Reader mail: River cruises, Holyland churches,

st-marysTime to lighten the reader mailbag – thanks for taking the time to write with your questions, ideas, critiques and praise about destinations close to home and abroad.

I certainly am not the only one whose Danube River cruise was interrupted by flooding. Kathy Thomas of Pleasant Prairie says her trip was rescheduled from summer to autumn because of high water. “I had a very similar experience to yours,” she writes. “I expected a more scenic cruise but still totally enjoyed the trip.”

She is a fan of Viking Cruises who says “they do an amazing job at treating their guests like royalty” and wants to take a Scandinavian trip next. “I know Viking has a new ship, but that’s way out of our price range.”

I have my eye on the Hurtigruten, which sails passengers and freight between Bergen and Kirkenes, Norway. The fleet’s history dates back to 1893. hurtigruten.com

Ron Tank of Appleton recommends cruising in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate from Mainz to Koblenz. “It is only one day but very picturesque,” he writes.

“I have experienced the problems with high water and changing boats,” Ron adds. “Not all that much of a problem until you discover not all of your luggage was transferred.” He also knows what it’s like to board a bus instead of a boat because of low water levels, “so river cruises are weather dependent but a great way to see Europe on beautiful, sunny days.”

Liz Werwie of Kenosha wants ideas for lodging 13 women during a summer getaway to Milwaukee. “We are looking to stay in the downtown/Third Ward area,” she writes, and would “enjoy staying in a larger home/condo rental.”

Check options on Airbnb.com and VRBO.com. Both online networks are for private homeowners who want to rent all or a part of their property. Read consumer reviews, take a close look at photos, descriptions and rates (which often include a security deposit and cleanup fee). Maybe a visit to a listing that interests you is possible before committing to a rental.

Finding something appropriate for this size of group at the desired time and location will be a challenge. Consider negotiating a group rate at the Hilton Garden Inn, in a historic building at 611 N. Broadway St., within a yell of the Third Ward’s boutiques and nightlife. hiltongardeninnmilwaukeedowntown.com, 414-271-6611

Schuster Mansion Bed and Breakfast, 3209 W. Wells St., offers an economy rate for just lodging and parking – no breakfast or concierge service. It is a short drive from downtown attractions. schustermansion.com, 414-342-3210

Regardless of where these ladies land, I recommend visiting Splash Studio: A Painting Bar, 184 N. Broadway St., for three hours of cocktails and painting under the step-by-step guidance of a local artist. Art talent not necessary. splashmilwaukee.com, 414-882-7621

Denny Regele of Marshfield notes that an overnight at The Edgewater, 1001 Wisconsin Place, Madison, goes for as little as $79 per night through April 30 at TravelZoo.com. When I wrote about the reopening of this revamped hotel, rates started at $199, which Denny considers excessive.

“Hope they can stay affordable beyond April 30 for the sake of average people, and maybe theirs too,” Denny writes.

Judy Aubey sent photos of granddaughter Julia at Tom “Dr. Evermor” Every’s sculpture park (worldofevermor.com) on U.S. 12 between Sauk City and Baraboo, plus a note that “I couldn’t believe you missed (or dismissed)” it from the article about rural sculpture parks.

Wisconsin is lucky to have so many interesting rural art parks. Dr. Evermor had the spotlight a few months ago, in my column about recycled art, and also showed up in a subsequent reader mailbag.

Regarding sausage in Nuremberg, Germany, Michael Schupo of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., takes issue with a reference to the city as “Nuermberg” (which was a typo). He was raised 30 miles north, in Bamberg, where he worked at the long-respected Schlenkerla Restaurant and Smoke Beer Brewery (schlenkerla.de).

The correct spelling is Nürnberg or Nuernberg, Michael notes. “Nuremberg” is the Associated Press stylebook preference.

“I traveled to Nuremberg frequently in the 1970s and loved the brat sandwiches from the street vendors,” writes Cindy Dailey of Chicago. Today she finds them in the fresh meat section of Trader Joe’s. “Now, between your article and TJ’s, my friends have to believe that real brats are only as big as your finger. Thank you.”

Betty Marquardt of De Pere was surprised to see a photo of her sledding accompany my column about a winter Wisconsin Historical Museum exhibit. She says her uncle took the picture and submitted it for use on a state calendar.

Interest in Wisconsin’s Holyland remains passionate. Mary Downs of Appleton says the area reminds her of Germany’s Bavaria; here is a poem that she wrote about the area in 1993.

Wisconsin’s Holyland

I want to trace the roller-coaster hills
on double H off highway fifty-five,
and jaunt to Marytown, then climb until
I revel in that view; pause to revive.
invade the stillness of the church now faint
with incense, windows stained in memory of
some faded relatives with names most quaint,
the Infant and the statues placed with love.

Then ride on down to other holy towns –
Saint Anna, Johnsburg, Jericho, Saint Cloud.
Their pride: the Old World churches, marking bounds –
a manna which staunch settlers’ faith endowed.

I end the trek on steep Mount Calvary;
descend, give thanks for blessings of the free.

Remember, free downloads of the booklet “Breaking Bread in the Holyland” are available at travelcalumet.com/resources/maps-and-guides/. The guide summarizes the churches, supper clubs and history of the area.

“My favorite is Idlewile in St. Cloud,” writes Mike Berger of Manitowoc, regarding the area’s supper clubs. “A bit worn but their food is great. Their Friday fish fry is outstanding, with the best perch I’ve had in decades.”

“I grew up in Marytown and think that church is just as – or more – beautiful than many I’ve seen in Europe,” writes Eileen Hammer Housfeld of Pleasant Hill, Calif. She was referring to Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church. To University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh graduates, Eileen is legendary: she was one of the journalism program’s first graduates in 1969.

“By the way, a tidbit about the church,” she offers. “If you notice the side altars, there is a Greek ‘Omega’ above St. Joseph on the left and a Greek ‘Alpha’ above St. Mary on the right.

“My mother, Jane Hammer, told me that originally those altars were the other way around (as they are in the Greek alphabet) and alluding to Revelations 22:13: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’”

She presumes the altars were removed during a major cleaning around 1949 and then returned backwards. I was invited to photograph this rural church right after Christmas last year, and it was stunning.

“Did you write or are you planning to publish an in-depth history about this area,” asks Louise Andrietsch of Elkhart Lake.

The closest I’ll come to that, for now, is a statewide supper club cookbook that includes the Holyland. The manuscript is finished, and I expect a 2015 release from Globe Pequot Press. Stay tuned.