How I Spent My Summer…



It’s a classic essay task for grade-school pupils at the beginning of the new school year in the days of yore. We’d sit and gnaw at our pencils wondering how we spent those seemingly long days and weeks, what was special about them, what was worth remembering and writing about. A very short version could be found on a sign I espied in a charming German village.


“Ich liebe den Sommer“ (I love summer).


Biking in this happy season is especially delightful.  Folks are out and about and there are always unexpected adventures, new views, new ideas and interesting encounters. Sometimes such encounters can be hazardous, the unexpected can be a car that unwittingly grazes you but, no, we won’t write about that.  Summer encourages meandering and dining al fresco, “hanging” in every available outdoor  area, however tight and noisy. Restaurant doors are wide open, so easy to peer in and take pictures without having to ask permission. Andersonville and Lincoln Square are chock-full of friendly joints that create charming green bowers, strings of lights and lampions and an all-around cheerful and welcoming ambiente.  So I joined the meanderers in some of their (and my) favorite haunts to enjoy their jolly company and the summer fare.


Judy at The Little Bad Wolf on Bryn Mawr and Clark Streets.

My friend Judy and I like this place, especially their roasted brussel sprouts. It’s also cozy inside when the “hawk flies.” We meet here to discuss weighty and not so weighty matters. It is always delightful.


Outdoors at Kiko’s Meat Market and Restaurant in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

I buy my bread and home-made yoghurt here but occasionally, when I am not concerned about “ma ligne”, I partake of their substantial meat entrees. It’s a popular neighborhood go-to, a fine Croatian watering hole.


Sweet temptations at Selmarie on Lincoln Square Plaza.

Cheerful summer lampions at Selmarie.

It is a lovely hangout in all seasons, but particularly pleasant in mild weather. Kids are playing in the square, jumping to the music of the many buskers that seem to come directly from their sessions at the Old Town School of Music. Dogs are sniffing around, and old and young folks mingle in convivial neighborhood gossip.

Circling back to Andersonville’s main drag, busy Clark Street, I tethered my bicycle and spent an afternoon crawling (as they say) from one fave to another.  Over time I have eaten and drunk in each of these pleasant locales, their owners or managers have become great acquaintances and friendly neighbors.


The grand old standby, Simon’s Tavern.

It’s been in this place since 1934 and considered one of the best “Old School” bars in Chicago.  Besides being a restaurant, it is also a favorite venue for country and folk music.


Wine Bar – Appellation – Pastoral.  A superlative addition to Clark Street’s eateries.

I particularly like to sit at their bar, have a sprightly rose and taste one of their delicious small plates.


Octavio Cantina and Kitchen.

A recent and already most popular newcomer to the community. Friends and I had some fabulous tacos and interesting horchata drinks on a hot afternoon and were very well pleased with the experience.


Hamburger Mary’s Brew and Grill highly original interior.

Marilyn Monroe watches over the happy customers at Mary’s Brew and Grill.

Besides the original interior, they serve great burgers and my granddaughters love going there. The bills are presented in a high-heeled sparkly shoe.  Pretty cute to my mind.


First Slice Café and Restaurant.

Their fruit tarts are sublime. Try the balsamic vinegar raspberry pie, it’s a perfect combination.


Andie’s Café Mediterraneo.

I saved the best for my last visit or should I say, my many visits. Whenever I long for the tastes and smells of the Near East I head to Andies for mezze and a shot of Arak. The family had a second restaurant, also called Andies, on the corner of Montrose and Greenview. When I lived in Lakeview and was jogging every afternoon I passed by Andies and fell in love with the place. Its former manager, Nimrod, brother of the founder and owner, Andie, would sit by the window, smoking black cigarettes and smile at the bypassers.  We became fast friends and many a party in my place on Greenview was catered by Andie’s.  That location is closed now, hopefully to reopen in some similar guise.

Young Andie who now manages the restaurant on Clark Street assured me it would revive.


Andie Tamras, manager of Andies on Clark Street.

Recently we had a long chat about his family. The Tamras are Assyrians from Iraq who came to the United States in the late sixties. They feel strongly about their ancient culture and Near Eastern traditions, sentiments that are also reflected in their original first names;

Andie is short for Enkido. the young hero from the Gilgamesh epic, Nimrod was a famous biblical figure. In the good book he is described as the son of Cush, grandson of Ham and “a mighty one in the earth.” Well, he was a mighty one, lording over the Lakeview restaurant. He had many friends and some called him the honorable mayor of Greenview. Young Andie’s brother is Gil, short for Gilgamesh.

So, yes, Andie’s Café is bit of Near East not far from where I live now. This is most comforting indeed.


The highlight of my summer was a phenomenal family reunion in Bavaria’s picture- book- beautiful alpine upland  around Lake Chiemsee.


Chiemsee (Lake Chiemsee) and its sublime mountain backdrop.

My brother, Wilhelm-Christoph, and sister-in-law, Sabine, most generously suggested that we celebrate his and my “big” birthdays (his in September and mine in July) at a festive gathering of the family clan in their flower-bedecked 18th century farmhouse.


The wonderful house, called “Duke in the Field.”

They had also made wonderful plans to enjoy art, landscape, and gastronomic delights galore in the surrounding countryside. Much international emailing and programming took place over the past six months before some thirty-five clan members from Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Napoli, Chartres and, of course, Chicago, assembled at a lovely old Gasthaus, Der Alte Wirt, ( Ye Olde Inn-Keeper) with its beergarden, genuine Bavarian zither and accordion music and spreading chestnut trees.  Not to forget it’s outstanding mushroom dumplings and wild boar ragout and, naturellement, the local beer.


Sabine, our hostess with the mostest.

Gossipping cousins.

Smiling Venetian great-nephew.

My niece and I, not at the Olde Innkeeper, but in the remains of a Roman “House of Joys”  240 A.D.

All of us gathered the following day to catch the boat to the famed Schloss Herrenchiemsee (Ludwig II’s fantastic late 19th century version of Versailles) on the Herreninsel  – an island in Lake Chiemsee.


My brother Wilhelm-Christoph, art and celebrated architecture expert. He was just honored by the Bavarian State with a prize for his involvement in and excellent reportages on art and architecture.  We are very proud of him.

He led us with deep knowledge and great charm, through an exhibit of eight major contemporary artists in the unfinished part of the castle. Raw brickwalls and structures are the perfect backdrop  for the amazing sculpture by Wolfgang Laib “Ohne Anfang und ohne Ende”


Wolfgang Laib, Ohne Anfang und ohne Ende (no beginning, no end).

“The work consists of two tiered beeswax-sculptures measuring more than four metres high and wide, set directly on the floor. They evoke the human desire to build upwards into the heavens….. Laib’s work became known worldwide for his vibrant installation of pollen. In 2013 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City presented his largest pollen piece in the central atrium of the museum.”

I was also taken with Dan Flavin’ s green fluorescent light fitxure.


Dan Flavin’s work “can be understood in our secular age as a response to much older artworks, choir screens, demarcating sacred spaces….”

Wilhelm comments on Arnulf Rainer’s work with crosses.

We crossed the lake to the smaller “fraueninsel” (Island of the Women) to a yet another old inn, Under the Linden Tree, before some of us, especially the Chicago contingent, asked for an afternoon siesta.


Church of Our Lady of the Island of the Women.

The magical weekend ended in a grand, heartwarming late afternoon and evening at Sabine’s and Wihelm’s house, in their garden and pergola. The weather was perfect, if a bit on the warm side, the buffet outstanding, and the harmonious togetherness of La Famiglia truly blissful.

I can still hear the sweet rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime”  by one of my  sisters-in-law, Gabriela, as her husband (my second brother, Albrecht) accompanied her on the guitar. Should I add that all above us was a magnificent, starry night?


Gershwin’s “Summertime…..”


To dispel the inevitable wistful good-bye mood, most everyone had left, my daughter, Julie, and I went for a quiet walk in the gloaming of our last evening.  We headed back to Ye Olde Innkeeper, passing by hidden, reed-lined small lakes, crossing a romantic wooden bridge and marveling at the fruit-laden apple and plum trees in the village.  We shared our feelings of gratitude and happiness for this perfect family gathering in the realm of the fairy-tale king and our particular affection for our host and hostess. We shall be back.


Last sunrays on the peaceful lake.

Fruitladen apple tree in Seeon village.

Water lilies.

May the bridge bring us back.