I was thinking about the Pilgrims this past Thanksgiving, and how much things have changed in this country. Only 50 people survived to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, half the number that originally boarded the Mayflower. A couple years after I arrived in this country, I visited the 1964 World’s Fair in NY. There was a giant US population wheel on display pointing to the 200 million mark. Last month, according to the US Census, the number of US citizens exceeded 300 million.
It took almost 2 months for the Pilgrims to cross the Atlantic in disease and discomfort. When Brigitte first came to the US in 1959, the trip from Germany to New York took 11 days. These days it seems like the only discomfort we risk on the open seas comes in the form of overindulgence… the food supply on board never seems to end.
With cruise vacations increasingly popular with the Americans, and pilgrimage vacations very popular with the Germans, we enjoyed our vacation on the Cruise “Spanish Splendor” with the first planned destination of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is a famous holy place for Christians because the grave of the Apostle Saint James was allegedly discovered there around 800AD. Over 100,000 pilgrims visit the site yearly. Legend has it that he appeared as a saving white knight when invading Muslims posed a serious threat. We still hold out the hope that President Bush will lift us from the tyranny of terrorism in an equally heroic fashion. But not all wishes can be fulfilled. That was the case for our pilgrimage destination. We’d come close, when a bad storm in the Gulf of Biscay forced a change in course. The captain informed us that at wind force 11 and 40 foot waves, we ought to feel privileged to have witnessed such a storm. The next destination was Bilbao, where we visited the Guggenheim Museum, designed by our favorite architect, Frank Gehry. It was such a delight that we decided to visit Gehry’s culture palace, MARTA, in Herford, Germany in July which was also well worth the trip.
In September we traveled with the Queen Mary2 to Canada. In 1985 we stayed overnight with the children at the Queen Mary I, moored in Los Angeles. The QM2 was docked only 25 minutes from us at the new Long Island cruise terminal in Brooklyn, opposite the Statue of Liberty. This journey turned out to be a special occasion for us to relax, enjoy a change in scenery, and be pampered. The nightly shows were exceptional, the Sunday church service was held by the captain himself, and there was a Planetarium on board. I finally learned about Andromeda, the faint image of a nebula that one almost can see with the naked eye, the only object outside our galaxy.
We’ve certainly come a long way since the Pilgrims, but we feel blessed and are very grateful they took the first steps so that we could be here.
We hope this letter finds you in good spirits and we wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2007!
P.S. Check out our website www.gerhardclusener.com
Our 2006 illustrated page features additional events of the year.