Topography of Terror

Yesterday, we went to the open-air Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin.  It shows the details of how the Nazi party came to power and how over the course of years, they insidiously instituted laws which ultimately were devastating for certain parts of the population, especially the Jews.  It certainly was a good lesson on how, like the frog in boiling water, an entire population can be lulled into accepting a government which ultimately becomes destructive.

DSCN0757 (Small)     DSCN0758 (Small)

Social Studies Galour!

I thought the Ballinstadt Museum of Emigration in Hamburg was amazing. Listening, reading and viewing the stories of some of the 33 Million Europeans fleeing or emigrating to the “New Land” was powerful. I didn’t know that the Jews were already persecuted in the late 1800’s in Russia and left for a new land of hope. My mother had also used this shipping company to travel to the USA at the age of 19. She was going to visit her brother who had moved to Michigan with the promise of finding employment and did. He was homesick. She never did return to Germany as a resident after that voyage. Now that we are ready to leave Berlin, I am truly in awe at all the history we have experienced here with the wealth of artifacts and quality museums that survived multiple conflicts. Amazing!
• First of all, using an efficient Subway system built in the early 1900’s.
• Walking through ancient history at the Pergamon Museum and Neues Museum and walking on a lifesize reconstructed alter of an ancient Greek city that honoured all the Greek gods and goddesses.
• Walking through the gates of the City of Babylon built in selected pure blue bricks by King Nebuchadnezzar II in 600 BC
• Touching a 700 BC palace wall that was destroyed by an earthquake south of Amman, Jordan
• Viewing the original burial bust of Queen Nefentiti from Egypt
• Checkpoint Charles Museum highlighting stories of brave individuals that reversed the East and West segregation
• Walking through 2711 concrete stelaes monument built on the `death strip` of the fallen Berlin Wall Security area as a Memorial to the Murdered European Jews
• Open air – free- Topagraphy of Terror- Gestoppo, Nazi and Reicht Propoganda Display 1933-1945
• Having German Kaffee and Torte in the most beautiful McDonalds I have ever been in (see picts on Facebook)
• Eating pizza at the 12 Apostles Pizzeria – recommended by the Lonely Planet Guidebook series. We enjoyed the Paulo and Magdelene pizza mit Rocket (that means lettuce!) Unfortunately drinks are almost as expensive as the food, beer being the cheapest. Ordering tap water isn`t very acceptable!

As for the family, today was not one of our best family days. We were rather dysfunctional: poor communication, `are you really catching my point` intense conversations, opinions shared, poor choices made, TO… taking a REALLY long time to get out of the apartment! Frustrations from all angles! I realize this could potentially happen since being together for 24-7 could bring all of that on and it did today. The thought of quitting the trip early definitely crossed my mind. BUT, pressing forward is the only and best solution. Take a deep breath and go back to what the agenda was going to be for the now, shortened day and do it anyway! Conclusion: we operate much better when we are out and about and NOT `hanging` around our apartment too long. There is too much chance to opening up never-ending issues due to idle time. Distractions are good and have a place. As difficult as it is in the thick of it, it does get better once the scenery is changed and the hope for a better tomorrow is always there! Ha.. same as it is at home!
Tomorrow we will make an early start (we better this time) and jump on a train to Prague. Next SS treasure is the Museum of Communism.
PS Thanks for all your encouraging emails and comments on facebook. It sure allows our `real` life not feel so far away! A good thing.

8000 Years in a Day

Our predominant activity of the day was our visits to Berlin’s major museums. These are located on an island in the centre of the city.

We first visited the Pergamon Museum which houses an amazing collection of classical antiquities. In particular, it holds major remnants of the ancient Greek city of Pergamon which was located in modern day Turkey. Germans were instrumental in many significant archeological endeavours in the late 1800s. Pergamon was one of their more important archeological sites. The Pergamon also houses a world-reknowned collection of ancient Islamic art, the famous blue Ishtar Gate of Babylon under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar II, a model of the Tower of Babel, and a copy of the stela bearing the code of King Hammurabi (similar to the Bible’s 10 commandments but predate them).

After our visit to the Pergamon, we went to the Neues Museum which is most famous for housing the bust of Queen Nefertiti. This museum has on display a mind-blowng array of ancient Egyptian artifacts as well as artifacts from ancient to medieval times.

These museums are among the best in the world. There were absolutely fascinating!

After a lunch of oven-baked pizza at a restaurant called 12 Apostel, we took a sight-seeing river cruise on the river Spree with a company called Reederei Bruno Winkler.

Through our visits to the museums and city tour, we experienced about 8000 years of world history today!

Denk Mal

It rained throughout the morning and into the afternoon. By the time it let up and we ventured out, it was about 2:00 p.m. We took the S-Bahn and U-Bahn to the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial. The Gate is, of course, one of the famous images of Berlin. The Holocaust Memorial was remarkable in that from its edge, it appeared to be an expanse of rectangular stones of up to about a metre tall. When walking amongst these stones, however, one quickly becomes surrounded by the stones since they sit on sloping and rolling land. Some stones must be 3 or 4 metres tall. Walking in amongst the stones felt like walking in a labyrinth. In this labyrinth of cold rectangular stones, we quickly lost sight of each other.

We then walked to the GDR Stasi Museum followed by the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. The tales of espionage and invasion of privacy at the Stasi Museum harkened back to a colder and more suspicious time. Checkpoint Charlie Museum’s stories of harrowing escapes and families divided by physical and ideological barriers was moving. Although I saw this museum 20 years ago, this visit affected me quite deeply, given people’s determination to escape oppression and to help complete strangers as well as the will to survive inspite of a world divided.

While Mary-Anna and the kids ate at McDonalds, I enjoyed a donair down the street. We then walked to the Spree River to check out what city tours via boat will be like. We took a combination of the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and Metro bus back to our apartment. We plan to get up earlier tomorrow and visit several museums before we take the boat tour.

My understanding is that ‘denk mal’ is translated to mean ‘reflect’ or ‘think’, which is fitting for the sites we witnessed today. A ‘denkmal’ is a monument which is created to invoke reflection. Today’s excursion to the Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, Stasi Museum, and Checkpoint Charlie Museum provided a good amount of this. We in Canada certainly take our freedom for granted. I’m grateful for the reminders of this today.

Berlin August 5

I cant believe that we have only been gone for 11 days. It has felt like month already! What surprises me the most is that this is only our 3rd country out of around 20. We still have a loooong way to go. And thats not a bad thing. Though I have to admit I’m looking forward to seeing other countries and cultures.

The last week we were visiting my mom’s relatives in Oldenburg. It was amazing getting to know these people who live on another continent and are yet related to me. I loved learning about their work, kids and lives in general. Also their houses were all decorated amazingly, It was like every decoration had a reason and a loving touch instead of decorations just bought to fill up space. Also we heard later that Meme, one of the girls, had said; “The boy, I like him.” She was then asked, “Which boy?” She replied with, “The boy, from the family from Africa.” Hehe she’s cute. I loved everyone and everything there, I hope I can travel back here one day.

Sadly we had to leave, so after waking up at 4:30, a 5 hour train ride and an hour trying to find the right street, we arrived at our apartment, on, as you know, one of the streets with the highest crime rate in Berlin. Yay. Oh well life throws things at you and you have to deal with it, so we will.


Living the Dream

Having left Oldenburg in Holstein at 5:50 this morning, we arrived in Berlin and found our way via city bus to our apartment by noon. A nice place, we have 2 bedrooms, a large bathroom, and a kitchen with all necessary amenities. After a snooze, we went out to explore and to find a meal. Our intent was to see the Brandenburg Gate tonight. We made it, however, about a 1/2 block from our apartment, where we stopped at Michele’s bistro for minestrone and gnocchi. Without question, my sheep-cheese gnocchi was the best restaurant meal I’ve experienced on this trip. Incredible tastes!

During our meal, Michele (German for Michael) informed us that our apartment is located on the street most notorious for criminal activity in all of Berlin. Police sirens are heard at all hours of the day and night. He told us not to walk around on this street after dark. He also shared a lot of helpful tourist information about what to see in Berlin and when to go.

Upon our invitation, Michele joined us at our street-side table and asked us about our travels. When he heard that we had set our jobs aside for 6 months in order to travel with our children, his face lit up. He said he had been a manager in a business for 20 years and had left this job to travel to Italy where he fell in love with a Tuscan girl. They came back to Germany where he established this Italian restaurant, his life’s dream. Unfortunately, his girlfriend left to return to Italy but he continues here in Berlin with the restaurant. The bread he orders for each day arrives at 4:30 each morning. He opens at 5:00 a.m. and closes at 11:00 p.m. He does this 7 days a week. He says that each day is like a holiday for him, now that he is doing what he truly loves.

While we didn’t visit the Brandenburg Gate tonight, our time spent with Michele at his bistro was time very well spent. And, did I mention the gnocchi? 🙂