Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mummies invade Cincinnati

We left home at 6:30 am to drive to Cincinnati to see the Mummies of the World Exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center then on to the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo.  We arrived in Georgetown, Kentucky to pick up Ian and Emily around 9 am then drove up I-75 to Cincinnati. We were pleased to find gasoline for $3.25 in Georgetown which beats the best price around home at $3.59.
We arrived at the Museum Center around 10 and had a little time since our pre-purchased tickets for the mummy exhibit were for 10:45.  We were happy that we had purchased our tickets in advance.  Not only did we avoid standing in a line to buy tickets but we got the tickets at nearly half price using our museum membership.  Since we had some time, we visited a small but informative exhibit on the last passenger pigeon, Martha, who died at the Cincinnati Zoo one hundred years ago (1914) making the species extinct.  It was interesting to learn the factors that caused the birds, once so plentiful that flocks would black out the sky, became extinct in such a short time.
The Mummies of the World Exhibit was outstanding.  Since photos were not permitted, promotional images are linked in this blog entry.  The exhibit emphasized to visitors that the mummies on display are the remains of humans and should be treated with respect.  Most people think of Egypt when they think of mummies and the ancient Egyptians were certainly skilled in preserving the remains of their rulers and aristocracy.  However, mummies can be found in many areas of the world produced by intentional mummification processes or through natural effects of climatic conditions.  Displays at the exhibit included actual mummies from Egypt, South America, and even Germany and Hungary.  Once mummy on display was preserved in 1994 at the University of Maryland in Project MUMAB.  A collaboration of scientists used materials, tools and techniques from ancient Egypt to preserve a donated body as a modern mummy.  We also saw the mummies of a baron, baroness and their infant child from Vac, Hungary.  The bodies of the Orlovits family were placed in a family crypt in the early 1800s.  The movement of cool air through the crypt cause the bodies of the three family members to be well preserved to this day.
In a macabre way, it was fascinating to learn that mummies were so common in Egypt that they were sometimes burned as fuel in locomotives or home furnaces.  Visitors to Egypt could purchase a mummified human hand or foot as a souvenir.  Pulverized mummy bodies were sold to artists as a pigment in paint making a color called “mummy brown”.  Entire mummies were sold and used at “unwrapping parties” where the mummy was taken apart at dinner by the guests. 
Another exhibit covered shrunken heads that were made among certain South American tribes of indigenous people.  Some cultures collected and prepared the heads of enemies to wear in battle and as part of ceremonial rituals.  More recently, these Indians shrunk heads for sale to tourists using traditional techniques.
The exhibit included mummies from the mountains of South America and arctic regions of the world that were preserved by a natural freeze drying process due to the low temperatures and humidity of polar or mountainous regions. 
By noon, we were all hungry so we left the museum for nearby Findlay Market where we knew we could find something good for lunch.  The market was busy, as it is on many weekends, but just before Christmas, it was especially busy.  After a walk through the market, we settled on Aretis Gyros.  We were amazed at the size and quality of their gyro sandwiches, especially at the $5.50 price.  Since there was no place to sit at the busy market, we ate our gyros standing at an exit near the Kroeger and Sons Meats.  While we were there, we purchased 8 sausages made by Kroegers to take home.  Fortunately, we had a cooler and ice packs in the car.  On our way out we stopped at Dojo Gelato for dessert.  Ian & Emily had a split of Rum Egg Nog and Dutch Chocolate while I opted for just the Rum Egg Nog.  Mary had a ginger cookie from a nearby booth.  We all enjoyed our lunch then drove on to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Since the zoo doesn’t get busy this time of year until after dark, we had no problem finding a nearby parking spot on the street and walked a short distance to the zoo entrance where our membership got in free and half priced tickets for Ian & Emily.  We saw the five Maasai giraffes including the youngster that is now about a year old and the two toed sloth that is always napping when we are there.  Since the weather was very nice for mid-December in Cincinnati, we saw many of the animals outside.  Mary was pleased that the red pandas were actively feeding on some fresh bamboo that was placed in their enclosure.  
Sarah joined us at the zoo after she got off work and walked around through the insect, cat and nocturnal animals houses.  We sat by Swan Lake for the first 15 minutes of the light and music show that was even better than in previous years.  The light show starts at 5 pm after the sun has set enough to make the light show more visible.  We left the zoo about 5:15 and headed for dinner.  We were happy that we were leaving the zoo and not just arriving since there was a flood of visitors coming into the zoo as we were leaving.
Sarah had made reservations at the German restaurant Mecklenburg Gardens which is a short distance from the zoo.  Sarah was waiting on us when we arrived after finding a parking spot on the street.  Mecklenburg Gardens is a 150 year old Cincinnati biergarten on University Avenue that serves authentic German food and has a selection of good German beer on tap.  We enjoyed kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and warm rye bread while we surveys the menu choices.  Ian had goulash with a Dunkel Hefeweisen, Mary had spaetzle with vegetables and grilled chicken, Emily had a weiner schnitzel with rotekraut, Sarah had a sauerbraten sandwich and I had a chicken schnitzel sandwich.  We shared a cream puff and apple strudel for dessert.  Everyone was pleased with their meal and we were impressed at the good value of our meal.  After leaving the restaurant we gave Sarah some of the grapefruit that we brought and started driving back. 
We dropped Ian and Emily off at their Georgetown home around 8:30 and arrived back home by 10:30.  Since our day started before 6 am, we were both very tired and slept well.