at life at the top of the gastronomic scale, you can pay a visit to Comme Chez Soi, which means like our place. It is one of the top restaurants in the world, with almost as many chefs as patrons. The table to get, and you must ask well in advance, is the one in the kitchen. It gives you the feeling that the entire staff is devoted just to you.

These days the chefs of Belgium travel around the world and constantly modify their approach to cooking. As a result, many traditional distinctions are disappearing. But some constants remain.

Belgian seafood is always important, especially mussels. The most famous dish in Brussels is Steamed Mussels with Fried Potatoes.  Brussels is famous for its Belgian Fried Potatoes.  Until the Seventies, there were Belgian Fry stands all over town.  There aren’t many these days, but this classic -- near the site of the 1958 World’s Fair -- is still open.

The seasonal arrival of the herring run each year is announced in every menu. Belgian waffles, freshly made in storefront shops, are the most common street food.

Brussels has also had a long-standing relationship with the cookie. And the best place to see it is the Dandoy shop in the old city. It has been run by the Dandoy family since 1829. Their most famous cookie is called a speculoos. They are a type of gingerbread and traditionally given to good children on St. Nicholas Day, the 6th of December. The word speculoos is Latin and it means mirror. The cookies come out of a hand-carved wooden form that mirrors the image of St. Nicholas.


We know that for at least eight thousand years, people have been making beer.  There are paintings on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs and artifacts in Babylonia that illustrate the process.

Over the centuries, the techniques passed from the Middle East to Europe. At the time, northern Europe was too cold to grow the grapes that made good wine, so beer became the drink of choice in Great Britain, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

The first process in making beer is called malting. Water is mixed with a grain like barley and the barley begins to germinate.

When the malt has reached the desired point, the germination process is stopped by drying and heating the malt in a kiln. If you heat it at a low temperature you get a pale malt, leading to a paler brew. At high temperatures the malt browns and develops different flavors that range from toasty and caramelized to sharp and smoky.

The cracked barley is mixed with hot water. Naturally occurring acids in the malt convert the starch into sugar. You end up with a sweet brown liquid called the wort.

Hops, which are the female flowers of a vine, are added to the wort and the mixture is boiled for up to 90 minutes. The hops add bitterness and various aromas to the brew and they also act as a natural preservative.

Then the wort is cooled and yeasts are added. In some breweries the yeast is in the air and no additional yeast is added.  The yeast turns the sugar in the wort into alcohol.  The process is called fermentation and there are two types of fermentation.

One takes place quickly at a high temperature – about 68 degrees Fahrenheit - and the most active yeasts remains near the surface of the liquid. 

It’s called top fermentation, it takes only a few days and the beer that results is soon ready to drink. Top fermentation usually produces a beer that’s fruity and yeasty. It’s the oldest way of making beer and the result is known as ale.

The second method was developed in the early 1400s in Bavaria. The beer was fermented in cool Alpine caves and they used a special yeast that thrived at cooler temperatures. Then the beer was stored for several months.  The result was a sparkling beer with a cleaner flavor. It became known as a lager from the German word lagern which means to store.  It’s the brewing method used for most modern beers.

Belgium and the United Kingdom are the only places that still brew most of their beer with the original technique --- warm temperature and top-fermenting yeasts.

St. Arnold, the patron saint of brewers is credited with spreading the brewers’ skill throughout Belgium. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: He was curious as to why the rich seemed to live longer than the poor.

And he finally decided it was because they drank beer instead of water. And he was absolutely right. For centuries the safest thing to drink was beer.

Today, Belgium produces over six hundred different beers and beer experts have chosen some of them as best of class, worldwide. The beer brewers of Belgium are the great artists in the business. And one of the oldest brewers is Lindemans.  It’s been in the same family for over 200 years.

Their most unusual beers are called lambics, lambics are fermented by natural yeasts in the air and the fermentation process takes place over many months in wooden barrels and tanks.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Lambic is the meeting point between a beer and a wine. It is made from wild yeast in a process that’s very similar to that used for making sherry. And like a sherry it’s aged for years in wooden casks.

Some lambics are blended together and aged to make a gueuze which has a wine-like flavor and complexity. Lambic brewers never want to make the slightest physical change to their brewery buildings because it might disturb the yeast.

Belgian beers are also fermented with cherries to produce a drink called kriek or with raspberries to make a brew called framboise. Kriek is the Flemish word for black cherry. Lindemans adds cherries to their lambic and the fresh pure fruit flavor makes a great pairing with the tart complexity of the lambic. 


Most visitors to Belgium, either for business or holiday, end up passing all of their time in Brussels, which is okay. But the distances between Belgian cities are extremely short and a train ride of less than an hour will bring you an additional perspective on the country. Take Antwerp, for example it’s only forty-five minutes from Brussels. Antwerp was built on the Skelde River, which runs out to the Atlantic Ocean. For more than two thousand years Antwerp has been a major port.

In the middle of Antwerp’s central marketplace is the statue of Silvius Brabo, and it comes with a legend.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: There was a giant who lived near Antwerp, right on the river.  And he would charge an excessive toll to any ship that passed by his castle. As an added inducement to make the payment he would chop off the hand of anyone who tried to avoid the toll. He had an economic stranglehold on the city. Silvius was a Roman soldier who had the courage to kill the giant and as a final act of victory he chopped off the giant’s hand and threw it in the river.

There’s the defeated giant. And there’s Silvias.  Free from the giant’s control, the city prospered. The textile industry made many people rich. They built one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Antwerp became a center for book publishing and diamond cutting. Great artists worked here. And everybody who could afford it became interested in good food.

Antwerp was the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens, the great 17th century painter, and his home and studios are open to visitors.  If you enjoy the art of the 15, 16, and 1700s, stop into the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. It houses over a thousand works by the old masters.

In the center of town is the Cathedral of Our Lady. It is the largest and most beautiful Gothic church in Belgium. A number of Rubens masterpieces hang along the walls.  And when you come out of the cathedral you can pop across the street to a pub filled with religious statues. It’s called The Eleventh Commandment, which they claim is Thou shalt enjoy thyself.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  It’s easy to fall in love with the city of Antwerp, but if you fall in love on a more personal level, then Antwerp is the town to commemorate that love in a most traditional way.

Antwerp is the world center for diamonds.  The business came here in the 1200s. Today the city has two thousand diamond companies, with over thirty thousand employees. More than seventy percent of the world’s annual diamond business passes through Antwerp, at a value of more than thirteen billion dollars. They even have a diamond museum that will teach you everything you want to know about these glittering stones.

Diamonds appear to have been mined first in India and until the 1700s that was the only source. The criteria for evaluation has been the same for thousands of years.

The quality of a diamond is measured by the four Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  The carat is a measurement of weight with a food reference, but probably not the reference that comes to mind.  The word carat comes from an ancient Greek word and refers to the bean of the carob plant. Carob beans have a tendency to uniform weight at two-tenths of a gram, and in ancient times they were used to measure the weight of pearls, precious stones, and diamonds.

In terms of gastronomy, there were three shops in Antwerp that attracted my attention.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  This is Goossen’s Bakery, and it’s very famous for their wonderful breakfast breads, and I’m gonna go and get one, but there’s always a line.  So rather than waiting here with me, why don’t you go down the block with my cameraman?  He’s gonna show you a great biscuit shop.

In addition to its other baked goods, Phillips Biscuits produces a sweet cookie in the shape of the hand that Silvius took from the giant.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  I’m getting closer -- only about four people ahead of me -- but you don’t have to wait around for this.  This time the producer will take you to a great chocolate shop.

Burie Chocolates has a monthly theme, which it celebrates in various edible forms.  Burie also has come up with a technique for putting a picture on a chocolate bar. Give them a photo and they will print it in white chocolate on a dark chocolate bar.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  What I was after was this very traditional breakfast bread; little bit of whole grain in it and lots of raisins and this other bread, which is yeast-based also, and it has some egg yolk in it, raisins, and then it’s coated with powdered sugar.  They slice ‘em up and toast ‘em and they’re fabulous for breakfast.

And finally, as you walk around town you may notice that above the streetlights there are statues of the Virgin Mary. But the reason behind this is less pious than you might expect. The owners of the building on which the streetlights hung were taxed. But if a statue of the Virgin Mary was placed above the light, the tax was suspended. I could not find a single lamp without a statue.

Travels & Traditions: Miami, Florida - #1007

BURT WOLF: Greater Miami and the beaches are situated along the east coast of the Florida peninsula – a sophisticated, subtropical city on the same latitude as the Sahara Desert. It is usually bathed in bright sunlight and has an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Miami has been shaped by ocean waves, waves that formed barrier islands – waves that came in with hurricanes and rearranged the geography.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: But the most significant waves to arrive on these shores were the waves of settlers. Like the waves from the ocean they sank into the soil and changed the shape and the texture of this place. The first settlers were probably groups of native tribes that came over from Siberia about 10,000 years ago and headed south. Even then people were looking for a warm place and a better life. In the early 1500s the Spanish popped in, followed by the English, then the Spanish had a second shot. And finally in 1821, the U.S. government took over.

BURT WOLF: After an ocean wave arrives and sinks into the Miami sand, it will often leave marks indicating its passage. And that is also true for the waves of settlers who came here.

The first major modern day immigration was made up of wealthy northerners searching for a place to get away from the winter cold. The first of the big spenders came to Miami during the early years of the 20th Century and settled in an area known as Coconut Grove. In 1916, James Deering who made his fortune selling farming equipment through International Harvester, built one of the most magnificent winter homes in the area. These days it’s open to the public. Deering wanted to create an estate that looked like it was the home of an Italian family. A family that had lived in the house for 400 years, with each generation adding things from their own time. The property is called Vizcaya, which means the high place.

The old guard is still here but Coconut Grove also has a reputation for a slightly Bohemian lifestyle. An invitation to artists and craftsmen. These days Coconut Grove’s attractions are outdoor cafes, good restaurants, local shops and just down the road from the Grove, the ever-popular Parrot Jungle.

PARROT TRAINER: Are you a funny bird? Do you remember that little dog we saw? Remember that little Chihuahua?

PARROT TRAINER: That little Chihuahua? A noisy Chihuahua.

BURT WOLF: The Parrot Jungle is a well-known bird sanctuary, wildlife habitat and botanical garden. Over a thousand birds live here, but my favorites are the birds that appear at the trained parrot show.

The Parrot Jungle is at the edge of the city of Miami, a reminder that even though this is a modern metropolis, it is surrounded by the natural wonders of the tropics. Drive south from downtown Miami for just thirty minutes and you are in the Everglades. The Everglades is one of the world’s most unusual environments. When the summer rains soak the grasses, hundreds of rare plants and animals fill the park. During the dry winter season the animals come together around the limited water supply. Pools and ponds become ideal spots for visitors who want to take a look at the amazing environment. Vast saw-grass prairies, subtropical jungle, mangrove swamps.

Greater Miami is a compromise. A compromise between getting away from it all in a place like the Everglades or being part of it all in a place like South Beach.

During the Twenties Miami Beach was a major resort. People came to live it up... to do a little gambling, which was illegal but tolerated by the local government... to drink a little alcohol, which was also illegal and tolerated by the local government. During Prohibition, so much whisky came into Miami from the Bahamas that the Beach was known as the leakiest spot in America.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The largest immigrations to the United States took place during the 1800s and 1900s. Europeans coming to Ellis Island in New York City, who for the most part were uneducated and poor and trying to improve the quality of their lives. On the other hand, the Cubans who came to Miami during the 1960s were for the most part talented professionals and successful businessmen and businesswomen who feared Castro’s Communism and were interested in maintaining the quality of their lives.

BURT WOLF: They hit Miami and immediately started setting up the businesses they had back home. Everything from local shops to international banks. They also reproduced Cuban Cuisine. One of the most famous Cuban restaurants in town is La Esquina de Tejas. It’s run by Lian and Alex Chamizo. It is and has always been a labor of love.

LIAN CHAMIZO: The first time I saw the man that would eventually become my husband I was ten years old. We were vacationing here with my parents from New York and we stopped in for lunch, and I remember my mother making a comment as to the young boy behind the counter helping out his parents, and how noble. And little did I know I’d end up meeting him fifteen years later, and we’d marry, have two kids, and now we run the business together.

ALEX CHAMIZO: Dad opened up the business thirty-five years ago, and he used to also be in the restaurant business in Cuba. And basically what we serve is authentic Cuban cuisine.

BURT WOLF: It’s common knowledge that the Cuban sandwich served at La Esquina is one of the best in Miami. But some of the other authentic specialties include a traditional paella. A dish of shredded beef, actually, they call it shredded cow. Chicken and vegetables in a wine sauce. Marinated roast pork. Aand for dessert, a creamy flan and a pound cake soaked in three different milks.


BURT WOLF: Miami has had its ups and downs but it has always found a way to come out on top. After years of being a gastronomic desert, Miami and the beaches had a restaurant renaissance during the 90s. Today it has dozens of interesting restaurants, and almost all of the food reflects the history of Miami’s ethnic migrations and unique character.

When Ponce de Leon showed up in Florida in 1513, he was looking for the Fountain Of Youth. He must have missed Miami's South Beach. Ah, yes, shapes not found in nature. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Too bad about De Leon. Florida did little for him. But he and his fellow explorer, Hernando De Soto, did a lot for Florida, especially when it comes to eating and drinking. They were the first two guys to bring cattle and pigs to North America, and the Franciscan missionaries who followed them brought in Spanish recipes, rice and European spices. So, the Spanish influence on the food of Miami goes back for well over 500 years. 

BURT WOLF: Today the best place to see and taste that influence is in Miami's Little Havana, and the best place to start is the bakery at Versailles. My guide is Herb Sosa, a Cuban-American, a friend, and a serious eater.

HERB SOSA ON CAMERA: Well, Burt this is breakfast in Little Havana for us, a variety of fried and baked goods. We've got everything from croquetas over here, croquettes, we got pastelitos, which, again, are a nice, light, flaky, pastry, that can be filled with anything from meat to guava to cream cheese or a combination of both. Empanadas, over here, those are the guava pastries over there. And this is fun. This is a type of bread. It's a version of the Cuban bread. We call it a patines, which is a roller skate, because it resembles a roller skate with the wheels. And again, the codfish fritters are also a delicacy and, certainly, a favorite, and all of that has to get washed down with Cuban coffee, of course.

BURT WOLF: Ah! I'm ready.

HERB SOSA: Like some?


HERB SOSA ON CAMERA: There you go. Nice and strong and hot.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: What makes it Cuban coffee?

HERB SOSA: The way that it's brewed.

BURT WOLF: Strong and sweet.

HERB SOSA: Absolutely. Lots of sugar and the foam also is a mixture of the sugar beaten before you pour it into the coffee and then makes it come up to the top. Before we go, I want to show you one more thing. 

A variety of omelets and sandwiches here, references to our Spanish heritage. You've got the sandwiches, and the omelets filled with everything from prosciutto hams to the salmons, tomatoes, just about anything you'd like.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And they're formed like a cake. Built up. And then sliced in triangles.

HERB SOSA ON CAMERA: Absolutely. Layers, nice and filling, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, any time you're hungry.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Interesting. I've never seen a sandwich presented quite like that. 

BURT WOLF: About midday, you can pop into Fritas Cubana. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: A Fritas Cubana. 


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: What does that mean?

COUNTERMAN ON CAMERA: Well, it's a tradition in Cuba. It's a patty, U.S. choice ground beef. It has spices in it, which is a recipe that we have, that my father showed me. It's got onions and homemade potatoes on a Cuban roll.


BURT WOLF: If you enjoy the food in Little Havana, you might like to look at some plates for it to go on, in which case you should stop into the workshop of the Curras twins. Ronald and Nelson are identical twins. But they were born a day apart, which put them under different astrological signs, very unusual for identical twins. Also one is right-handed and the other left-handed, which makes one the mirror image of the other. But those are about the only differences between them. They were born in Havana in 1940 and came to Miami in 1980. They are ceramists, and they make plates, tables and lamps in their home in Little Havana.

TRANSLATOR: Our grandfather who lived in Spain started a ceramics business, and we carried on in the tradition.

BURT WOLF: Where do you draw your ideas from?

TRANSLATOR: The flora and fauna of Cuba, their native homeland, the colors, the architecture, the plants, the animals, everything, that reminds them of their old Cuba. Our colors are inspired by the Tropics. They're hot. They're vibrant, like the Tropics that we come from. We work simultaneously and, together on both the concepts as well as in the actual work. One would start the design. The other one would continue, or vice versa, and also, when it comes to the murals with the ceramic tiles, we lay the tiles out, and, again, we don't have any preconceived ideas or notions on what the design will be. We just start and take it, as whatever inspires us at the time.


BURT WOLF: Much of the food on Miami Beach is designed to look good and make the diners feel good and so is much of the architecture. Miami Beach is home to the largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the world. Art Deco got started in Paris at the beginning of the 1900s. The objective was to take design elements used in industry and translate them into the decorative arts. The streamlined forms in a railroad train or an ocean liner find their way into the architecture of the buildings, strong vertical lines, rounded corners, portholes, etched glass and the first widespread use of neon lighting. During the 1920s and 30s over five hundred Art Deco structures were put up on Miami Beach. They were Art Deco but with a Miami Beach spin. The Art Deco here came to be known as Tropical Deco. The colors became bright pastels. Concrete awnings called eyebrows were placed above the windows to shade the rooms from the hot afternoon sun. The objective of Tropical Deco was to make people feel that they were having fun in the sun, even though the Great Depression was going on back home. By 1960, however, these wonderful buildings were running down. In response, the Miami Design Preservation League, and forward-looking investors took on the task of redeveloping the area. Tony Goldman was one of the first people to understand the value of preserving what was left in this area, and restoring the rest.

TONY GOLDMAN: I saw a rhythm of two and three and four story buildings along an ocean street with a public park and a great beach. A fascination of colors and shapes that had a rhythm and a connection as a family member would to another family member. When you have similar architecture in critical mass it becomes powerful, as opposed to having a piece here and a piece there from different times different places. But the Art Deco district of South Beach is in critical mass 800 buildings all built within eight to ten years of each other. So it’s a massive statement of architecture and a slice of time that is captured in for real, not in a Disneyesque approach. But it’s captured for real.


BURT WOLF: It appears that the same things that attract tourists... good food... good weather... lots of sunlight... interesting locations... also attract fashion photographers and their models. Miami Beach has become one of the world’s most important centers for outdoor fashion photography and film. They’ve become multi-million dollar businesses. As you walk along the beach you can see the art form in action.

And now for an art form that’s completely different. These are works of the Scull Sisters. They are famous throughout Miami. Three-dimensional murals that celebrate the street life of South Florida. And here they are now – the twins, Sahara and Haydee, and Haydee’s son Michael. In 1969, a freedom flight from Cuba brought them to the U.S. They were on their way to New York, but when they saw Miami, they knew this was the right place for them. And boy, are they right for Miami. Like Salvador Dali, they are as much an art form as the work they create.

BURT WOLF: Now, every day you’re dressed in something new. Every day! How come?

HAYDEE SCULL: Every day is a new day for us. And we, like everybody, enjoy.

MICHAEL SCULL: They want to make everyone happy around them and around us.

BURT WOLF: How do you decide what’s going to go into your mural?

HAYDEE SCULL: We think about that and talk.

SAHARA SCULL: Like the football.

MICHAEL SCULL: Like a football team we talk about it and then we say how we’re going to do it and all that.


BURT WOLF: How do you decide who does what part?

MICHAEL SCULL: Well, my mom...

HAYDEE SCULL: Number one. I am number one.

MICHAEL SCULL: She is number one. She starts in the background. My aunt does the different accessories, you know, to make the 3-D effect. And then I work on some of the figures, and my mom also, and we exchange that like that.

BURT WOLF: How long does it take you to make a piece?

HAYDEE SCULL: Minimum two weeks, a small painting.

MICHAEL SCULL: Two weeks, small painting.

HAYDEE SCULL: And one year, large painting. Like the bar in Mango’s.

BURT WOLF: Was there any one work that you did that was very exciting for you when you think back?

HAYDEE SCULL: The Queen Elizabeth the painting.

MICHAEL SCULL: When the Queen of England visited Miami, the City of Miami commissioned a painting to greet the Queen with this painting. And this painting was... we did something with the Queen’s portrait at the Vizcaya Palace – that’s in Miami. They thought that it would be an appropriate place to place the Queen. And she’s a Queen she should be in a palace. In the background you see the Vizcaya Palace, and she’s standing on one of those stone boats that they have and she’s kind of feeding manatees in the water with gloves – she’s wearing gloves and feeding the manatees. And they’re kind of smiling to the Queen.

HAYDEE SCULL: And the beautiful eyes manatee, looking at the beautiful Queen... Mas Lechuga, Mama.

MICHAEL SCULL: More lettuce, Mama.

The murals are owned by important collectors. They have a unique vision and if you look carefully at their images, your own view of the subject matter may change and that’s one of the criteria for a serious work of art.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: To come here just for the warmth and the water is to miss much of what this area has to offer. Let me show you what I mean.

EDWARD VILLELLA: Two-three, one! Ta-da! One! Cha-cha! 

BURT WOLF: The Miami City Ballet is quickly becoming one of the most respected ballet companies in the world. It was founded in 1986 by Edward Villella, the first American-born male star of the New York City Ballet.

Today, the Miami City Ballet has over 15,000 subscribers, and over 10,000 single ticket buyers each season. It appears all over the world, and is busy creating works that incorporate the social dances of this century into the traditional ballet of the past. To see The Miami City Ballet in action is to see the future of music and ballet in America. As the Miami classical arts community grew, it not only became a place where great artists came to perform, but also a place where young artists came to train. The Old Lincoln Movie Theater at the heart of the art deco district on Miami Beach has been converted into the headquarters of The New World Symphony. It's North America's only full time national training center for young orchestral musicians who want to prepare for professional careers.

Another organization that will give you a look at the musical future of America is Jubilate.

It started out in 1995, when a group of friends put together a vocal group to help celebrate Black History Month. Since then, it has expanded into the Jubilate Vocal Ensemble, and the Jubilate Symphony Orchestra. Orchestra is one of three in the United States that are primarily managed and staffed by minority musicians. Miami is also the world epicenter for street parties. The tradition goes back to 1915, but like everything else in Miami it is constantly reinventing itself. One of the biggest is Carnaval Miami, which celebrates the Latin flavor of the community with a nine-day festival of music, parades and food. It finishes off in a daylong block party on the legendary Calle Ocho in Little Havana.

Miami and the Bahamas have teamed up to produce the Goombay Festival. With everything from the Royal Bahamian Police Marching Band to Junkanoo parades, it looks like Bay Street in Nassau was picked up and transported to Coconut Grove.

Miami is the home of the annual Orange Bowl football game and the Orange Bowl parade, which has become one of the world’s largest and most colorful nighttime parades.

But festivals in Miami don’t all feature marching bands and floats. Miami has developed into one of the most sophisticated arts and cultural centers in the U.S. There are dozens of arts festivals, including Art Deco Weekend, a celebration of the Jazz Age, right in the middle of the Tropical Deco district.

Almost every week some group in Miami is having a party to celebrate something… the town has an ongoing dedication to having a great time.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.


Travels & Traditions: The Basque Region, Spain - #1006

BURT WOLF: The Basque country straddles the border between southwest France and northeast Spain, but except for their passports the Basques are neither French nor Spanish -- they are Basque. They speak the oldest European language still spoken, so old that no one can tell where it came from. We don’t even know where the Basques came from. Scientific tests indicate that the Basques have a different bloodline than their neighbors in Spain and France. They also have a distinct and interesting culture and they do all they can to keep their traditions alive.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Basques have lived on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years, but the two most important historic influences on Spain -- a three-hundred year colonization by the ancient Romans, and a seven-hundred year occupation by the Moors -- were hardly noticed by the Basques.

BURT WOLF: The Basques lived in small isolated villages and governed with a democracy in which the residents of a house voted as a unit rather than as individuals. That sense of family group has been central to their history. There are four Basque provinces in Spain and three just across the border in France. These days the two most interesting cities for a tourist are San Sebastian and Bilbao.  Since medieval times Bilbao has been an important trading port.

At first the city shipped wool from the sheep farms of northern Spain. During the 1800s iron mining became important, and the city evolved into an industrial center for steel mills, shipbuilding and chemical production.  It was a commercial city and clearly not a destination for tourists.

But that has completely changed. Today Bilbao is Spain’s fourth largest city and a major tourist attraction. For many travelers, the standard European tour, usually limited to London, Paris and Rome, now includes Bilbao.  The change was the result of imaginative urban planning and the belief that a single building could be the catalyst for the rebirth of an entire community.

Because of its size, the Guggenheim Museum in New York can only present five percent of its collection at any one time. Yet the traditional model for a museum calls for it to constantly make new acquisitions, which just leads to more art in the storerooms.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the late 1980s, the board of directors of the Guggenheim Museum decided to continue its acquisition activities, but at the same time look for new sites to present their collection. They already had one in Venice, and they opened two new ones in New York City, and one in Berlin. In 1991 they were negotiating with Salzburg Austria when the Basque government began making their pitch. And the Basques had a couple of good points. Salzburg already had a major international music festival and hundreds of thousands of tourists came there every year. A Guggenheim Museum in Salzburg would just add more whipped cream to their cake. A Guggenheim Museum here could rejuvenate an entire city.

The logic and the opportunity were too powerful for the Guggenheim to resist. The old shipyards became the site for the new museum, with its titanium shell undulating in the wind and changing color from blue, to red, to gold throughout the day and night. Jeff Koons’ flower-covered “Puppy” welcomes visitors to the building, inviting them to loosen up for what’s coming.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: About two hours before we got here they decided to change the flowers on the puppy so I had to show it to you in a post card, but you get the idea.

Fortunately everything on the inside is ready for viewing.  Our guide is Susana Garcia.

SUSANA GARCIA:  In my tours I usually like starting here -- Andy Warhol, because I think this is quite different.  This is not the Andy Warhol we are used to.  I mean, this is what he was doing in the Fifties.  He was a graphic designer, and he was designing those shoes you see.  But here, I personally -- I can see the evolution he is going to have.  Because I can see the glamour already, and he is going to be obsessed with glamour. I can see the bright colors.  I can imagine his assistants helping him to paint, to color, because he had what he called his coloring parties.  And, as he said, he wanted to be a sort of machine; he wanted to work in every medium -- cinema, photographs, painting, fashion, music, everything.  He thought that everything could be art, and art could become common.

BURT WOLF:   Tell me about this piece.

SUSANA GARCIA:  Okay, this piece is by Jenny Holzer, an American artist, and she’s working with language.  So what we’re going to see is text written in Spanish and in English, depending on the moment you arrive.  And -- well, she’s playing with language because the message we get is a personal message; it’s something intimate, but the media she’s using is public.  It’s LEDs.

BURT WOLF:   It’s what we use for signage in advertising.

SUSANA GARCIA:  That’s it. 

BURT WOLF:   The contrast of a personal message in a public media.

SUSANA GARCIA:  That’s it.  And something I like of this piece is that we can go through it and discover something else.  Well, here we get a different color and a different language.

BURT WOLF:   It’s in Basque.

SUSANA GARCIA:  That’s it -- that’s Basque language.  Jenny Holzer had to come to Bilbao to prepare this piece, and when she came she discovered Basque language.  She didn’t know anything about this.  So she thought, “Well, that’s perfect -- as I had to come to Bilbao to discover this language, I want people to enter into my piece to discover my message in Basque.”

BURT WOLF:   It’s also a nice symbol because here Basque is behind everything that we see up front.

The Guggenheim jump-started the new Bilbao.


BURT WOLF: The other great coastal city in Spain’s Basque country is San Sebastian, which is about fifty miles to the east of Bilbao. The coast road between the two cities is beautiful.  And the area has its own unique history.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the 1100s the Catholic Church had three Holy Cities: Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela on the northwest coast of Spain. If you visited any of these cities the church would reduce the impact of your sins during your afterlife. It was called an indulgence. Getting to Jerusalem was dangerous and difficult.  Getting to Rome was a lot easier but when you got there you weren’t sure the church would give you an indulgence.  Santiago de Compostela was your best bet, and thousands of people made the trip every year, aided by the first travel guide for the mass market. It was written by a monk, and published in 1130. It told you where the food was good or bad, where the neighborhoods were dangerous, and if there had been bathrooms it would have told you which ones were clean. It was the Mobil Guide of the moment.

BURT WOLF: The route passed through here -- the town of Getaria. And pilgrim or not, if you are traveling in the Basque country, Getaria is worth a stop. It’s the hometown of Juan Sebastian Elcano, who was the navigator on Magellan’s voyage around the world. Most popular literature describes Magellan as the first person to sail around the world, but he died in the Philippines and never finished the trip. It was Elcano who completed the voyage home and should be given credit for the trip. He got a nice statue but he needed a better agent.

Getaria is also the center for the production of a local wine called txakoli, which is made from grapes grown on the nearby hills. Young, sparkling and fruity, it is poured from a bottle held a few feet above the glass under the theory that the trip aerates the wine and increases its sparkle. 

Getaria has a number of good restaurants that specialize in the outdoor grilling of fish that come up from the town’s port. The grills are set up outside, near the entrance to the restaurants. My favorite is Iribar. The chef’s name is Pile and she is the third generation of her family to own the restaurant.  It’s a perfect place to take a break during your pilgrimage.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Following the Protestant Reformation the market for indulgences pretty much disappeared, along with the traffic of pilgrims through Getaria.  But recently there has been a resurgence.  During the Holy Year 1993 over a hundred thousand pilgrims walked the route along northern Spain, and new hotels and inns are being built to accommodate the new traffic.

BURT WOLF: To qualify as an authentic pilgrim you must walk a minimum of 62 miles, but you can also meet the requirements by biking for 124. Inline skaters have made petitions, but as yet there is no official ruling. And if you’re considering a skateboard, forget about it.  You must start with a letter from your parish priest and a record book that gets stamped along the way.

When you arrive in San Sebastian, you are entering a city that has been around since the 11th Century, and was one of the major resting points on the pilgrim route. But not much went on here until the middle of 1800s, when Queen Maria Cristina chose the beachfront waters of San Sebastian as the spot for her daughter’s saltwater cure. Bathing in the ocean was recommended for the princess’s skin ailment.

GABRIELLA RANELLI:  But she didn’t just walk into the water like you and I would today; because in 1845 decent people didn’t swim in the ocean.  You only went in the water if you fell in.  You were usually a fisherman.

BURT WOLF: Gabriella Ranelli is an American friend of mine who has lived here since 1989 and has a good sense of the town.

GABRIELLA RANELLI:  ... so what they had to do was build a special round building set on rails -- it was called “The Pearl of the Cantabria” -- and the queen was in it, and a pair of oxen would pull it down into the water.  She could very decorously lower herself into the water, swim around, nobody could see the Royal Body.

BURT WOLF:   She was swimming inside this little building?

GABRIELLA RANELLI:  No, she would come out.  There was a hole in it, she could swim out, she would swim around.  You could see her head -- the Royal Head would be there, nobody would see the Royal Body -- so she was okay, and then she would go back up into her little bathing house, the oxen would pull it up on the beach, she could bathe with fresh water, come out dressed with all her dignity intact.  And that’s what people did in those days, even though they wore bathing costumes made of wool from their necks down to their ankles, as you can see in photographs of the time.  But because the queen was here, everybody else -- all the court, and all the aristocracy from Spain -- wanted to come up here and spend their summers in the same place where the queen came.

BURT WOLF:  That’s an interesting point over there.

GABRIELLA RANELLI:  That’s the fortified wall.  This was a walled city, of course, and that’s where the French defended, generally the French, defended themselves against the English.  Wellington and Napoleon were always fighting it out here because this was a very, very strategic city.  If you captured San Sebastian, you would generally have a gateway into the entire Iberian peninsula, and eventually Africa.  So everybody wanted this place.  So they were always fighting people off, and eventually in 1813 the English came in, the allied troops came in -- the French had the city under siege -- and burned the entire thing to the ground.  So they had to start over and rebuild.  So a lot of what you’re seeing is the new 19th Century city that they rebuilt after the fire and after the walls came down in 1865.  The building right behind us, which is the town hall now, used to be the casino.  It was built at the end of the 1800s, but then gambling was outlawed in 1923, so they turned it into the town hall eventually.


BURT WOLF: The gastronomy of San Sebastian is based on the sea and the mountains. The local chefs are considered to be some of the best in Europe and seafood is one of their great strengths. Excellent fish soups. Sea Bream with Garlic Vinaigrette. Or whatever today’s catch is, fresh from the ocean and simply grilled.    

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: For hundreds of years, Basque fishermen followed whales across the Atlantic, eventually ending up off the coast of Newfoundland and discovering the huge schools of cod that live on the grand banks.  Many historians believe that the Basques knew a great deal about the new world long before Columbus showed up, but didn't tell anybody about it because they considered it a commercial advantage.  And it makes perfectly good sense.  If you found gold, why would you want to tell the competition where your mine is?

BURT WOLF: And cod turned out to be a gold mine for the Basques.  Dried cod was a way of preserving valuable nutrients and became a popular food throughout Europe.  The demand for cod increased when the Catholic church required meatless meals and the Basques were the major suppliers.  Today, codfish is an essential ingredient in the local flavors of the Basques.  But cod is not the only important fish in the Basque kitchen. 

Walk through the market in the city of San Sebastian and you will see the other local favorites…langoustine, which is a European species of lobster, monkfish, tuna, hake, sardines and anchovies.  Because Basque country is as much about mountains as it is about the sea, lamb has always been an important part of the local cuisine. 

The mountains behind San Sebastian are home to the sheepherders, whose traditional dishes include roast lamb with garlic and lemon served with roasted potatoes and hearts of lettuce.  But there are also some small ranches that supply great steaks. 

The sheep also supply milk, which is used to make a number of traditional Basque cheeses.  The cheeses take on the flavor of the mountain plants on which the sheep fed.  In the United States, you can find a number of Basque cheeses.  The Basques are also famous for their hams.  The mountain forests, filled with acorns and chestnuts, became a natural habitat for the pigs, and ham is an essential part of the Basque diet.  The little upside down umbrellas are there to catch any drippings.  The local flavors of the Basque kitchen reflect the history of the region.  Ancient Romans did a little trading with the Basque and introduced wheat, olive oil and wine making, which was rather important, since all three elements are essential to one of the great gastronomic traditions of the Basque, a tradition known as the pintxos bar.

GABRIELLA RANELLI: I've gone to this bar, which is the place that I've had breakfast in almost every day for the last ten years. 

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: Okay, this is a pintxos bar where they have pintxos are little snacks.  They're called tapas in the rest of Spain.  But here this is the breakfast one.  This is a little bit different from the one people go to in the evening, which are heartier.  And normally you know, if you come here all the time, usually you come stumbling in, they'll hand you the newspaper first thing in the morning.  They know whatever you like to eat.  Everybody has their favorite pintxos usually. And they know their clients.

He’s pouring some txakoli which is a sparking, well it's a local wine.  It's a white wine but they pour from a great height so it gets a little effervescent, but it's not a sparkling wine.  It's made with grapes which are grown on the steep hills next to the sea, so they don't get a lot of sun.  They get a lot of rain.  It's quite tart but it's an aperitif.  It's an aperitif, yeah.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: These are great.  It's just an egg omelet on a little piece of bread.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: ... little piece of bread. 

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: Yeah, very simple but it's absolutely ideal. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I want one of those.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Hilda?  Why is it called a Hilda?

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: Well it’s actually in English we would probably say Gilda.  It’s after the Rita Hayworth film.


GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: Had a lot of impact here.

BURT WOLF ONCAMERA: It’s anchovies, little peppers and olives on a toothpick.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA:  Every bar has its own version of that. 


GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: Yes, like Rita Hayworth.  Right.

BURT WOLF ON CAAMERA: Rita Hayworth was considered spicy.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CCAMERA: That scene where she takes off her gloves, you know, that revolutionized the entire country.

BURT WOLF: I don't see the bagels, but I definitely see the smoked salmon and the cream cheese.

GABRIELLA RANELLI:  You take whatever you want and at the end, we just tell them what we've had and they'll tell us how much it is.  They're very good at math.  So it's the honor system, and people are very honest.  Nobody cheats on pintxos. 

BURT WOLF: At night, the pintxos bars take on a different menu and a different character.  Groups of friends come together, forming a loose assembly of like-minded pintxos-lovers.  They know what they like to eat and they know where they like to eat it.  They have a pre-planned route and they move along it.  One team that I traveled with always starts at eight o'clock on Thursday nights at a specific bar.  They go there because they like the mushrooms.  After about thirty minutes, they move on to the next place.  If you miss the eight o'clock opening, you know where to catch up at eight thirty and that would be true for the third or fourth spots as the night continues.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: You've got to pace yourself.  That's why the wines are so small also.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Ah, that's right. Big glasses with a little bit of wine.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: But you might have to go to twenty bars, and so if you were drinking an enormous tankard full of wine, you wouldn't make it passed four.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Also, one of the nice things about this is it gives a lot of room on the top for air, which means you get a better flavor from the wine.  Shall we?


BURT WOLF: The streets of San Sebastian's old city are packed with pintxos groups moving from bar to bar.

GABRIELLA RENELLI: This is where we're going, okay?  Now you can always tell the best pintxos bars because they've got the most people in them.

BURT WOLF: This place is jumping.



GABRIELLA RANELLI: You've got to elbow your way in here.  It's a time-honored tradition.  But this restaurant is very well known for its seafood.

BURT WOLF: What's this?

GABRIELLA RANELLI: It's baby eel.  It's come down from the mountains.  You have to eat them with a wooden fork.  And stir them around, give them a good stir.  The reason you use a wooden fork is also because if you used a metal fork, the eels would slip right through it.  They come from the Sargasso Sea.  Nobody knows where.   They travel here, they get here when they're about three years old.

BURT WOLF: It looks like pasta.


BURT WOLF: If you didn't tell me they were baby eel…

GABRIELLA RANELLI: It doesn't taste like pasta, let me tell you.

BURT WOLF: How much is that?

GABRIELLA RENELLI: They cost about $500 a kilo.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: $500 for two and a quarter pounds?

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: That's the traditional food that they eat on the day of San Sebastian, the 20th of January.

BURT WOLF: I want to finish every eel in this bowl.


BURT WOLF: At $250 a pound, this is serious stuff.

GABRIELLA RANELLI: It's delicious.  One of the things they have here, one of the selections they have are goose barnacles.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Goose barnacles? Geese get barnacles?  I mean, they move around a lot but I didn’t know they got barnacles.  Goose barnacles.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: It’s a specialty here that most people enjoy.  They’re big barnacles.  And we must have some wine because…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Wine is good.  Wine goes with goose barnacles.  Is there a particular wine that you drink with goose barnacles?

GABRIELLA RANELLI: Here are some goose barnacles.  They’re hot.  You’d better wait a minute.

BURT WOLF: I’m actually quite full.  I ... I just ... I don’t know if I have any room left for a goose barnacle.

GABRIELLA RENELLI ON CAMERA:  Have to wait on the goose barnacles. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Are you sure I have room for goose barnacles.  Yeah, I do.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: I think that the best way to eat the goose barnacles instead of well warm.  I wouldn’t eat them this hot because they have a special sort of flavor.


GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: But I think ... why don't you finish your eels?

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Oh, eels are fine.  The eels are okay. 

GABRIELLA RANELLI: We're gonna need these ... we're gonna need these actually because eating goose barnacles can be a little messy.

BURT WOLF: Oh yeah.

GABRIELLA RANELLI: So just keep one handy.  Okay.  I think that looks like a good one.

BURT WOLF: Oh, it looks like a wonderful goose barnacles.  Now what do I do?

GABRIELLA RANELLI: Okay, find a good spot like there, between the nail and the body and kind of pull it open.  No, you have to use your nail, get your nail in there and twist it open. 

BURT WOLF: I'm not gonna be able to do this.  I don't have to eat it.  No.  All right.          

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Obviously this is not one of my talents.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: That was a defective barnacle.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: A defective barnacle.  Okay, so you've opened one for me.


BURT WOLF ON CMAERA: And I just kind of like, eat it?

GABRIELLA RANELLI: Just eat.  Don't eat the nail.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Is that sauce?

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: No no no.  They're cooked in sea water for one minute.  I guess I’ve got to get the barnacle juice off myself.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Like a snail.

GABRIELLA RANELLI ON CAMERA: They're a great delicacy here. 

Not a first date kind of food.

BURT WOLF: You know, they're really very good. 


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: All right, I can hang up and ship out.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Sorry I left ... I didn't finish all the goose barnacles.

Another traditional aspect of Basque gastronomy is the cider house.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Basques have been growing apples for thousands of years and making cider since medieval times.  At some point, a farmer decided to sell his excess capacity and thought it would be a good idea to let everybody have a taste just after the fermentation.  They brought alone something to eat and before you knew it, the tradition of cider tasting was part of gastronomy in the Basque region.  And cider houses developed all over the area. 

BURT WOLF: The cider houses became centers of social life.  During the cider tasting season, which runs from late January through March, the traditional cider houses open up and people stand around tasting cider. During the rest of the year, they're closed.  But here in San Sebastian there's a restaurant called Sideria Donostiarra, which is open all year round and has an atmosphere that is very much in keeping with the old farmhouse tasting rooms.  One big space, long wooden tables without tablecloths, an open kitchen, grilled food, vats of cider along the walls and patrons filling their glasses with the traditional cider catching technique. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The process for making apple cider is basically the same process used for making wine, with apples sitting in for the grapes.  There's a natural yeast on the crushed apples that turns the sugar in the apples into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol.  The carbon dioxide gas makes the cider bubbly and the alcohol makes the cider. 

BURT WOLF: There was a standing menu in the cider house.  First, slices of cod omelet and a green salad.  The main course is grilled steak.  The dessert, slices of local cheese, strips of quince jelly, and walnuts.  And of course as much cider as you want.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Napa Valley, California - #1005

BURT WOLF: Napa Valley is fifty miles north of San Francisco and easy to get to. It is a protected agricultural preserve, and the primary activity here is growing grapes that will make great wine. There are parts of Napa Valley that look like the district of Provence in France, or Bordeaux, or Burgundy. And anyone who knows Northern Italy will quickly spot parts of the valley that are similar to Tuscany. Napa is one of the most beautiful places in North America.

The busiest months of the year are September and October when the wineries are harvesting their grapes and starting to make wine. It’s also the height of the tourist season.  If you’d like less crush and more care, then January through March is the right time to make your visit. The fields are quiet. Traffic is light. And it’s easier to get a reservation at the best restaurants.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The residents of Napa Valley appreciate visitors and during the early months of the year they have more time to welcome them. You can stop in to everything from a mustard festival to a neighborhood barbecue. But Napa Valley is not the kind of place you want to come to for a single day. You really need three or four days to appreciate what’s happening here.  And no matter what time of the year you come, you’re always better off on weekdays than weekends.

BURT WOLF: The most extraordinary way to see the valley is by balloon. Joyce Bowen is the owner and chief pilot for the Bonaventura Balloon Company.

JOYCE BOWEN:  I love the sense of freedom, the sense of peace, the serenity, the magnificence.  Distances are deceptive in ballooning.  When you are looking at something like a half mile away, it seems like you can reach right out and touch it.  I think that’s one reason why people aren’t afraid of ballooning when they think they’re gonna be afraid of heights.  It’s just so close; it’s like a painting all the way around you, only you’re part of the painting.  I liken it to music; as a musician, I think that flying is like a line of music.  You’ve got vertical considerations and horizontal considerations and you follow a line, and you maneuver.  It’s very much like music

BURT WOLF: That was the first time I went ballooning and I loved it. The feeling of gently floating along above the world… the amazing peace and quiet… it’s a wonderful way to travel.

The valley runs north to south for thirty miles and the main road along its length is Route 29.  The first town that you come to as you head into the valley from San Francisco is Napa. The plan for Napa was laid out in 1847, which makes it the oldest town in the valley. It’s located on the Napa River, which runs down to the top of San Francisco Bay and then out to the Pacific Ocean. During the 1800s, all commercial shipments from Napa Valley, including wine, were transported from the docks at Napa. When the California gold rush got started in 1849, Napa became a favorite winter hangout for the miners. Today Napa still has much of its river town atmosphere and one of the largest collections of Victorian houses still on their original sites.

You can drive out of the town of Napa and head up the valley on Route 29, or you can get a good look at the land and a good meal at the same time on the Wine Train. The Napa Valley Railroad Company was founded in 1864 and continued in operation until 1987 when it was purchased by the Napa Valley Wine Train Company under the direction of Vincent DeDomenico, who at the time knew more about steaming rice and conching cocoa than spiking rails and rolling stock. His family business invented Rice-a-Roni and owned Ghirardelli Chocolate. And he thought it would be great to have a classic old train take people up the valley while they ate and drank. So every day the Napa Valley Wine Train takes passengers on a three-hour ride up the valley. Meals are served in a restored 1917 Pullman car, mahogany paneling, brass fixtures, etched glass, rail travel and dining as it was in the golden age of the iron horse. And you can drink the wine of the vineyards as you pass them.

Three hours later and you are back in Napa. If you’re moving up the valley town by town, the next place on the trail is Yountville.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the early 1800s a North Carolina mountain man by the name of George Calvert Yount wandered into the neighborhood and hung around as a handyman. He became friendly with General Mariano Vallejo who was the Governor General of the territory, which at the time belonged to Mexico. In 1836 George changed his name to Jorge Concepcion Yount, converted to Catholicism and was rewarded by the general with a huge tract of land which is now downtown Yountville.

BURT WOLF: Yountville is home to some of Napa Valley’s most famous restaurants. It makes sense to have great food in Yountville.  Napa Valley’s first vines were planted here and today the town is surrounded by some of the valley’s most famous winemakers. And what’s the point of having good wine if you don’t have good food to go with it?


BURT WOLF: This simple building in Napa Valley is actually one of the hottest restaurants in the United States.  It's Thomas Keller's French Laundry.  Now, there are a number of things that can produce top quality restaurant cooking in an area.  Cooking which can evolve into a distinct culinary tradition.  First is money.  If people will not pay for top ingredients and talented chefs, not much is going to happen.  The second is a local agricultural tradition.  The area must be producing good things to eat or drink, wine, cheese, beef something. 

The one place in the United States which appears to be developing a distinct cuisine    which might turn out to be a truly American style is Napa Valley.

For the last 150 years, it has been an agricultural area, and recently it has begun to attract people of considerable wealth.  The first wine makers in California were Catholic missionaries who brought vines from Spain so they could make wine for their religious ceremonies. Today there are only nine Catholic churches in Napa Valley, but more than 240 wineries.  It has become the most densely concentrated wine-producing region in the world.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  For the first 100 years the wines of Napa Valley were much better off at mass than they were at meals.  But all that changed in 1976.  That was the year that a group of California wine makers organized a comparative tasting of their California wines against French cabernets and chardonnays.  The tasting was held in France.  And the judges were French wine makers and French wine journalists.  The Americans won in both categories.  The world's perception of California wine was permanently changed. You know, when it comes to the making of food and wine, there's something very special going on in Napa Valley. 


A good place to take a look at the modern history of wine making in California is the Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford. During the early 1900s, Georges de Latour, a chemist from a French grape growing family, founded his own winery in Napa Valley. During Prohibition, Beaulieu prospered while other wineries were forced to close. Georges happened to hold the contract to supply altar wine to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. And churches across the country looked to the Archdiocese in San Francisco for their own altar wine.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Archdiocese referred those requests to Georges. And Georges shipped hundreds of boxcars filled with his finest wine to the churches of the Midwest and the East Coast.

And even though Georges was making wine for religious purposes he always made the finest wines he could. And as those boxcars passed through Chicago, many of them mysteriously disappeared! It seems like the fine vintages that were being presented in the mornings at mass were showing up at speakeasy meals at night.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, Beaulieu was producing excellent wines and Georges' socially connected wife began promoting them to San Francisco society. But Georges was always interested in improving his wine. So in 1938, he hired Andre Tchelistcheff, a Russian born, French trained wine expert who had studied at the Pasteur Institute. Andre revolutionized wine making throughout California.

BURT WOLF AND JOEL AIKEN WALKING: Today, one of his students, Joel Aiken, is the Director of Wine Making at Beaulieu Vineyards. Joel is also one of the great experts on how the barrel that a wine is aged in affects the taste of the wine.

JOEL AIKEN ON CAMERA: Well in a small oak barrel, you get good flavor from the wood. It's a beautiful flavor. The wood is aged and toasted to get a smoky, toasty, woody character that complements the wine.

JOEL AIKEN: It's wood, so it actually breathes a little bit and it turns a very young, green, harsh wine into a nice, mature, full-bodied wine that you would want to drink.

BURT WOLF: One of the indications of the importance of wine making in Napa Valley is that the most famous wine barrel maker of France, Seguin Moreau, has set up a classic barrel making facility in the Valley.  Visitors can come in and see barrels being made with the same procedures and the same tools that have been used for hundreds of years. Our best guess is that barrel making techniques…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  were developed by prehistoric boat builders to keep water out.  But by about 2000 B.C., we see that barrel makers are using them to keep water in.  The first written reference we have to barrel making was actually Julius Caesar when he described the ancient Gauls of France rolling barrels filled with burning pitch at his troops.  In the 300s, it got to be big business.  The Catholic Church was ordering huge vats with deep submersion baptism of the newly converted.  And in the 1600s it gets to be an even bigger business when international trade and intercity trade expand and everybody wants to ship something in a barrel. 

BURT WOLF: A barrel maker is known as a cooper.  And he starts his work by selecting about 30 oak staves that were harvested two years ago, dried, and matured in the company's wood yards.  They're assembled into the shape of a barrel and held in place with metal hoops.  This process is called raising the barrel, or making the rows.  For the next half hour, the barrel is heated over a wood fired flame where the cooper sprays water inside and out.  The heat and the humidity give the wood flexibility. 

A winch is used to gradually tighten and arch the staves producing the traditional barrel shape at which point additional metal hoops are set in place.  The dome shape that results is exceptionally sturdy and resistant to stress.  When it is lying down, which is its natural position, the entire mass of the form rests on a few square inches.  A child can easily maneuver a full, 350-liter cask with one hand.

The newly formed barrel is ready for a 15 to 20 minute toasting over an open flame.  Only the inside is toasted and the amount of toasting is set by the winery that ordered the barrel.  Toasting changes the chemical makeup of the wood.  Hundreds of different compounds are developed each with its own flavor and aroma.  Vanillin is the most dominant flavor but every compound imparts some element to the wine that will be stored in the barrel.  Each wine maker has slightly different specifications for toasting all part of his attempt to control the final taste and aroma of the wine. 

After toasting, the staves are trimmed, and grooves cut in place for the barrelheads that close the ends.  The heads are cut and measured and set in place.  The final hoops go on.  Some sanding and finishing to bring out the beauty of the oak.  And finally, as coopers have done for hundreds of years, the master craftsman signs his work which means, it's time to barrel along.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The only unfortunate interruption in the history of California winemaking was a totally misguided and highly destructive experiment by our Federal Government, known as The National Prohibition Act. From 1919 to 1933 they tried to keep law-abiding citizens from drinking anything with alcohol in it.  Many of the great California wineries were forced to close. But there was, however, one positive benefit to Prohibition. A number those wineries realized that they could use their facilities for making great cheeses.

BURT WOLF: Today California is the nation’s leading dairy state. In 1993 it passed Wisconsin in milk production. About half of California’s milk goes into the making of cheese, which is produced in 130 different varieties. One of the country’s most popular cheeses is also a California original. It is called Monterey Jack and it’s named after the place where it was first made and the guy who first made it. Today it is produced in various forms by more than a dozen different California cheese makers. David Viviani is a third generation artisan cheese maker who specializes in Jack cheese. His grandfather learned to make cheese when Prohibition closed the winery where he worked. In 1987 it was the first cheese factory west of the Mississippi River to win a gold medal in Wisconsin.

Today they are making Sonoma Jack. After the solid curds have been separated from the liquid whey the curds are flavored, measured into cheesecloth and rolled into balls. Dave said I should give it a try.

BURT WOLF:  Fortunately I was in the Boy Scouts.  I can make knots.

DAVID VIVIANI:  This was a hundred pounds of milk this morning.  Now we have ten pounds of cheese.  We’ve got ‘em.

BURT WOLF:  I’d better put this one aside. I wouldn’t want any of your customers to buy that --

DAVID VIVIANI:  You know, it took two cows to make this much cheese.         

BURT WOLF:  It did?

DAVID VIVIANI:  They worked all day to make that much milk.

BURT WOLF:  I hope I don’t run into ‘em after what I’ve done to it.

Down the block is the Vella Cheese Company, which produces Dry Jack, a cheese developed during The Second World War when the Italians in San Francisco couldn’t get cheese from Italy.

ROGER RANNIKAR:  Okay, what we have here is the Dry Jack.  A mixture, what you see here, of pepper, cocoa, and oil is mixed together, and each wheel is individually rubbed and put on the carts, and these will age seven to nine months minimum.  The cocoa powder pepper keep the oil in a state of suspension, allowing the cheese to breathe, and the oil keeps the cheese from cracking.  When you eat it, you will eat the coating itself and everything, because it is naturally made.  And then they’ll just sit seven to nine months, while they age.


BURT WOLF: Napa’s history as an area for winemaking goes back to the work of the Spanish missionaries in the early 1800s.  Its cheese making goes back to the 1700s. But its history as a place to come and rest goes back for thousands of years. These days there are a number of great spas located in the western part of the United States. Many are elegant resorts designed for a three or four day visit in the classic tradition. An example is Meadowood in Napa Valley. Meadowood is a private estate set among 250 acres of thickly wooded land. The main building houses the reception area, and there are rustic small buildings tucked into the forest that house eighty-five rooms and suites. The aspect that struck me the most was its stillness.

The Spa at Meadowood has all the traditional treatments, but whatever they do they take a very Napa approach to it.  During the two weeks I stayed here they wrapped me in grape seed mud to reduce my stress, polished me with grape seed conditioner to reduce my stress, and rubbed me with grape seed oil to reduce my stress.  But there’s historic precedent for all this grape seed business.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the 16 and 1700s, the French royalty living in Paris believed that taking a bath in a cask of Chardonnay wine reduced the negative effects of aging. And the more they sat in the wine, the more they drank and the more they drank, the more they believed that it worked. But then the French Revolution came along, and that had a very negative effect on aging amongst the French royalty.  As a matter of fact, most of them just stopped aging and the Chardonnay bath was forgotten.  But not everywhere.

It has returned in the form of Meadowood’s Chardonnay Massage. Of course, the Chardonnay is in a body lotion instead of a barrel, but it’s the thought that counts and that, um, anti-aging thing.

In keeping with the traditional role of a spa, Meadowood entertains its guests with physical activities like swimming in the heated pools, biking along the trails, playing tennis at one of the seven courts, golfing on the nine-hole course, and my new sport:  croquet. 


BURT WOLF: A dramatic way to get a look at Napa Valley is to take a ride in the wine plane.  Jim Higgins and his wife Kim will take guests on a private aerial tour.  It gives you a unique view of how the vineyards, mountains, lakes and canyons come together to form this beautiful valley.

JIM HIGGINS: I find this to be a particularly interesting and beautiful part because of the way that the vines kind of hang on to the hillside.  They have to really struggle to grow.  There is such fantastic drainage here that the root system actually has to dig down and work very hard.  When the vine has to work hard, it produces a more flavorful, intense grape.  And it typically works out that whatever looks good from the air typically tastes good in your glass as well.  And down to the right, you'll notice as we circle around Meadowood Napa Valley nestled in the hills.  It has its own private little valley, and you can see it clearly defined here by the golf course.  And then if you look at the large green spot in the middle that's a perfect square, that's the croquet lawn.

JERRY STARK:  Well, the objective of the game is to win.

BURT WOLF:  Yes, I like that!  I like that!  I’m in!  I got it!

JERRY STARK:  There’s a certain pattern you have to follow.


JERRY STARK:  So you go through each wicket twice, once in each direction.  And the object is for me to get the two balls on my side through all six wickets twice and hit the stake before you get your two balls through all six wickets and hit the stake.  When you swing, you want to swing the whole mallet from your shoulders.  It’s the shoulders are the top of the pendulum.  So you draw your hands back to the body, and you extend out through the ball.  So the whole mallet swings. The arms should move more.  You want everything relaxed; the only thing that should move when you swing a mallet and hit a ball is your arms.  Your head stays down, your body doesn’t move, just a nice, smooth swing from the shoulders.  Just like that.  There you go. That’s not makeable. One of the hard parts about the game is learning to make the balls do what you want ‘em to do.

BURT WOLF:  A lot of physics.

JERRY STARK: A lot of geometry and physics, yes.  There’s one trick shot that comes into play once in a while.  Let’s say red ball needs to make this wicket, but the blue’s in my way and I’ve already hit it, so I’m not allowed to hit it again.  So the only way to do that is to put my feet in front of the ball, which allows me to hit down on top -- that way I got through and I didn’t touch the blue ball and it’s all legal.

BURT WOLF:  I’m real glad we’re not playing for money.


BURT WOLF: And just up the valley from Meadowood:  more good stuff in the town of Calistoga. Lincoln Avenue, the main street, looks like it was part of the set for High Noon or maybe Blazing Saddles. A hundred years ago it was a tough frontier town and much of the architecture has remained. Local shops line the street. No chain stores are allowed in Napa Valley. There are a number of excellent restaurants here and I got to eat in a few of them.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  Brannan’s is named after Sam Brannan. In 1859 Sam was living in San Francisco when he heard that the top of Napa Valley was filled with hot springs.  He came up and bought 2,000 acres and put together a plan for a spa and resort that he hoped would rival the famous Saratoga in New York State.  Then he brought up a bunch of potential investors and showed them the neighborhood.  Threw a big party for ‘em.  Lots of eating and drinking.  When it came to the point where he was going to explain his plan, Sam had had a little bit too much to drink, and “Saratoga of California” came out as “Calistoga of Sarafornia.”  But he got his investors anyway, and Calistoga got built.

Brannan’s Grill has a multi-ethnic staff that is reflected in the menu.  We started with skillet clams and mussels, the Italian influence, but the sauce is lemongrass curry, the work of the chef Rob Lam, who is Vietnamese.  The main course was braised lamb shank with roasted onions, pappardelle pasta, and mint yogurt. It’s like the United Nations in a bowl.   For dessert we had a mini-flourless chocolate cake that was served while it was still soft in the center, a scoop of banana ice cream on the side.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The food in Calistoga is good, but Sam Brannan was right -- what makes this place special and has for thousands of years is that it sits on top of an intense geothermal area that sends hot water shooting up from the center of the earth. It even has its own “Old Faithful” geyser.

Deep beneath Calistoga is a river. As it runs over the molten rock at the center of our planet its water is turned into super-heated steam, which shoots to the surface. Thousands of gallons of water at a temperature of 350 degrees are driven skyward for about 60 feet. The geyser repeats this performance at regular intervals.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: But from time to time the pattern changes, and some scientists believe that change can predict earthquakes. That has certainly been the case in my personal relationships, so I understand why they are monitoring Old Faithful. And speaking of Old Faithful, I hope you will join us next time on Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Chicago, Illinois - #1004

BURT WOLF: The origin of Chicago's importance lies in its location. To the north and east are the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway that runs out to the Atlantic Ocean. To the south is a network of rivers that flow into the Mississippi and down into the Gulf of Mexico. Chicago is the control point between these two waterways. And for thousands of years, people have been using this spot as a central trading post.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: As the United States moved west, Chicago became a commercial center. And in 1825, when the Erie Canal opened, Chicago found itself with a direct water route to New York City, and shipping prices that had dropped by 90 percent. Everybody who grew or manufactured something in the Midwest brought it to Chicago for sale, especially the guys who were raising pork and cattle. Each year, millions of steaks pass through this town, and some of the best of those steaks ended up in the kitchens of some of the town's best restaurants.

BURT WOLF: These days, one of the most popular steak restaurants in Chicago is Wildfire. It's a steak and chophouse with a 1930s, '40s look. The walls are covered with period photographs, and there's a dramatic open kitchen. Their signature steak is a horseradish-crusted filet mignon. 

As Chicago became more and more important, its businessmen and women made more and more money. And often, when you have money, you learn to buy the best, which is why some of the country's best chefs are in Chicago. Perfect example is Charlie Trotter. Instead of going to cooking school, he apprenticed at some of the world's great restaurants, read every cookbook he could get his hands on, and learned his craft on the job.

CHARLIE TROTTER ON CAMERA: Let's go from the top.

BURT WOLF: His restaurant is considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the world. His food comes from a blending of French technique, American creativity, Asian minimalism and the finest ingredients. Over 90 purveyors provide him with foods produced to his specifications. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: As part of his desire to give back to the community that supports him, each week, Charlie invites a group of high school students to come in, have dinner and learn about the realities of the restaurant business. His objective is to teach them that with perseverance and focus, anything is possible. Maybe even a reservation on a Saturday night in his restaurant.

CHARLIE TROTTER ON CAMERA: Folks, are we ready to begin?


MAN: Absolutely.

CHARLIE TROTTER ON CAMERA: Great, great. We have a little something I think that'll be fun to kind of get your juices going. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the second half of the 1800s, Chicago's industrial growth required a larger labor force. Thousands of African Americans came up from the south. But the city also encouraged immigration from Europe. During those years, tens of thousands of Germans, Poles and Greeks arrived in this city. They moved into their own individual neighborhoods and opened up restaurants that served the foods of their native countries. 

BURT WOLF: When it comes to Greek food, a good spot is Papagus, which means Grandpa Gus. The Chicago Tribune called it the best Greek restaurant in the city. It's divided into areas, each representing a different part of Greece. The Paros room represents the northern part of Greece. Handmade cloth tarps line the ceilings. The walls are white washed. And the blue bottles represent the Mediterranean Sea. It's where you'd find the shrimp phyllo bag, roasted jumbo shrimp wrapped in phyllo dough and served on saffron rice. And whole fish grilled over wood. The grill they use in Papagus is 150 years old, and burns only cherry wood. It's also the place for flaming cheese… a Greek specialty. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Chicago also has a large Mexican community that arrived here during the second half of the 20th century. And as you might expect, they brought their native cuisine to the city. But what you might not expect is Topolobampo and the Frontera Grill that are thought of as two of the best Mexican restaurants in North America. Rick Bayless, who grew up in his family's barbecue restaurant in Oklahoma City, is the chef. As an undergraduate student, he majored in Spanish and Latin American culture. Three of his favorite dishes are tortilla soup with pasilla chili, fresh cheese and avocado. Fish braised with tomatoes, capers, olives and herbs. And quick fried shrimp with sweet, toasted garlic


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Chicago is also the home to one of the most interesting restaurant companies in the United States. It's called Lettuce, as in the green leafy stuff, Entertainment You. And as you can tell from the name, it is creative and has a sense of humor about what it creates.

BURT WOLF: It was started in the early 70s by Richard Melman and with his partners, built into a $170 million business. But unlike most restaurant groups that have a good idea that they take all over the country, Melman has opened almost all of his businesses in Chicago. Curious to find out what commercial insight lay behind this unusual decision, I asked why he did almost all of his work in one town.

RICHARD MELMAN ON CAMERA: I hate to travel. I don't like the aggravation of going to the airports and the delays with the planes. And I have a horrible sense of direction. When I do get to another town, I never know where I am. And I'm a homebody, and I like being with my family. And that's ... that's the reason.

BURT WOLF: Of the top four restaurants listed in the Zagat guide for Chicago, three are Melman's. Ambria for excellent French cuisine in an elegant atmosphere with Art Nouveau architectural touches. It features a light approach that relies on the use of the freshest ingredients and cooking techniques that enhance the food's lighter flavors.

Everest is on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building, and has one of the great views to dine by. Considered one of the city's top dining rooms, it operates under the direction of chef/owner Jean Joho, who has been described by the Chicago Tribune as the most creative chef in the city. 

And Tru, which presents a progressive approach to French cooking and serves their dishes on a spectacular array of non-traditional surfaces. Like caviar on a glass staircase, or marinated sushi in a bowl with a Japanese fighting fish. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Those three restaurants are rather upscale, and their energy is directed towards producing a great cuisine. But the company showed its sense of humor early on. During the 70s, they opened a restaurant called Jonathan Livingston Seafood, and another one called Lawrence of Oregano.

BURT WOLF: And for years, I've been a fan of Big Bowl, which is a casual Asian cafe that offers an eclectic menu of simple fresh foods. Asian noodles, stir-fries, soups and wraps. And everything is inexpensive. One of Lettuce Entertain You's most popular restaurants is Mon Ami Gabi, which is an authentic reproduction of a Parisian bar the way they looked in the late 1800s. A signature meal at the restaurant would start with onion soup, followed with a main course of steak with garlic butter and French fries, and end up with crepes banana foster for dessert. 


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The first candy bars made in America were made in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. But by the early years of the 20th century, America's great sweet tooth had moved to Chicago. The reason was very simple; it was an easy place to get corn syrup, dairy products, real estate was relatively inexpensive, and there was a great pool of intelligent and devoted labor. But the event that really changed America's sweet tooth into a full bridge and an upper plate was the First World War.

BURT WOLF: The U.S. Army ordered American candy manufacturers to produce bars that weighed 20 to 40 pounds. They were shipped to Europe and then cut into smaller pieces at the front. Eventually the job of making the candy in smaller pieces was assigned back to the manufacturers. By the end of the war, candy bars were a regular part of the American diet. And over 40,000 different candy bars were being produced. These days, the candy business in the United States is estimated at over $20 billion. And that's nothing to snicker at, especially in Chicago where the M&M Mars Candy Company makes Snickers. Snickers are America's number one selling candy bars and it produces almost $1 billion of annual sales, which really satisfies. It's made from a nugget base, topped with a mixture of caramel and peanut, which is then enrobed with milk chocolate.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Snickers bar was developed by Frank Mars. And the original version was not chocolate coated. Frank believed that by combining the food textures found in nature, his candy bar would satisfy hunger. Nice try. But his customers soon told him that chocolate-coated hunger satisfaction was much better.

BURT WOLF: In terms of hunger, Frank's claim to fame was not limited to the Snicker's bar. During the 1920s malted milk drinks were very popular. So he developed a candy that felt like a portable milk shake, and he called it a Milky Way. It's made from chocolate, caramel and nugget. Similar ingredients to Snickers but without the nuts. He also believed that there was an ideal shape and size for each bar and based his designs on the ratios used by the ancient Greek and Egyptian architects. And like those venerable mathematicians, Frank Mars looked to the heavens for guidance, with a particular interest in Mars, the Milky Way and Star Bursts.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Chicago is also the home of the Tootsie Roll, which was the first penny candy to be wrapped in paper. In 1896 Leo Herschfeld immigrated to the United States from Austria, opened a little shop and began to make candy from a secret formula. He named that candy after his daughter Clara, whose nickname was Roll. Tootsie. 

BURT WOLF: These days, the president of the company is Ellen Gordon. She showed me how Tootsie Rolls are made. They start out from a base, which is primarily sugar, corn syrup, soybean oil, skim milk, and cocoa. That mixture is heated, cooled, thinned out, rolled, cut and wrapped. Over 60 million Tootsie Rolls are made each day. Tootsie Rolls also come in the form of a Tootsie Pop, which was the first soft-centered lollipop. The hard candy outside starts as a hot strip of sugar and water. As it cools, it's formed around a cone. Tootsie Roll mix is fed into the center of the cone. A unique machine turns some of the sugar candy around to form a ball over the Tootsie, and then pops in a stick. And over the years, it's become apparent that most Tootsie Pop lovers want to get through the hard candy outside and into the Tootsie as fast as possible. And so the company began to reduce the thickness of the coating. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: This Company represents the sweet dreams of my youth. Not only do they make Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, but they make Dots and Crows and Sugar Daddys and Sugar Babies and Charleston Chew and Junior Mints. This is what I used to eat when I went to the movies. As a matter-of-fact, I went to the movies to eat candy. I thought the movies were something that the candy guys threw in to keep me quiet while I was eating.

BURT WOLF: Candies can be divided into three categories; chocolate, hard, and soft. In general, hard candy and soft candies have similar ingredients; water, sugar, and flavoring. And if the candy turns out to be soft or hard is a function of how much heat is applied to the mixture. The higher the heat, the harder the candy. Chicago is home to the largest maker of non-chocolate candies in the United States. The company is called Brachs, and it was started in 1904 by Emil Brach. They make 300 different candies including Peppermint Starlight Mints, and they are masters at the mixing of jellybeans. I learned that almost all jellybeans start out with the same-based mixture in the center. The specific flavor comes only from the coating. When it comes to most jellybeans, flavor is only skin deep.


BURT WOLF: Like many cities in the United States, Chicago's love of sweets includes a group of specialty bakers. And one of the most famous is Eli's who's been baking cheesecake since 1977. Chicago is the largest cheesecake market in the country. And Eli's is the largest specialty cheesecake bakery, turning out 16,000 cakes each day. Mark Schulman, an attorney who gave up suing for sifting, is the president of the company. The plant's daily tours are a top attraction. Each day the company goes through 15,000 pounds of cream cheese, 4,000 pounds of sugar, 265,000 fresh eggs, 5,000 pounds of sour cream, and 200 pounds of Madagascar vanilla. All cheesecakes are based on the simple process of sweetening fresh cheese curds and baking the mixture. And that's what Eli does with over 75 different recipes, including ones based on Heath Bars, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and Key Limes. But the best seller is still the original plain. They have a dessert cafe in which they offer a series of creations based on cheesecake. A Dipper is a slice of cheesecake that's frozen onto a stick, dipped in chocolate, and coated with the topping of your choice. A Smush is cheesecake and ice cream smushed together. And finally, shakes made from cheesecake and ice cream.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Cheesecake is one of our earliest baked goods. Historians tells us that the ancient Greeks took goat cheese and sheep cheese, sweetened it with honey and made a cheesecake that was fed to the athletes at the first Olympics which took place in 776 BC. 

BURT WOLF: Much of the food in Chicago is based on the cooking found in the ethnic neighborhoods. A perfect example is The Swedish Bakery in Andersonville. It opened in 1928 and continues to bake the breads, cakes and pastries that were dear to its founder. A neighborhood favorite is the Andersonville Coffee Cake. It's a light cardamom yeast cake with a topping of almonds. The great bakers that came to Chicago with the large German immigration of the 1800s and early 1900s are represented by Dinkel’s, which opened in 1922. It was opened by Joseph Dinkel of Dinkelsvule in Southern Bavaria. They're famous for their sweet German Christmas bread, which is called a Stolen. And if you are interested in tasting a perfect doughnut, the way they tasted before they were mass-produced by national chains, this is the place.

Another fine German bakery, Schmeissing’s. It was opened in 1934 by Gene Schmeissing who came here from Castle Germany. Good breads, fine fruit tarts, and a turtle cookie made with a sweet cookie dough base covered with nuts, topped with caramel and crowned with chocolate. The baker calls them a turtle. But I think they should be called a tortoise, because one bite taught us to love them.


BURT WOLF: While I was analyzing Chicago's sweet dreams, I stayed at The House of Blues Hotel, which is a Loews Hotel. The interior decoration is a mixture of Gothic, Moroccan, East Indian, uptown, downtown, across town and high-tech. In the same way that The Blues Brothers film took a relaxed approach to Chicago, the House of Blues Hotel takes a relaxed approached to the somewhat staid manner you find in most hotels. When you check in, you get a CD of Blues Rocker R&B.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The elevators run at a perfectly normal speed. But just to make sure you don't get bored while you're waiting, they have placed a television set in the wall next to the doors. Unfortunately, the other day somebody changed the station from CNN to an old Marilyn Monroe movie. And I was two hours late for my appointment. But I was in a good mood and mood is very much what this hotel is all about.

BURT WOLF: The hotel has a special deal with the Crunch Gym, which is on the bottom floor of the building. 

COACH: Way to go! Way to go!

BURT WOLF: There's also a state-of-the-art AMF bowling center in the hotel's building.


BURT WOLF: Directly across the courtyard from the hotel's entrance, is the House of Blues Restaurant and Music Hall. Every Sunday they hold a Gospel brunch. The buffet is basically Southern food and it's an all-you-can-eat service. About 25 different dishes including jambalaya, sweet potato hash, barbecued chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and bread pudding with a bourbon sauce. The interior space is based on an old opera house of Prague with three tiers of Baroque balconies. But the decorations are based on African American folk art.

Each week a different gospel choir comes to The House of Blues and gives everyone an opportunity to praise the Lord and pass the biscuits. Today's group is Andre Patterson and the Shop Choir. Andre used to be a hairdresser and he needed money to buy more chairs for his shop. He brought together some of his clients and fellow hairdressers and formed a gospel group to raise the money.


BURT WOLF: Since 1959, the Second City has been touring the world and making people laugh. Its alumni list reads like a Who's Who of American Comedy. Alan Arkin, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Robert Klein, Dan Ackryod, Martin Short, Gilda Radner. The Second City troops are masters of improvisational humor, and very often, part of a joke.

WOMAN ON CAMERA: I'm a waitress and I'm a sinner. Sometimes folks come into the restaurant and they'll order a salad with fat-free dressing, and I give 'em regular. I don't know what's wrong with me. I mean, I bet I get some sort of you know, evil pleasure out of seeing people eat a lot of fat, when they don't think they're getting any.

MAN: Let me ask you, have you or anyone in your family ever been a witness to or a victim of ...

MAN: Yeah.

MAN: All right. 

WOMAN: Have you or anyone in your family been witness to or a victim of a drug crime? SEATED WOMAN: Well, I haven't, but I think Joan has. 

WOMAN: And Joan would be.


MAN: Doctor, I'm ready for my physician-assisted suicide.

NURSE: All right, Mr. White. I have two options for you. The deluxe or the economy?

MAN: Well, my family doesn't have a lot of money, so the economy. 

NURSE: I understand. 

MAN: Hit the button.

WOMAN: I'm sorry. I forget every time. You just look great.

MAN: Oh, you look great. You look really good.

WOMAN: You look better. Oh, I love you. 

MAN: I love you too.

WOMAN: I love you more. Oh, honey, I'm sorry I was late. I was at brunch with the girls. 

I lost all track of time.

MAN: Oh well, you know, time flies.

WOMAN: Time flies when you're having fun. I'm having fun. Oh. How about you? 

You okay?

MAN: Oh yeah. I'm getting by, you know.

WOMAN: Good. You're coping?

MAN: Coping? Yeah, coping. What's new?

WOMAN: Oh everything. Everything is new. I'm so busy. I'm meeting people and doing things. I ... oh, I just wish you were with me to experience it all. You know? 

MAN: Oh, so do I.

WOMAN: You know, when they first put me in prison, I thought it was gonna be hell, but I'm having a great time. 

MAN: Man, do these trains take a long time, or what? 

WOMAN: Going to a costume party or something? 

MAN: Oh no, I'm a super hero. 

WOMAN: Oh, like uh, Superman or something like that. Huh?

MAN: Yeah, no. I'm Captain Apathy. I have all of the powers of Superman, but none of the willingness to use them.

MAN: Aeeyah (humming "Amazing Grace") ...

BURT WOLF: For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - #1003

BURT WOLF: Philadelphia is the city where the Founding Fathers of the United States met to declare their independence from England, to draft the Constitution, to put forth the idea that all men are created equal. It is a city of firsts. It's the home of our nation's first fire department, first hospital, first zoo, first art museum. Its citizens were the first to wear bifocal eyeglasses, to take books out of a lending library. It is the historic heart of our nation and designed to capture the heart of any tourist. 

The number one tourist spot in Philadelphia, the one most visited, is The Liberty Bell. Number two are the outlet stores at the Franklin Mills Mall, which seems to confirm my belief that our nation was founded on the freedom to shop. And it all got started because of a bill that was overdue. England's King Charles II owed 16,000 Pounds to William Penn, but the king was a little short of cash, so he paid off the debt by giving Penn a huge tract of land in North America. It was actually bigger than England. William Penn was an aristocrat, which the king liked, but he was also a Quaker, which the king didn't like.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Quakers were much too liberal for the king. They believed in freedom of religion. They thought that a government should represent the needs of all of its people, outrageous ideas! He threw 10,000 of them into prison, including Penn. So the idea of paying off a debt, getting Penn and the Quakers out of his hair, shifting them off to the colonies 3,000 miles away seemed like a great idea. Penn could conduct his great holy experiment so far away that the king would not be bothered. Only one problem, the ideas that came to Pennsylvania with the Quakers were the very ideas that formed the basis of the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolutionary War. Some days, you just can't win.

Philadelphia was the capital of Penn's colony, the City of Brotherly Love, but what the brothers loved the most was freedom, particularly freedom from England. In 1750, as part of the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania's Charter of Privileges, a bell was ordered from England. The inscription around the crown reads, "Proclaim liberty through all the land to all the inhabitants thereof." 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: They hung it in the State House, which is now known as Independence Hall. The first time they rang it, it cracked, so they recast it. They tried to ring it again, and it cracked again. The point seemed to be that anybody who trusted England to give the colonies a fair shake had to be cracked, and besides, the relationship between England and the colonies really was never what it was cracked up to be anyway.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Eventually a group of people who felt the same way ended up here in Independence Hall. They were delegates to the Continental Congress and had come from each of the 13 original colonies. On July 4th, 1776, they adopted the Declaration of Independence, which led to our fight for freedom and made Philadelphia the capitol of the United States.

But there was life in Philadelphia before the Revolution. Chris Klemek, who's a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania working on his doctorate in history. Under the name "Poor Richard's Walking Tours", he will walk you through the history of the city. Slightly irreverent and thought provoking, his tour is an interesting way to see Philadelphia. Chris is passionate about history. And when he's teaching, you just hang on and learn. Here we go.

CHRIS KLEMEK: William Penn is a radical guy. This is an aristocrat who converts to Quakerism, and he's going to bring some revolutionary ideas into the world with him when he comes, especially, to set up his colony in Philadelphia. Probably the most immediately obvious evidence of the radicalism of William Penn is the way he lays out his city. He creates basically the first pre-planned city in the modern world. It's a grid. He lays it out as a perfect grid, and this is in stark contrast to the London that he's born in and which he watches burn to the ground in 1666 because it's so dense and unplanned. The other radical idea that William Penn brings with him into Philadelphia is this idea of religious tolerance. And you see again, he's reacting against the persecution that he's been subjected to as a Quaker in England, so he wants to create a colony in which all faiths are tolerated, and the result of that is what we get here in Philadelphia, is America's first truly diverse society. CHRIS KLEMEK: All this tolerance and radical ideas proves very popular to the point that Philadelphia is going to end up being the largest city in the English-speaking world after London by the eve of the Revolution. And I don't think that there's any better illustration of the wealth that comes to Philadelphia in this time than this Anglican Church, Christ Church, that's built in the 1730s and '40s and really represents the grandest style, high Georgian architecture, the greatest building that you could find on the American continent at this point. What a great contrast we have here between the ornate Anglican Church that we just saw and this plain, austere, frugal Quaker meetinghouse, which in so many ways embodies the ideals that William Penn was trying to bring to his wholesome colony, his religious experiment. But the very success of that colony, that we've already seen, is going to ultimately undermine many of his ideals for what was to happen here. Probably the best example of this, is slavery, the slave trade is at the heart of much of the wealth that's coming into Pennsylvania. And yet the Quakers are at the forefront as early as 1688, of calling for the abolition of slavery. So now the question is - let's turn to the American Revolution – “Why here? Why Philadelphia?” And the answer is obvious. We've already shown, this is the largest, most cosmopolitan, wealthiest city in the Americas, so it's a really a no-brainer that when it's time to come together and forge a new government, that they're going to plot the revolution here, and even after the revolution, this will be the seat of the new national government that's put in place.

BURT WOLF: In that building.

CHRIS KLEMEK: Yes. This is Carpenter's Hall. It's the hall of a Carpenter's Guild, where they keep all their secret documents about how to plan buildings, and that's why the revolutionaries are going to meet here first in 1774 because they want secrecy. They want to be hidden from the street because they're discussing radical ideas, the radical ideas like Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" that say you can overthrow a government, that you can challenge a millennial tradition of monarchy. And they're saying, "We're going to plot treason. We're going to take on the most powerful army and navy in the world." And the amazing thing, we call them Patriots now, because they won. So they win, you've got a newly independent nation with its own institutions, but that still leaves us with the question of just how radical was this revolution, and it could be said that this is actually an oxymoron, a conservative revolution because it doesn't fundamentally restructure the American society. I mean, we think that the connection between money and politics is something new, but few people realize that George Washington is the wealthiest man in America, even before the Revolution. Then there's the issue of all these illustrious documents that are produced here in Philadelphia, proclaiming enlightenment, ideals of liberty and equality for all men, but they're not resolving all the tensions from William Penn's time of how slavery is going to exist in this ostensibly enlightened nation or whether women are going to be allowed to vote or even if Native Americans should be citizens. So all those tensions are going to create an irony around a symbol like The Liberty Bell, which in the 19th century is adopted by abolitionists as a flawed, cracked, emblem of an unfinished revolution. But there's life in Philadelphia after the Revolution. And this is where we need to talk about good old Ben Franklin, because all through the 1700s, Ben Franklin has been founding some path-breaking institutions for cultivating practical knowledge, useful skills. This includes the first lending library, America's first modern university, the University of Pennsylvania, or the American Philosophical Society, which is the premier scientific institution of its day. And the presence of all these institutions, unique in America, are going to lead Philadelphia to the vanguard of a new revolution: the Industrial Revolution. And Philadelphia in the age of the Industrial Revolution, when the railroad is the great symbol of this technological marvel, Philadelphia is the center of the railroad industry. It's in Philadelphia that we get the world's first billion-dollar corporation. Guess what? The Pennsylvania Railroad. It's also here that John Wanamaker is inventing the modern department store, and the best part about Philadelphia, is no matter what we're looking at, the religious toleration of the 17th century, the political revolutions of the 18th century, or the industrial revolutions of the 19th century, all the monuments are still standing. So Philadelphia really is the best place to come if you want to understand America.


BURT WOLF: Philadelphia has the largest collection of outdoor murals. They were put up as part of the Mural Arts Program. Russell Meddin, a member of the Mural Advocacy Board, took me on a tour.

RUSSELL MEDDIN: This mural is particularly interesting because, not only is a wonderful piece of art, but it really shows what murals can do for a community. In this area of Grays Ferry, there was a really nasty racial incident in this ethically diverse neighborhood, and they needed a way to bring people back together. And this one has really done it, and it really has worked. The Mural Arts Program began in nineteen eighty-four. It was set up, as a way to combat graffiti because, at that time, Philadelphia was just being blasted with graffiti all over the town. And it was thought that if we could take the people who had been caught for putting tags on walls and sort of channel their energy into something a little more positive, it would be a great way to change things around.

BURT WOLF: That makes sense.

RUSSELL MEDDIN: This one was done last year, and it's called Crystal Snow Skate, and it shows just a wonderful winter scene in the city. Right across the street from the recreation center, this wall had had graffiti on it and has totally taken care of the problem. Burt this is one of my favorite murals because it's large and really colorful. It's called the Philadelphia Muses, and it was done for the Avenue of the Arts, which is a block from here and so, also up here, we have members of the art community. They're members of Philadanco, which is dance company, Philadelphia Opera Company are all depicted on this mural.

BURT WOLF: These are real people, too.

RUSSELL MEDDIN: These are real people, real artists in Philadelphia, what is really fascinating is this is a complete stucco wall. It started as a complete stucco wall. And if you look to the right and left, you see brick columns. She painted those. Over the 2000 murals that we put up, we've had very, very, very little re-hits of graffiti on those walls. So it really has done what it was supposed to do. A lot of our newer murals are being funded by corporations and foundations, so if you have a corporation or foundation and would like to fund a mural in Philadelphia, please give us a call.

BURT WOLF: I don't have one, but you might mention it to them.

RUSSELL MEDDIN: Well, if you have a corporation or, foundation and would like to fund a mural in the city of Philadelphia, please call the Mural Arts Program. We have a wall for you.


BURT WOLF: During the Colonial period, Philadelphia was North America's most important commercial city. It was the home of the American Revolution. And the first capitol of the United States. But it was also a center for great eating and drinking. It was famous for its bakers and pastry makers, ice creams, and restaurants. And it still is. It's the place where a visitor can trace and taste many of the major influences on the history of American eating and drinking.

This is the Reading Terminal Market. It has supplied the cooks of Philadelphia with excellent products for over 100 years. But it is also a good market for tourists. In addition to all of the foods that are meant to be used by local residents, the Reading Terminal Market has foods that are to be eaten here, taken back to your hotel, or brought to your home. You should try the soft pretzels, which are served with a topping of mustard; hoagies, which were developed to celebrate the first presentation in Philadelphia of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta; and cheese steaks, which have become a signature food in the history of Philadelphia gastronomy. Many of the foods at the Reading Terminal Market come in from areas just outside the city, areas that are well worth a visit. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The plantations that grew up around Philadelphia were based on the English manor system. A central element was the bake and brew house that used yeast to produce beer and bread. Wheat was the major cash crop of the colony and it was used to produce the money that the colony needed to trade with England. But it also produced some great bakers.

BURT WOLF: Baking bread was the most important work. But Philadelphia was a great trading port with access to an extensive range of spices. The Mennonites in Germany and the Amish in Switzerland were attracted to Philadelphia because of its promise of religious freedom, but they were master bakers and skilled at the use of spices. Cinnamon buns were one of their specialties. The fame of the sweet baked goods of Eastern Pennsylvania is based on their recipes. They also produced great fruit pies. Three times each week ships sailed into Philadelphia with fresh produce from the Caribbean ... coconuts, bananas, pineapples, limes. They were regularly available. People expected the market to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Foods and spices came up from the Caribbean but so did settlers. Many of the members of the first African-American community in Philadelphia came up from the Caribbean and introduced West Indian recipes. And it was the city's African-American cooks who, in the late 1700s, and early 1800s, helped organize the city's catering industry. They introduced the first catering contracts and changed the way people entertained. 

BURT WOLF: Market stalls have been in this area since the late 1600s. But the Reading Terminal Market came into existence in the 1890s when The Reading Railroad tried to have a group of market stalls demolished so it could build a new terminal. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Not a chance. The farmers held together and the railroad had to build their station above the market. As a matter of fact, the tracks are still up there. For many years the market and the railroad worked as a team. Someone in the suburbs would place an order, the market would pack it up, put it on the right train, the conductor would drop it off at the right station, and hold it until the customer came in and got it. As we developed a national railroad system, the food manufacturers in Philadelphia learned how to distribute their products throughout the nation.

BURT WOLF: In the middle of the 1800s, Philadelphia headed off to a new place in the world of gastronomy. For over 150 years, it had been a center of individual creativity. Now it was becoming a center for industrial innovation. The small store-front shops making small batches of ice cream by hand were still here. But in 1848, Eber Seaman patented a machine for making ice cream on a large-scale basis. It turned the luxury food into something that could be distributed to a mass market and made Philadelphia-style ice cream famous throughout the country. In 1858, John Mason invented the Mason jar and home canning took off. The market is filled with products that could only exist as a result of Mason's innovation. Philadelphia was also well known for its cheesecake. A shop called the Cheesecake House was in operation during the 1730s. Cream cheese is also a Philadelphia specialty. It was made here during the 1700s from fresh cream that was thickened and pressed into little rectangular forms. Cream cheese and other dairy products from Pennsylvania developed a national reputation for quality. So highly valued were Philadelphia dairy foods, that some products that were never made in Philadelphia carried the Philadelphia name so people would think well of them. Like Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese that was made in New York State. Animal crackers were introduced here in the 1870s by the Wilson Biscuit & Cracker Bakery. Philadelphia became America's focal point for the mass production of quality food products. But it also continued to develop its own local specialties.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The streets of Philadelphia, like the streets in many American cities, are filled with food vendors. Here in Philly the tradition got started with guys who were selling food at the centennial celebration of 1876. They were known as hokey-pokey men and what they sold has changed over the years with changing food fashion. Pepper-pot soup became Italian ices. Breads were introduced with sausages. They even sold antipasto!

WOMAN ON CAMERA: Hi. Can I get two soft pretzels with mustard, please?

BURT WOLF: These days they're famous for soft pretzels served with mustard on top. They've been sold in the streets of Philadelphia at least as far back as the 1820s.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: One of Philadelphia's most interesting gastronomic innovations took place in 1879. Gilbert and Sullivan were giving their first Philadelphia performance of their new operetta "H.M.S. Pinafore." To help celebrate the event, the bakers of the city introduced a bread in the shape of a boat which they called a "pinafore." To join in that celebration the hokey-pokey men began serving their antipasto on that boat-shaped bread.

BURT WOLF: People called the sandwich a "hoagie" using a contracted form of hokey-pokey. These days it's made from luncheon meats, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and mayonnaise and presented on long Italian bread. And while you're tasting the specialties of Philadelphia, you should include a slice of scrapple. It's a mixture of pork that has been cooked in broth and thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat flavor and served for breakfast along with eggs. It was introduced to America by Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and based on the pot-puddings of Northern Germany. You might also try some of the water ices that came to Philadelphia with immigrants from Southern Italy. And finally, the famous or infamous Philly cheese-steak. Thin slices of chuck-eye steak are cooked on a grill. You can choose from four kinds of cheese.

COOK ON CAMERA: We’ve got American Cheese Whiz … provolone … mozzarella and pepper-jack. The most traditional is the Cheese Whiz. If you ask for a cheese-steak, they kind of expect to get the Cheese Whiz on it.

BURT WOLF: Whichever you choose, it’s melted on top and onto the roll, and finally a topping of grilled onions.


Not on most lists of sites to see in Philadelphia but right downtown and worth a visit is the Masonic Temple, home of the Freemasons. The Freemasons are the world's oldest and largest fraternity, and many of the men who founded the government of The United States here in Philadelphia belonged to the Freemasons, including George Washington.

JOHN MINOTT: Well good morning and welcome to the Masonic Temple.

BURT WOLF: There are free daily tours of their building, and I took one along with a third-grade class from the Friends Select School. Our guide was John Minott.

JOHN MINOTT: This is Oriental Hall, and everything in this room was modeled after different sections of the Alhambra Palace in Grenada in the south of Spain.

BURT WOLF: Masonic Lodges began in Scotland in the 1700s and came to Philadelphia with some of the earliest settlers. This building houses their meeting rooms.

JOHN MINOTT: This building was one of the first in the city of Philadelphia to receive electric power. This is indeed Egyptian Hall, and it is very authentic, down to the Egyptian writing, or hieroglyphics, that can be translated.

JOHN MINOTT: And last, but not least, is the turkey. Now, I have to admit, we really don't know why that turkey is there, but we like to think it's there to honor Benjamin Franklin. Do you know the eagle was the symbol of our country? Well, he wanted the turkey to be the symbol of our country. I would like to thank you very much for visiting us. It's been great fun doing this tour with you guys.


BURT WOLF: Philadelphia has become the leading city for African American tourism in the United States. Part of the reason is historic. But just as important is the role that African American artists play in the city's present cultural life. A perfect example is Philadanco. Joan Myers Brown is the founder.

JOAN MYERS BROWN: Philadanco is a modern, contemporary dance company, and I say modern and contemporary even though it might sound redundant, but we're modern and we do contemporary work.

JOAN MYERS BROWN: Well, I had two dance schools back in the 60s, and by the time we got to the 70s, I had youngsters I had trained who had no where to go and nothing to do with that training, so I thought I would provide a vehicle for them to show their talent.

BURT WOLF: Philadelphia also has an unusual blend of music and dance, which is put on display during the first day of each year.

That's when the Philadelphia New Year Shooters and Mummers Association holds its annual parade. 

Shooters because the early Scandinavian settlers who came to this area in the 1600s would fire their guns as part of their New Years' celebration, Mummers because Momus was the ancient Greek god of mockery. Those two elements came together in the French word mumeur, meaning a disguised participant at a festival who makes fun of society. James Bland, an African American composer of the 1800s wrote "Oh, 'Dem Golden Slippers", which is the official song of the parade. And the official dance step is called a cake walk, a high strut with a backward tilt.

BURT WOLF: For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: New York City - #1002

BURT WOLF: The great cities along the Atlantic coast of North America were originally colonized by groups of people who wanted to build communities based on their religious beliefs; Puritans in Boston, Quakers in Philadelphia, Anabaptists in Rhode Island. There was, however, one extraordinary exception: New York. New York was founded in the 1620s as a trading post by the Dutch West India Company, a profit center for a corporation. The directors of the Dutch West India Company had one objective, to make as much money as they could as fast as they could. All other issues were secondary.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Four hundred years have gone by, but the priorities on this island are still pretty much the same; making money comes first. But at the heart of making money is creativity. You need an idea or an invention that will make money for the investors and the creators. So, Manhattan also became the center for creativity. And once you have creativity and money in the same place, people become interested in culture. 

BURT WOLF: Today, Manhattan is a world epicenter for all three: money, creativity and culture. It is an extraordinary place to live and an amazing place to visit. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Let's start with the money, the big bucks, the money that changed everything in New York City. It came floating into town when the Erie Canal opened in 1825. The canal was 135 miles long and it connected New York City with the Great Lakes. Suddenly, products that took a month to get to New York were arriving in a week. Shipping charges that were a dollar dropped to a dime. New York City was connected to the heartland of America and the products that were being made there were now being shipped through the port of New York. 

BURT WOLF: The Erie Canal made New York the mercantile center of the new world. The stocks issued to fund the canal and the money needed to deal with the city's sudden growth made it the financial center of the country. By 1830, New York had passed Philadelphia to become the nation's most important money market. And it still is. 

This is the floor of The New York Stock Exchange, the largest equities market in the world. On an average day, over 35 billion dollars worth of stock is bought and sold. It started in 1792, when two dozen brokers got together under a tree near 68 Wall Street. It became an official place for trading stocks in 1863 and the ticker was introduced just four years later. It took over 100 years, but in 1975, The New York Stock Exchange got its first woman member.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: When you buy a membership in The New York Stock Exchange, what you get is the right to buy and sell listed shares with other members. The general public when it wants a share has to go to a member. Another word for a membership is seat; but, as you can see, no one gets to sit down on the floor of The New York Stock Exchange. In the 1870s, a seat sold for 4,000 bucks. In 1999, that same seat, slightly reupholstered, sold for two and a half million.

BURT WOLF: When the Exchange is open, so is the visitor's gallery. You can stand above the trading floor and watch vast wealth coming and going. 

Just down the street from The Stock Exchange is The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It's one of the 12 regional reserve banks that was set up to serve as the central bank of The United States. The Fed sets the monetary policy for the country. It's also the warehouse for hundreds of billions of dollars worth of gold and securities, and tourists can come in and pay the gold a visit.

From its earliest days, circulating money was an essential part of New York, and to a great extent that circulation depended on immigration. During the 1640s, Peter Stuyvesant was the Governor of the colony. He ruled with an iron fist and a wooden leg. And was New York's first official bigot. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: He begged the Dutch West India Company to let him keep the Jews out. But the company was into riches, not religion, and they told him to stick it. His instructions were to let the Jews and any other race or religion into the colony so long as they would enhance its economic standing. And you know what? That's pretty much the predominant view in New York today. 


BURT WOLF: By the beginning of the twentieth century, immigrants were arriving from all over Europe and Asia. Thousands were coming in each day and they were allowed in for the simple reason that the city needed cheap labor for its new factories. And massive immigration to New York is still going on. An analysis of U.S. census figures indicates that during the 1990s, over one million immigrants settled in New York. Today, over 40 percent of the city's residents are foreign born.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: There's major immigration to other American cities. But, for the most part, those cities are receiving large homogeneous groups; lots of people who come from the same place, like the Cubans in Miami. But the immigration to New York City is coming from all over the world, and it's revitalizing the town. In the 1620s, there were 500 people living on this island. They spoke 18 different languages. Today, the people who live in Manhattan speak over 100 different languages and some of them even speak English.

BURT WOLF: The immigrants and their children are also the source of much of the city's creativity. Pete Hamill's father and mother immigrated to New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Pete became a journalist, Editor-In-Chief of both The New York Post and The New York Daily News, a screenwriter and a novelist. We stopped in at the Tribeca Grill to talk about New York and creativity. 

PETE HAMILL ON CAMERA: I think, first of all, that the immigrant generation, the people that come from the other places, don't imagine in any conceivable way careers for themselves. They go to work in those grocery stores, whether they were Irish or Jewish,70 years ago or they're Korean today, so that their kids don't have to do those jobs. They are here to make the careers of their children possible. And so they gave those kids something that was extraordinary, and that wasn't money. It was optimism. It was the belief to create in them the belief they could be anything. You want to play the left field for The Dodgers? You could be a left fielder. If you have real bad luck, you can be President of the United States, but if you're really lucky, you can be a free man or a free woman. You can be an artist or a writer or a playwright or whatever. I think the art, particularly the arts, were amazingly nourished by that European immigration generation; by the Irish, the Jews and the Italians. 

The roads took different paths, but the arts in America, the twentieth century arts were essentially the results of the children of immigrants plus African Americans. And when you put those combinations together, you got American art in the twentieth century. We are seeing now I think the beginning of the amazing gifts that we will get back from the new generation of immigrants. It's for that reason that the city feels replenished, the city feels excited again, the city feels full of possibility. I think it's very hard to create art in total isolation, that all those little collisions, the irritations of living in a city like New York are the same kinds of irritations that can create pearls. A grain of sand gets into a little irritates the ... the oyster and a pearl results.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Well, this is one of the most irritating places in the world.


BURT WOLF: Naturally the arts should be wonderful.

PETE HAMILL: Exactly. 

PETE HAMILL ON CAMERA: For me, New York makes my blood pulse. Um, I need the kind of isolation like a lot of ... writers need to be able to focus deeply and surrender to the trance of the work. You need that kind of isolation. But when I get to the end and I take a breath and say that's it, I open the door, I'm out in the street and there's a Chinese woman yelling at somebody else in Chinese while a Latin guy is arguing with a Haitian over a parking spot. And when I hear that, when I hear the bouncing of languages, all those vowels colliding with all those consonants, my blood races. I'm so happy to be there. I'm so happy to be in cement. 


BURT WOLF: Cement that holds up some of the most interesting buildings constructed during the twentieth century. Norval White is the author of The American Institute of Architects Guide to New York. It's a definitive record of the city's architectural heritage. I asked him to show us a few of his favorite structures.

NORVAL WHITE: This is the Chrysler building, which is one of the great art deco buildings of New York City. 

BURT WOLF: What makes it special?

NORVAL WHITE: Well, it's one of the great examples in New York of the art deco style. It's a marvelous skyscraper. It has many details of fascinating interest. On the third setback, you can see the radiator caps of an early Chrysler automobile. And then way up at the top, you can see the falcons projecting into space, kind of modern gargoyles. And then above that, this rather glorious finial, this steel sphere lancing into the sky. 

BURT WOLF: And for a brief time, it was the biggest building in the world.

NORVAL WHITE: It was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State came along, which is distinguished really only for its height. This one is distinguished for its architecture, as well as its height. 

BURT WOLF & NORVAL WHITE ON CAMERA: This grand space is the main reading room of the New York Public Library. It's called the Rose Main Reading Room after the philanthropist who endowed it. And it's been brought back to its original spark, which was when it was opened in 1913.

NORVAL WHITE: It's really an inflated copy of an Italian Renaissance palace and the ceiling, which could come from a majestic fifteenth century Florentine palazzo, is twice as big in every direction as anybody could construct in that time. So the engineering of the late nineteenth century allowed this colossal expansion. 

BURT WOLF: Wonderful woodwork there too.

NORVAL WHITE: Fascinating oak, Roman Tuscan columns. This is where the books are returned and a very grand place. 

BURT WOLF: And speaking of grand, our next stop was Grand Central Station. 

BURT WOLF & NORVAL WHITE ON CAMERA: Since Pennsylvania Station was torn down by the vandals, this is the great place to celebrate one's arrival to New York City.

BURT WOLF: When was it built?

NORVAL WHITE: 1913 it was finished. I think it was built between 1903 and 13. A fantastic combination of engineering, which made these great spaces, and the rich end of the nineteenth century what we call beaux art architecture, grand architecture of those times. 

BURT WOLF: Those are amazing windows.

NORVAL WHITE: Yes, those are, actually you can walk across those. Those are glass bridges. You can walk from one side to the other. But the architects who have completely redid the station and did this magnificent restoration of the zodiac up here in the sky.

BURT WOLF: One of the most interesting things about the ceiling is that the star scape is in reverse. If you look up at the night sky, this is not the view you will see. This is the view from outer space looking down at the stars. 


BURT WOLF: The idea for New York's Central Park came from Andrew Jackson Downing, a well-connected landscape architect who felt that the upper-class citizens of the city were no longer coming into contact with the lower classes in ways that might be beneficial for both. He believed that a large park in the center of the city would accomplish this objective. Citizens of every class would come to the park and be reminded that underneath we are all brothers and sisters. Sara Cedar Miller is a historian with the Central Park Conservancy, and she took me on a tour.

SARA CEDAR MILLER & BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: We are on the mall in Central Park, the straightest line in the park. If you can imagine that you are walking down the nave of Chartres Cathedral, the landscape architects used plant material in the exact same way that architects used stone. So you have the trees as the columns of the buildings, the sculptures as the apses with the chapels inside and the beautiful branches of these American elms acting like the ribs of the Gothic vaulting. 

BURT WOLF: Unusual to see so many American elms in one place. 

SARA CEDAR MILLER: This is the largest span of American elms in North America, even perhaps the world. They are 70 years old.

BURT WOLFON CAMERA: They don't look a day over 50. 

SARA CEDAR MILLER: Right now, we're in the heart of Central Park, at Bethesda Terrace. I like to think of it as Central Park's living room, and the fountain as the TV.

BURT WOLF: Nice. That's the television. 


BURT WOLF: So you're getting one channel.

SARA CEDAR MILLER: Right behind the fountain is the lake. Central Park has three different kinds of landscapes. The formal landscape, we just came down the mall, we are here at Bethesda Terrace, more or less the Versailles for every man. And behind us is the pastoral park, the Great Meadows and the great big, broad sheets of water like the lake. Behind that is the Ramble, the third kind of landscape, which is the picturesque landscape of the woodlands. 

BURT WOLF: Nature.

SARA CEDAR MILLER: Nature all over the place. We're on Beaux Bridge, the largest span in the park and the second oldest cast iron bridge in America. They knew that cast iron could break.

BURT WOLF: It's a brittle material. 

SARA CEDAR MILLER: Brittle, very brittle material. So what they did was bury cannonballs at the base of the bridge to act as ball bearings so the bridge could have a little movement when the lake froze for ice skating.

BURT WOLF: Very clever technology. So, after all of these years, it has become what Olmstead dreamed about, a park for the people.

SARA CEDAR MILLER: It is a park for the people. Indeed. 


BURT WOLF: In addition to their cultural contributions the immigrants brought their gastronomy. There are over 10,000 restaurants on the island of Manhattan, so you can find just about anything you want.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: In the beginning, most of the cultural and gastronomic influences were from the English. After all, we speak English. Our laws are based on English common law, and much of the cooking was based on English recipes. As immigrant groups arrived, they wanted to assimilate and be like everybody who was here and, so, they accepted the English tradition. There was, however, one group of people who thought we needed a little cultural help and that the cooking was absolutely terrible. They flatly refused to give up their old-country ways, and, I think, changed America in many ways more than we changed them, and those were the Italians. 

The key decade for the Italians was the 1880s. A conflict was developing between the Italian immigrants arriving in New York and the scientific community. Researchers were developing theories about the relationship of what people ate and drank to their overall well-being. They were also teaching these theories, as if they were scientific facts. The scientists had some interesting ideas. They thought that the tomato was poisonous and could kill you. They thought that fruits and vegetables had so much water in them, that from a nutritional point of view they were useless, they thought that green vegetables were the worst of all. They thought garlic was so dangerous it was like a self-inflicted wound. They were very nervous about eating different foods at the same time. If you put meatloaf and mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables on the same plate and ate them at the same time, it might put too much stress on your digestive system, and you'd get sick.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Ludicrous stuff. Imagine a family coming to New York from Italy, and the government tells them that everything they love and have been eating for generations is no good for them. Outrageous! Fortunately, they stood their ground and we’re lucky they did.

It's easy to credit Italian immigrants for America's love of pizza and pasta. But they're also responsible for the widespread acceptance of fruits and vegetables. This is the Fairway Market on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and it's easy to see what the Italians brought in. Bins of fresh pasta. Shelves of dried pasta. A wall of olive oils. Tubs of fresh olives. Tomatoes. Artichokes. Broccoli. Baby eggplants. A dozen different espresso coffees and biscotti. And that's just the easy stuff. Steve Jenkins is in charge of Fairway's Cheese Department, and he has his own story.

STEVE JENKINS ON CAMERA: At this counter, there's probably some 400 cheeses. But I'd say, France aside, the majority of them are Italian. We started in the Northwest corner of Italy where there's one of the five greatest cheeses in the whole world. It's called Fontina d’Aosta, from Aosta, the great semi-soft, raw cow's cheese from near Mont Fontin, the greatest melting cheese in the world. And from there, we just fell across the Piemonte border and discovered that the great Paglia cheeses and the Toma cheeses and Bra, the great, great cow's milk cheeses of Piemonte, in addition, the goat's milk Roccaverano and the sheep's milk Murrazzano, and now, they're sort of ... they're staples. They're things our customers absolutely have to have. From Piemonte we travel West into Lombardia, where we discover great mascarpone. From there we went into Tuscany and pioneered what I think is my favorite cheese in the world which is Pecorino Toscano, name-controlled, sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany. Comes in a variety of sizes and shapes and ages. It's always raw milk. It's one of the most satisfying cheeses I know. And into Campagna. And we bring in mozzarella di bufala which, since the 2nd Century A.D., has been been the definitive mozzarella, not cow's milk. They don't even call cow's milk mozzarella. They call it il fiore di latte. That's Campagna. That's the area that's all around Napoli. We make sure we've got 'em every day, and they sell in ever-increasing amounts, and it's an enormous source of pride.

BURT WOLF: For centuries, the idea of good eating meant meat and fat. And in the early 1900s, researchers discovered vitamins and dietary minerals and all the rules changed. Suddenly, fruits and vegetables became good foods. The Italians also brought in America's favorite dessert. The Chinese had been making something like ice cream for about 5,000 years. But it was the Italians who introduced ice cream to Europe and eventually to the general public in North America. The ancient Romans loved ice cream. They would send a runner into the mountains to get ice, bring it back to town, mix it with crushed fruit and cream and end up with something like what we have today. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Ice cream follows a rather rocky road in ancient Rome. If you came back from the mountains and your ice was melted, the Emperor might just feed you to the lions. Things were better in Colonial America. George Washington had his own ice-cream making machine, and Thomas Jefferson had his own recipe for French vanilla. But it took the immigrants from Italy to make ice cream what it is today. Yummy!

BURT WOLF: And it was the Italian immigrant community that developed much of the American wine business. Many of the great vineyards in California were started by Italian farm families that came to the United States at the end of the 1800s.

New York is also the center of Italian gastronomy in the new world. So you should definitely stop into one of the city's great Italian restaurants. These days, the superstar is Babbo, which is the Italian word for daddy. The two daddies that own the restaurant are Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali. Mario's in the kitchen and he started me off with marinated fresh anchovies, pasta with toasted garlic, hot peppers and pecorino, and for dessert, sweet corn crema and zeppoli, which are little dough nuts.

One of my favorite hot spots in New York is Balthazar. It has the feeling of a traditional French brasserie, and like the famous brasseries of Paris, it's a place for celebrities to see and be seen. I usually come in in a group and we share the dishes. For starters, a chicken liver and foie gras mousse, roasted beet salad and Brandade de Morue, which is a mixture of cod and potatoes. The main courses were pan roasted chicken, steak in a pepper sauce and whatever the daily special is. Today it’s saddle of lamb. For dessert, a fresh fig and raspberry tart and a pineapple upside down cake with coconut ice cream. The wine list is excellent and the bakery next door offers top-notch breads, sandwiches and pastries. 

There are tens of thousands of Japanese living in the New York metropolitan area and they have encouraged the growth of Japanese restaurants to a point where some of the best Japanese food off the islands of Japan is on the island of Manhattan. The most innovative is Nobu, which has brought a new style of Japanese cooking to the city. Nobu is owned by actor Robert De Niro, celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa and restaurateur Drew Nieporent. The restaurant has lots of natural wood, tall birch tree columns rising into the ceiling and Japanese fabrics. 

The food is fantastic. We started with yellow-tail tartar with caviar, sashimi salad with Matsuhisa dressing. Then Moroheiya pasta salad with lobster. For dessert, a parfait; dark chocolate on the bottom, caramel in the middle, white chocolate on top and hazelnut Florentines on top of the top. A work of art. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The author Lewis Mumford said that Manhattan itself was a work of art, the creation of human imagination. And I think Frank Sinatra had the best take on the place when he said "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere," and you can make this place a great vacation. Burt Wolf, Travels and Traditions, New York, New York.

Travels & Traditions: Great Hotels of the World, Part 2 - #1001


BURT WOLF: These are the Swiss Alps, and people have been living in, on, and around them for over ten thousand years. The ancient Romans wrote about the tribes who lived in these mountains. The most important were the Helvetians. During the 400s, as Rome fell, German tribes took control of the northern part of Switzerland. The Burgundians from France conquered western Switzerland. But the Helvetians, high up in their central mountain villages, remained free and unaffected by much of Europe’s history. This is an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world, and relatively unspoiled. 

Luzern is the largest city in central Switzerland, and a great base for touring.

During the Middle Ages Luzern was a simple fishing village, but when the St. Gotthard pass, connecting northern Europe and Italy, opened in the 1200s, Luzern became a major staging area. During the early 1800s English poets showed up in Luzern and began describing the beauty of the nearby lakes and mountains. The British upper class, always ready for a holiday abroad, made Luzern a major tourist attraction.

In 1903, Josef Bucher-Durrer purchased a plot of land at the edge of Lake Luzern and spent the next three years overseeing the construction of a luxury hotel which he called The Palace Luzern.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Bucher-Durrer was born in 1834 into a traditional Swiss family of farmers which was not his idea of how to earn a living. He was much more interested in using his imagination rather than his hands and he was completely misunderstood by his family. His mother even described him as a young man “too lazy to work”. Well, never-the-less, he managed to amass a considerable fortune, he built and owned 10 luxury hotels all over Europe and six mountain railways. Not bad.

BURT WOLF: He built his Palace right on the lake’s tree lined promenade.

The views are magnificent.

The lake.

The low hills that surround the lake.

The peaks of the Alpine mountains in the background.

The hotel has two restaurants. Les Artistes offers light regional and international dishes. And during the warm months, the tables are outside at the edge of the lake. 

One of the specialties is roasted or grilled whole fish prepared to order and served at your table. 

They also have a few of the traditional dishes of Switzerland like sliced veal Zurich style with crispy rosti potatoes. 

During the cold months, the restaurant moves inside.

Les Artistes decorates its walls with the works of international artists.

While I was at the Palace they were displaying the works of David Gerstein.

Gerstein’s works are three dimensional sculptures with a two dimensional feel. He starts by drawing the object that interests him, translates the drawing to a computer program and the computer program uses lasers to cut out the shapes which he then paints and assembles into the sculpture. Many of his sculptures are produced in a limited edition of 150 and they are available for sale in the hotel.

The hotel’s other restaurant is called Jasper and it has been awarded 16 points by the Gomeo Guide and a star from Michelin.

The chef is Ulf Braunert who trained in some of the top restaurants in Europe. His style is basically Mediterranean with accents from Italy and Spain. It’s nice to have the Gomeo points and the Michelin star but I think the greatest complement to his work comes from the residents of Luzern who not only appreciate his cooking but consider his prices a bargain, especially at lunch. Not something you usually hear about a one star restaurant.

A signature lunch included:

Tomato mousse with aubergine caviar bloody Mary.

Lamb marinated with ginger and yogurt spinach.

A parfait of Prosecco with limes and strawberries.

There’s an outstanding selection on the cheese cart --- after all, we are in Switzerland. And a first class wine cellar.

This is a photograph of the lobby area as it looked when the hotel opened over 100 years ago.

And this is what it looks like today. It looks and feels much like it did when it opened.

The bar area also has much the same look and feel as it did in 1906. 

In 2005 a spa was added that offers guests the opportunity to relax and it has an extraordinary approach to pampering.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Do you mind?!

BURT WOLF: The rooms are large, and well decorated and they look out at the lake and the mountains. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The Palace is at the edge of Luzern and everything is within easy walking distance.

BURT WOLF: Luzern’s 650-foot roofed bridge is the oldest in Europe. Called the Chapel Bridge, it was originally built in the 1300s as part of the city’s fortification. The triangular roof supports were used by 17th century painters to present the history of Luzern and the patron saints of the city.

Luzern’s old town is filled with ancient decorated buildings. The paintings present the history of a guild, or a family, or a special event. This building is the site of the first pharmacy in Luzern. It opened in 1530. The sign over the door reads, “There Is No Herb That Will Cure Lovesickness.” 

Just across the river is the Baroque Jesuit Church, built in the mid-1600s. The robes of Niklaus von Flue, Switzerland’s only saint, rest here. His major act was to propose an agreement that regulated the division of spoils among Switzerland’s mercenary troops .

One of the things you can see from your room at the Palace is Mount Pilatus which has the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. And it will take you to the top, which is seven thousand feet above sea level and offers some of the most impressive views of the area. 

And on a clear day you can see the Palace. 


BURT WOLF: On the 24th of October 1907, Emperor Wilhelm of Germany officially opened the Hotel Adlon in Berlin. It was built and owned by Lorenz Adlon, a successful Berlin restaurateur and it quickly became the social center of the city. The Emperor often preferred the Adlon to his own royal chambers. Wealthy aristocratic families sold their winter palaces because they wanted to spend the social season in the suites of the hotel. It was a favorite residence of Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein and President Theodore Roosevelt.

It's still the place in town for an important event.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I don't know who these people are.

BURT WOLF: The Aldon also developed a reputation as an unofficial neutral territory where differences between individuals, political groups and even nations were put aside for a few hours. In fact, the Adlon was often referred to as “Little Switzerland” because of its neutral atmosphere.

The most elegant part of modern Berlin is the government and embassy district. There's the Hungarian Embassy, the French Embassy, the British Embassy and the American Embassy which is squeezed in between two big banks. The Parliament building, the Museum of Ancient Cultures, the Cathedral and the twin Churches.

The new Adlon is at the edge of that district next to the Brandenburg Gate and within walking distance of Berlin’s major museums and attractions.

During the late 1990s, it was completely rebuilt in the classic style that made it famous. It's run by the Kempinski Hotel Group which is responsible for some of the finest hotels in the world. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: If you are a King or a Queen, the head of a nation, a famous rock star, or the President of a giant corporation that's about to declare bankruptcy because of your greed and incompetent management --- and personal security can be a big issue, especially when you’re traveling. 

BURT WOLF: In response to the problem, the Adlon has built a security wing. Its Presidential suite is not only one of the most luxurious in any hotel but the security is probably the safest in Europe.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Ah, bullet-proof windows, that makes me feel much better you know.

BURT WOLF: It was designed to meet the latest requirements of the German Federal Police for a level one security area. The Presidential suite comes with its own butler. The living room has a magnificent view of the Brandenburg Gate and a nice dish of chocolates. There is a private study with a secure fax machine and high-speed Internet access and a nice dish of chocolates. A large bedroom with a four-poster bed and another nice dish of chocolates. And elegant bathroom with its own sauna and no chocolates. A private dining room, no chocolates. A kitchen area, again, no chocolates. So if luxury, security and really good chocolates are important to you.

This is the place.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And at only $15,000 a night --- it’s a deal.

BURT WOLF: If you're just a regular peson and you love good food then you can dine in public at one of the hotel's excellent restaurants.

The Adlon is one of the few hotels in the world that has three restaurants each with a Michelin star. The name of this restaurant is Mǎ which is the Chinese word for horse. There's a bar that specializes in a drink that's similar to vodka, a section that specializes in Chinese dishes and one that concentrates on the cuisine of Japan.

The chef Tim Raue takes the traditional recipes of these cultures and gives them a very personal twist. One of his signature dishes is charcoal grilled veal with truffle sauce, leeks and horseradish.

Gabriella is the one star Michelin restaurant with an Italian menu. The chef is Bjorn Alexander Panek and his signature dish is seafood and roasted bread. The third Michelin stared restaurant is the Lorenz Adlon named after the founder of the hotel. The maitre'd is Boris Habel. A small and intimate room, an outstanding selection of wine and liqueurs. And classic French cuisine. The chef is Thomas Neeser. For over 100 years the Adlon restaurant has been famous for their duck recipes and they still make a traditional pressed duck. And they have a great Sunday brunch.

And if you're in need of a snack in the afternoon, there is tea time. It was the English who got serious about introducing tea to Europe. Tea was a pleasant drink and because England controlled and taxed the tea trade from India and China it was a great source of revenue for the King.

England also dominated and taxed the Caribbean trade in sugar --- so if they could get you to put sugar in your tea they really had it made.

High tea became the drink of the English upper class and was soon accepted by many aristocrats in Europe. Over the years, I have seen some pretty classy tea times in great hotels.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The hotel has two tea masters who will offer you a considerable amount of advice. Which is very helpful since they have over 24 different teas on their menu ranging from a classic Darjeeling to an extremely rare Gu Zhang which is only harvested once each spring during a tight ten day period.

The traditional tea service comes with scones and little cakes, sandwiches, fruit tartlets, clotted cream, jam and a nice plate of chocolates.

And if you're planning a small private party the perfect room is the winter garden.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Gee, I was almost sure I emailed everybody about the date.

BURT WOLF: The Adlon also has a shop that sells many of the things that you encounter during your stay.

You can buy a mattress like the one you sleep on.

And the bed linens. The chocolates. The Adlon cake, the Adlon wine and the Adlon bathrobe.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Of course, anything you buy can be shipped home --- which raises a more complex issue --- why would you want to go home?


BURT WOLF: Switzerland is divided into a series of states called Cantons. The primary canton in the Lake Geneva region is known as the Canton de Vaud. Its southern border runs along the shore of Lake Geneva. Its western and northern frontiers pass through farm land and small villages in the Jura Mountains that share a border with France. And much of its Eastern edge rises into the Alps.

The largest city in the Canton de Vaud is Lausanne and it has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. The hill at the top of the city was once capped with a Roman fort. Today it's the base for the largest Gothic cathedral in Switzerland.

Lausanne is also home to one of my favorite hotels --- the Lausanne Palace Hotel and Spa which is run by Jean-Jacques Gauer.

JEAN-JACQUES GAUER ON CAMERA: How are you, I didn't see you so far. How are you?!

BURT WOLF: In 1990, Gauer became President of The Leading Hotels of the World, an organization that monitors the quality of some of the finest resorts and hotels. He literally grew up in the hotel business. His family owned and operated hotels in Switzerland, Spain and Greece. Today, he's also the General Manager of the Lausanne Palace. 

JEAN-JACQUES GAUER ON CAMERA: When I took over the Lausanne Palace back in 1996, it was like a sleeping princess and it needed a big hug to wake it up.

JEAN-JACQUES GAUER: The first thing we did was to create a typical Parisian brasserie here at the hotel with a very relaxed atmosphere, a lively place where people sit at the bar and enjoy their time.

In a big city like Paris or London or New York you can rely on your guests from outside, from other towns, other countries. In a small town like Lausanne it is very important that you address yourself to the locals, the local community. They have to feel at home here and that's exactly what we did here at this hotel.

BURT WOLF: The Cote Jardin restaurant is like a giant greenhouse. It has a buffet at breakfast, lunch and dinner with Mediterranean and Italian food.

The Table d’Edgard is a Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant with an unusual private table above the kitchen. There’s a huge mirror that lets you see the chefs at work.

My personal favorite was the Palace Sushi Zen which is under the direction of three talented Japanese chefs. Each studied the art of Sushi for at least 10 years before they became licensed masters. They've begun to blend European and Japanese ingredients --- eel topped with a slice of Camembert cheese slightly melted.

One of J.J. Gauer’s stars is Kevin Trimoulla, the head concierge. His job is to get you anything you need. Kevin has been taking care of demanding guests for over 20 years. He worked all over Europe and has the unique distinction of having created the position of concierge on The Queen Mary 2. He loves a challenge.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: As I was getting off the plane in Switzerland, my favorite glasses fell out of my pocket and I was

unaware of it until I got through customs and of course there was no going back.

I pleaded with people at customer service, I begged the airlines lost and found, I even offered a bribe of chocolate---nothing. When I got to the Lausanne Palace Hotel I mentioned it to Kevin and two days later miraculously my glasses were back. Cool glasses aren't they?!

BURT WOLF: The Palace also has an outstanding spa, indoor heated swimming pool, serious exercise equipment, a Jacuzzi that reduces the tension in your muscles, a relaxation terrace, and of course, massage and body care treatments. I like the one where they make believe you're sushi and wrap you in seaweed.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Combine that with a few glasses of sake and my tension is gone ---- along with most of my other cognitive senses.

BURT WOLF: Down hill from the Lausanne Palace is the Chateau d’Ouchy which is a sister hotel of

The Lausanne Palace. It’s set in a beautiful park on the edge of the lake.

The ancient building was stripped down to it bare walls. Anything of architectural value was saved. At which point a small 50 room hotel was built into the structure.

At one time the Chateau was surrounded by a moat filled with water to protect it against invaders. The moat is remembered by a little indoor brook...sort of.

The Lausanne Palace runs the restaurant La Grappa which specializes in the foods and wines of Tuscany. I have been coming to this restaurant for over 40 years and I am always impressed with their work. Their pasta is homemade everyday. The steaks are grilled Florentine-style. There is a wood-burning fireplace, and a great, not overpriced, wine list.

When it comes to a relaxed vacation, good food, excellent wine, and beautiful surroundings, the Lake Geneva area is always one of my favorites.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Great Hotels of the World - #910

BURT WOLF: For over thirty years, I’ve been traveling around the world reporting on cultural history, tourist attractions and what’s good to eat and drink. During those years I learned a lot about where to go and what to do when you get there. I also spent over 5,000 nights in various hotels. Some were great and some were ---- not so great. I thought you might like to see the great ones, so we put together a program with some of my favorites.


The George V is a perfect example.

On January 17th, 1928, the George V opened in Paris. It was owned and partially designed by Joel Hillman. Hillman, who was born in Memphis Tennessee, had a long history of operating successful restaurants and hotels in the United States. He eliminated the word hotel from his Paris property in order to give people the feeling that his place was a private home rather than a commercial establishment.

The French press described it as “conceived in the spirit of modern and elegant luxury, and endowed with the latest technological innovations.” And that would still be a good description of the property.

BURT WOLF: They had fitted closets, and they still do.

They had an elaborate delivery system so your room service order was properly heated when it arrived in your room, and they still do. And the attention to detail is amazing.

BURT TO CAMERA: It’s one thing to have a traditional American or Continental breakfast brought to your room. But the Four Seasons also offers a classic Japanese breakfast. Aho Gazamas.

BURT WOLF: But for me the most luxurious element was the introduction of two bathrooms in each suite so that two people could bathe at the same time and be ready to go down to dinner together. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Not that that’s actually ever happened to me but it’s a great theory.

BURT WOLF: In 1997, Four Seasons Hotels took over the management of the property and spent over one hundred and twenty-five million dollars on renovations. These days the property is known as the Four Seasons Hotel George V, and it’s more luxurious than ever. Art deco details in the windows and balconies were restored. Hallway arches were brought back to their early size. Much of the original art has been restored and returned, including a set of 17th century tapestries.

Christopher Norton is the General Manager.

CHRISTOPHER NORTON ON CAMERA: We create in the George V this bubble and this special place that when you come and stay with us you feel cocooned, you feel safe and we remove all obstacles and things that could weigh on your life. So you can concentrate on what is important to you and we’ll take care of all the rest for you. 

BURT WOLF: Le Cinq is the main restaurant in the hotel. It has been awarded two out of a possible three stars by the Guide Michelin. That’s a big deal.

Thierry Jacques is the Restaurant Manager.

THIERRY JACQUES ON CAMERA: We started eight years and a half ago in this wonderful place. And it was a gift every day, because when we arrived it was completely empty. It’s in gold and grey in terms of color with the wonderful flowers. The service is very professional, very friendly.

BURT WOLF: And what shall we drink with dinner? Difficult question.

Over 50,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines rest below the hotel in what was once the quarry that supplied stones for the construction of the Arc de Triomphe. There’s a second wine cellar that is used to keep about 100 different Champagnes at just the right temperature for immediate use and a third wine cellar just outside of Paris where another 10,000 bottles are slowly aging to maturity.

CHRISTOPHER NORTON ON CAMERA: The spa in this hotel is a magical place. This spa stays true to the French environment. It’s indigenous to France. So if you go to the spa you will see the murals and the décor reflective of a classic French Garden. Including the water features in the swimming pool and it’s just delightful – the French version of Zen. It’s a very very popular place for our hotel guests to go. And take 2 hours of the day to re-energize themselves. 

BURT WOLF: Of particular interest to me was the relaxation room. The frescoes on the walls are designed to recall a summer walk in the gardens of Versailles – before the revolution.

One of the most extraordinary elements in the hotel are the flower arrangements. Each week, Jeff Leatham and his seven assistants design a new theme for the hotel and utilize over 9,000 flowers to design 23 major arrangements and 150 smaller bouquets.

And the rooms are pretty magnificent.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Each month the hotel receives over 200 young guests and accordingly they’ve developed a series of programs to make sure the young guests are happy. 

As a man who is a father, a grandfather and about to enter my second childhood, I have a great appreciation for their Young Guests Program.

BURT WOLF: Upon check-in each child receives a small personalized booklet with helpful hints.

They get a tee-shirt with their name on it.

A plate of kid-friendly snacks

Animal shaped soaps for the tub.

Wooden letters for play time.

They also get to choose a welcome gift from a toy-filled basket.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Oh racing car. I think I’m gonna go with “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”.

CONCIERGE ON CAMERA: What a great choice.

BURT TO CAMERA: I love this place.


BURT WOLF: Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It was relatively undamaged during the Second World War and somehow managed to survive a massive onslaught by communist architects. During the past few years I have paid a number of visits to Prague --- sometimes during the summer.

And sometimes during the Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations.

And each time I stayed at Prague’s Four Seasons Hotel.

It has a great location on the river bank looking out at the Palace Complex.

And it’s at the edge of the historic old town, so everything is in easy walking distance.

The public rooms in the hotel have an intimate quality and I put them to good use. Public areas in hotels and cafés are designed for waiting and meeting and you need a couple of things to make them work.

You should be able to sit down, because you never know when someone is going to be late, to order something to drink… and to look like you are not waiting for someone while in fact you are waiting for someone... And try to control your reaction to what you read in the newspaper.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: When do I get my bailout?!

BURT WOLF: The hotel also has a collection of Czech art that ranges form old lithographs to modernist abstract paintings to works in glass.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: This is a piece of art by a very famous Czech artist who works in glass. And it’s got lots of holes in it, it’s broken, it’s being held together kind of like glue and the story is that it’s a symbol of the falling apart of the communist regime. Or it could be that he finished this beautiful piece and then he dropped it and he thought “Oh my God, this is so expensive, I don’t want to have to throw this out so I think I’ll just paste it together and make a great story”. 

BURT WOLF: The hotel has a restaurant that has been awarded a star by the Michelin Guide and it’s the first restaurant in Central and Eastern Europe to win one.

The chef is Andrea Accordi who was born in Verona and reflects his Italian heritage in three of his favorite dishes. We started with homemade potato gnocchi with morel mushrooms and red prawns, topped with creamed trumpet zucchini and carrot foam. The main course was suckling pig with mashed potatoes, sweet and sour pepper shallots, bacon and warm Chanterelle mushrooms with crispy vegetables. And for dessert, Sicilian cannoli filled with buffalo ricotta cheese, pistachio yogurt, essence of almond sorbet and Sangria syrup. 

Rooms are pretty cool too.

And so are the views they offer. Especially the vistas of the roof tops --- beautiful sculptures that you might easily miss from the streets.

The hotel is particularly interested in family guests and while I was there at Christmas time they invited the Prague opera to host a holiday tea party for children which I shot on my mini-cam.

Often the key to my comfort in the hotel is the concierge and the Four Seasons in Prague has one of the best, Petr Zszula.

A good concierge can tell you where to eat and where to shop. They can tell you what’s over rated and what is yet to be discovered. They can get you tickets to events that are considered unobtainable.

But Petr also has one skill that I had never seen before. Dozens of times each day a concierge is asked about a location.

A map comes out, gets marked and the guests are on their way.

Petr takes out the map but he turns it towards the guest and marks it as you look at it. Petr has leaned to write backwards so his guests can better follow his instructions.

Each time I come back to Prague something new has been added and someone at the hotel always knows where to find it.


BURT WOLF: Towards the end of the 1100’s a group of herring fisherman decided to build a settlement at the mouth of the Amstel River. They drove wooden stakes into the mud, bound some wet earth and seaweed around the stakes and patched together a few huts on top of the mounds. Nothing to brag about but still something you could call home. There was, however, one serious problem, at high tide; home was about three feet under water. So they built a dam to hold back the sea. And the people called the place the dam on the Amstel.

The city plan for Amsterdam is based on three canals that form three semi-circles, one inside the other. Together they are described as the Canal Girdle. The outside canal in English is called the Prince's Canal. In the middle is the Emperor's Canal, and on the inside, the Gentleman's Canal. It's interesting that the most elegant and ambitious of the three is not those named with royal titles, it’s the Gentlemen’s Canal. The Dylan Hotel is located on one of the city’s most famous canals.

RENE BORNMAN ON CAMERA: Well the hotel is located in the oldest part of Amsterdam on one of the most beautiful canals. And that area is called The Nine Little Streets, The Neche Strasse. Which is very famous for shopping, design shops, and good restaurants. So it’s a very quiet residential area.

It is a very hidden, small little boutique hotel with only 41 rooms. So we have 16 rooms in the new wing. And I would say the new wing is from 1880 and the remainder of the rooms are here in the old part. 

The combination of history, you know like the beams here, and the brick floor, and in the combination with the furniture and the nowadays technology, that makes it a very nice blend.

It’s a small restaurant with only 10 tables there. We do serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. But trying really to make a destination restaurant. I brought in a new chef and a completely new cuisine which we thought needs to be imbedded in the Amsterdam market.

What I like very much are the attic rooms. We see the beams and the structure of the roof, and the view is very nice. 

And then the new building we have that is very minimalistic. Whitish, Japanese sort of rooms, which is so contrary to the rooms in the old building.

The Ariana room which is exactly the site of where the first theater was. This is a room we just rebuilt one and a half years ago and it’s now a function room that holds up to 80 people. But it’s a very dramatic look. It has very nice art designed wall, different light scenarios so it makes the room very suitable for social events: wedding or meetings, presentations, whatever. Then in combination with a courtyard combining both buildings, is a fantastic location. 

We have a very old antique saloon boat built in 1930. We have an exclusive contract with the owner. Whenever we have guests who would like to see Amsterdam from the waterside – which, by the way, is the nicest way to explore Amsterdam - we call him up and then we have a little small boat landing in the front of the hotel and then we do tours.

What we are trying to do is to make really a tailor made package for them. Whatever they would like to do and whenever they would like to go, we offer them full catering onboard even with a waiter and a cook. So we have a small cooking facility onboard. So we can do small little dishes, appetizers and of course celebrate a party up to 12 people onboard. 

And next to that we have 10 Johnny Loco designed bicycles in front of the hotel. And all types of guests they love exploring the city and the best thing to do that – next to the boat – is riding a bicycle. 

The nice thing about the bar which used to be a sort of private dining room, we transformed it into a bar and it’s very nice for locals after work coming in for drink.

We have two beers the local beer is Heineken of course. And we have we have the Brand beer that comes from the south of Holland which is a little bit more of an upscale beer and we’ll try one today. 

BURT WOLF: Amsterdam’s Dylan Hotel is modern, elegant, very fashionable and totally responsive to the needs of its guests.


BURT WOLF: This is Provence in the south-east corner of France. It’s a region that runs for 180 miles between the Riviera on the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains that rise up into the Alps.

The fields covered with flowers.

Olive groves that produce some of the world’s finest olive oil.

Vineyards that produce the light and pleasant wines associated with the area.

And hills topped with picturesque villages that have been around for over a thousand years.

One of my favorite villages is Fayence.

Jean-Jacques Yormet is the chief concierge at The Four Seasons Resort in Provence and he took me on a tour.

(What were the days that the market was open?)

Excellent little restaurants

Outdoor cafes.

And a small but interesting open market filled with things I like. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: (Spice cakes)…I like spice cakes.

Another one of my weaknesses…I like nougat.

I like cheese….no shopping until the tasting is complete, it’s a tough act…

(That’s wonderful.)

BURT WOLF: You’ll also find the town of Grasse which is the world epicenter for the perfume industry.

Provence is an ideal place to relax and get in touch with the natural rhythms of the world around us.

But if you are into a more cosmopolitan life style, you have the beaches of St.Tropez.

It’s also the glamour of Cannes, which was a small fishing village until the 1830s when it was transformed into the chic town that hosts the world’s most important film festival.

And, about an hour to the east, the excitement of Monte Carlo.

I came to this part of France to spend a few days at the Four Seasons Resort at Terre Blanche which is an unusual property.

One hundred and fifteen villas built on a hillside.

Each has a bedroom and a living room with French doors that open onto a private terrace with expansive views of the mountain range.

Olympic size bath tubs in elegant bathrooms.

Well defined work areas, should you feel the need to work.

But they are thinking about hiring a psychologist to help you suppress the feeling that you need to work.

Some of the villas have their own private hot tubs.

They have a Michelin-starred restaurant for serious eaters.

There’s an intimate bar that specializes in local drinks.

The drink most associated with this part of France is Pastis which has a licorice flavor. There is also an older and stronger version called Absenthe. And the hotel serves it in the traditional way, known as an Absenthe drip. The Absenthe goes into a glass. A cube of sugar is placed into the funnel. The funnel is filled with ice and water is slowly dripped through, into the glass, which dissolves the sugar cube into the liquor.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Good God Holmes its working.

BURT WOLF: The Absenthe turns cloudy white when it’s mixed with the water. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the late 1800’s Absenthe was the drink of choice amongst artists and writers– people like

Oscar Wilde, Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec-- they were Absenthe drinkers.

Then in 1908, for reasons nobody understands, the government decided it was dangerous and they banned its manufacture and you couldn’t get an Absenthe drink for almost 100 years.

Then in 2006, for more reasons we don’t understand, the government said it was okay to have Absenthe and its being manufactured again. So here’s looking at you.

BURT WOLF: Across from the bar is an informal restaurant with both indoor and outdoor areas.

A grill next to the outdoor pool.

And a restaurant attached to the spa that specializes in light and healthful dishes.

And there is the spa.

BURT WOLF: Treatment rooms where you can treat yourself to a bit of pampering. 

Fitness facilities if you feel the need to be a bit more fit. 

Fantastic pools both inside and out. 

And everything you would expect in a world class spa.

The resort also has a series of special programs for children. 

There were lots of kids at the resort when I was there and some of us attended a special cooking class.

But I also came here to celebrate my birthday. There are two ideas being celebrated at a birthday. The first is all about measuring. How old are you? How far have you come? The second is the concept of initiation into something new. Make a wish for your future. 

The centerpiece is the birthday cake. The person blowing out the candles is saying, “The years of my life represented by the candles are over and gone. But! I still have the breath of life in me. I am in control. I can blow them away and start anew.” The flame on the candle is a symbol of life, but the candle, like life itself, only lasts for a limited time. 

Everybody joins in the appreciation of the birthday person. And there is a traditional song. 

(WOW thank you…yeah!)

The music for “Happy Birthday To You” was written in 1893 by two sisters -- Mildred and Patty Hill who lived in Louisville, Kentucky. And actually held the first copyright.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The words were added in 1924 and nobody knows who wrote it. 

But the song is now the most commonly sung song in the Anglo-Saxon world.

And I hope to hear it being sung to me for many many years into the future. And all things being equal, I wouldn’t mind hearing them sung here at Terre Blanche.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Cayman Islands - #909

BURT WOLF: As Christopher Columbus was sailing back to Spain at the end of his fourth and final voyage to the New World, a storm came up between Panama and Haiti and pushed him off course. It pushed him to the west, directly into the islands that are now known as Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. His ship’s log for May 10th, 1503 reports the following: “We came upon two very small islands full of tortoises, as was the sea around them -- so many tortoises that they looked like little rocks.” Columbus marked the islands on his map with the name Las Tortugas -- the turtles. Las Tortugas has become The Cayman Islands, and now there are three of them: Grand Cayman... Cayman Brac... and Little Cayman. They lie about 180 miles west of Jamaica and 480 miles south of Miami.

The total population of the three islands is about 30,000 and the people come from a mixture of African and European backgrounds. The residents of the Cayman Islands have one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. The average household income is almost 70,000 U.S. dollars per year. The government is stable and the country’s banks, insurance companies and mutual fund operations have made it the fifth largest financial center in the world.

The nation’s banks are significant, but the nation’s beaches are even more important. The Cayman Islands are actually the limestone tops of three mountains that come up from the bottom of the sea. The limestone is so porous that none of the islands have any rivers or streams, and therefore no runoff from the land to the sea. The absence of runoff gives the water around the Cayman Islands a clarity and visibility that is over one hundred and twenty feet. The islands are also surrounded by coral reefs that protect the shores. The areas between the reefs and the beaches are perfect for snorkeling. And just on the far side of the reefs are drop-offs that go down for thousands of feet and create ideal conditions for diving.

DIVE INSTRUCTOR: First thing you want to do is make sure a mask fits to start. And the way you do that is you expose the seal...

BURT WOLF: The modern snorkel is a J-shaped tube with a mouthpiece that is attached to a face mask. It was introduced in the 1930’s and it allowed swimmers to cruise the surface of the sea, face down, while they looked at what was going on below. But the idea of using some kind of breathing tube while working underwater goes back for thousands of years.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Alexander the Great had a team of underwater divers who used reeds as breathing tubes. They would swim into an area underwater and clear it of any barriers that had been put in place to damage Alexander’s incoming ships. The ancient Greeks also had a team of snorkelers that became famous for sinking an enemy fleet. One night, they swam underwater to the fleet, cut the ropes that held the ships to their anchors. The ships floated away and crashed on the nearby reefs.

BURT WOLF: An ancient Roman writer described soldiers who held one end of a leather tube in their mouth while the other end floated on the surface. He compared the apparatus to an elephant lying on its back underwater with its trunk extended to the surface. Our modern word “snorkel” comes from an old German word that means “tube” or “scroll.” It’s a perfect description of the equipment being used.

The 1930’s also saw the introduction of fins or flippers that increased a swimmer's speed and weight belts that allowed divers to dive deeper. But the breathing equipment really didn’t permit the divers to stay down for very long and there wasn’t any clothing that would protect them against the cold. And those two problems limited the sport.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Which brings us to the story of SCUBA, five letters that stand for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Now, most of the technical problems of staying underwater for a long time and doing some useful work down there had already been solved by 1819 when the diving suit was introduced.

BURT WOLF: It consisted of the familiar round metal helmet with a glass window in the front, a metal shoulder plate and a waterproof leather jacket. A tube connected the helmet to an air pump on the surface. The pump supplied the diver with an unlimited amount of fresh air. Towards the end of the 1800s a vulcanized rubber suit lined with twill was substituted for the leather jacket. It kept the diver drier and warmer. Eventually modern conveniences like telephones and electronic air compressors made the system safer and more practical. These suits worked well for industrial divers and they set the standard for underwater-wear until the Second World War.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The naval technology needed during the Second World War led to the development of some new underwater gear. Basically, there were two systems. One was known as a rebreather. It consisted of a cylinder of fresh air and a canister of lime. The diver would take the fresh air in from the cylinder and exhale it into the canister. The lime in the canister would remove the carbon dioxide gas from his exhaled breath and then the clean air was recirculated. The system was wonderful because it was completely self-contained; no bubbles would rise to the surface and that made it very difficult to detect a diver working underneath. The rebreather systems were issued to crews on German U-boats in case they needed to escape. There was, however, one major disadvantage. The system didn’t work very well at depths below 30 feet. So if your submarine sank in a swimming pool you were all set; otherwise you were in deep trouble.

BURT WOLF: The second underwater breathing system had an open circuit that allowed the exhaled air to escape. There were tubes for inhaling and exhaling and valves that connected the tanks. This system was good down to a hundred and thirty feet and sometimes even deeper. In 1942, a young French naval commander named Jacques Cousteau took out a patent for a piece of equipment he called an Aqua Lung. It was based on the open system and featured a series of tanks that contained compressed air. They were strapped to the back of the diver. This was the first modern SCUBA setup.

Soon depth gauges, underwater watches, and wet suits were added. Divers were warm, comfortable and free to move about. When the war ended, SCUBA diving became a popular sport.

BOB SOTO ON CAMERA: Well, I was the first SCUBA diver on this island. I came here to start a SCUBA diving business because we had about a hundred and thirty rooms on the island and the people just laid around the beach or went fishing, and I thought this would be a wonderful pastime for them to spend the day SCUBA diving. Of course, everybody thought I was crazy and that these people was going to drown and I was going to drown myself. And I started with six tanks, it took an hour and twenty minutes to fill a tank, and I had six tanks, so I was up half the night filling tanks to go diving the next day. Once I introduced somebody to the water, it just blew their mind because it opened up a new world. You got people from all over the U.S. coming here, and they had such a great time because they had beautiful reefs, and caves, and shipwrecks, and turtles, and stingrays -- all sorts of marine life and it was very accessible from the beach because it’s only a couple hundred yards offshore and you’ve got any kind of reef and marine life you would ever dream of seeing.

BURT WOLF: Water filters the color out of sunlight and by the time you get down to a depth of fifty-two feet everything is green and blue. Cousteau pioneered a system of artificial underwater lights that allowed a diver to record the extraordinary colors that are found below the sea. Underwater photography began to develop, which made the sport even more popular. And one of the most popular places in the world to practice this sport is in the waters that surround the Cayman Islands.

The most recent innovation in underwater breathing equipment for the sports diver is a combination of SCUBA and snorkel -- called SNUBA.

SNUBA INSTRUCTOR: Very similar to SCUBA diving, the only main difference being that we’ve put the SCUBA tank in the raft, okay? The raft follows you on the surface, floats on the surface, follows you wherever you go. You can be connected to it with twenty foot long hoses. All you’ll be wearing is your fins, mask, small weight belt, and this regulator right here.


ELAINE EBANKS ON CAMERA: We make several different kinds of birdhouses... like this one is called Fences. And it’s called Fences because it has the gardens and the hand-painted fences that go all the way around. Each one is signed and dated on the bottom. 

BURT WOLF: Charlie Ebanks is famous for his birdhouses. He builds them and his wife Elaine explains them.

ELAINE EBANKS ON CAMERA: We primarily work with the colors of the Caribbean: pink is for the conch shell, green for the sea, blue for the sky, and yellow for the sun. This is a traditional Cayman roof. You know, we have no city water at all out here; we totally rely on the rainwater for our water supply. And this roof line makes it easier for collection. Each old-time house had a little gingerbread on the roof, a palm tree, and a hammock. So this is Charlie’s version of a Cayman house. He does try to do a different one every year for the people that collect his houses from year to year. Couple years ago, he started his version of the old Rum Point Bar. We put on it everything that we felt the old bar was famous for. Charlie numbers his larger houses, everyone signs for their number, and we know where each and every house went. This year’s house is the dive shop. And we’ve made it to mount on the wall, and the owner’s name is put on top of the dive sign to personalize. Of course, that’s numbered and accounted for also. All the houses are made of wood, they’re all nailed, countersunk and filled, nothing is glued on them, they’re all painted with exterior house paint, they are weather worthy. 

Burt, I’d love to show you my garden. Come on through. Let me show you what grows here. This tree here is a breadfruit tree. Breadfruit is round and green; it’s very much like a potato. You can bake it, mash it, boil it -- it’s a starch. The leaves... we wait ‘til the leaves -- the brown leaves -- fall to the ground, harvest them, wash them, and brew them for a tea. Everything in nature has a reason for being. God put everything here for us; it’s up to us to find what it’s for. The breadfruit leaves, they say, are very good for high blood pressure. And this is the breadfruit tea from the breadfruit tree that we spoke about. I hope you enjoy it.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Thank you. Thank you, Charlie.



BURT WOLF: The motto on the national emblem of the Cayman Islands reads: He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas, which is an excellent description of the place and its history. Three islands -- Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman -- make up the country, which is a crown colony of Great Britain. No point on any of the islands is more than a few minutes’ drive from the sea. The first people to take any interest in the area were sailors who stopped in during the 1500s for fresh water and turtle meat. Fishing and shipbuilding were the main businesses for hundreds of years, as well as sending young men off to join the navy and the Merchant Marine. Then a tourist business based on people who loved water sports, particularly underwater sports. And finally, the development of an off-shore banking industry. The Cayman Islands are definitely founded on the seas.

One of the leading authorities on the history of the Cayman Islands is Dr. Philip Pedley, who is the director of the Cayman Islands National Archive.

DR. PHILIP PEDLEY ON CAMERA: And this is a small, charming map from a French source. And it says here: Iles de Cayman. This is what I call the first European picture or image of any of the Cayman Islands. It’s almost certainly a picture of Cayman Brac, dated 1590. And you can see the turtles that Columbus himself saw. And you can see, eating up the turtle eggs, the caymanos after which Cayman is named. He was a large crocodile that lived, as the accounts say, both in the sea and on the land. So it was aquatic and terrestrial.

Now what we’ve got here is two of the images -- two of the pictures -- that go along with this picture of Cayman Brac. And Columbus, when he passed the sister islands in 1503 called this Las Tortugas, but that name gave way in the next thirty years or so to this creature. On this map you can also see, interesting enough -- and this is one of the things that confirms that it is Cayman Brac -- the bent trees...


DR. PHILIP PEDLEY ON CAMERA: ...bent over by the wind. Now, that’s sort of significant in the history of Cayman Brac because shipbuilding was a strong industry over there -- a strong tradition. And the shipbuilders would simply go up onto the bluff, which is a hundred and forty feet above -- rises to a hundred and forty feet above the sea level -- and select the exact curvature of the wood they were looking for.

And here we have a very interesting little booklet, which I call the first example of tourist literature in the Cayman Islands. It’s a letter written by the commissioner, Commissioner Cardinal, to the rest of the world: Dear Sir of Madam wherever. And it’s an invitation to come and enjoy an unspoiled paradise. And it’s signed by the whole of Cayman.


BURT WOLF: These days, Grand Cayman is divided into five districts. George Town is the smallest. It’s also the seat of the government, the center of the nation’s banking and business interests, and the most populated. It’s on the sheltered western side of the island with the best port. The duty free shops are here, so you can do your duty and shop in an almost guilt-free environment, justifying your expenditures on the basis of how much you saved.

ANITA EBANKS ON CAMERA: Well, I want to introduce you to George Town and the harbor. And at one time this was called the Hog Stys -- the whole area.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Because they kept pigs here?

ANITA EBANKS ON CAMERA: Yes. And supposedly all the people on the island had them penned in in a certain area. And on a bad day if you were downwind from was very smelly. So it was called the Hog Stys... And then sometime during the early 18th century, Governor Bodden decided it would be good to name it George Town in honor of George the Third. And I guess if it hadn’t been changed, we would be sending post cards and letters from Hog Stys, Grand Cayman.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Doesn’t sound like a great place to go for a vacation. George Town is a great improvement.

ANITA EBANKS ON CAMERA: This is Fort George. This was the first of several batteries around the island -- the first line of defense against Spanish marauders from Cuba. You know, this was Hog Sty Bay, so they’d probably steal some of their hogs and maybe some of their turtles and poultry.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: You can actually see the outline of where the old fort was.

ANITA EBANKS ON CAMERA: Yes, it was about five feet high on the sea side. The land side was only about two feet high. And the walls were about three feet thick, and they had various embarcadiers for about maybe ten cannon. Most of the cannon were about four- or six-pounders. And the two that are there now are recreated there out of cement in fact, and they are replicas of six-pounders.

In the early days people would go down to the beach and go beachcombing to find whatever might be washed up so that they could use to just help with their way of life. I mean, we were very isolated, so it might be a favorite piece of wood might be washed up. And one morning back in about 1846, a Mary Webster from Frank Sound supposedly was doing some beachcombing early in the morning, and she saw this strange kernel on the beach. And she planted it and it grew into an almond tree. And supposedly that’s where all the almond trees that you find on the island today are descended from. I think they’re really lovely -- various shades of orange and red.

BURT WOLF: The most unusual house in George Town was built by Carroll Henderson. In 1935, he started buying conch shells. When his collection passed the 4,000 shell point, he used them to construct his dream house -- conch shells anchored in a twelve-inch thick concrete wall. He could only set thirty shells a day, so it took over two years to build the place. But when it was finished, it was so well made that during the Second World War the U.S. Navy used the house as a bomb storage depot. Today, it is the home of Mike Henderson, who is the son of the original builder. It’s a private residence, but Mike doesn’t mind if you come by to take a look.

Next to George Town is the northwest part of the island, which is known as West Bay. The old Bothwell residence is in West Bay and it stands as a typical example of traditional Cayman architecture... gingerbread trim.. and a sand garden.

The central part of Grand Cayman is called Bodden Town. Bodden Town is the home of the oldest building on the island. It was built in 1780; rock walls three feet thick, nice view up top, underground dungeons below. What else could you ask for? It’s called Pedro Castle.

The Cayman Island National Trust has an extensive program for preserving historical information about the islands, and making that information available to visitors. The Trust publishes a series of booklets that outline historical walking tours of both West Bay and Bodden Town.

In one of those bursts of creativity that often overcome early settlers, the eastern end of Grand Cayman is known as East End. It’s one of the least populated parts of the island and still has a very rural lifestyle. Tourists drive over to the district to take a look at the blowholes. Waves dive into the underground caves. Holes in the top of the caves allow part of the wave to escape in a plume of spray.

If you’re in the neighborhood on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and you’re thirsty, you can walk across the road and get some fresh coconut water.

LINDO PARSONS ON CAMERA: The coconut water is what you drink direct from the coconut. The milk is gathered by gratering the coconut into small pieces.


LINDO PARSONS ON CAMERA: Or today in modernized equipment, we put the small pieces in the blender, chop it up in smaller pieces, take it and wash it in water, and strain it through a strainer. What comes out of there is the milk. What remains is what is called trash locally. That is converted into candies and coconut tarts.

BURT WOLF: Just down the road from the blowholes is a stretch of beach from which you can see what’s left of a group of ten British ships that foundered on the reef in 1794.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The event became known as the Wreck of the Ten Sails. The lead ship that was doing the navigation sent back a signal to the rest of the fleet that read: “stay clear.” The sailor who interpreted the signal read it as: “all clear.” Talk about losing something in the translation.

BURT WOLF: The next district on the island is called North Side. It was the last part of Grand Cayman to be settled and it has the smallest population. North Side also has the most fertile land and the island’s best farms. For many years, the lack of roads kept it isolated from the rest of the island. These days, however, the roads have improved.

And there’s a public ferry from the busiest part of the island at Seven Mile Beach to the tip of North Side. The ferry goes up and back throughout the day and will deposit you on Rum Point, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach on the island.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Rum Point appears to have gotten its name as the result of a ship that wrecked on the reefs in front of it. The ship was carrying a cargo of barrels filled with rum that floated ashore. When they were discovered by the local residents, they also got wrecked. These days there are a number of bars and restaurants on Rum Point that will help you recreate the experience.

BURT WOLF: About two hundred yards to the west of Rum Point is one of the most interesting underwater attractions in the world. The area is called Stingray City, and it offers snorkelers and SCUBA divers an opportunity to hang out with a couple of hundred stingrays. I went out to the city on a sixty-five-foot catamaran named The Spirit of Paloo.

DIVE INSTRUCTOR ON CAMERA: One of the nicest places for you to touch a stingray is on the underside of his wing. You could also touch him on the top, but it’s not quite so smooth, it’s a little more leathery. You do not have to worry about the tail stinging you when it’s touching you -- they physically have to do this. Okay? So you can touch the tail if you’d like.

VANESSA BELLAMY: Their mouth is on the bottom, their eyes are on the top and we feed them squid, that’s how we get them up on the surface. You might have noticed as you’ve been watching me, they come close and their nose is at the front. Everybody says, “Oh, they seem to like you.” No. They swim forward, that way we can hold on to them better so everybody else can get a good look at them. The only thing that’s dangerous about a stingray is they do have a little bit of a barb on the end of their tail that they sting with. But the only way they do that is when they settle in the sand to rest and somebody comes along and steps on them. Then they come up and sting them. Here, the rays here, they’re very, very nice.

BURT WOLF: Going out on the Spirit of Paloo is a very modern experience -- but if you would like to slip into a recreation of the past, you might ship out on the Jolly Roger.

CREW: Okay, she was built back in 1986; it’s a replica of a seventeenth century Spanish galleon. She’s sixty-seven feet in length, she weighs sixty-two and a half tons, has fifty-seven fully working pieces of rigging, including eight sails. 

BURT WOLF: For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Cruising Provence - #908

BURT WOLF: Provence and the French Riviera make up the southeast corner of France. The warm weather, intense sunlight, and magnificent scenery attracted artists like Van Gogh, Cezanne and Matisse.

Its coastline along the Mediterranean Sea made it a playground for the rich and famous.

The region is filled with ancient ruins, 2,000 year old towns, unique shops and good things to eat and drink.

For centuries, the Rhone River has been the area’s main north-south highway and the route I chose for a river cruise between the towns of Tournon and the city of Nice.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, the ancient Greeks were trading in this area.  They were followed by the Ancient Romans.  Romans liked to go everywhere the Greeks had been, it was that kind of relationship.  There were three things going for this spot:  it had a Big River that emptied into the Mediterranean.  It had a Small River joining up right here which gave them the ability to go deeper inland.  And it had a couple of high mountains where they could build their forts to defend the area.

BURT WOLF: The twin towns of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage face each other from opposite sides of the Rhone River. In 1825, they were linked together by the earliest suspension bridge in Europe.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Originally all suspension bridges were built with chains.  And of course they were only as strong as their weakest link.   Then in the middle of the 1800’s a couple of architects came up with the idea of twisting steel wires together to make a much stronger cable.   That gave them the opportunity to build longer and stronger bridges. And the first one of this type built in continental Europe, was built right here.

BURT WOLF: The quiet riverside road at the edge of Tain L’Hermitage offers some of the most beautiful views of the river.

One of the city’s original gates is still standing, with its town crest and motto:  strong walls make good neighbors.


BURT WOLF: That evening we arrived in Viviers. During the 5th century, a big deal bishop made Viviers his home town. And during the 12th century a huge cathedral was built to signify the town’s importance.  


CREWMAN 1 ON CAMERA: Welcome aboard.

CREWMAN 2 ON CAMERA: Welcome aboard.

CAPTAIN ON CAMERA: Cheers and enjoy the first evening onboard. Cheers to everybody.

BURT WOLF: River cruising is becoming more and more popular.  The ship is your hotel and you unpack only once. And when the ship docks it often docks in the hearts of the towns that you visit.  For me it’s a much more relaxed way to travel.

The boat we sailed on was part of the Avalon fleet with some of the newest and most comfortable river cruises in the world and they use a new design.

The engines are located at the back of the ship and are heavily insulated which produces a quieter and smoother ride.

The interiors are spacious, light and open.  And yet they offer a sense of intimacy. 

The lounges and the restaurants give everyone an unobstructed view of the passing scenery.

There’s also a sky deck that’s used for relaxing, taking pictures, and sunning.

The interior of the ship is non-smoking.

The entire staff is English speaking. And the ratio of crew members to passengers is about one to three.  And there was plenty of good service. 

All the staterooms face outside.

They measure over 170 square feet which is quite big for a river cruiser.

Almost all the staterooms have gliding glass doors and many have a small balcony.

Nice full sized closets.

Individual climate control. 

Mini bar.

Modern bathrooms with powerful showers.

There’s a television and a radio that I never turned on.

And an exercise room that I never visited…but I meant to.

Where I did spend time was the dining room. The have one seating for each meal and it’s open seating. If my crew doesn’t want to eat with me, they don’t have to.

At breakfast there was a buffet table with a wide variety of breads, hot and cold cereals, fruits and fruit salads, cold cuts, smoked salmon, cheese, pastry, yogurts, and juices. There were scramble eggs, sausages, bacon, pancakes and French toast. There was also a chef who prepared fresh omelets and other egg dishes to order.

Lunch was also buffet style. Appetizers, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, breads, a salad bar, two main courses, one of which was usually a carving station, a dessert table, a cheese board and fresh fruit.

Dinner was a traditional four course meal. And there was always a red wine and a white wine in unlimited supply and free with dinner.


BURT WOLF: The next morning our ship was deep into the heart of France known as Provence. Some locals like to tell you that this land came into existence when God decided to take all the best parts of the universe, that were left over after the Creation, to make his own paradise. Interesting view --- It’s humble in the sense that you are working with leftovers, but awe inspiring because it’s God creating his own paradise.  Typical attitude for Provence---everything here is simple, but it’s the best.

We tied up in the town of Avignon.

DAVID ALFON ON CAMERA: The old name of the city was Avignon.  The city of the wind.  And here we have a very cold wind called the Mistral wind.  Mistral in Provencal that means the master.  And this wind is coming from the north of Europe getting cold in the Alps and crossing the Rhone Valley.  But this wind is very useful because it’s pushing the clouds away.  So when the Mistral is blowing, no clouds, very sunny day, very beautiful day.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: On one side of this river is the town of Avignon which belonged to the Popes.  On the other side of this river is land that belonged to the king of France. And for hundreds of years they were connected by a bridge.  Then in the 1600s a huge flood came down the river and knocked out half the bridge.  Obviously it had to be repaired.  So the Pope called up the king and said “Hi, how about fixing your bridge!?” And the king said “ha ha ha it’s not my bridge, it’s called the Pont de Avignon, the bridge of Avignon. Your town,  your bridge.  You fix it”.  And they discussed that for a while.  And today if you want to go from one side to the other, you swim.

BURT WOLF: The reason the Pope was in Avignon was because during the 1300s Rome was in such chaos that he decided that he had to get out of town and the new town he chose for the Papal Court was Avignon. That’s the Papal Palace that was built for him. It was a busy place when the Pope was there, and filled with magnificent works of art. But it was also a primary target during the French Revolution and inside not much is left.


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: People have been living in this area for thousands of years.  But in the year one hundred twenty they became citizens of the Roman Empire.  The big town in the neighborhood was Nimes and 50,000 people lived in it which meant they needed 40,000 cubic meters of water everyday.  Roman architects solved the problem by building an aqueduct that came from this spring to the center of town.  The spring was always filled with water.  Cause it rains a lot.

In about the year 50 AD, Roman architects began building an aqueduct to bring water from the mountains to the city of Nimes. It was an impressive structure than ran for almost 30 miles and the most spectacular part was the span over the Pont du Gard. Even today it attracts thousands of tourists. It illustrates the high level of architectural skill possessed by the ancient Romans.

The Pont du Gard passes over the normally quiet Gardon River at the bottom of a deep valley. But from time to time the Gardon floods and walls of water crash against the pillars that hold up the bridge. In order to protect the structure against these destructive currents the Roman architects shaped the pillars like the prow of a ship.

The walls of the canal were waterproofed with a type of plaster that was made from a mixture of lime, pork fat, wine and figs. Salt and pepper was added to taste. It was so effective that two thousand years later it can still be found on parts of the aqueduct.

Much of the primary work for the construction was done at the stone quarry. Each stone was cut to a particular size and shape --- then lettered to indicate which arch it was for and numbered to show the workmen where it was to be placed in the arch. Not quite a kit from IKEA but getting close.


BURT WOLF: On the tenth day of our trip we arrived in Arles. A lot of its ancient Roman architecture still stands and gives the town a strong sense of history. Its Roman arena was built to seat over 25,000 spectators.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Over two thousand years ago Roman architects figured out how to design a stadium so people could get into it and out of it quickly.

There was a circular walkway that went completely around the stadium.  Off the walkway were stairs.  Some of them went down to the lower seats.  Some of them went to the middle seats.  And some of them went up to the bleachers.

BURT WOLF: The spectators showed up regularly to see the gladiators take on the wild beasts. You can still see the tunnels where the animals charged into the arena. And there’s where they posted each day’s final score ---Gladiators 2, Lions 7.

The Church of St-Trophime is a magnificent example of the Romanesque architecture of Provence. And it’s famous for its 12th century portal and cloister.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: For me the most interesting aspect of Arles is that it was the town where Vincent Van Gogh created many of his most famous works.  He arrived here in February of 1888 and in the 15 months he lived here produced over 300 paintings and drawings, including this one called The Drawbridge.  I don’t think that looks anything like that.  Hey Andy, are we in the right place?

This is another famous Van Gogh painting called Aliscont.  It’s a walkway designed to look like Roman Burial ground.   You guys are kidding right?! Van Gogh was fascinated with the challenge of painting an outdoor scene at night.  And this is one of his most successful solutions. It’s called the Café at Night and you can see he’s begun to put in his famous stars.  That actually looks like the café.  The location scout’s getting better.

BURT WOLF: That afternoon, we took a ride through the countryside to the village of Les Baux de Provence. It’s a pedestrian-only village next to the ruins of a 13th century castle.

DAVID ALFON ON CAMERA: First the Prince of Hibble came here and built this village because they got a lot of enemies all over Europe.  And then during the 17th century they became Protestants and the French king say to his prime minister, Richelieu, to come over there and destroy all the area and kill everybody. 

So the French Army came here and destroys all the area.  So that's why you have the rooms of the castle at the top of the village.  Then during the19th century an engineer came and found the bauxite in this area.  And they were mining over there to extract the bauxite and the people came here to work in the mines and they did renovation in the village.  And that's why you have this very well preserved village just behind us.


BURT WOLF: After breakfast we took a motor-coach drive along the Cote d’Azur to the city of Nice. The Cote d’Azur translates into English as the azure coast and it takes its name from the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the blue skies above the French Alps. For almost two hundred years this region has been a summer playground for the rich. The first to arrive were the English aristocracy looking for a healthier climate. Then their equally well-to-do friends from the great cities of Europe. During the 1920s the Americans started arriving. F. Scott Fitzgerald often used the Cote d’Azur as a background for his novels. They all arrived as tourists but soon ended up buying property and building magnificent villas surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Nice is the area’s capital city. During the 4th century B.C. the Greeks settled in --- then the Romans. Later it was under the control of the French. Other times its allegiance was with the Italians. In 1860, the Treaty of Turin was signed and Nice became an official and probably permanent part of France. Many of the street signs are in French and Nissart. Nissart is a true language that is closer to Italian than French and was spoken here for hundreds of years.

The Promenade des Anglais, which means the English Promenade, was built during the 1800s by Nice’s wealthy English community.

And from the very beginning, in a generous show of equality, they allowed non-English people to walk on it with them.

And it’s still the thing to do. And as you walk along you will pass the Hotel Negresco.

The Negresco was built in 1912, and has been a social and gastronomic landmark ever since. Dozens of great French chefs worked here when they were first getting started. And anyone who thought they were someone paid the hotel a visit.  The dome of the Salon Royal was built by Gustav Eiffel in an attempt to prove that his life was not just about towers.

The chandelier that hangs from the dome is made of 16,000 pieces of crystal and was made by Baccarat.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: It was ordered by the Czar of Russia but by the time it was ready for delivery to the palace in St. Petersburg the Russian Revolution had already begun and if there was one thing that Lenin hated it was a big chandelier. Time and time again, they come up in his writings as an example of the capitalist exploitation of the masses.

BURT WOLF: They also have the first hotel elevator built especially for the handicapped.  It opens by itself.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the late 1800s, Lord Coventry retired from the British military and took up residency here in Nice. His wife was a bit absent-minded and often forgot to start his Lordship’s lunch on time.  And so he had a cannon placed on top of the hill and fired it every day at noon to remind her to get started. And don’t forget to chill the wine!

BURT WOLF: The hill itself offers excellent views of the city and was the spot where the Ancient Greeks in 400 B.C. -- give or take a few years -- set up their settlement.  During the middle ages it was the site of a defensive castle. It was strategically placed and appeared to be impregnable, until Louis XVI blew the whole thing to smithereens in 1706 because he was fed up with the locals yelling about their right to independence. The net result is a lovely place for a picnic, quite flat.

And to help you with the preparations of that picnic, there’s a daily outdoor market that’s famous for its local fruits, vegetables and flowers.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: This is a typical French bread.  It’s called a ficelle, which means a rope or a string and the reason it’s so thin is that the bakers figured out that their customers liked a lot of crust but not much inside.  And so they ended up baking it as thin as they could. Ficelle.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA (EATING OLIVES): Fantastik…WOW, just a maniac around olives!  Merci, au revoir.

BURT WOLF: The cooking of this part of France is often described as la cuisine du soleil – the food of the sun - and its history goes back for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks settled here and carried on their traditional approach to cooking. After all, like their own communities, this was just another city on the sea. Then the Romans came along with their recipes and for hundreds of years this area was under the control of the Italians.  And let’s not forget the Spanish. For a century or so this was their land. Today the cooking of southeastern France is a blend of ancient Greek and Roman, Italian, Spanish and French.

The most famous dish in the city of Nice is salade nicoise.

And almost every restaurant had some version of soupe de poisson.  It’s served with rounds of toasted French bread and a sauce based on garlic, pimiento and chili pepper.

The chefs of the southeast coast of France are also serious about their vegetable cookery. A perfect example is melanzane Parmigianino – a simple dish made from slices of fried eggplant that are layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

One of my favorite spots in Nice is the Musee Matisse.

Many art historians consider Matisse to be the most important French painter of the 20th century. I find that his works have a distinct Mediterranean feeling that make them even more interesting to see when you are in his old neighborhood. He painted the people he knew, the rooms he lived in, lunch.

The last few hours of our trip were spent shopping for local specialties.

My first stop was Alziari which specializes in olives and olive oils.

As the ancient Greeks and Romans set up their colonies around the Mediterranean one of the first things they did was see if the climate was right for growing olives and if it was olive trees were one of the first things they planted. As a result of this Greek and Roman policy, for thousands of years, olives have been grown in the southern part of France and processed into olive oil.

After Alziari we went to Auer.  The chefs at Auer are master sugar workers and produce some of the world’s finest candied fruits---cherries, oranges, orange peels, apricots, pineapples and pears. The fruit is blanched in boiling water then cooked with water and sugar and dried. The sugar acts as a natural preservative.

My last stop was Molinard. It’s the retail shop of a perfume factory in the nearby town of Grasse, which is an epicenter of perfume production. The fields around the town are filled with roses, jasmine and bitter orange blossoms that are used to produce natural fragrances for the perfume industry.

Each perfume is made up of three elements. A top note which is the first thing you smell. Then a middle note which gives the perfume a sense of solidity and finally an end note which is the smell that stays with you.

All of which makes a nice end note for my cruise through the south of France. For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: The Grand Bahamas - #907

BURT WOLF: The most northerly of the islands of the Bahamas lies about a hundred and fifty miles off the east coast of Florida, at about the same latitude as Palm Beach. There are over seven hundred islands in the Bahama chain, and they swing down to the southeast until they come to an end just above the Dominican Republic.

When Christopher Columbus finally hit land in the New World it was one of the tiny islands of the Bahamas that he banged into. Spanish explorers following Columbus called the area Baja Mar which means the shallow sea. Eventually the islands came to be known as the Bahamas.

Today it is one of the most popular resorts in the western hemisphere. It has some of the finest beaches... places for scuba diving... boating... deep-sea fishing... duty-free shopping... gaming... and spots to just hang out. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The first people to live in the area were known as the Lucayans which means people of the islands. By all accounts they were a friendly group. They had started out about two thousand years ago in South America and moved north through the Caribbean. One of the reasons they kept moving was to avoid another tribe known as the Caribs. The Caribs, like so many modern nutritionists, believed that the more different foods you included in your diet the healthier you would be. The Caribs included the Lucayans in their diet. And that’s one of the reasons that the word cannibal is found in the languages of Europe. Unfortunately when the Spanish showed up, things did not get better. The Lucayans got out of the food chain only to find themselves in the chains of slavery. Within twenty-five years they had all died and the islands were deserted.

BURT WOLF: Back in England, the king had become head of the Anglican Church and he thought that everyone should follow him. The Puritan congregations, however, preferred to follow God without the king as a middle man. The king made life difficult for the Puritans, and many of them decided to look for a new place to live. Some of the Puritans that left England ended up on Plymouth Rock and founded Massachusetts. The Puritans who were in Bermuda were also being persecuted by the English government, and they escaped to the Bahamas. In 1647 they formed this nation’s first permanent settlement of Europeans. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The next meaningful migration took place during the last decades of the 1700’s. It was made up of American colonists who had decided to stay loyal to the King of England and wanted to have nothing to do with the newly formed United States of America. The Loyalists who arrived here came with their slaves and enhanced the racial mixture of the islands. Then in 1843 the British Empire decided to abolish slavery, and much to the credit of all of the Bahamians there was an easy transition to a British colony made up of free citizens. 

BURT WOLF: In 1973, after more than 250 years under British rule, the Bahamas became an independent nation. Today it has a democratically elected government, a stable society, and a prospering economy. But figuring out how to make a living in the Bahamas was not always a simple task.

Most of the islands in this part of the world have a volcanic base which gives them a soil that is ideal for agriculture. The Bahamas, however, are formed from limestone with very little topsoil. This is not an easy place for farming. And that has influenced the history of the Bahamas in some ways that are positive and in some that are not so positive. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Without the ability to grow sugar cane which was the major cash crop for the early European colonies in the Caribbean, the Bahamians turned to other businesses. For hundreds of years the major local occupation was the salvaging of wrecked ships. These were dangerous waters, and thousands of boats went down on the reefs surrounding these islands. The locals made a living by salvaging what they could. 

BURT WOLF: They also realized that they could improve their business by shifting the shore lights so instead of directing a ship to a safe passage, the light would send the vessel into a rock that was conveniently located for the salvage team. Efficiency has always been important to a well-run business. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Now, some of the salvagers felt that waiting for a ship to get into trouble, even if they helped it along, was just inefficient. They wanted to salvage the ship and everything on it before it wrecked. Now if you did that for a ship that was from your own country, it was called piracy. But if you did it for a ship from an enemy country it was called privateering and that was a totally legitimate business. As a matter of fact, many of the great heroes of the British navy were actually privateers and the Bahamas became a major center for the business. The Spanish would come along and steal the gold from the Native American tribes. They’d put it on their galleons and sail it back to Spain. As they passed the Bahamas, the English privateers would come out and try and get the gold from the Spanish. When they got it, the pirates showed up and tried to steal it from the English. What a business.

BURT WOLF: The next significant commercial development for the Bahamas came during the War Between the States. The navy of the north tried to block the major ports of the south. Bahamian ship owners made great fortunes by running the blockade, bringing in food and military supplies and taking out cotton.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The end of The War Between The States put an end to the blockade running business. But, you know, blockade running is a lot like bicycle riding, you can not practice for years and years, then you get back on and your skill level is right there. When the U.S. federal government passed the 18th to the Constitution, outlawing the manufacture and consumption of alcoholic beverages, many people along the east coast of the United States who did not agree with that law, and many people who owned boats in the Bahamas began to sing the same song. “Seems like old times...”


BURT WOLF: The idea of taking a vacation in a warm and sunny spot by the sea goes back for thousands of years. Ancient documents show that over two thousand years ago, the well-to-do of Rome were heading to the seashore near Naples when they needed a break. The first person to try and put the Bahamas on the vacation map was a man named Henry Flagler. 

During the 1800s, Flagler had put together the railroads of Florida and the tourist industry that went along with them. He felt that he could do the same in the Bahamas by setting up the Miami-Nassau steamship line and building a new hotel in Nassau to receive his passengers. Nice try, but too early. Neither made enough money to stay in business -- but the idea of making Nassau into a vacation paradise hung on.

During the Roaring Twenties the magnificent private yachts of the great industrialists cruised into Nassau. The Whitneys, the Vanderbilts, the Astors, if it floated, and you wanted to flaunt it, Nassau was the place.

And then, in 1940, the ultimate seal of approval for the rich: a royal resident. The Duke of Windsor, the ex-king of England, became governor of the Bahamas. He was fashionable. He was elegant. He had given up the job of king to marry Wallis Simpson, an American. He was media perfect. And the Bahamas became the jewel in the crown of vacation spots.


BURT WOLF: The island of New Providence may not be at the geographic center of the Bahamas but its capital city of Nassau is clearly the political, economic and tourist hub of the nation. Much of the architecture is from the 1800s, including the public buildings which were the original structures housing the Court, the Legislature, the Assembly, other government officials and the Post Office.

The Nassau Public Library was built in 1798 as a prison. Today it holds a collection of books and photographs that deal with the Bahamas.

That’s Government House; it was built in 1901 as the official residence of the Queen’s representative in the Bahamas. In front is a statue of Christopher Columbus trying to figure out the right direction for the rest of his trip.

As I mentioned earlier, the first permanent colony of Europeans in the Bahamas came in search of religious freedom, and that is certainly one of the hallmarks of this nation.

This is St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It was built in 1810.

The St. Francis Roman Catholic Church was the first Catholic Church built in the Bahamas. It was constructed in 1885.

The Greek Orthodox Church is rather new. It was built by the Greek community in the 1930s. A substantial number of Greeks had come to the Bahamas to set up a natural sponge industry, which unfortunately came to an end as the result of a sponge blight. The sponges were gone, but the Greeks stayed on to soak up the sun.


BURT WOLF: The Bahamas are a group of 2,700 coral islands. Most of them are small and uninhabited -- little strips of land scattered in a chain that starts off the coast of Florida, and runs down to the tip of Haiti.

But there’s another side to these islands, a side which is quieter, softer and gentler. A side that will allow you to leave the commercial world behind and just relax. A side that is found on what are known as the family islands.

The first European to arrive on a family island in the Bahamas was Christopher Columbus. He looked around, didn’t see any gold and moved on. And that was pretty much the story for everyone else who came by. “No gold? No silver? No treasures? Hey! Let’s go!”

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The first settlers to show up in the Bahamas with the intention of setting up a permanent colony were a group of Puritans who came down here from Bermuda in 1649. They were looking for a place where they would be free to practice their religion -- the same situation that sent a different group of Puritans out of England to establish a colony in Massachusetts. The group that came here were under the leadership of Captain William Sayle. They were known as the Eleutheran Adventurers. Eleuthera is the Greek word for freedom.

BURT WOLF: Their ship was wrecked on the reef out there, but they were lucky enough to be able to make their way to this shore. Their search for shelter led them to a cave just off the beach. They had lost most of their supplies when the ship went down, and were forced to live, as best they could, off the land and the sea. This cave was their only shelter. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Captain Sayle built himself a small sailboat, and with eight of his men headed off to get help from the British colony in Jamestown, Virginia. And, amazingly, he pulled it off. He returned with enough supplies to last the Eleutherans for two years, at which time they needed help again. Not wanting to tap the same source too often, his second request was made to the British colony in Massachusetts. They responded by sending a shipload of supplies and the Eleutherans thanked them by sending back a shipload of hardwood and a request that some of the proceeds from the sale of the hardwood be used to support the development of Harvard University.

BURT WOLF: The Eleutheran Adventurers used this cave not only as a place of shelter but as a place of worship. They carved this rock into a form that could be used as a pulpit and conducted their services. With its cathedral shape and light shining down from the holes in the top of the cave, it’s easy to see why they thought themselves blessed. Today it’s called Preacher’s Cave. 

As the early settlers began to spread out, they took up residence on an island called Spanish Wells. Spanish Wells is just off the northern tip of Eleuthera and it got its name because it was the spot where Spanish ships would stop to take on fresh water just before they made a quick right turn and headed back to Seville with the treasures that they had stolen from the local natives. Almost all of the people who live on Spanish Wells are descendants of the original Eleutherian Adventurers and most of them still speak with a distinct British accent.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Spanish Wells has the distinction of being the wealthiest community in the Bahamas, and they owe it all to changing fashions in food. For about three hundred years, they tried to earn a living by bringing in the local lobsters. But for 250 of those years, nobody really cared. Lobster was considered to be junk seafood. As a matter of fact, farmers along the Atlantic coast of North America would use lobsters as fertilizer on their farms. Then, in the early decades of this century, everything changed. Lobster became the seafood to eat. Supplies went down, prices went up, and the guys on Spanish Wells got rich. And if people continue to pay big prices for big lobsters, people on Spanish Wells will remain in ship shape.

BURT WOLF: And speaking of shapes, Eleuthera has a rather unusual one. It is 110 miles long and for most of that length it is only about a mile wide. At its widest point it only thickens out to about five miles. Its thinnest point is about five yards, which is a spot known as the Glass Window. On one side you have the Atlantic Ocean and on the other the Caribbean Sea. You can stand on this small bridge of land and see the difference between these two bodies of water. The Atlantic: aggressive, uninviting, often covered with waves and whitecaps. On the other side, the Caribbean: smooth, gentle, inviting you to pull up a beach chair and relax.

Beaches are Eluthera’s big attraction, miles and miles of them, one stretch more beautiful than the next and always uncrowded.

Most tourists to Eleuthera pass their days on Harbour Island. It’s just off the coast of the mainland of Eleuthera and you get there by water taxi. The center of Harbour Island is Dunmore Town. It was named after Lord Dunmore, who was the Governor of the Bahamas during the late 1700s. Dunmore Town was once a center for shipbuilding, sugar processing, and the production of rum. The rum business was particularly successful during the period when the United States was under the influence of the Amendment to the Constitution -- the one that outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The law did not extend itself to Eleuthera but Eleuthera did extend its rum distribution to the United States, proving once again that a friend in need is a friend in deed.

I passed a day on Harbour Island walking through the streets, looking at the architecture, talking to the people, and enjoying the food.

FISHERMAN ON CAMERA: Bahamian conch... that’s for conch salad, cracked conch, conch chowder... a delight! 

BURT WOLF: One of the more unusual sights in Dunmore Town is called the Aura Corner. It’s sort of like a giant collage of... well, it’s like a collection of thoughts that... actually, it’s whatever Ralph Sawyer wants it to be. Sawyer is the curator of Aura Corner. Uncle Ralph, as he’s called, collects slogans, sayings, words of wisdom, whatever. He gets them from the visitors who stop by. Then he paints them on wooden slats and hangs them up in front of his house. And anyone can leave a memento of their own -- hey, Jimmy Buffett did. My favorite is Uncle Ralph’s Recipe For A Happy Marriage: 3 cups of love... one cup of forgiveness... one barrel of laughter -- a recipe! How appropriate.

I began my gastronomic day with a traditional Bahamian breakfast at Angela’s Starfish Restaurant -- pineapple juice, yellowtail fish on grits, and johnnycakes. Angela Johnson, who runs the place, is also an expert on the science -- and the art -- of using everyday plants as medicines.

If you take a mid-morning coffee break, the place to do it is Arthur’s Bakery.

ROBERT ARTHUR ON CAMERA: Basically, we do about thirty different items every morning. Our mainstay is bread. We start with a base of the Bahamian white bread -- we do a lot of Bahamian white bread -- and then we do interesting things with it. We do a cinnamon raisin bread, we add jalapeño and cheese to it, we do jalapeño-cheese bread, herbal bread, coconut bread, and that’s the basis of our breads. We do a nice baguette, and then we get into the pastries. We do Danishes, donuts, cookies, cakes, pies -- we do an excellent key lime pie. We began in our house. My wife enjoyed making cheesecakes. She was an accountant and she was bored, so she started baking cheesecakes. Other people on the island had heard about these wonderful cheesecakes and they started ordering cheesecakes from her. The people at the Pink Sands Hotel, they heard about it, and they asked if she would come work for them as a baker. And she said, “No, I don’t want to work for anyone, I’d sell you my goods, though.” And we started baking out of our little house for the Pink Sands Hotel and other customers, and that’s how Arthur’s Bakery got started.

BURT WOLF: Well, if Pink Sands is good enough for Arthur’s Bakery, it is certainly good enough for our lunch. It has a three-mile private stretch of pink beach; it’s pink because of the coral deposits that have broken down and washed ashore. The resort also has some of the best and most imaginative food in the Bahamas. The specialties include Tandoori Chicken Spring Rolls with a tamarind and guava dip. Marinated Black Tiger Shrimp on mixed greens with caramelized tropical fruit. And a warm tuna salad. 


BURT WOLF: The water taxi from Eleuthera crosses the harbor in four minutes and ends up at the dock of the Romora Bay Club. There are thirty-eight small houses on the property, lots of local vegetation, a few tennis players, and a very laid-back main lounge. As a matter of fact, the whole place is laid-back and quiet. Rosie and Goldie are the two noisiest guests, and fortunately they have a very limited vocabulary.


BURT WOLF: Everyone I saw at Romora Bay was taking it easy, with the exception of the guests that were taking to the sea. Romora Bay has an exceptional water sports program, under the direction of Jeff Fox and his diving dog.

BURT WOLF: So that’s the famous diving dog, huh?

JEFF FOX: This is the famous diving dog.

BURT WOLF: How did he learn to dive?

JEFF FOX: Well, we do an introductory Scuba program here that teaches people to dive in shallow water. And during the shallow water diving section, he would swim out and circle the divers as they were down below. Eventually, one day we were teaching, and he swam by.

BURT WOLF: Just dove down?

JEFF FOX: Dove down, swam by, went on up -- which obviously caught everybody’s attention. And we’ve progressed from that point using weights or swimming masks -- anything that we could -- to get him to retrieve. He would swim out, circle, and eventually go down to get it.

BURT WOLF: That’s amazing.

JEFF FOX: And we’d move it deeper, and deeper, until he finally got down to close to twenty feet.

BURT WOLF: So at some point he actually had to grasp the idea of holding his breath...

JEFF FOX: Oh yeah.

BURT WOLF: ...and not trying to breath underwater.

JEFF FOX: That’s the amazing thing; he coordinates a running, jumping entry, times his breath hold, fights his way down against the buoyancy of the saltwater, and picks up, sometimes, a four-pound lead weight. So, we tell everyone, if they can do that, they’re certified.

BURT WOLF: So let’s see him dive.

JEFF FOX: Sure! Bri, you up for a little diving today? All right.

BURT WOLF: He certainly is up.

JEFF FOX: Oh yeah! Come on, Bri, you ready? All set for this?

JEFF FOX: Okay... Look at the object...See that mask, Bri? You see that? Wait for it to go all the way down.... Go. Good man, Bri. Excellent. Good man. All right, Bri, go on to the shore, now. Okay, there you have it, guys.


BURT WOLF: For many years Eleuthera was a major center for pineapple production. It has a number of large pineapple plantations and because the pineapples are allowed to ripen slowly without chemical assistance they’re extremely sweet.

FRANCES THOMPSON ON CAMERA: There are two different kinds of pineapples, so the pineapples that you get in the Bahamas are not the pineapples you would get in the United States.


FRANCES THOMPSON: So there is a difference. In the United States, they’re from Hawaii and they’re very chewy; they have less juice. But the ones you get from the Bahamas, they are very meaty, and they have a lot of juice, and they are very sweet. They don’t grow as big as the ones that you get in Hawaii.

BURT WOLF: But they taste better.

FRANCES THOMPSON: One hundred percent better.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Every June, Eleuthera has a pineapple festival during which they celebrate the history, folklore, and culture of the pineapple. There is an Olympic-like Pine-a-thon in which they do a little running, and a little swimming, and a little bicycle riding. There are pineapple growing contests, and pineapple cooking contests, and the dreaded whole pineapple bobbing contest.

BURT WOLF: Pineapples have been cultivated in the Caribbean for thousands of years. Scientists have reached that conclusion because the Caribbean pineapple no longer produces seeds, and that is a sign that the fruit has been farmed by man for so long that it no longer feels responsible for its own reproduction. Talk about getting lazy.

For Travels & Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.

Travels & Traditions: Cruising the Netherlands - #906

BURT WOLF: For thousands of years, people have been using rivers as a primary means of transportation. It was usually easier and safer to move things on a river than on a road. But many rivers were too shallow or too narrow for anything but a small boat. 

One way of solving that problem was to build a series of dams. The rivers got deeper and wider but then you had the problem of a river with different levels --- similar to a set of steps.
The invention that dealt with the steps is called a lock. It’s a mechanical system for raising or lowering a boat as it passes from one level of a river to another. Like an elevator it can take you up or down. The Chinese invented an early form of lock but the system that we use today was developed by the Dutch in 1373. It has a chamber with gates at both ends. A boat or boats go in the gates are closed and water is either pumped into the chamber to raise the boat or pumped out to lower the boat. When the water has reached the proper level one of the gates is opened and the boat proceeds.
The first gates used in Europe worked like a guillotine. The gate was held in a frame and raised and lowered --- like a guillotine. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: One day Leonardo da Vinci took a break from painting the Mona Lisa and invented a new and improved form of lock. The doors were in a V shape so the down stream pressure actually kept them closed. In 1478 he oversaw the construction of six of these new locks and they were fabulously successful. He was so excited that he raced home, put a smile on the Mona Lisa and celebrated with the Last Supper.

BURT WOLF: A great way to see how this lock system works is by taking a river cruise. Which is exactly what I did.

This trip is called Cruising the Netherlands and it sails through the Netherlands during the peak of the spring tulip season. We started in Amsterdam and made our way south to Middleburg and its Norbertine Abbey. Next we paid a visit to Keukenhof Gardens, the world’s largest outdoor exhibition of flowers. We also stopped in Volendam, a major epicenter for tourist clutter. And Edam for its cheeses. And finally back to Amsterdam.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Sometime during the 1100s, a group of herring fishermen settled near here along the Amstel River. That community eventually became the city of Amsterdam. So I think it's only fair to say that from the very beginning, the story of Amsterdam has been the story of something good to eat. 

BURT WOLF: But the real golden age of Amsterdam was the 1600s. Amsterdam was Europe's center for business as well as its cultural capital. It all started in 1595 when a Dutch trading ship landed in what was then called the East Indies, now Indonesia: Bali, Java, Borneo, Sumatra; lands which produced some of the world's most valuable spices.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Those were the places that Columbus had been looking for and when the Dutch got there they took control of a spice trade to Europe that made many Dutchman wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Actually, those dreams really weren't very wild at all, because even then the Dutch were very structured and not showy. Much of the wealth from that spice trade was used to build homes along the canals of Amsterdam.

BURT WOLF: Amsterdam was actually put together by connecting ninety islands with about five hundred bridges --- most citizens get around on bicycles. The town has only seven hundred and fifty thousand people but a million bikes. You could, if you wanted to, get from place to place just as well by boat.

The city plan for Amsterdam is based on three canals that form three semi-circles, one inside the other. Together they are described as the Canal Girdle. The outside canal in English is called the Prince's Canal. In the middle is the Emperor's Canal, and on the inside, the Gentleman's Canal. It's interesting that the most elegant and ambitious of the three is not those named with royal titles, it’s the Gentlemen’s Canal.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: It's a reminder that for centuries the people of Amsterdam have loved the small businessman, the individual entrepreneur, and like most people, the owner of a small business tries to keep his taxes as low as he honestly can -- or at least to get the most for his money.

BURT WOLF: During the 1700's the people of Amsterdam paid their homeowner's tax based on the width of the front of their house. And that’s why so many houses along the canals are so narrow. But these same houses go up and they go back, and as they go back they get wider. A pie-shaped house with the thinnest part facing the street helped to cut down on your taxes and let you keep a bigger slice of your own economic pie. That's the Trippenhuis, built in 1662. It's like a Venetian palace. Across the street is the narrowest house in Amsterdam. The story goes that the Tripp family coachman was expressing his wish for a home on the canal, even if it was only as wide as the door of his master's house. Mr. Tripp overheard him and built him just that: a house as wide as the Tripp front door. The extraordinary architecture of Amsterdam is one of its great joys. The government has designated some seven thousand buildings in the old center as historically significant. The character of these streets tells the story of this city covering almost eight centuries. The people of Amsterdam have done a pretty good job of preserving their heritage and holding onto the old buildings was essential.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And they've built museums for just about everything Dutch that you can think of. They're also doing a good job of holding onto their gastronomic heritage. There are chefs all over this town who are researching old recipes, reproducing them and making the gastronomic past part of the present. 

BURT WOLF: DePoort Restaurant, at the center of the town's oldest area, started as a brewery in 1592. It was the place where Heineken was first made. Today the restaurant offers some of the most traditional home foods of Holland: Dutch pea soup, a meal in itself with a piece of pork and slices of sausage; herring in various forms; hotspot, which is a combination of mashed potatoes, sautéed onions and carrots. A giant pancake served with apples and preserves. These are the real Dutch treats. 

Following our free time in Amsterdam Avalon’s crew welcomed us on board.

CREWMAN 1 ON CAMERA: Welcome aboard.

CREWMAN 2 ON CAMERA: Welcome aboard.

CAPTAIN ON CAMERA: Cheers and enjoy the first evening onboard. Cheers to everybody.

BURT WOLF: River cruising is becoming more and more popular. The ship is your hotel and you unpack only once. And when the ship docks it often docks in the hearts of the towns that you visit. For me it’s a much more relaxed way to travel.

The boat we sailed on was part of the Avalon fleet with some of the newest and most comfortable river cruises in the world and they use a new design.

The engines are located at the back of the ship and are heavily insulated which produces a quieter and smoother ride.

The interiors are spacious, light and open. And yet they offer a sense of intimacy. 

The lounges and the restaurants give everyone an unobstructed view of the passing scenery.

There’s also a sky deck that’s used for relaxing, taking pictures, and sunning.

The interior of the ship is non-smoking.

The entire staff is English speaking. And the ratio of crew members to passengers is about one to three. And there was plenty of good service. 

All the staterooms face outside.

They measure over 170 square feet which is quite big for a river cruiser.

Almost all the staterooms have gliding glass doors and many have a small balcony.

Nice full sized closets.

Individual climate control. 

Mini bar.

Modern bathrooms with powerful showers.

There’s a television and a radio that I never turned on.

And an exercise room that I never visited…but I meant to.

Where I did spend time was the dining room. The have one seating for each meal and it’s open seating. If my crew doesn’t want to eat with me, they don’t have to.

At breakfast there was a buffet table with a wide variety of breads, hot and cold cereals, fruits and fruit salads, cold cuts, smoked salmon, cheese, pastry, yogurts, and juices. There were scramble eggs, sausages, bacon, pancakes and French toast. There was also a chef who prepared fresh omelets and other egg dishes to order.

Lunch was also buffet style. Appetizers, soups, sandwiches, cold cuts, breads, a salad bar, two main courses, one of which was usually a carving station, a dessert table, a cheese board and fresh fruit.

Dinner was a traditional four course meal. And there was always a red wine and a white wine in unlimited supply and free with dinner.


BURT WOLF: The next morning we arrived in Middleburg. Originally, Middleburg was in the middle of an island which is why they called it Middleburg. But it was also in the middle of a lot of other things. During the Middle Ages it was the mid-point of a defensive stronghold that tried to hold back the Viking raiders.

During the middle of the 1100s a group of Norbertine monks emigrated to Middleburg from France and founded the Abbey of Our Lady which is now in the middle of the city.

And during the middle of the 1600s it was a mid-point for the operations of the Dutch East India Company. Being an executive with the Dutch East India Company was like being an insider when Google went public---big bucks. And they spent a lot of their money building these beautiful houses along Middleburg’s canals.

We stopped into the weekly market, checked out the fruits and vegetables, and treated ourselves to some stroopwafels. 

Flour, sugar and butter are mixed together to make a dough. The dough is pressed out, cooked in a waffle iron, sliced in half and filled with thick sugar syrup. 

My kind of sandwich.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Did I ever mention how much I love my job?


BURT WOLF: On February 1st, 1953, a perfect storm swept out of the North Sea and devastated 800 square miles along the southwest coast of the Netherlands. Eighteen hundred and thirty-five people were killed. Clearly, the flood control system that had worked in the past was no longer sufficient. 

The government’s response was the Dutch Delta Works, a massive project that closed off three major rivers including the Rhine and created a series of tide-free fresh water lakes. There are four great barriers and six secondary dams that run for over 18 miles.

Marcel Hanse is an official guide to the Delta Works.

MARCEL HANSE ON CAMERA: We are here on the artificial island called The Neeltje Jams. And this barrier here is only a part of the whole Delta Project. Normally the 62 gates in this storm barrier are open to let the tides flow in and out. Only when there is a dangerous water level expected, which can happen during a North Western Storm Period like it was in 1953, then we will close the steel gales of this barrier and then we will keep a large amount of water at the seaside and prevent that the water level inside in the sea arm can become dangerous. And that level gets 3 meters above normal Amsterdam level. Since the opening here in 1986, that has been necessary 24 times.


BURT WOLF: The next day we arrived in Rotterdam. During the 1200s, a small river known as The Rotte was dammed and henceforth the area was known as Rotterdam. Its location at the meeting point of two rivers --- one that flows into Germany and one that flows into France made it a perfect spot for a harbor.

During the 1600s, Rotterdam was a center of culture and trade filled with people, money and ideas. Unfortunately, much of Rotterdam was devastated during World War II, but you can still find remnants of Rotterdam’s glorious past in the Delft Harbor area.

This was also the day we visited Keukenhof Gardens.

In 1949 the mayor of a small town began working on a plan for an open-air flower exhibition where growers could showcase their latest hybrids and customers could buy bulbs for the flowers they liked. Today, Keukenhof’s spring exhibition is the largest flower exhibition in the world. There are over 70 acres, with over 7 million flowers.

We tiptoed through the tulips with Barry von Eeden.

BARRY VON EEDEN ON CAMERA: Gogof means kitchen garden in English and it’s from the 7th Century when there was a castle over there and the vegetables were grown over here. We’ve got a lot of varieties because we are open two months so we actually get flowers blooming in the beginning of March and the end of May. As visitors walk through the park they also see 50 sculptures, we’ve got 4 pavilions, we’ve got a lot of flower expositions in the pavilions like orchids, tulips, lilies, roses. What’s special about tulips is that this is the beginning of spring and it stands for life. You plant in the ground and will bloom and will shine in all its colors. You will see a lot of colors of tulips. The oldest ones are yellow and red, but these days we’ve got a lot of flowers with almost black. We say it’s a black tulip, but it’s deep purple. Every flower combination that you can think of you can find it over here. 

BURT WOLF: Most of the flowers are marked with a name and the grower. If you see something you like you can order it from the growers and it will be shipped to your home in early October.


BURT WOLF: In the middle of the 1500s, tulips were brought to Europe from Turkey. Their unusual and intense colors and delicate shapes made them a popular but costly item. There was a growing interest in the most unusual varieties and the demand soon exceeded the supply---prices began to rise, particularly in the Netherlands.

By the early 1600s a single bulb of a new variety was considered sufficient for a bride’s dowry. A successful brewery in France was exchanged for a single bulb.

Most of the business was conducted among professionals in the tulip trade, but in 1633 the general public joined in and things got crazy. Middle class and poor people began mortgaging their homes, their businesses, and selling their comic book collections to buy tulips. Sales and re-sales took place while the bulbs were still in the ground.

The crash came in the first week of 1637. People began to worry. Would prices continue to rise? Was this the best time to get out? Within days it was over --- tulips were no longer an investment, they had returned to their previous state of just being flowers and thousands of people faced economic ruin.

No one has ever been able to fully explain what happened. Tulips were certainly rare and beautiful. Amsterdam was filled with people who were newly rich and looking for status symbols. But families who should never have considered playing in the market jumped in and they were destroyed. It seems that the more things change the more they are the same.


BURT WOLF: Our next stop was Edam which is famous for its cheese.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: During the 1500s, Edam was granted the right to operate a cheese weighing house which was a big deal. Farmers would bring in their cheeses and get an official weight then offer them for sale. The purchasers felt secure that they were actually getting what they were paying for and of course the city got a piece of the action.

BURT WOLF: Edam cheese comes in the shape of a ball. When it’s exported it’s usually covered with a red wax seal. If you see one covered with black wax it means that it’s been aged for more than 17 weeks. If you see one covered in green it’s been mixed with herbs. If you see one covered in psychedelic stripes, you’ve spent too much time in Amsterdam. 

Onboard we sampled Edam…and Gouda…and other regional cheeses at a Dutch Cheese Tasting. 

We also visited Volendam, a small fishing village with a big tourist draw.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Originally, the land that I am walking on was under water --- it was part of the harbor of the nearby town of Edam. But in the 1300s they drained the area and farmers and fisherman moved in. You ended up with a town called ‘Volendam’ which means ‘filled dam’. Isn’t that right?


BURT WOLF: The last day of our cruise was spent in Amsterdam and we started it with a canal tour of the city.

The houses built on the canals have been the most fashionable homes in the city for hundreds of years but recently the house boats anchored in front of those homes have become almost as valuable.

Just outside of Amsterdam is the Zaanse Schans Historic Village.

Saskia van de Stadt took me on a tour. 

SASKIA van de STADT ON CAMERA: An architect has made a design of a little village. How it should look like in the 17th and 18th century. So what you see here are the houses, warehouses, and windmills of the 17th and 18th century. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Do people live in there?

SASKIA van de STADT ON CAMERA: Yes, all the houses are inhabited and you can rent the houses from our association. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I can rent a house?

SASKIA van de STADT ON CAMERA: Yes, you can rent a house yourself, yes.

BURT WOLF: And are the windmills working?

SASKIA van de STADT: The windmills are working, but only for tourist purposes.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And you grew up here.

SASKIA van de STADT ON CAMERA: Yes, it was wonderful to live here, surrounded by real Dutch houses, with water. And ice skating in the winter times. In summer time we had a garden full of tulips. 

BURT WOLF: It was created during the 1960s and 70s in order to preserve examples of traditional Dutch life and architecture. Some of the buildings date back over 400 years and include eight working windmills --- each illustrating what the wind power was used for. A saw mill. A mill where peanuts and linseeds were crushed and their oil extracted. And a paint mill where pigments were ground into paint. The village also has a number of old-fashioned shops where traditional crafts are demonstrated.

Amsterdam is filled with interesting architecture including a series of structures dedicated to what became known as The Amsterdam School. In 1910, three architects decided to develop a new style of architecture. They believed that buildings should be filled with fantasy that forms should be flowing and organic and there should be lots of decoration. They built structural frames in concrete and covered them with brick, but the bricks were laid in unlikely patterns and shapes with rounded edges, unusual angles and tapered towers that led nowhere. Little thought was given to whether the shapes were practical or if limited funds should be spent on unusable towers. By the 1930s, more conservative thinking prevailed and the movement was over. But anyone interested in architecture should take a look at the Amsterdam School buildings that are still standing. Alice Roegholt took me on a tour of the area.

ALICE ROEGHOLT ON CAMERA: The architects of the Amsterdam school became famous because they built lots and lots and lots of social housing blocks. And what is very beautiful is this layered decoration. It’s the brick, which makes such beautiful shadows. The shadow is every moment on the day different. 

And just imagine in the 20’s when people came from the town this was a new area so the people came from there and they came up through this street and saw this building. And what did they see? Did they see a village? Or did they see a castle? There are all these towers. But in all the literature it was mentioned as “the ship”, because the average worker never saw a castle in his life. So the socialists saw rebuilding castles for the worker, but and he make a kind of ship. And when you look to the first tower this round tower, the entrance the main entrance to the museum it looks like the funnel of a steam ship.

BURT WOLF: That evening, back onboard, we celebrated the conclusion of the cruise at the Captain’s Dinner.


BURT WOLF: That’s it for Cruising the Netherlands. For Travels and Traditions, I’m Burt Wolf.