Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mad Town

We just returned from a loooong road trip on which a good time was had by one and all. One of the places we visited was Madison, Wisconsin where our daughter(Frau Magister) is attending the University of Wisconsin. Madison is a relatively small city, 233,000 in the 2010 census. It is the state capitol and the home of the U of Wisconsin. It is pretty, on the shores of two lakes, Mendota and Monona with three other lakes in the immediate vicinity.

The state capitol building has four streets that surround it and then other streets run out from these four, somewhat like spokes.

A farmer's market is held every Saturday morning on the street surrounding the capitol.One can find a great variety of things at this market, cheese of course and venison and Wisconsin maple syrup and lots more.

I got a chuckle out of the vendor below. FIBs is Wisconsinese for " Illinois Bastards", not "Fine Italian Beef and Sausage".

One of the streets, State Street, has been turned into a pedestrian mall and runs from the Capitol to the University campus, a mile or so away. State is lined with restaurants, shops, bars and taverns and is a fun stroll. On campus the Union has a Ratskeller with a terrace on the shore of Lake Mendota. Very pleasant to get a brat and beverage of your choice, grab a table in the shade and relax.

There was an Army camp located in Madison begun at the time of the Civil War, called Camp Randall. All that is now left of the site is the UW football stadium, called appropriately, Camp Randall. The farthest north Confederate cemetery is in Madison. A group of POWs was sent to Camp Randall for internment following their surrender on an island in the Mississippi River. They were in poor condition on capture and many of them died at Camp Randall. The photos below show two of the graves and a plaque telling the history.

Wisconsin has a long history of political activity and protest. This past spring they had the biggest protests they have had since the Vietnam War. It was over funding of benefits for public employees and unionization of public employees. Protesting there is made easier for the students because of the short distance from campus to the Capitol down the State Street pedestrian mall. Frau Magister and her husband were able to observe it all, even singing along with Jesse Jackson on “We shall overcome”. Nice to know Jesse has something to occupy his time. We visited the Capitol about noon, and the daily protest was just getting going. About 100 people were in the rotunda, complete with song books and banners. Took me back to days of yore and my misspent youth. The opening photo shows some protesters on the steps to the capitol; below are the noon protesters in the rotunda.

A word on the Wisconsin Badger. I had always thought that the Badger was nothing more than the UW mascot. Not so. The badger is a symbol for the whole state. Early settlers were lead miners and dug burrows to live in to survive the winter, and so were nicknamed “badgers.” Badgers are present in the Capitol building and on the head of the chick on top of the building. Beats the muskrat on Donald Trump's head.

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