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Category Archives: Germany

Saxon Switzerland – Germany

Author: Amy

To put into words the thoughts that go through my head is impossible.  These first few weeks of our trip have been a great combination of city, suburb and even rural.  Today we took off to see Saxony Switzerland of Germany – who knew that it even existed.  We are doing so much daily by whim it’s a bit spooky.  While in Berlin I saw an online ad for this area of Germany.  I had looked into the train and found around 33 euro round trip for all of us as a day trip.  I thought “great deal”.  We spoke to our landlords here and they told us we could do a local bus/train/ferry combo for $15 euro for all – I LOVE a discount.  An additional highpoint was it was a National Park and there was no entrance fee.  Anyway, we packed our lunch in backpacks and after breakfast headed out.  Let me say my calves have been talking to me a bit and are saying  “are we going to be doing this every day”.  I guess the answer is yes!  We took the bus, then a train followed by a tiny ferry across the Elbe to reach our starting point.  We hiked 1.5 hours up and about the same down.  The pictures hopefully tell the story.  We ended our day at a German biergarten called Schiller Garten.  Needless to say it was an amazing day!

Kendal and Keegan on the ferry

The view up to where we are going - if you look at the top left of the mountain there is a foot bridge we will be crossing soon

On the way up

Kendal found a crack in the mountain that went straight down - this shot doesn't do the view justice

Getting close to the top

Almost as high as we can go!

Finally at the top - and yes that's a brave climber in the background

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Germany

 

Dresden, Germany 2

Author: Steve

We decided to rent bikes again and head back into the center of town. We took the route down the Elbe River, which is about a 45-minute bike ride and very beautiful straight into the center. After a short visit and a picnic lunch on the stairs in the city we headed back.  Amy and Kendal decided they wanted to head back through a park and then through the city to the apartment. Keegan and I liked the river route so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the apartment in separate directions. We arrived at the bike rental place (which was a block from our apartment) about the same time; we had a quick beverage at a Biergarten on the river and got back to our place in time to meet our landlords. They had invited us to go with them to a water park about 20 minutes away in a neighboring town of Pirna. The water park was very large and quite amazing.

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

From early 1940 until end of June 1942, a portion of the very large mental asylum within the Sonnenstein Castle, overlooking Pirna, was converted into a euthanasia killing center: the Sonnenstein Nazi Death Institute. Specifically, in 1940 and 1941, the facility was used by the Nazis to exterminate around 15,000 people in a process that was labeled as “euthanasia”. The majority of victims suffered from psychological disorders and mental retardation, but among the 15,000 that were killed a number also included inmates from the concentration camps. The institute was set up after the beginning of WWII as part of a Reich-wide, a centrally coordinated and largely secret program called “Action T4” or the “elimination of life unworthy of life” or the killing of what the Nazis called “dead weight existences”.  The Pirna Sonnenstein Memorial Site stands today as a commemorative to these victims for what horrendous actions they faced from this war.

Pirna had been victim of a terrible flood back in 2002 and had rebounded well as far as cosmetically from that very destructive flood. However, this town, as beautiful as it is, never fully rebounded from the effects of separation of East from West back in former times. The manufacturing and industry that was so strong back in the day never really ignited again. So most the people who live here travel about 40 minutes to work in Dresden or other towns.  However, being here first hand I can tell you that this is another beautiful town in Germany, very clean, well-kept and full of history. The origins of the buildings here range from as early as the 1300’s – quite unbelievable.  Jurgen and Ursula bought the kids ice cream cones to top the evening off; they are very kind people. In fact after we got back to the apartment and the kids settled down, Amy and I went to Jurgen and Ursula’s home and they helped us plan our next days travel plans to the Saxon Switzerland National Park. In their house, that they renovated in 2000, stood a stand-alone limestone doorway frame. It was the original doorway to this home back in 1865, it was so incredible that it still stands today and all renovations were done around this true “masterpiece”!  This was another nice night with very warm people.

Kendal on the Elbe River

Castles line the river

The famous Furstenzug mural (on the right) - made out of 25,000 porcelain tiles and is over 335 feet long

Our kind landlords in Dresden at the water park

The water park was surrounded by tree's and had an indoor water slide where most of Kendal and Keegan's time was spent

Keegan taking a jump

Pirna, Germany

Pirna, Germany - the well on the left was built in 1774

Pirna, Germany

 

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Germany

 

FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011

Author: Kendal

USA vs. Korea DPR

When we woke up we had a scrumptious breakfast in our apartment that consisted of crepes, cereal, strawberries, bananas, some hard rolls, and some coffee for the elders. We then got ready for the day. We either walk or take public transportation everywhere but we like renting bikes the best.  We headed out to find a place to rent bike’s for Wednesday. Then we got on the funicular (it’s sort of tram/elevator) which took us to the top of the hill we are staying on. We walked around a bit and looked at the different houses up there. We also noticed that they will be having a festival we can go to later in the week up on this hill.  When we came back down we saw some Americans that were also going to the Women’s World Cup FIFA soccer game that night. We talked with them for a while and a weird coincidence was that they used to live about an hour from our house in the US. We then left them to eat their lunch and headed right back up to the apartment. We started to make lunch, which was like dinner because we knew that we probably weren’t going to eat anything substantial at the game. We then relaxed before the game and left at around 3:30’ish. We took the tram to the game.  Once we got there, there were some games and activities in the front. Keegan and Mom got in line to do this kicking thing, where you tried to make a goal, you got three chances, hardly anybody ever got a goal. So as they waited in the 30-minute line, Dad and I went and checked out the other stuff that was there. We went back a couple of times and checked on them but they always seemed to be in the same place, when finally they were next, Mom and I switch places in line so I could get a shot at the goal, Keegan went first. He took all his shots, but there was a really good fake goalie; there was a line that led to a clicker which a guy then blocked the shots by pressing certain buttons. I knew from watching him that he looked at the player’s eyes before they kicked, so I wore my dark sunglasses and made 2 out of the 3 goals!!!!  They gave us a card and I supposedly won a really awesome personalized shirt but they have to send it by mail. We had it sent it to our house in the US and hopefully the people in our house will get it and save it for us. We then went and walked to our seats. We got awesome seats that were in the shade (bonus!), around nice people (not crazy loud), in the middle of the field (an awesome view), and we were surrounded by USA fans (they all cheered with us and even took a picture for us). It was an amazing experience and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The US team won if you hadn’t heard (2-0) and there were some amazing goals. We then took the tram back to the apartment and we hit the hay!

P.S.  If you were wondering, we never did see those people that we met at the funicular but I’m sure they had a great time.

Taking my shot’s

The fam!

Game action

Game action

The ref needs to get involved!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Germany

 

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)

 
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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!!

 
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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

 
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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