Caving In To Champagne

Near Epernay – Photo (c)Russell Johnson

The night they invented champagne
It’s plain as it can be
They thought of you and me
The night they invented champagne
They absolutely knew that all we’d want to do
Is fly to the sky on champagne

Lyrics from”Gigi” (1958) (Lyrics : Alan Jay Lerner / Music : Frederick Loewe)

Champagne has always been about celebration, like greeting the new year.

I had always enjoyed it, regarded it as a fizzy beverage, but never appreciated its subtleties. I had a binary rating system : zero to one…maybe a “meh” in between. I was long overdue for an attitude change.

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Berlin Walls: Photo Gallery

Wall Art, Berlin: “The Kiss” Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East Germany President Erich Honecker

Photo: Russell Johnson

Tear down those walls. On this anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we might also be celebrating the elections in Myanmar which, if they hold, further chip away the wall that has divided that nation from the rest of the world.

But walls come down, walls go up: In Europe, blocking immigrants. In Israel, further dividing that nation. Along the US border, red meat for opportunistic politicians.

Thankfully, I think it is safe to say that the Berlin Wall is down for good. We photographed some of the art painted on what is left of it.

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Christmas Chillin’ and Chocolate Fillin’ in Berlin (video)

Weinacht
Weihnachtsmarkt, Alexanderplatz, Berlin  Photo Russ Johnson

I am not a feral shopper, a pack rat ripping through the carrion at Best Buy on Black Friday or maniacally pounding a keyboard on Cyber Monday. I like to take the holidays calmly…and slowly. I would gladly become a standard bearer for a Slow Christmas Movement.

I can do this in Europe thanks to a glass of hot mulled wine or chocolate, a juicy sausage, a gingerbread cookie huddled next to a firepit at a Christmas Market.

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Midnight in the Garden of Swedes and Norwegians

 Dodging trolls and other beings that stumble in the bright of night during Midsummer in Sweden’s Lakes District.

Vitsand in Sweden's Lakes District
Visand, in Sweden’s Lakes District  – Photo: Russ Johnson

It is not easy to be chirpy at 3 o’clock in the morning unless you’re a mockingbird or a Swede during Midsummer when the sun hardly sets at all. Swedes are not normally a chirpy bunch, but they do manage to stay awake on summer nights.

AUDIO: Midnight in the Garden of Swedes and Norwegians

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The Big Boom Theory: Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greek Isles – Photo: Russ Johnson

Why are dangerous things so beautiful. Frogs, for example. The most poisonous ones are the most colorful. That could go for women too, but I am not going there.

Some of the most striking scenes on earth are formed by cataclysmic events. I spent a few days climbing the hills and walking the paths of the Greek island of Santorini, formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions since humans put chisel to rock.

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GONE ASTRAY - RUSSELL JOHNSON PODCAST

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