Discoveries in Copenhagen, Denmark: A Visitor’s Delight

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Cruise ship, Nautica, Oceania Lines, with travel companion, Susan, photo Denise Ames

My Baltic Sea Cruise was coming to an end. Our small cruise ship, the Nautica, was steaming its way to Copenhagen, our departure port. My stint as cruise ship lecturer had come to an end, and now I was a free person to relax and enjoy my 3 days in Copenhagen with my traveling companion, Susan. I was looking forward to it.

The sun shone brightly, and the city glittered with possibilities as our ship edged closer to its final destination. As our ship pulled into its docking place, the crew jumped into overdrive. It was a busy day for them—they had to scoot out the old passengers and usher in the new in a quick turn-around time. We made our way to the cruise ship terminal with our carry-ons in tow.

We queued our way to the area in which our larger luggage was awaiting us. The luggage was neatly arranged according to our floor and we quickly spotted our bags. After a harrowing five days at sea without our luggage on the cruise, I was happy to see that it didn’t disappear into the unknown again.

We emerged from the darkened terminal into the morning sunlight that glistened and flickered off the undulating waves. It seemed like a good omen for a fun and adventurous three days. We hailed a taxi, spotlessly clean, and headed to our hotel conveniently located in the center of Copenhagen. It was still early but the hotel promised to store our bags until late afternoon check-in.  

The kind taxi driver helped us unload our behemoth bags, I swore they had gained weight like we did on the cruise. Actually, I only wore about half of the clothes in my bag since we were without our luggage for half of the trip. I had packed more than I usually do since I was supposed to look “professional” for my lecturers. Now I had to haul around a heavy bag of unworn clothes. Oh well, mark it up to being part of the travel experience.

The hotel was what I expected in Copenhagen: clean and efficient. The staff said our room was ready and we could check in at 9:00 instead of at 3:00. We were happy to unpack a few things, get settled, and plan the rest of our day. I towed the “monster” up the elevator and through the hall to our room, where I ceremoniously parked it in the corner out of sight for the duration of the trip. The room was sparse but immaculate with a glass-enclosed full shower in the gleaming bathroom. Two narrow twin beds took up most of the room but we were used to small quarters since our cruise ship room was “compact” as well.  

Street scene Copenhagen near our hotel, photo Denise Ames

I found a good map of Denmark to see where Copenhagen is located. It surprised me to see that it is situated on the eastern coast of one of the eastern islands, Zealand, another portion of the city is located on an island called Amager. I didn’t realize it is very close to Malmö, Sweden, separated by the strait of Øresund. In fact, the Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road. I can see why water has shaped the culture of Denmark so significantly, it is everywhere.

I had been thinking about what I wanted to see in Copenhagen during my short time in the city. Of course, there was much more that I wanted to visit than time allowed, so I had to narrow it down. Top on my list was a visit to Christianshavn, a colorful bohemian neighborhood. Also, the monarchy was very popular in Denmark, I wanted to see it and investigate why it was so popular. Thirdly, Copenhagen is considered to be an environmental paradise. What could be learned from their environmental consciousness by walking around the city. And, fourthly, Denmark is often ranked in some surveys as the happiest country in the world. What makes them so happy?  Those were the top four topics and destinations, I am sure others would crop up as our sight-seeing expanded.  

We immediately found a walking tour of Copenhagen that was leaving in an hour. It sounded intriguing and perhaps we would get our bearings about how to navigate the city center. Also, the tour included a stop at the monarch’s palace, it would be fun to see the regalia surrounding the monarchy. Off we went.

To be continued …

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Three Sisters Volcanoes: Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Sacred Landscape

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

You can’t miss them when gazing westward from anywhere in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are the five extinct volcanoes piercing the western landscape. Actually, two are quite small, and Native Americans call the three largest volcanoes the Three Sisters.

Two of the Three Sisters Volcanoes, Albuquerque, NM
photo Denise Ames

The volcanoes are a sacred landscape to the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande Valley. They believe the volcanoes and the petroglyphs pecked into the volcanic boulders (see previous blogs) provide a direct spiritual connection to both their ancestors and to the Spirit World, the place where time began.

Western Pueblos, Navajos, and Apaches believe these landforms were created by spiritual beings who lived in the ancient past. These prominent landforms were also used as landmarks that helped guide people who traveled long distances to trade or perform religious pilgrimages.

Volcano, West Mesa, Albuquerque, NM photo Denise Ames

Hispanics view the entire West Mesa and the volcanoes as an active site of religious ceremonials and as a living reminder of a cultural heritage based on powerful spiritual ties to the Earth.

Recent modern Albuquerqueans don’t seem to have the same spiritual connection to the volcanoes as non-modern people. We seem to think of the volcanoes as an interesting geological phenomenon or a great place to hike and see the views, but sacredness is not on the list. I pondered to think why this is so, and perhaps what our modern mindset is missing. 

View of Sandia Mountains, from West Mesa, Albuquerque, NM,
photo Denise Ames

I am a little unsure about how modern people can incorporate a spiritual presence into their everyday lives. For example, when modernizers see the lava rocks strewn about the sides of the volcanoes, we don’t necessarily see the rocks as alive with an animating power or energy. Many non-modern people see the rocks as alive. This would be a leap for most modern people.

By spiritual I simply mean connecting to something bigger than ourselves, something beyond the material world to a source of wonder and mystery. I don’t necessarily mean religious, but spiritual as perhaps something different than religious. So, the question I wanted to reflect upon on my hike was “What is spiritual about the volcanoes?” Can I experience a spiritual connection to this place? I am skeptical but willing to try.

One of the Three Sisters Volcanoes, Albuquerque, NM
photo Denise Ames

Although the day was breezy, I was thankful that it was not windy enough to knock me off my feet. With camera in tow and plenty of sunscreen applied, I started the slight inclined trek to the base of the volcanoes. There were a few scattered visitors but I felt lucky to have the place to myself.

I made my way to the viewing point for a wide panorama of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains nestled against the east side of the city. It was breathtaking. The mountains were splattered with a smattering of spring snow from a recent cold snap. They were mesmerizing. I could see why Native people thought of them as sacred and emitting spirits.

Lava flows turned to rock, West Mesa, Albuquerque, NM
photo Denise Ames

Nature has a way of tricking me, perhaps you too. I can come upon a beautiful vista and love the serene sense I feel when viewing it. But then, if I linger long enough, and keep the distractions at bay, another feeling settles in. It is a feeling that I am part of the view. I am just not gazing at an object outside of myself, something separate from me, but that view is also within me. It is an odd feeling that doesn’t happen every time, but when it does it is worth remembering.

Perhaps that feeling is similar to what Native people have expressed when they think of the volcanoes as sacred. The volcanoes are like us. When they emit death and evil in the form of lava, they are expressing a part of our destructive nature. And then when the volcanoes are spent of their destructive impulses they settle into old age. Their evil has hardened into rocks that are no longer destructive. Now they can just be skeletons of their former selves and offer us an invitation to look a little closer and deeper at their violent past and perhaps take away valuable lessons.

View of Albuquerque, NM from the West Mesa, NM, photo Denise Ames

Like the volcanoes, we are both destructive and creative. Destruction is quick, violent, and exacting. Lava destroys everything in its path. But once the destruction is over, the lava chips away and provides, thousands of years later, fertile soil or in the case here in Albuquerque, the platform for creative rock art crafted by native people. Humans are destructive as well: a hateful message uttered, a revenge sought, or the careless denigrating of institutions, such as the family and religion, that have sustained many people for centuries. As humans we are finding out that destruction is easy and quick, but creating is difficult and laborious.

Next time we see a volcano, perhaps we will think about its destructive and creative energies. And how those energies are within us as well.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Watching Over Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Three Sisters Volcanoes

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

The Three Sisters, the largest of the five volcanoes on Albuquerque’s West Mesa

You can’t miss them when gazing westward from anywhere in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are the five extinct volcanoes piercing the western landscape. Actually, two are quite small, and Native Americans call the three largest volcanoes the Three Sisters. After over 20 years of living in Albuquerque, they no longer stand out in my view as I scan the western horizon, but they are there none-the-less. I imagine they will outlast me in their staying power.

I first hiked the volcanoes when I moved to Albuquerque. I remember it well. It was an unusually hot, dry, spring day and the sun was merciless as it beat down on me, a pale Midwesterner unaccustomed to searing heat. I thought, “I wonder if I made the right decision to move to Albuquerque, the sun is lethal.” But after another application of sunscreen and adjusting my hat, I journeyed on. After climbing to the top of one of the volcanoes, I realized it was a good decision to move, the views were ethereal. I had entered a magical land, enchanted as the motto of New Mexico claims.

Volcanoes, photo Denise Ames

I decided to hike to the volcanoes about the same time of year as it was 22 years ago when I first scrambled up the rocky inclines. I wanted to see them again with fresh eyes and an open mind. Driving northward from Interstate I-40, I marveled at the high desert flora dotting the landscape: sparse clumps of grasses and scrawny sagebrush. I imagined a plethora of fauna lived a precarious existence in this arid and hostile environment.

I turned into the parking lot at the base of the volcanoes and sat there a few minutes to meditate on them and their history.

photo Denise Ames

The volcanoes are a classic and rare example of a fissure eruption. In fissure eruptions magma rises along thin cracks in the Earth’s crust, unlike most volcanoes in which magma rises through a vertical central vent. The Albuquerque fissure is over 5 miles (8km) long. Very long cracks like these may result in a row of aligned eruption craters—all active at the same time—hence the five extinct volcanoes. Such eruptions create “curtains of fire.”

The Petroglyph/Volcanoes National Monument brochure gave a succinct description of the volcanoes I was about ready to hike. “The volcanoes are located near the middle of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. A rift valley is a zone of weakness and thinning in the Earth’s crust. As the crust is pulled apart, large blocks of land drop down forming the valley. Thin cracks open deep into the Earth releasing molten lava while blocks on one or both sides of the valley rise.

Sandia Mountains background, photo Denise Ames

The Sandia Mountains, just east of Albuquerque, formed by uplift along a major fault that marks the eastern edge of the valley. The Rio Grande Rift Valley extends from southern Colorado south to El Paso, Texas. It is one of only few active rifts in the world. Others include the East African Rift, the Rhine Graben in Germany, and the Lake Baikal Rift in Russia.”

Petroglyphs, photo Denise Ames

The area that includes lava flows and volcanic cones formed about 150,000 years ago as liquid lava flowed from fissures in the Earth. Two flows traveled the farthest creating the lava-covered plateau of the West Mesa (west of Albuquerque) and extended east to what is now the boulder-strewn volcanic escarpment. The boulders were later used by American Indians and settlers of mixed Spanish, Mexican and Indian background to create more than 20,000 petroglyphs.

The volcanoes are a sacred landscape to the Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande Valley. They believe the volcanoes and the petroglyphs pecked into the volcanic boulders (see previous blogs) provide a direct spiritual connection to both their ancestors and to the Spirit World, the place where time began.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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A Pre-Spring Hike in the Whitfield Conversation Area: Belen, New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Spring is just about to burst open in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. But not quite yet. Tree buds are poking through and ready to express their full potential. It was in this March transition time between winter and spring that I took a drive south of Albuquerque about 45 miles to visit the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.

Valencia Country, New Mexico, hay the main crop

The drive itself was part of the adventure. I headed south from Albuquerque on Highway 47 through miles of small towns and old farming communities. The area is part of Valencia County in New Mexico. Many Hispanics live in the county and some have lived there for decades, long before New Mexico became the 47th state (1912), entering just before our neighbor the 48th state, Arizona, by a mere month.

Most of the farming along the Highway 47 corridor is centered on growing hay for cattle, horses, and some sheep. Acres of hay are raised, and hauled around on wobbly pick-up trucks or pulled along on open-air trailers. It reminds me of how it may have looked 50 years ago.

Whitfield Conservation Area visitors’ center, photo Denise Ames

After a leisurely drive, I reached Whitfield. I parked in the expansive parking lot and entered the brick visitors’ center/office that was open and inviting. I found out that in April 2003, the Valencia County Soil & Water Conservation District acquired a donation of a 97-acre tract of land in Belen, New Mexico that had been a dairy farm in its previous life.

The property butts up against the Rio Grande that flows almost 2,000 miles from its source in south-central Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. It winds its ways through the whole state of New Mexico.

Whitfield Conservation Area, Belen, New Mexico

In central New Mexico, the Rio Grande supports a cottonwood-willow riparian forest (Spanish name, bosque) and its associated wetlands are invaluable for sustaining wildlife and a supply of water for irrigation. In the past, many wetlands were converted to agriculture and, more recently, impacted by urbanization. In an effort to reverse the decline and degradation of the valuable Middle Rio Grande Bosque and wetlands, the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area’s (WWCA) goal is to restore and protect the area.

Perimeter trail, Whitfield Conservation Area, photo Denise Ames

After a brief chat with one of the conservationists, I decided to hike the 2-mile perimeter of Whitfield. Although the landscape had not shed its dreary, post-winter brown, I have found that this dreariness is often deceiving. Usually, upon closer observation, wildlife proliferates and I am constantly surprised and thrilled by what I find.

Bird on fence, Whitfield Conservation Area,
photo Denise Ames

It was a bright, warm day and a slight breeze rustled the grasslands. I followed the trail to chirping birds perched on a fence, either they were intensely communicating with each other or trying to divert my attention away from one of their hidden nests. I tried my unsteady hand at capturing a few shots of the flighty birds with my camera, with mixed results.

I tried to hike to the river, but the path was fenced off for restoration. Since I have been lucky enough to hike extensively along the bosque in Albuquerque, I was not disappointed I couldn’t see the bosque.

Cottonwood tree, ready to bud,
photo Denise Ames

As I made my way around the perimeter, one old cottonwood tree that had weathered many years of abuse, stood barren against the dry grasslands, looking forlorn. But looking more closely I could see that it was ready at any moment to leaf out again.

The conservation area had a small pond with some wild fowl. The area seemed new, while its goal of providing a sanctuary for flora and fauna seemed somewhere in the future.

Whitefield Conservation area, photo Denise Ames

As I finished my hike, I had a happy feeling about the conservation area. I was thrilled to see a worthwhile effort put in motion amidst all the bureaucratic obstacles to protect wildlife and preserve the Rio Grande bosque. Through private and public cooperation, even small projects, such as the one I just visited, are making a valuable impact on preserving wildlife and land, as well as shifting our mindsets to appreciation and reverence for what nature has to offer us.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Petroglyphs: Rock Art of the Past, Boca Negra Canyon, Albuquerque, New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I decided to hike the last trail, the Boca Negra Canyon, on a separate day, since it required a steep climb up a lava-strewn hill. It was more daunting that the Rinconada Canyon or Pedras Marcadas Canyon trails. Rather than circling around a loop trail on flat terrain, these petroglyphs were etched onto rocks climbing up a steep path leading to the top of a wind-swept hill.

Baca Negra Canyon trail

It was a windy March day, not my favorite New Mexico weather, but at least the sun was shining, peeking through swirling clouds. I donned my new hiking shoes to give me good traction on what looked like some slippery, well-worn rocks.

The climb was steeper than I thought, and occasional railings helped steady me as gusty bursts of wind kept me teetering. I wound around stunningly etched lava boulders in a constant state of awe. I marveled that ancient Puebloan peoples were intent on leaving their mark on such a remote and inaccessible landscape. What inspired them to create such art and for what purpose?

Rock art along trail

It was hard for me to speculate about their motives, since I come from such a different cultural worldview. But I imagined it may have been similar to my joy creating blogs, such as this one, with the hope that someone will read them, look at the pictures, and find some meaning from my contributions.

As I made my way to the top of the hill, I remembered visiting this hill in 1995 with my mother, 79 at the time, and my daughter, age 16. Even though it was a hot summer July day, we decided to climb as far as we could. I worried that my mother would have problems navigating the site, rather than my fit 16-year-old daughter. But with my help steadying her, my mother felt invigorated by the challenge and kept climbing upward.

My daughter was fine until about ¾ of the way up a combination of the heat and/or altitude sickness hit her. She felt light-headed and dizzy, not a good place to feel dizzy. She sat down, but the light-headedness did not pass. I was in a real dilemma. I could not help both of them down the steep hill at the same time. I decided that I would first help my daughter down the hill part way, have her rest, and then go back to help my mother.

Heading down on the trail

As luck would have it, help arrived in the form of a muscular, middle-aged man with a sturdy walking stick. He volunteered to escort my daughter down the hill, slowly, and with a firm hold of her arm. As she wobbled down the hill, I followed with my gutsy mother as she clung to rock-holds to steady her downward trek. After some harrowing twists and turns, we gradually arrived safely at the bottom of the trail, my daughter’s light-heatedness easing a bit.

This time I climbed the hill alone. My mother died in December 2002 and my daughter is now married and is a mother of three children. The trek brought back this memorable experience, and with it a sense of sadness at the loss of my mother and the fact that I was now the elder. But the swirling clouds and ancient rock art also moved me to remember the impermanence of everything and the movement of time and change. 

View of Albuquerque and Sandia Mountains from Baca Negra hill

As I looked out from the top of the hill at the sprawling city below, I wondered what the reaction of the ancient artists would have been to the modern developments surrounding me. Would they have been shocked to see our modern way of life laid out before them, trying to overtake their artistic wonders? Or would they merely nod, with an understanding that one thing is certain: everything changes.

They might have thought that the modern picture before them was just another example of what can happen when time alters place. With this understanding, I imagine they would go about etching another work of art unto the black surface of the strewn-about lava boulders. 

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Petroglyphs in Albuquerque: The Ancient Treasures of Rinconada and Pedras Marcadas Canyons

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Albuquerque, New Mexico, my hometown, had the foresight to collaborate with federal agencies to preserve ancient petroglyphs that were etched onto lava rocks scattered across acres of land on the West Mesa. Three sites—Rinconada Canyon, Pedras Marcadas Canyon, and Boca Negra Canyon—hold most of the ancient treasures. All sites required hiking and some climbing to access.

The Rinconada Canyon was the first trail I hiked. As I pulled into the parking lot, a strange feeling swept over me. As I glanced back east from the entrance, I saw a view of Albuquerque sprawling in every direction.

Luckily, the Sandia Mountains to the east halted the suburban encroachment. Just across the highway from the park entrance, a recent housing development inched its way up to the petroglyph park boundaries, stopped only by the national monument status of the land I was about to hike.

A 2-mile loop trail took me close to the hill side hosting the petroglyphs. At first, I strained my eyes trying to catch a glimpse of the prized art, thinking maybe I missed them! But patience was needed, and as I hiked on I encountered numerous petroglyphs. Most of them were sketched on lava boulders closer to the base of the hills, saving the artists an arduous climb up steep, rocky hills.

I read where the rock artists did not actually live in the barren hills located several miles west of the lush Rio Grande flood plain, but merely traveled to these sites to draw on their rock canvas whatever struck their imaginations. When their ritual was complete, they made their way back to the protective cottonwood forests lining the river and the security of their tribal group.

After leaving the Rinconada Canyon, I headed north on Unser Blvd. to hike another petroglyph trail: Pedras Marcadas Canyon. Since I live in the Nob Hill neighborhood of Albuquerque, one of the older areas close to the University of New Mexico, a trip to West Albuquerque (west of the Rio Grande) is similar to visiting a different city.

It is new, with lots of recent subdivisions, 4-lane highways, and plenty of convenient shopping. It doesn’t feel like my hometown of Albuquerque, but residents of West Albuquerque would probably feel the same way visiting my neighborhood.

I had trouble locating the entrance to the trailhead, it was hidden by a Jiffy Lube and earth-toned stucco, single-family homes. Finally, after several turnarounds, I eased into a parking place at the trail head. I wondered where the petroglyphs were located, since the first part of the hike was through a trail in-between suburban development.

The trail eventually opened up into a canyon, surrounded by lava-clad hills and desert flora. The trail wove through thick sand, which made it slow-going most of the way. After a while, the lava rocks went from bare-faced to bearing etchings by the native Puebloan peoples hundreds of years ago. Although it looked like most of the art was by native people, there were some recent additions by Hispanic people and even cowboys who also lived on the land.

I marveled at their creativity and their intent on leaving a cultural trace of their way of life for future generations to muse upon.

After a 2-mile trek through deep sand, I was ready to call it a day. I loved seeing the rock formations and intriguing rock art doting the landscape. I was happy to have gained a tiny glimpse into the way of life of people who lived upon the same land that I am now living upon, albeit hundreds of years ago. Time and cultural interaction profoundly influence how we fashion our lives. We will, undoubtedly, live our mark for future generations to contemplate, just as the Ancient Puebloan people have left their mark. I hope future generations find our artistic offerings as interesting as we find the Puebloan people’s art of the past.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel. Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Petroglyphs: Rock Art of the Past in Albuquerque, New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I am tacking a break from my blogs on the Baltic Sea cruise. The last stop on the cruise is a memorable three days in Copenhagen, Denmark. Well worth a blog or two. But I like to vary the blogs between international travel and local travel. Since my hometown is the interesting and diverse city of Albuquerque, and my state of New Mexico is full of fascinating sites, I will write several new blogs on local destinations, often a short drive from my home.

Dormant volcanoes, West Albuquerque

Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, is home to many distinctive cultural, geographical, and topographical features. One of these interesting features stretches along the western edge of Albuquerque, where rising above the flat grasslands is a low, barren, volcanic plateau (West Mesa) that reaches skyward 200 feet and extends for over 15 miles.

Piercing the western landscape are five long-extinct volcanic cones and a 17-mile basalt escarpment or cliff. It emerged about 200,000 years ago when lava gushed from a large crack in the Earth’s crust. A series of subsequent eruptions formed what is now called the West Mesa.

Lava rocks from extinct volcanoes, photo Denise Ames

Layer upon layer of lava flowed over and around existing landforms. Over time, softer sediments on the mesa’s eastern edge chipped away from the escarpment; freed basalt boulders tumbled downward, providing an ideal material for carving Puebloan and Spanish petroglyphs that we see today. 

A petroglyph at the Rincanado Canyon site

A petroglyph is a rock carving made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone. When the desert varnish (or patina) on the surface of the rock is chipped off, the lighter rock underneath is exposed, creating a petroglyph. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with nonliterate peoples.

Since petroglyphs are to be found in my own backyard, less than 10 miles away, I would like to share with you my pictures, explorations, and experiences of this ancient form of art.

The petroglyphs are preserved in the Petroglyph National Monument located on the westside of Albuquerque. Authorized June 27, 1990, the 7,236 acre (29.28 km2) monument is cooperatively managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque. The western boundary of the monument includes a chain of five dormant fissure volcanoes. Along with a visitor’s center, there are three sites of the petroglyphs: Rinconada Canyon, Boca Negra Canyon, and Pedras Marcadas Canyon. I visited all three of them at the end of February and early March of 2021. I have visited them before, but I wanted to see them again with fresh eyes, as I focused on conveying my impressions in this blog.

Archeologists estimate that most of the approximately 24,000 petroglyphs, date from the Ancestral Pueblo period of 1300 to 1600 AD. But some images may even be 2,000 t0 3,000 years old. Beginning in the 1600s Hispanic heirs to the Atrisco Land Grant carved crosses and livestock brands into the rocks. Therefore, a mixture of Native and Hispanic cultures is evident on these rocks.

The petroglyphs were made by chipping away the dark, weathered surface of the lava to reveal the light-colored rock underneath. The carvings have a huge variety of designs, some very complex, including animals, hunting scenes, people, masks, geometric patterns and abstract shapes, and in many places occur in dense groups with dozens on a single boulder. Their meaning was, possibly, understood only by the carver.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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An August Day in Northern Germany: A Vacationer’s Delight

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

After a fascinating few hours at the Minster Bad Doberan, a 13th century Cistercian abbey-church, our bus tour of a swatch of northern Germany headed to the village of Bad Doberan. A train ride on an old steam-powered engine, narrow-gauge train awaited eager passengers. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience, but enjoyable to chug through the village and surrounding countryside on a beautiful sunny day. I am sure my grandchildren would have loved it.

Beach along the Baltic Sea, Germany

Lunch was next on the agenda and we headed back to Warnemunde along the Baltic Sea for our culinary feast. Of course, the restaurant was spotless—German-style—with gleaming tiled floors and impeccable bathrooms. I didn’t linger over lunch, as I was eager to walk along the water and the beach walk, which was a bustling corridor of interesting people.

Although the mid-August day was cool—compared to the blazing inferno engulfing my home-town of Albuquerque, New Mexico—it was delightful to the sun-bathing Germans. Sunny, warm days were a rarity and to be enjoyed when they happened. I decided to walk barefoot in the heaving Baltic Sea, despite my cold, shriveled feet. The water felt invigorating as I ambled along the shoreline, glancing out to sea and then back again at the families lounging in their colorful, canvas cabanas doting the beach.

Cabanas line the beach, Warnemunde, Germany

It appeared as though the beach-goers had brought their refrigerators with them to the beach, the amount of food they munched on was stupendous. The food was lovingly packed in wicker baskets, just as it should be for a beach picnic. A few hearty souls were actually swimming in the Baltic Sea, while children played with their pails and shovels in the sand and built sandcastles in the typical German efficient style. It would take gale-force winds from the Baltic to knock down these sand fortresses.

Board walk along the Baltic Sea beach

After a mile or so near the water, I decided to stroll along the boardwalk bordering the beach. It was thronging with vacationers, either on foot or bicycle, enjoying their August holiday and the sun’s warming rays. I dusted off my sandy feet and slipped on my Tevas. I blended into the crowd, no gawking looks as I had experienced in other countries such as Iran and Qatar. That was nice, since I rather stare at others than have them stare at me.

One observation about the Germans, and I have also read this, is that they immensely enjoy their families. Their delight in being with each other was palpable.

Along with partaking in their ample picnic lunches, the families participated in all kinds of beach games, frolicked in the sand, or leisurely laid about in their cabanas reading a book. Their bikes’ baskets were also laden with picnic lunch food and other beach-related paraphernalia. Their checkered picnic tablecloths were carefully smoothed over any grassy parkway, and a luncheon buffet delightfully displayed. Not only did Germans like their families, but they like to eat too!

Another observation about the idyllic beach setting was that this resort catered to middle-class Germans, which most Germans are. The economic gap between the very wealthy and poor is not very wide, much less so than in the US. Germans pride themselves in being middle class, whether you are a doctor or a gardener. Each person, generally speaking, is well-educated, conscientious, and works hard. These characteristics oozed from every pore of the happy German vacationers.

Also, the lack of commercialism, especially to an American, was starkly obvious. No garish signs directed you to the closest dairy delight or fried chicken franchise. Most people seemed to bring their own food, as the bulging picnic baskets implied, and the clean tourist cabins and few restaurants were neatly tucked away. Bicycles were everywhere, and few cars tied up traffic into frustrating snarls along the main thoroughfare.

Everything about Warnemunde indicated it was an ideal place to spend a relaxing holiday, either with your family or friends. From my brief observations, I was impressed that Germans had sorted through what made them happy and content. And it wasn’t the vision that Hitler had so violently put forth during the hellish late 1930s and early 1940s. The tiny microcosm of Warnemunde expressed volumes about what the German people value: family, food, relaxation, and being in nature. It was a scene, I thought, that Americans could learn something from.

It was time to head back to the ship after a wonderful day in northern Germany. The clouds clustered together over the roiling Baltic Sea and blocked out the day’s soothing rays of sun. Our cruise was ending in the morning at the port of Copenhagen, Denmark. My friend, Susan, and I were looking forward to spending several days taking in this fascinating city.

As the ship headed out of the harbor to sea, I glanced back at the beach, now misted over by fast-moving gray clouds, and I felt grateful for my wonderful day, and all the wonders I beheld on the Baltic cruise. It was an experience I will never forget.    

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Minster Bad Doberan: A 12th Century German Church for a New Era

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Port of Warnemunde in northern Germany

The day before was a relaxing day at sea on the cruise ship Nautica, part of the Oceania Lines. That morning we docked at the small port of Warnemunde in northern Germany. The small village has a long history as a fishing village since the 13th century. Now the village is known as a resort with its miles of expansive beaches looking out over a gray, churning Baltic Sea.

Many of the Nautica passengers opted for a train ride to Berlin and a long day of exploring the city. I was tempted, but I had recently visited Berlin so I decided to stay near Warnemunde for the day. I was eager to walk along the beach and enjoy the tepid sun peeking through the clouds, but the tour I selected was ready to go and I put off my beach stroll until afternoon. The tour I selected was of a 13th century Cistercian abbey-church located in Bad Doberman, near the German city of Rostow. It would be nice to sit back on the bus and enjoy being a tourist with no other obligations.

German countryside, photo Denise Ames

The bus ride to the abbey wound through an idyllic German countryside. I love to drive through rural areas in different countries, it seems to connect me with a realistic portrait of ordinary people. Also, I am fascinated with what people eat, and a drive through the countryside gives me clues to the answer. German farms were as immaculate and well-tended as I expected. Neat stacks of hay sat ready in the fields to be stored for the long, cold winter. Dairy is important in the region, in fact the Holstein breed of dairy cattle is named after the state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.  

Minster Bad Doberan in northern Germany, dedicated in 1368, photo Denise Ames

We finally arrived at the imposing medieval brick structure: Bad Doberan abbey. The Doberan Minster (church) is the main Lutheran Church in Mecklenburg, Germany. Interestingly, it is the most important religious heritage site on the European Route of Brick Gothic, a tourist route connecting cities with Brick Gothic architecture in three countries along the Baltic Sea: Denmark, Germany, and Poland.

After a nearby abbey built in 1171 was destroyed in a regional war, the monks opened a new abbey in 1186 on the present-day site. Construction of the Gothic Minster commenced in 1280 and the Catholic Church was dedicated in 1368. 

Brick was used as the building material for construction of the minster largely because no real stone or sandstone was available nearby. To produce bricks, the builders mixed sand, clay, and water and then poured this mixture into wooden forms. The dried bricks were baked in field ovens located on the site.

During trips to France, the medieval monks of Doberan were inspired by the French gothic cathedrals. They returned to Germany with new ideas and implemented them on site. The Doberan Minster is a unique combination of a high gothic cathedral building, based upon French cathedral style and elements of other Hanseatic League churches as well as influenced by the building code of the Cistercians.

Altar of the church, photo Denise Ames

During the tumultuous and sometimes violent Protestant Reformation beginning in 1517, the Catholic abbey was dissolved. Northern Germany was the seedbed of the Protestant Reformation, while the southern part largely remained Catholic. The former Catholic abbeys were now Lutheran churches. During the devastating Thirty-Year War in Europe (1618-1648), fought mainly on German soil, the abbey experienced extensive looting. After the war several of the abbey buildings were permanently removed.

Tree of life, photo Denise Ames

Fortunately, Doberan Minster escaped largely unscathed during World War II. In the post-war years, extensive renovation has taken place.

Upon entering the structure, I could almost feel the thousands of people who have passed through this sacred building.  A few of the notable features of the church I have highlighted in pictures.

As I exited the minster, I strolled around the gardens and imagined the hustle and bustle of the abbey in the past:  monks toiling at raising crops and growing gardens, making precious wine, tending the farm animals, praying regularly, and chopping enough wood to last through the cold, dark winters. I wondered if they were happy. Did they yearn for a different life or content with what they had?

The remote location of the abbey was purposely selected to ensure a monastic way of life. I can’t help but think that they derived satisfaction in their simple way of life, and their close connection to God and nature in the beautiful surroundings.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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What to See at Sea?

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

A day at sea. After a whirl-wind tour of interesting Baltic Sea ports—Tallinn, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Russia, Helsinki, Finland, and Klaipeda, Lithuania—it was nice to take a breather before our last cruise stop in Warnemunde, Germany. After that, my friend and I were looking forward to continuing our vacation with several leisurely days in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I gave my last cruise ship lecture on Berlin in the morning, so I had the rest of the day to relax and reflect on the cruise so far. Although snagging a gig as a cruise ship lecturer sounds glamourous and adventurous, I found that giving the lectures was quite stressful. The room was darkened and I couldn’t see the audience, so I had to be a solo performer on stage. The last thing that I aspire to be is an on-stage performer. I love to teach in small group settings, and I even like larger groups if I can see their faces! But I was literally in the dark. I didn’t think I would continue with cruise ship lecturing again. At least in the format that was set up for me.

Author, Denise Ames, Berlin lecture on the cruise ship Nautica, Oceania Lines

After another lovely lunch at the trough of the cruise ship’s overflowing buffet, I had the afternoon free. No more rehearsing presentations and making sure my power point slides were in order, but ample time to reflect and see what I could see at sea. After several rounds on the cruise ship “track” to walk off some energy, I settled into a lounge chair on the upper deck facing the gray spray of water spewing upwards as the speeding ship plowed its way to Germany. With pen poised and journal spread out before me, I started to think about my experiences.



I sat there stuck, unable to conjure up any thoughts, feelings, or inspiration from my recent travels. My mind was a blank. Then I glanced out to sea to see if the sea could trigger anything into my jammed-in-place brain. Slowly the mesmerizing waves started to work their magic, a deluge of feelings emerged about my event-packed travels.

I am always struck by the transformational nature of travel. I have found the mere act of traveling is a way of enlivening the senses, making things more colorful and brighter, and stimulating my optic nerves to see things that are new and fascinating. I remembered strolling through the gardens at Peter the Great’s Petershof near St. Petersburg, and seeing the green foliage more vibrant and colorful than I could have imagined. Also, I remember being flooded with a foreboding unease during my tour of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, realizing the great wealth and power concentrated in the ostentatious palace, but knowing the suffering that existed outside its reinforced walls.

Guide in Helsinki, Finland

My capacity for understanding others enlarges as I travel. I observe their simple actions as reflective of their way of life, and a taste of their national character. I remembered noticing immediately the different national character of the people of Helsinki to those of St. Petersburg. This difference was reflected in the way the Finnish tour guide greeted us with opened arms, a friendly smile, and a hardy handshake. The Russian tour guides were all business, unsmiling, and devoid of emotion. A stark contrast.

Travel once again worked its magic with me. As I closed my journal, put away my pen, and rose to feel the fresh sea air sweep across me, I felt the act of travel was inspiring me to be more open, less judgmental, and grateful for the opportunity to enrich my world through the mere act of doing it. A wonderful feeling that I was eager to share with others. 

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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