©Wolfgang Kaehler

Brunswick, Maine


By Michelle Alten

Bowdoin College

Visiting colleges with dazed teens, who would rather not ponder life beyond diploma day, can be exhausting. But we have found that college tours have taken us to unexpected, enchanting places. On a recent jaunt to the East Coast, we headed to Brunswick, Maine to visit Bowdoin College. At the information session Elmer Moore, Jr., Associate Dean of Admissions pulled an endless stream of chairs from a magic closet to seat the 200 odd visitors who surprised the admissions office that day. When he asked who was an admitted senior, we told him our daughter was, but we explained she would be sneaking in late because she was sitting in on a class. Elmer, a former drama and dance student who had already been working the crowd with his humor and wit, grinned and said, “Okay everyone. When she walks in, I am going to give her a big hug because that is what we do here.” Sure enough, as our daughter surreptitiously inched open the sliding oak door, Elmer greeted her in his booming voice and ran over to give her an exuberant embrace. Dazed for a moment, she caught on, answered questions about her class, then took the last seat — a stuffed wing-backed chair he had saved in the front of the room. The rest of the session blended background on the school with humor and warmth so appealing that made mom and dad wished they were the ones heading to college.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art

While our daughter visited more classes and hung out with students in dorm rooms, we checked out the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. We were particularly struck by the stunning mammoth Assyrian reliefs from a palace at Kalhu in what is today Northern Iraq. The giant reliefs, carved in the 9th century for the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, have beautifully preserved figures as well as cuneiform writing. Part of the museum’s permanent collection, they are marvelous! Also at the gallery was a temporary exhibit of medieval alabaster devotional carvings depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, the Virgin and the saints. Many seem to have long ago lost their pigments so today their figures are a ghostly white. But others, where figures, birds and trees have retained some color, reveal the intimate and approachable nature of the pieces. The museum has a range of art from Greek pottery to baroque paintings to contemporary art. It was well worth the visit.

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum

One of Bowdoin’s famed alumni was Robert E. Peary, the Arctic explorer who, on a wooden sled pulled by huskies, reached the North Pole in 1908. In honor of the famed Bowdoinite, the college has an Arctic Museum with the original sled and photographs of the expedition. During our visit, an exhibit, Canadian Inuit Art from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection, featured Inuit prints and carvings, mostly from the Baker Lake region of the Northwest Territories. Works by famed printmakers like Kenojuak and other artists depict owls, birds and wildlife of the arctic as well as imaginary creatures. Stone carvings portray hunters, bears, shamans, throat singers, and drum dancers. We loved this exhibit which rekindled our interest in Inuit culture of the frozen north and reminded us of a trip we once took to Cape Dorset in the Canadian Arctic.

Richard’s – Brunswick, Maine

Who would have thought that in the quaint town of Brunswick, Maine we would find a German eatery where little Nuremburg bratwurst are as tasty and hearty as those in the old country? Richards, with heavy wood furnishings and beer steins that make it resemble a gasthaus in Germany, serves up moist schnitzel with spatzle and cabbage along with other authentic dishes. A good stash of German beers and wines enhances the illusion that you are on the Rhein or Mosel instead of the Androscoggin River. Wolf savored a Warsteiner Pilsner and I enjoyed a lovely Mosel wine which, as expected, was lighter and slightly dryer than a Riesling. This find delighted Wolf who is a tough critic on German food and beer and who can smell a scrumptious bratwurst or schnitzel from miles away!

Lion’s Pride

Of course traveling with Wolf means we continue to seek out the best beer in town. In Brunswick, we were steered to Lion’s Pride, a pub where countless bottles of beer line a shelf behind the bar. Watching Wolf eye all the choices reminded me of my childhood days behind the ice cream counter at a local creamery in Upstate, New York. But just as I knew, after looking over all my options, it had to be mint chocolate chip, Wolf knew he wanted pale ale and the local Smuttynose Vunderbar Pils would be it. A local in the know touted the fish and chips as the best in town and Wolf wasn’t disappointed. However, I wasn’t to excited about the coconut shrimp which were in a heavy batter. I recommend staying with the fish and chips and local beers.

Gelato Fiasco

It takes chutzpah to sell gelato in Maine during the winter. How on earth do you inveigle someone to eat gelato when a couple feet of snow smother the ground and winds are whipping in from the Atlantic? Well, in April the snow had just melted, but we tried the almond and the espresso chip gelato. They were both good enough to rival the gelato in Florence. The portions, as usual in America, were not like the little golf ball-sized scoops in Italy, so we found the “treat” size plenty to share for two.

Frontier Cafe

An old mill perches like a watch dog above a damn and rapids of the Androscoggin River. Inside the colossal brick building, the Frontier Cafe provides a coffee or lunch stop for Bowdoin students, who cluster around the long wood tables with their laptops, and a place for locals to enjoy fiddle music and a monte cristo sandwich or Caesar salad. “You have to try those whoopee pies,” a student told me as I eyed the rich treats ranging in flavors from espresso to double chocolate. “They’re amazing — a Maine specialty.” I ordered a vegan pea soup and a toasted tomato mozzarella sandwich, then gave in and had one to the scrumptious whoopee pies. It was chocolaty without being overly sweet. This was such a great stop we went there a couple times during our visit.

The Frontier also has a small movie theater where it shows a variety of films and documentaries. A selection of wine and beer make it a fun hangout in the evenings as well.

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