Monday, August 24, 2009

German Adventure Day 7: Friday, July 24th

We spent all day looking around Berlin, me hobbling around after my foot went numb up to the knee the night before. I woke up in the morning with my foot swelled up pretty bad, but I was determined to not let it stop me! Of course, now that I'm in a walking cast trying to chase after first graders, I wish that I has taken it easy, but come ON! I couldn't sit on my butt during the trip of a lifetime!!

We started off going to see Checkpoint Charlie, the most well-known checkpoint between East and West Berlin when Germany was divided. The Checkpoint Charlie museum was very interesting, I would highly recommend going here to read about how the museum got stared by a group of very committed people. It was fascinating to see exhibitions about the creative (and sometimes life-threatening) methods people came up with to sneak across the border into West Berlin. A few of those stories can be read here.


Parts of the wall are still standing, and we got some great shots:

We also came across a Holocaust Memorial that has been erected in Berlin.

It was very deceptive – it does not seem that big from the outside, but when I got to the middle of it, the weight of all that tall cement hung on my heart.

The cement blocks seem endless, making one think of the endless number of people affected by the Holocaust.

We visited the Brandenburg Gate:

I'm in there somewhere.....
I can tell you that it's a VERY sturdy structure!!

One of the last things we did that day was visit Museum Island, a collection of archaeological museums that is still being rebuilt after losing over 70% in the second World War.

A person could have easily spent an entire day or more visiting all the musems, but since time was limited we only went to the Pergamom, which holds three distinct collections: Classical Antiquities, Ancient Near East, and Islamic Art. Mike grabbed the camera and took a LOT of pictures, unfortunately he didn't record what everything was. Here are the pictures of things I can identify:

I enjoyed Berlin, but it reminded me of pretty much any big city in America....large and crowded! The kind of place I like to visit but would NOT want to live!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

German Side Adventure: Ich Liebe Es! (I'm Lovin' It!)

I was surprised to find one of my favorite childhood character, The Hamburgler, outside a McDonald's in Germany. How often do you see these nowadays??

If you look closely in this picture, you can see that I couldn't fit all the way into the car. It's been awhile since I tried to fit in one of those!!

Mike also got a picture of my ungraceful attempt at getting out...

Friday, August 14, 2009

German Adventure Day 6: Thursday, July 23rd

We took a side trip to Berlin with Nils and his father Wolfgang, traveling by train. The train ride was a nice way to see some more of Germany, although I'm sure it would have been quite boring to someone who has seen it before. First we went to Potsdam, a short trip from Berlin, and visited the Sanssouci, palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. In the slide show below, you can see the extravagant, Rococo styling - this guy went all out!!

We also visited a windmill, which still grinds grain - one of the few places in the world that still does this. We got to meet the miller, and we also took some really cool pictures.

I think Wolfgang prefers to be behind the camera rather than in front of it!

Wolfgang went across the street and took these pictures; I love them:

After Potsdam, we went back to Berlin and took a boat trip:

After dinner, we walked around Berlin and saw some of the sights. Mike got ahold of the camera and decided to take pictures of me...a lot of them.

Remember back in July when I wrote about photographer-itis, the lack of pictures of myself in my posts? I think Mike took matters into his own hands.
"Okay, you can stop taking my picture now..."


The last cool thing I want to show you is the pictures Mike took of a church in Berlin. Most of the church was destroyed during World War II, but part of it was left standing, and a new, modernistic tower was built right next to the remains.

I also love this picture because it shows Wolfgang and I eating my newfound love: gelato!!

I apologize for the long gaps between postings - school has started!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

German Adventure Day 5: Wednesday, July 22nd

One of the things I really wanted to do while in Germany was visit a concentration camp. The German people are very open about The Holocaust and in my experience are eager to share and discuss about that dark time in their history in hopes that it will never happen again.

The Hampes decided to take us to a site that is about an hour away from Hamburg, but due to differences in pronunciation, it was not until we were almost that that I realized that we were going to Bergen-Belsen, the camp where Anne Frank was held and died, along with everyone in her family except her father.

I wasn't sure what to expect upon our arrival, and even now I'm not sure if I can describe what is was like to be there. As soon as I walked through the gates, I felt the weight of solemnity and significance that this place holds.

One of the things that struck me the most was the stark beauty of the land, which is in direct contrast to the evil purpose for which it was used.

If you click on the above picture, you will see the remains of one of the barracks, barely visible behind the crude wooden fence. All of the barracks have been removed.

There was a beautiful exhibition hall that provided an excellent timeline of the sad history of Bergen-Belsen. In addition to being a Nazi concentration camp, the Third Reich also used the camp as an internment place for Russian POWs. Many pictures survive from that time, along with personal accounts that paint a gruesome picture of what life was like for the prisoners. Because the Russians were the enemy, Hitler ordered that they not be treated according to the Geneva Convention guidelines. Reading about what life was like for those human beings was heart-rending. All over the exhibition hall there were televisions that featured short testimonies from persons imprisoned or otherwise associated with Bergen-Belsen. I am so grateful that their stories were preserved. More information about the exhibition hall can be found here.

In this picture you can see a water basin. Although it was not intended for drinking, people were forced by lack of clean supplies to drink the filthy water in the days leading up to liberation. This lead to certain death from disease. Despondent prisoners also drowned themselves in the water.

Mass graves such as this one were numerous - they hold bodies of persons that died only after the camp was liberated. Each grave held about 1000 people, and I'd say there were about 15 of them. Before liberation, bodies were disposed of by burning.

There were memorials from many relgious groups and nations:

I almost lost it when I saw the memorial below. There were gravestrones erected in memory of several people, but they are symbolic only; the bodies of the people have been lost.

Anne Frank has held a special place in my heart ever since reading her diary as a little girl, and I read many more books written about her in my teenage years. As a youngster, it was through her that I first realized that evil existed in this world, and as a young adult, it was through her that I learned that people can rise above evil and live a positive life, no matter what the circumstances.

A monument from the Nation of Israel, with appropriate and poignant words. Click to read.

Although visiting Bergen-Belsen was not “fun,” it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am grateful to the German people who erected the museum and memorial in hopes that one of the darkest events in history not be repeated.