Reader mail: national parks, Germany, Twin Cities, Ephraim

Readers, thanks for filling the mailbag. Here are excerpts.

We have two winners in the challenge to write about your favorite national park experience in 50 words or less. Both will receive National Geographic books about the National Park Service during this NPS centennial year celebration.

“While in Yellowstone, a bear reared next to our car window,” writes Connie Cramer of Green Bay. “Our dog was so scared he opened his mouth, but no bark would come out. We still laugh thinking about it!”

“We arrived at Mount Rushmore near dusk,” writes Carol Kuhn of Bristol. “Although the park was empty except for a ranger, we approached the ever-watchful glances, welcoming series of pillars heralding state flags. The sun setting behind this magnificent accomplishment – alone with them – hearing the wind around ‘us,’ will ever remain a life-changing experience.”

John and Amy Stevens of Kenosha are hoping to hear from sister-city contacts in Wolfenbuttel, Germany, because of a longstanding relationship between the cities.

“My wife and I have hosted two German students (in the last five years) through this program via the Kenosha Unified School district (Bradford High School),” John writes.

“Since our son and daughter have graduated, it never crossed our minds to host students again – until reading your article. We have an empty room for a student (our son is serving in Germany – U.S. Air Force, and our daughter is attending college at the University of Kentucky).

“We would be happy to host another student if there is a need for a Kenosha host family. Let us know.”

I have connected the Stevens with Hede Horne, president of the Kenosha Sister Cities Association.

Joseph Chojnacki of Gillett initially confused me by writing, “FYI: The Black Forest is located in Baden-Wurttemberg, as far west of Bavaria as one can get and still be in Germany.” I know this because I have been there. Turns out an error was inadvertently inserted during the editing of my column about Germany’s Spreewald and Hainich National Park. blackforest-tourism.com

“Love your weekly travel articles,” writes Althea Mieske of Pleasant Prairie. “Always look forward to reading about great places to visit, but might you consider adding a small picture/icon of Wisconsin, showing the towns mentioned?

“I’m originally from Michigan, so I don’t know many areas of Wisconsin. It would help me learn more about the state.” Thanks for the idea, which is now officially passed on to my editors. The presentation of what I write is in their most capable hands.

When a Madison friend asked for things that both adults and kids would find interesting in the Twin Cities, my first recommendation was Mill City Museum, in the shell of what used to be the world’s biggest flour mill. Very cool. Admission is $12 (less for children, senior citizens). millcitymuseum.org, 612-341-7555

The museum is on the Mississippi River shore and a short walk from the Guthrie Theater, whose architecture is pretty unusual. Besides seeing a show, visitors can take a tour or just roam independently. Guided tours are $17 or $12, depending on type (less for students, seniors). guthrietheater.org, 612-225-6244

Off my radar, because I hadn’t visited in decades, was Minnehaha Regional Park, and I am so glad a Twin Cities friend recently reintroduced me this summer. In the 167-acre riverfront park is a 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, gardens and sculptures. Add paths for walking and bicycling, surrey rentals, disc golf and a seafood restaurant (open April through October). minneapolisparks.org, 612-230-6400

Richard Luther of Joe Joe’s Pizza and Gelato took issue with this phrase in my article about Ephraim restaurants: “none stay open the entire year.” He writes: “We have a pizza restaurant on the north border of Ephraim and we are open all winter except when we go on vacation about three weeks. Chef’s Hat is also open most of the winter. The article makes it sound like we roll up our streets in winter.”

Ephraim was the last dry community in Wisconsin until this year because of referendum results. Five Ephraim restaurants this summer gained a license to sell beer and wine: Joe Joe’s, Chef’s Hat, Good Eggs, Summer Kitchen and Old Post Office Restaurant. Somerset Inn and Suites gained a license for beer sales to overnight guests. ephraim-doorcounty.com, 920-854-4989

“I’m wondering if you have ever covered a destination called Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn,” writes Jane Harrington-Heide of Kenosha. “I came across its name on the Chicago PUREWOW site as a great camping destination.

“This place looks so awesome and cool – full of history. Perhaps you could combine it with a story about Elkhorn as a destination, tying it in with their fabulous flea markets.” wandawega.com, nlpromotionsllc.com/shows.html

The camp was not on my to-go list, Jane, but you can bet it is now!

Same goes to friends of Margaret Gerhard of Fence. “We think you should do an article on her, her moon garden and her place at Full Moon Bog in northern Wisconsin. You can see her on your yardening ruth mother nature. She is an artist and environmentalist. Her garden and her bog are art filled and whimsical. Real destinations for a lot of us.”

Learn more at YouTube.com by searching “yardeningwithmothernature.”

After writing about great Wisconsin beaches, Phyllis Reinert of Two Rivers spoke up on behalf of one more: “You missed the best one between Point Beach and the lakefront on Memorial Drive. It is Neshotah Beach in Two Rivers. Well groomed and has many pluses. When you do an article on bike trails, include the trail that starts in Manitowoc and goes to Point Beach – you can go through the park as part of the trail.”

The six-mile and paved Mariners Trail, which follows Lake Michigan, indeed is a jewel for bikers and runners. marinerstrail.net

“A very nice retired couple stopped in for lunch because of your article,” writes Lisa Buttonow and Steve Fearing, owners of Branding Iron Roadhouse in Lime Ridge, population 162 in Sauk County. “What a nice article. We gave them directions to the candy store, and they were off to explore.”

Their reference was to an article about Amish tourism, especially businesses in the Branding Iron’s rural neighborhood. brandingironrh.com, 608-986-2807

Steve Burek of Trevor puts in a good word for The Village supper club in Pleasant Prairie. “It’s definitely worth a look, especially now that they have opened the upstairs dining room.”

Andrea Brown of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust says flwright.org and 312-994-4000 are the best sources for more information about the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Ill.

Although contact info works in an article about Wright designs and UNESCO World Heritage Site nominations, it is outdated.

“I was very pleased to see your column about polkas. I noticed that the east central part of Wisconsin does sponsor a lot of polka dances, so hopefully that ‘art’ will not fade away for some time yet,” writes Bea Moede of Clintonville.

“But I wondered if you were aware that we have something different in our area, especially the Shawano County area. Churches are offering polka services, where the hymns are done to the polka beat. The services are well attended. Attendees walk out of church all in smiles and friendliness and warmth.

“Gene Lettau from Wittenberg seems to be the ‘ringleader’ for the event and has most Sundays in spring, summer and fall booked. We look forward to and attend the different churches when they have a polka service. Usually the service is followed with a good old-fashioned meal, served by the ladies of the church, with all kinds of salads, casseroles and desserts.”

Bea says she loves to polka and waltz, and that Dick Rogers Orchestra played for her wedding dance 60 years ago in the tiny village of Caroline.

Bob Rader of De Pere expressed appreciation for the “Take Ten” column about things to do in Marshfield but adds that he “had hoped The Highground Veterans Memorial Park would be included as it is about 30 miles from Marshfield. It is an impressive memorial site for Wisconsin Vietnam veterans and is also the National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial.”

He’s right on the mark when describing The Highground as “truly a very sacred space.” thehighground.org, 715-743-4224