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Monthly Archives: June 2011

I like to move it, move it!!

Author: Kendal

When we were on the train to Dresden from Berlin we were sitting around a table, on one side was Mom and Keegan and the other side was me and the bags. On the other side of the aisle and right next to me at a different table was Dad.

Round one

This one little girl/boy (I say girl/boy because none of us knew if it was a girl or a boy but we thought it was very cute) that was about 4 years-old was walking right past Dad to the bathroom and her/his dad was right behind her/him. Then my dad did this little wave at her/him with a ‘aren’t you cute’ face, and the girl/boy did it right back to him with a ‘I know I’m cute’ face. Then out of nowhere she/he reaches towards my dad, specifically at his neck and starts trying to tickle him! Her/his dad doesn’t do anything at first and kind of watches it, while my dad is making a panicked face and is having a hard time breathing. My mom and I are laughing so hard, as are most of the people who are watching (Keegan was asleep). So the kids dad then takes him/her to the bathroom and my dad is able to breathe again.

Round Two

When my dad starts to settle down and breathe again, she/he comes back and runs straight towards him with a ‘you are so much fun to play with’ smile. She/he stops right in front of my dad and smiles a huge smile, (her/his dad is still in the bathroom making his way slowly to her/him), while my dad gives him/her the ‘please don’t hurt me little girl/boy’ smile back, and then she/he lunges at him. More forcefully than the last time! My mother and I, the bad people we are, are laughing so hard that we are crying! And Dad can only lean away, stretching his neck back, and look terrified while she/he is having the time of her/his life trying to stick his/her fingers into my dad’s neck to tickle him. The father then turns up about 2-3 min later and takes him/her away.  Anyone who was watching is in tears by now.

Round Three

As we are getting our stuff together at the end of our trip, the little girl/boy is leaving and walks right past us. At that moment we were explaining what happened to Keegan and were all laughing, except Dad. She/he then comes right up to me and got really close to my face and says…”I like to move it, move it” (she/he must have seen the Madagascar movie where they play that song). I then smile and laugh a little.  Seeing that she/he got a response from me she looks at the rest of the family and says louder “I like to move it move it!”  We all laugh at how cute she/he is.  Then right before she/he walks out the door of the train she/he screams ” I LIKE TO MOVE IT, MOVE IT!!”  

Friends of the victim (my dad)

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Germany

 

Dresden, Germany

Author: Steve

Cheers to “Another” Beautiful City in Germany!!

While we were in our apartment in Berlin the person we were renting our apartment from in Dresden emailed and told us it might be difficult to get to the apartment due to a huge festival in their town. Jurgen was kind enough to offer to pick us up from the train station (which is a very huge deal for us not to have to navigate with our backpacks in tow).  He gave us a nice driving tour of the city before we headed to the apartment.  As soon as we got out of the car we noticed immediately that our apartment is on a large hillside overlooking the Elbe River (I thought as I looked up the hill that I’m sure the view is going to be nice but getting our backpacks up is going to be a bear).  Then I heard Keegan say, “Hey, why don’t we use that thing”, pointing over at what looked like some sort of lift.  Jurgen told us that was its purpose so we loaded our backpacks and up they went. They use this lift for anything heavy like luggage, groceries, furniture, etc., anything you don’t want to haul up in you hands or on your back. It was very cool.

Backpacks up the lift to our apartment

When we got up to the house we received another surprise, the 3-story apartment building we are staying in is an official landmark of Dresden – Villa Zwintscher.  It was built in 1865 and was the residence of the famous local artist Oskar Zwintscher who lived in the house at the beginning of last century.  It’s a very clean, unique and ornate building inside and out. Gardens line the outer rim of the building with everything from flowers, fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens. Our accommodations are on the top floor (which is actually the attic) it has 1 full bathroom, 1 very spacious living/kitchen area and 3 separate bedrooms. The apartment provides all you need for your modern-day comforts but also provides you with that great European Old World charm. As we suspected the views are beautiful.

Villa Zwintscher - apartment in Dresden, Germany

View from the living area

Villa Zwintscher - This is in front foyer

As soon as we unpacked our backpacks and got situated we headed straight down to the Elbhangfest. Jurgen had mentioned it to us that it was worth going and since this was the last day we should head over as soon as we could.  It was only a block from our apartment. I wasn’t too excited about going, I don’t know why but I just didn’t think it was going to be that great and we had just spent the day travelling.  Wow, was I wrong!  This was the point I realized that this town is simply a storybook city – a place where you imagine Mr. Disney got a lot of his ideas (once I have time to get the flicker page running we’re hoping to share some nice video). The buildings here date back to the 1800’s and are all well taken care of – there is an obvious sense of pride that the people of Dresden have for their wonderful city. Kendal and I were able to check out a very young and up-and-coming band here from Germany called Café Jazz – they were awesome!!  Every direction we turned had some rich authentic European flare and comfort.  One week is not enough to really visit this town, we could all easily stay in Dresden for quite some time.  But unfortunately this city also has one of the most horrific stories ever imagined, a horrendous occurrence brought on by the evil of war and that will never, ever be forgotten…

Frauenkirche - Pictures just don't do this massive rebuild monument/church justice

Massive and beautifully restored

The old and the new

In the city of Dresden

NOTE: Historical portion of my blog, some may want to skip.

What I have read about this tragedy is nothing less than extremely tragic and unbelievable and how they have been able to rebuild their city (as I can now see it first hand) after the devastation they endured towards the end of WWII is even more unbelievable.

Three months prior to the end of WWII when the Allied Forces seemed to have reduced their risks substantially and things seemed in-hand the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the USAAF (Unites States Army Air Force) executed a controversial firestorm raid on the city of Dresden.  A firestorm was achieved by dropping incendiary bombs, filled with highly combustible chemicals such as magnesium, phosphorus or petroleum jelly (napalm) in clusters over a specific target. With the unity of all these bombs, and after the area caught fire, the air above the bombed area become extremely hot and rose rapidly. The cold air then rushed in at ground level from the outside at a power so great that people were sucked into the fire.  I can’t even fathom the terror and it didn’t just last a few hours – it went on for 2-3 days.  On February 13, 1945, 773 RAF bombers bombed Dresden and during the next two days the USAAF sent over another 527 bombers to continue the attack. Overall estimates are that these bombers dropped as many as 650,000 incendiaries, together with 8,000 lb. high-explosive bombs and hundreds of 4,000-pounders. More than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices were dropped on the city of Dresden. And even though the estimates (25,000 to 700,000) of how many civilians were actually killed have not been agreed upon – it does seem like most agree it is no less than 35,000 civilians of which many were women and children. The even deeper discussions of this situation are that the politics are huge and still rage on today with why and how this happened, and even though this discussion could continue for many, many more pages of blogging I will resist. (Please don’t take what I write as completely accurate-I read a number of different sources and then read some more to come up with what I believe to be close to the actual occurrence. But with time and politics, who really knows…  If you’re really interested, do your own research it’s very fun).

As we travel about this remarkably beautiful city I can’t help but think of how the people of Dresden felt months before, during and after the bombings. As I walk through the center of the city I try to imagine (even though I could never) the intense emotions of terror, relief, despair, sadness and all other emotions that once filled these streets.  Then I stop and remember the survivors and feel truly inspired by the character of the innocent people (both military and civilians) from all sides of this war and all wars that simply have the strength and courage to continue…

Prost!!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Germany

 

My Dad’s Haircut

Author: Keegan

Well I’m not going to start like I did last time, that’s for sure.  I am going to go straight out and tell you. Well first I woke up (that’s a no brainer) then I had a scrambled egg breakfast that my mother made me. After breakfast Dad and me went to a German haircut place to get my Dad a hair cut (which I don’t think he needed). After we left he said he asked the barber to shave his head to a zwei clippers (which is two in english) and held up his thumb and pointer finger.  But the barber gave him a one. So once we were walking back to our apartment he asked, “This looks like a one doesn’t it? I asked for a two.” But then I told him “You put up two (in German) on your hands, but you said ein (which in english is one).” Then he said, “I did, I thought I said zwei?” “Nope you said ein”.  So that day he got one heck of a haircut. We didn’t do much until 12:00 sharp except for my Dad did his shoulder exercises which include bending forward and putting his right arm in front of him and spinning it one way then another because he said he hurt it playing basketball. We got the internet fixed at our apartment at 12:00 sharp. So we were online doing whatever for about 1 hour then we took a break at around 1:00 and we had lunch.  Then we went back on the computer for a little while longer. At around five o’clock we took the UBahn subway to the zoo (we didn’t go in but I wanted to) and walked to the Tiergarten (it is like New York’s Central Park) to meet Steffi who was going to run in a relay race. We were about to get on a bus to take us there but then she called and said that it might rain so you don’t have to come so we didn’t go. 😦 But then since everyone was hungry and it was raining we went to an Italian restaurant to have dinner. It was delicious!!!!!!! Then we went back to our apartment and Skyped with some people and then we all went to bed.

THE END………(this time for real…HEHEHEHEHE)

I took this picture of my Dad getting a haircut - he says it'll grow back

Here's my Mom in one of the gardens in the Tiergarten

 
8 Comments

Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Germany

 

Berlin, Germany

Author: Steve

We are having a wonderful time in Berlin, Germany.  Even with the cooler weather and the rain on-and-off again (its light and seems to pass quickly), it’s a great place to be. The history is rich and the sites are many.

We had an amazing hostess our first day and she showed us some great sites:

1) The Humboldt University in Berlin – where she attends school (first semester classes started back in 1810 and it is located in the center of Berlin off of Unter den Linden Boulevard);

Humboldt University in Berlin with Steffi

Keegan, Steffi and Kendal in front of the US Embassy

2) The East Side Gallery to see what remains of the Berlin Wall (very interesting aspect that we learned more about was the “Death Strip” and how 100 people, over those years, had been shot dead trying to cross over to West Germany. One of the most famous being 18-year-old Peter Fechter, who was shot in the hip and left to bleed to death for over an hour in the “Death Strip” with citizens from both sides watching as well as journalists but everyone reluctant to help because of the unknown nature of consequences that they could face);

The Berlin Wall

One of the most famous paintings on the Berlin Wall - depicting the infamous kiss between East German leader Erich Honecker and his Soviet Union counterpart Leonid Brezhnev

3) The Brandenburg Gate (one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany, it is the only remaining gate of 18 in which Berlin was once entered, it was erected in the 1730’s). People may remember when former President Ronald Reagan spoke in front of the this gate in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Brandenburg Gate

Steffi gave us a great education on how things operate in Berlin, we had a wonderful time with her and we will hopefully meet up with her again before we leave; we just want to make sure we don’t interfere with her studies.

In the mean time we also visited:

1) The Memorial for the Murdered Jewish Families of Europe (which is behind the US Embassy);

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe is a very powerful Holocaust memorial for Germany

We were lucky enough to get a top view during a light lunch

2) The famous streets of Kurfurstendamn (which origins date back to the 1500’s) and Unter den Linden (Unter den Linden leads you straight to the Brandenburg Gate and has the sweet smell from the Linden trees);

Keegan and Amy

Keegan and Kendal on Kurfurstendamn

3) The beautiful Charlottenburg Palace (which was built in the end of the 17th century and is the largest palace in Berlin, it’s only a few blocks from our apartment and has a huge fairytale garden in back);

In front of the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace

Kendal and Keegan approaching the Palace

In the back garden of the Charlottenburg Palace

4) The completely amazing Tiergarten (we rented bikes for a couple of days here); and

Riding bikes all around the Tiergarten

Amy and Keegan climbed to the top of Victory Column which is in the center of the Tiergarten

And this is what they saw from the top - a section of the large Tiergarten

5) The Sony Center

The Sony Center

We learn and see something new everyday. So much to see and so little time.

Our apartment is ½ block from the UBahn so we have been going most everywhere via subway.  The subway system itself is very easy to navigate. As I mentioned earlier we rented bikes for a couple of days and got around town as most of the locals do and that in itself was a true experience. The bike lanes are huge and people bike fast and efficient just as if they were walking.  It is common to find 10 to 15 bikers at your side waiting for the light to change. As busy as the streets are I am happy to report that we got around quite effectively with no injuries.  The apartment is very clean and has what we need – IKEA merchandise fills every corner. The first few days the WiFi system would not work but with some persistence we were able to get that resolved. Our apartment is on the 5th floor and there is no elevator so we are definitely getting our workouts in. The kids are sharing a room… it’s a pullout bed that is in the middle of the kitchen, dining room, laundry room and overall family area. No complaints from the troops; so far all good. We also have many store options for food and beverage right in our area, which has been very convenient.

Biking around the city of Berlin. There are traffic lights for cars, pedestrians and because there are so many bikers they even have their own traffic light (notice the guy in back waiting for his light to change)

We have been eating in for breakfast and dinner. Our lunch is typically not sit-down but maybe a few baguettes or Panini sandwiches to share. We take apples or some other snack in the backpack while we are sight seeing and that seems to hold us over until we eat at the apartment. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the occasional ice cream, pretzel or Nutella and banana crepe when needed. The grocery stores in my opinion are a pretty good value – $25 euro can feed us for a few days in-house (and yes that includes beverages as well ;-)).

Dinner in our apartment in Berlin

It’s funny how after only a few days we can acclimate ourselves to our surroundings and feel “at home”.  We have never felt unsafe since we have been in Germany, which is probably why we feel so at ease.  Similarly it has been so easy to find the benefits and beauty of this area, as we did in Gelsenkirchen, without even searching. Germany has been a wonderful country, full of great history and culture and we look forward to seeing and learning more in the next couple weeks that remain.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Germany

 

The Inappropriate Man!!

Author: Steve

Honestly folks how does one measure what is and is not appropriate!

Well there we were on a platform in Dortmund, Germany waiting to get on a connection to Berlin. It’s rainy and cold, we are carrying pretty much everything we have on our backs but we are still all very happy after leaving our good friends in Gelsenkirchen. The train before our train approached the station and was there in a waiting pattern for about 5 minutes. There was a cute little blonde girl about 3 years old standing on the seat in the train looking out the window. She started waving at Kendal and me so we waved back; we did this for some time.  [I reminisced how Kendal was once that cute little girl with a hardy laugh as she still has.  I remembered how she used to call cookies “coo coo’s” and how she loved playing with her dolls for hours on end.  Now I look at Kendal and she’s a young lady who’s going into high school and will driving before we know it; how time does fly.]  Then this little blonde girl on the train started blowing us kisses (it seemed like she just learned how to do that).  So I “very innocently” blew her a kiss.

Amy: What did you just do?

Steve: I blew that little girl a kiss.

Amy: That’s kind of inappropriate isn’t it?

Steve: (thinking) – OMG I can’t believe Amy just said that to me!

All of our backpacks have a connection clasp in the front that goes across our chest and each one has a whistle incorporated in it for safety purposes (you can’t tell by looking at them). Before I could say anything…Keegan put his chin to his chest, put the whistle in his mouth and started blowing it.

Keegan: INAPPROPRIATE MAN, INAPPROPRIATE MAN, INAPPROPRIATE MAN!!! (yelling this while pointing at me and blowing his whistle – you see, this is my son’s humor).

It all happened so fast – my body froze.

Steve: Keegan stop it, are you crazy!!

Amy, Kendal and Keegan were all laughing hysterically (probably because my body completely froze except for my eyes which were racing back and forth at an extremely fast rate).  But I was not laughing. I was imagining the little girls Dad hearing Keegan through the windows of the train, getting the cops and now I’m in jail.  It wouldn’t be so funny then, would it everyone!?

Steve: Kendal blew her a kiss!

Kendal: No I did not!

Steve: Yes you did, I saw you!

Kendal: No, I waved, I did not blow any kisses!

Amy and Keegan still crying of laughter and again I do not find this funny.

Steve: Kendal, blow her a kiss!

Kendal: What!?

Steve: Blow the kid a kiss!

Kendal: No, why?

Steve: Because then they’ll think we are just a happy family of “kiss blowers”! Just do it or would you rather I go to a German jail!!??

Kendal: Fine! (she reluctantly blows a kiss, the little girl smiles and the train rolls away).

Thank you Kendal!!

Amy and Keegan- we will meet again my laughing friends!!

My family of comedians on a train in Berlin

Inappropriate Man sporting stylish outfit

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Germany

 

Gelsenkirchen

Author: Steve

As we leave our first stop in this region of Germany we leave knowing that Gelsenkirchen, Cologne and Oberhausen are all beautiful cities with very unique and distinctive qualities and a day in each city could never do that city justice.

It is interesting to know that once not too long ago 150-200 coal mines existed in Germany (with the region we are leaving having one of the higher percentages of these facilities) and that only over the last 50 years this industry has diminished to only 5 remaining coal mines. Once close to 1 million people were employed by this industry and that has diminished to about 20 thousand today. The plan is to close the remaining coal mines by the year 2018.  With nuclear plants in heavy discussions as well, the goal is to establish wind and solar energy as the standard in Germany. While some embrace its possibilities others question it.

What I found most amazing and impressive is that with so many large unused coalmine campuses scattered throughout this region they did not demolish them and build new buildings; instead they reused the facilities and put in universities, museums, restaurants, hotels, etc. These facilities were not poorly maintained places but very nice, high-end, clean facilities. One of the coolest museums we visited was the Oberhausen Theater; it was in a massive silo that once was used for storage of coal through the refining process; just incredible. In fact, our last night we went to a very trendy and hip beer-garden, this building was a part of a large coal mining facility that was once used for holding people that had been seriously injured (or worse) in the mine. Back many, many years ago; this happened more often than people like to remember. Across the way from the beer-garden was another large building that was used to house the Executives of this particular coal mining campus; that is now a beautiful hotel.

When all the coal mining facilities in this region were in operation they had many railroad tracks in place that they needed for the transportation of goods. Since most of these routes are not used in that fashion anymore the tracks have been removed and they have been turned into beautiful biking and running paths. We were lucky enough to be able to utilize these paths for both hiking and biking a couple times in our short stay.

A special thank you to our incredible hosts that showed us around their beautiful region. We enjoyed every minute of our stay and of their company –none of us wanted our days to end. We could never have imagined the amazing treatment we received. We know that one day our paths will cross again with Werner and Annette and we look forward with anticipation to that time. As our train left the station heading to Berlin, we were all very sad to leave these great people but happy that we were given the opportunity to be a part of their lives even if only for a few days.

Prost!!

Oberhausen Theatre

Our Family from Gelsenkirchen

Off to Berlin

 

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Germany

 

An Exciting Day in Oberhausen

Author: Keegan

Hi it’s me Keegan. Well today was fun. The End……… Just kidding, I will tell you what happened today in Germany. Well first we had a scrambled eggs breakfast. After that, we went to a museum and climbed to the top of it and it was 104.95 meters off the ground. It was really high off the ground!!!!! It was very scary for Kendal and I. In the center of the museum was a HUGE fake tree. Every year it is a different thing in the center. Like last year was a HUGE moon… well that’s what I heard. After the museum we went to an attraction that was called ”tree2tree” it was an obstacle course in trees. You had a harness that held you up with karabinar’s and a roller and a very strong rope that can hold up to 4 tons and in between each obstacle there was a platform to hold you up while you wait for your turn. At the end of each course was a zip line. After that we went to dinner, which was delicious. Then we went back to the house we were staying at and had “ice”(ice cream) and chocolate. Then we Skyped with some people and went to bed around 11:30 (our time).

Keegan and his new German Buddy

Ready to head to Oberhausen

Waiting for our safety class

Keegan preparing for action

Kendal - It's a long way up

Keegan on his way down

Kendal in focus

The Dynamic Duo could have went 3 more hours

 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Germany

 

A Day in Cologne

Author: Amy

After another fabulous breakfast we headed via train to Cologne, Germany today.  Thank goodness for our hostess because even though it is very impressive how many people speak english here many do not (obviously since we are in Germany) and we are having a hard time understanding the language.  We visited the huge Cologne Cathedral and climbed 532 stairs to the top.  This amazing cathedral has structures dating back to as early as 870 AD.  We ate at a very cool Gasthaus for lunch and had some traditional Ochsenschwanzsuppe and Bratwurst.  We tried to get SIM cards for our unlocked phones and found that they were not “unlocked”  so much for our “techie” talent.  A few dollars later we have a local phone – so we can call our rental’s etc.  Let me tell you we laughed so hard at the thought of trying to speak to them over the phone in German, without the use of hand gestures.  Who knows if we’ll ever use the phone but we have it, just in case.  Our last stop in Cologne was a wonderful Schokolade (Chocolate) Museum.  We didn’t get home until after 8:30pm, we had a great spread of left-overs and a good number of Flensburger Beer’s to end the great full day!

Cologne train station

German Brezeln

Cologne Cathedral

Hmmm apples...

Schokolade Museum

Lunch in Cologne

 

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Germany

 

What an Incredibly Great Start

Author: Kendal

We arrived at the Düsseldorf airport at 7:00am (Germany time), which is 1:00am (eastern time). We were welcomed with open arms by a fabulous host family; they then drove us to their house in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The place they live in is amazing! They have the whole backyard to play and frolic in. They were so nice they gave us a traditional German breakfast; filled with different meats, butters, cheeses, and breads. It was like a firework in my mouth. 🙂 The kids then took off to play some one-v-one futbol (soccer) in the backyard.  After we had our warm up we went for about a 2-1/2 hour “walk/hike” throughout their “park/forest”. The adults took the regular plain and boring paths, while the kids took the more dangerous, life-threatening paths (that helped them not complain ;)). It was so cool we climbed this huge hill called “stairway to heaven” and saw some actual World War II bunkers still standing in the forest. Once back to their house the kids were tired and cranky so they retired to their room to play on their computers, while the adults went to get train tickets for Cologne and Berlin; the next couple stops in our Germany adventure. We are trying not to sleep to adjust to the time change but it’s getting very hard.

Traditional German Breakfast

Awesome Hike

Just Don't Look Down

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Germany

 

Departure Date – June 14th!!!

Author: Steve

It’ 8:30am and I’m sitting at Starbucks. An unbelievable sense of emotion has just hit me like a Mac Truck, yeah it might be the lack of sleep and the Grande coffee but I’d rather believe it’s because in a few hours we are about to leave our small town for a while and just be together! I’m not sure what tomorrow, next week or even next month will bring but that’s what’s so exciting!! (Note to self – investigate proper usage and etiquette when using exclamation points). Our backpacks are all packed and ready to go…a sense of calm has been rolling upon us since late last night and we can all feel it. I am so happy to be with my family and at the same time I am so happy to simply just “be”!!

Good Bye Home!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in USA

 

Well We’re Off…

Author: Steve

It’s Monday night and Amy and I at this point can’t quite see straight, the last few weeks have taken their toll on us with all the gazillion “to-do” lists scattered throughout the house. Between cleaning out the house, loading up the PODS, end-of-school events (a lot of partying for the kids), getting rid of a car, insurance, packing clothes, cell phones, laptops, etc., etc. we are just tired and at the same time giddy with anticipation. We see the finish line and it’s tomorrow!! No matter what happens at this point, tomorrow afternoon we are getting on a plane to Düsseldorf, Germany! One backpack and one carry on each; Germany here we come!! Our blog has kind of taken a back seat to other more immediate details but we hope to start forming it more completely as we begin our travels. Thank you everyone for all of your love, support and prayers that you have been sending our way, we are blessed to have such a great and strong network of family and friends.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in USA