Category Archives: Germany

Da-Da-Da DUHHHHH

BONN

Saturday-Sunday, September 22-23, 2018

Images of majestic alps with serrated tops decorated with an icing of snow inspired a road trip once we landed back in our winter port of Hoorn. So, we rented a car and headed south Saturday night after our friend Deborah’s book launch in Amsterdam.

But before we reached our mountain destination, a sleep-over outside of Bonn offered something we couldn’t resist:  touring one of the country’s most famous musician’s birth place. Located in the former capital of West Germany during communist rule, this city houses Beethoven-Haus Bonn, a memorial and museum dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

A self-guided walking brochure accompanied by an excellent audio-guide (well-worth the 2 euros each) led us through the 12-room museum.

775A6AE6-E14D-43B4-B748-CFF187A240A7Formerly a front building and a separate annex, the two parts are now connected. The largest collection of this musician’s artifacts in the world, the Beethoven-Haus Bonn also includes a research center and cultural programs in a building on the other side of the enclosed garden.

When Johan Beethoven and Maria Magdalena had their second child (Ludwig) they lived in the annex (now the back of the house). Many occupants of this middle-class neighborhood worked for the royal court including Johan and his father, who lived diagonally across the street from his son. Historians believe the birth room (top window on the right) was the at the back of the annex.

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Coming from a line of musicians (both his father and grandfather were court musicians), it seemed inevitable his father would become his first instructor, reputedly a harsh one at that. 

The role of ‘stage dad’ played by Johan wasn’t new. Some years earlier another father (Leopold Mozart) shepherded his son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), to success. Yet, Leopold’s loving relationship with his son sharply contrasts to Johan’s tyrannical approach to Beethoven. Stories abound of an abusive father (drunkenly dragging the young boy out of bed in the middle of the night to practice, hitting him when he didn’t play well; in short, not a pleasant childhood).

So eager was he to present his son as a musical genius, Beethoven’s father supposedly knocked two years off his son’s age on an advertisement in 1778.

Fortunately, at age ten the young prodigy came under the guidance of Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798), both an instructor and mentor to Beethoven.

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Some say this composer and musician influenced Beethoven the most, including his pupil who wrote, “I thank you for the counsel which you gave me so often…If I ever become a great man yours shall be a share of the credit.” 

In 1792 he moved to Vienna, his home until his death, and studied under Franz Josef Hayden (1732-1809) and George Albrechtsberger (1736-1809). Beethoven also had informal lessons with Johann Schenck (1753-1836) and Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). 

Beethoven was reputed to be a difficult and stubborn student. As one scholar stated, the father’s unjust treatment of his son caused Beethoven to revolt against authority. To me, Beethoven’s proclivity to rebel would seem natural based on his early home life and the times in which he lived (French Revolution and Napoleon).

This rebellious streak may have inspired the stunning music Beethoven created. Whatever the cause and however he achieved it, all I can say is this man’s music gives me goosebumps, in the good sense!

We spent over an hour wandering through rooms filled with memorabilia–letters, portraits, his musical instruments and music sheets, ear trumpets,

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even his death mask (which a friend said seemed pretty freaky, and I have to agree).

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One of the more intriguing aspects of our time here was the audio-guide’s attempt to demonstrate the various stages of Beethoven’s hearing loss. Buzzing (tinninitis?) began in his late 20s and continued to deteriorate. It’s unclear whether he became totally deaf but by the last decade of his life he used ‘conversation books’ with friends and visitors, communicating thoughts in writing and Beethoven replying either in writing or by speaking. 

A portrait of Eleanor von Breuning*, one of Beethoven’s first pupils, highlighted the close friendship he had developed with that family, largely due to Eleanor’s mother providing a sympathetic shoulder after Beethoven’s mother died in 18787. Eleanor married physician Franz Gerhard Wegeler (1765-1848) who penned a biography of Beethoven in 1838. He sourced much of his material from the exchange of letters, a biography the museum states is the first authentic one. 

* I was curious why her surname prefix was “von’ and Beethoven’s “van”. Both mean ‘of’ or ‘from’ but the difference is in the origin. “Von” comes is of German origin and originally indicated a noble until after the Middle Ages when commoners also used it. “Van’ is of Dutch origin and used by pretty much anyone from the get-go.

I’ve pulled images from the Internet since photographs weren’t allowed, and here’s one I wish I’d been able to take:  an 1812 bust by sculptor Franz Klein, reputedly the most authentic representation of Beethoven. Gazing at the pugnacious expression I could easily envision this guy not wasting time on politeness.

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We left the museum too soon but we needed to reach our room for the night, another 6 or so hours on the road. And, as I end this I’m bobbing my head to one of his most famous composition’s… 

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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, and I dare you not to sway to the music… :)

Next, where we couldnt stop humming another tune…

PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

On the other side of the Kiel Canal

LABOE

April 22 -May 3, 2018

To rewind for a bit, after we exited the Kiel Canal we made our way to Laboe, just across the harbor. Laboe being an important naval base, the government sited a German Naval Museum here next to a 1936 memorial. Originally built as a monument to WW I German sailors who lost their lives, in 1996 the German Naval Association rededicated the memorial. Now this imposing structure stands for “those who died at sea and for peaceful navigation in free waters” regardless of country. The plaque also notes that naval vessels and merchant ships from all nations show their respect by lowering their flags when passing by.

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The site includes a tour of a Uboat

and a museum with a subterranean memorial to all sailors who died at sea and an upper floor with billboards full of the country’s naval history

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and a room solemnly depicting all ships and submarines sunk during WW I and WW II.

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On a lighter note Laboe offers locals and visitors alike a chance to enjoy the sand and sea. We saw sun worshipers stretched on the beach and strollers, like ourselves, walking the boulevard.

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As we continued to make our way into the Baltic we sailed from Germany to Denmark to Germany again, changing our courtesy flag along the way (all yachts visiting from a different country are required to fly these, and JUANONA has an array of them aboard).

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A stopover in a very quiet marina in the small town of Gedsner made for an easy overnight port.

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We headed into the little town to check out the provisioning opportunties, which is where I saw a vegetable  that looked like it should be floating in a large bottle of formaldehyde. Egads, this must be when they say it tastes better than it looks.

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We didn’t add it to our shopping basket.

A motor-sail the next day brought us back to Germany heading for the city of Straslund, a former member of the powerful medieval Hanseatic League.

Within a few miles of Stralsund we spotted a customs boat whom we saw pivot and head our way.

We’ve been hailed and/or stopped by customs in almost all the countries whose waters we’ve sailed. Just outside of Vlieland, Netherlands a Dutch coast guard called us on the VHF radio as we were starting our overnight passage to the Kiel Canal. When Max reported our boat name they stated his birth date asking if he was the captain aboard. Obviously we are in the database!

This time the officials asked for our passports (carefully transferred via a secure pouch stretched to us), approved them, and smilingly returned them. Have to say every government boat who’s hailed us has acted professionally and graciously.

We soon reached our destination and tied up at the city marina offering us a nice view across the harbor

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and a jetty full of fishermen taking advantage of the herring season.

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Eager to stretch out the sea-leg kinks we began exploring, stopping when we found ourselves in the Old Market Square

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and spotted an excellent place to bask in the afternoon sun. I’m in heaven, and Max seems pretty relaxed, too :)

One of the most imposing structures sitting on the Old Market Square is St. Nikolas Church, a prime example of Hansa’s brick Gothic architecture. It’s the largest church in Straslund, with origins of 1234 and a final design completed by 1350, and one of the reasons this city is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. We had to see it.

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A very welcoming young woman gave us our tickets and apologized for her rusty English (which she spoke perfectly, by the way) because she rarely saw Americans here. With our self-guided brochure we explored:

an impressive high altar c. 1480

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a 1410 altar of St. Olaf, one of the original 56 altars (during the Reformation in the 15th century most were removed), with scenes of his life:  converted to Christianity by the English King Canute; Baptism in the cathedral in Rouen, France; put on a ship to Norway with priests and a Bishop; arrival in Moster*, Norway; his death in a battle; and, his open casket serving as a place for pilgrimages

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* In 2016 we actually stood in the church in Moster, built in 1150 on the site where he proclaimed Christianity the religion of Norway in 1024.

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the shopkeepers’ pews and altar c. 1574

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As one of the Hanseatic towns, the merchants were a powerful force and protective of their status:  a club-carrying individual and inscription at the pews’ entrance

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warns non-members of this guild “For shopkeepers only! Anyone else gets it on the nose from me!” Nothing like christian charity.

and, wooden relief panels from the pew of Riga (or Novgorod) traders.

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Stralsund served as a major trading hub, and the panels depict hunters, beekeepers, and on the far right a Hanseatic merchant.

Another site definitely worth exploring is the Ozeaneum.

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This structure is the newer half of the German Oceanographic Museum. The older one shares space with the Museum of Local History in the repurposed 1251 Dominican Monastery of St. Catherine.

The Ozeaneum offered a fascinating science lesson in all marine disciplines. Even for someone like me who is not scientifically minded, the exhibits draw you in. Plus, I’m a sucker for visual aids.

The first room featured large wall illustrations explaining basic phenomena associated with the seas, such as:

ocean currents, both deep water (black-gray) and surface (yellow) [for the current to pass around all the oceans takes almost 1,000 years]

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high pressure systems generating trade winds blowing warm water west replaced by the upwelling of cold water

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wind currents composed of the tropical trade winds, the temperate westerlies, and the polar easterlies (in yellow) which generate warm (orange) and cold (blue-gray) ocean currents noted as 1=equatorial , 2=sub-tropical, 3=circunpolar Antarctic

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tides, from minimum (Neap tides) when sun, moon (in 1st or 3rd Qtr) and earth form a 90º angle to maximum (Spring tides) when sun, moon (new or full) and earth are in a line

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In addition to these billboards, we passed free-standing displays, one being the basins and sills of the Baltic Sea. It’s composed of brackish water due to over 200 rivers draining into it and being almost cut off from the North Sea. The latter supplies the Baltic Sea with oxygen-rich water flowing along the bottom.

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We saw montages of marine life living both in and around the sea, one showing a Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which we saw quite a few of in Norway three summers ago. No touchy for sure.

Another room focused on current research. I was surprised to learn about seabed claims:  a country can explore part of the ocean floor simply by purchasing a license from the UN Seabed organization for $250,000.

And, I knew tropical forests offered important drug ingredients, but I didn’t realize this pertained to marine bacteria and fungi, too.

Intriguing photos and signs pointed to more research:

the world’s largest test tubes off the Spitsbergen coast,

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and the use of tidesIMG_1906

and kites as alternative energy sources. I would love to see this configuration crossing the ocean!

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And, when exhaustion struck from reading all the signs and staring at tanks of fish, you could have some stupid fun

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or relax on a lounger placed under whale sculptures listening to their plaintive and haunting songs.

But, one of the main reasons we came centered on seeing the tuxedo birds, who didn’t think much of Max’s singing…

 

Next, an island in Denmark we’d been hearing about ever since we talked of cruising the Baltic…

 

 

Cathedral Squares

Cologne and Aachen

Tuesday-Wednesday, December 5-7, 2017

We’d heard some European cities celebrate the Christmas season with flair, including warm wine and hearty hot dogs. Since sipping glühwein and noshing on street treats while perusing a variety of wares augments the holiday spirit, we decided to check two out on our way to Hoorn. Of course, we can’t just go to a market when a huge stone presence, i.e., cathedral, demands your attention first. Almost like having to eat your peas before you can have cake. So, off we drove.

Leaving Denmark, we headed for Cologne. Part of the religious experience, evidently, comes from climbing 533 steps (someone else counted them, not moi) up a spiraling tower. I later found out a good friend who mountain-goated up the same tower became so sweaty he had to change his shirt before getting on a plane that same day.

Fortunately, three side platforms offered breathers from the heart-pounding slog and a respite from pressing one’s four limbs and trunk against the stone walls to allow the fortunate descenders to descend. By the time we reached the last 10% we faced a metal scaffold-type staircase with open risers. No thanks. Just typing this now I feel perspiration beginning to form on my fingers.

As I watched Max slowly disappear to the tippy-top I saw I had company, both young and old, unwilling to make the final ascent. Fifteen minutes later Max emerged saying the view wasn’t that spectacular due to iron grating:

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yet, he got some great photos, one being of our “dessert” way down below:

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After retracing our steps with our hearts pumping normally we exited the tower area and entered the main part of the cathedral.

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This huge Christian edifice got its start in the 4th century as stated in some documents naming Cologne’s first Bishop, Martenus, back then. By 870 a structure was consecrated. Cologne hit the jackpot three years later when the bones of the Three Magi (am sure they are real…) were moved from Milan to this town in 1164. To house these money-makers, a glittery golden reliquary was ordered and completed in1225.

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As an increasing number of pilgrims strolled, pitter-pattered, and crawled to this relic, the Catholic powers decided to build a new cathedral in the new Gothic style to accommodate the prestige (and crowds, and the money they brought) associated with the pilgrimage. Building began in mid-1200s and finished in 1880 when Kaiser Wilhelm I saw the last stone placed.

Chapels galore, soaring stained glass, statues,

and tombs, some featuring pretty relaxed looking folk,

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filled the cathedral.

We walked, we stared, we peered, and then we left for the treasury. Here we found the typical wealth found in Catholic religious buildings, so we breezed through, stopping when something flashier or older than usual caught our eyes. Frankly, the most interesting site–which, of course we don’t have a photo of–was the medieval, stone signage stipulating the length of firewood to be donated each year thanks to some nobelwoman’s will.

But, NOW our reward:  the Christmas market :)

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Because we were driving we had to forgo any alcoholic beverages in spite of the tempting glow they’d bring to offset the chill. However, we managed to partake of some edibles while joining the crowd of shoppers. And, Max, who had the camera, delightedly got his payback. Now he could snap photos of my stuffing my face, which I gleefully did.

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Hey, I’m not shy when it comes to food.

After an hour of winding our way through other Christmas marketees we ended up back in  the car and heading for our next tourist duet–market and cathedral; however this one promised a more (to us) interesting tale as it was associated with the first Holy Roman Emperor: Charlemagne (742-814 C.E.).

The city of Aachen boasts plenty of historical Charlemagne sites, but we focused on three:  the cathedral; the town hall; and, a museum that tells us why we should be here.

So, going in reverse order, we spent over an hour learning about the early Roman settlement (thanks to the thermal springs). Then quickly caught up to the most famous Aachenite:  Charlemagne.

Both he and his brother, Carloman (not too imaginative with the names), became co-rulers, inheriting the throne on the death of their father, King-of-the-Franks, Pepin the Short (714-768). A fraternal war seemed inevitable if Carloman hadn’t died in 771. Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great, aka Charles I, aka Father of Europe) basically doubled the size of the Franconian Empire. The title ’emperor’ suited Charlemagne nicely since his realm matched the glory (and size) not seen since the height of the Roman Empire (96 B.C.E. to 180 C.E) .

Charlemagne selected this German town as his seat of government in the 709s and proceeded to build his palace including the famous octagonal chapel around 800. With Christianity as his realm’s religion–make that ‘required’ religion– it’s no surprise he poured a lot of money and effort into his place of worship, the Royal Church of St. Mary (which you’ll see a little bit later on here).

The museum explained the site of Charlemagne’s palace with a video diagraming the buildings.

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It also continued past the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire moving into the later centuries, covering Napoleon’s occupation in 1794  and his desire to be seen as a Charlemagne figure himself…

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The city became known for its high-quality needle production in the mid-1800s with one company, Schmetz, over 160 years old, being the first to standardize needle sizes in the mid 1900s…

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A fun historical item relates to the 2014 movie THE MONUMENT MEN, which tells how the allies in WWII found the Nazis’ hidden art treasures, one of which is the crown being tried on for size:

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Today Aachen has earned the reputation of as a German technology leader thanks to the RWTH Aachen University.

By now we felt well acquainted with this city’s history and wanted to explore the two major sites, the first being the Rathaus or Town Hall. Just a short stroll from the museum, this building stands on what once was the King’s Hall. Charlemagne constructed his palace based on the former Roman basilica, and the Rathaus along with the Church contain the largest remnants of the Emperor’s Aachen palace.

In the 13th century a decision was made to build a new structure to be used both as the town’s administrative center and as a banquet hall. Subsequent natural (fires) and unnatural (WWII bombing) disasters resulted in rebuilding and renovations. By 1979 the final construction was completed.

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Prior to entering this rather large building we spotted two tall men ahead, one being a guy with a gold crown, robe and staff. Inching closer we discovered a film crew interviewing them. We just snapped a photo

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then went inside and began our self-guided tour through elaborately decorated rooms, such as:

The Master Craftsmen’s Court where cloth makers submitted their wares for quality inspection…

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The 1727 White Hall where portraits of envoys who participated in the “Aachen Peace” ending the Austrian War of Succession in 1748 (including the Earl of Sandwich)…

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The Red Hall where the treaty negotiations for the above peace were supposed to occur but hierarchical disputes meant it wasn’t used…

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And, the Coronation Hall, the largest secular Hall in the Holy Roman Empire by 1349.

Today it’s where the International Charlemagne Prize is presented. Originating in 1950, the prize is awarded to an individual or organization who’s work has contributed to European unity or cooperation between its states.

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On the way down we caught an excellent view of the Christmas market (and, this was only 1/4 of it).

As we reached the ground floor of the Town Hall and headed for the front door we poked our head into the Council Hall, cordoned off except a few yards beyond the doorway. This room featured portraits, two being Napoleon and Josephine,

and has been used for the City Councilors and Town Mayor from 1349 to the present with the exception of some interruptions between 1943 and 1951.

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Oh, and you know that person standing with Santa in the interview we saw? Turns out it’s the Mayor (!). We recognized him from a photo in the Town Hall brochure :)

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Now, onto the biggest draw here:  Charlemagne’s church (which has been expanded as the bronze models below show).

We missed the English-speaking tour but were able to glean enough from the brochure. Passing through the main entrance we passed by the original bronze door from 800.

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Continuing on we entered the octagonal church, the core building of the Cathedral known as the Palace Chapel and the first post-classical cupola constructed north of the Alps.

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Charlemagne was enamored of all things Roman, including art and architecture, which is why mosaics patterned after the famous ones in Ravenna, Italy adorn the ceiling of his chapel. And, this octagon worship house is something to see. I mean, look at these mosaics (!)

Because we weren’t part of an organized tour we couldn’t reach the Shrine of Charlemagne, a gold chest holding Charlemagne’s remains; however, Max did manage to snap a photo (it’s the reliquary in the back):

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This one in front of Charlemagne’s is the Marienschrein or Shrine of the Virgin Mary.

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Again, if we had been on that tour, one of the other key sites was Charlemagne’s throne on the second floor, supposedly a recycled piece of marble where kings sat from 936 to 1531 after being anointed and crowned at the altar below.

We ended up in the Treasury where we peeked at religious items, typically gold and gem-encrusted, and, of course, reliquaries. I must say if you were to build a church and wanted to ensure others funded it, be sure to throw in some old relics of a Saint. Better yet, make it some item tied to Jesus and his mom, and you’ve got yourself a pilgrimage site on par with Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela.

For that’s what Aachen did. This cathedral possesses four primo relics: the church Mary gave birth in (uh-huh, sure)… Jesus’s original swaddling clothes (i.e., diapers)… a cloth used during John the Baptist’s beheading (couldn’t have been a kerchief as not much use there)… and, drum roll… THE loincloth Jesus wore during his crucifixion!

Hey, at least time-dating proves these textiles are truly old, going back to the 1st and 2nd centuries post-Christ.

These relics are exposed to public eyes for ten days every seven years, the last time being June 20-30, 2014. Why every seven years? I don’t know but, trust me, you better reserve a spot in a line if you want to be there in 2021.

To display the four relics above necessitates snapping the lock off the Shrine of Mary, and, some of the recent locks being on display:

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Alas, we didn’t see the actual relics but did see some of the other most valuable items held in this treasury:

the arm reliquary holding Charlemagne’s ulna and radios of his right forearm…

The bust of Charlemagne; as a huge fan of the man, Charles IV (1316-1378) donated this in 1349 along with the crown used during his 1347 coronation. FYI:  Pieces of Charlemagne’s cranium truly are in the head here.

The real Reliquary of Charlemagne (which makes the one in the church a copy), also attributed to a donation by Charles IV…

The Cross of Lothair from the 10th century and “one of the most valuable objects of medieval gold work” according to the write-up…

And, the Cappa Leonis or coronation cape from the 14th century (name based on the assumption Pope Leo III (750-816) wore it).

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Another one I found intriguing was the crown Margaret of York wore at her wedding to Charles the Bod in Bruges 1468; made in England around 1461, Margaret donated this with its leather box when visiting the church in 1475.

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More reliquaries and religious artifacts abounded, but we’d had enough religion for the day. We left and walked into the Christmas market, which, considering they have the Three Magis’ bones rattling around in that reliquary, makes perfect sense to host an amazing Christmas market, right?

Another opportunity to eat and walk, we joined the jolly crowd, and, once again, Max was captain of the camera.

Yet, I managed to grab it to document his purchase:  glühwein for a cold winter night.

As twilight approached we left Aachen to drive the last leg of our winter road trip. Heading back to Hoorn we realized just how much we’d been able to see and experience, yet another memory to cherish.

 

 

Waiting for weather… still

NEUENGAMME

Friday, May 5

Winds still not favorable, so on to our next Hanseatic port city:  Bremen; but, first a sobering stop along the way outside of Hamburg. We wanted to see Neuengamme, a concentration camp we’d never heard of before.

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I won’t belittle this site by calling it one of Max’s Disaster Tours. As a reminder of man’s inhumanity this huge complex spanning over 2km with exhibits on the SS guards and inmates stuns its visitors. When I asked one of the caretakers why it wasn’t as well known as other camps, he said there were very few original buildings remaining. Most of the camp had been repurposed beginning in 1945 when the British used it as a camp for displaced persons, then an internment for former members of the SS, Nazi Party, and Wehrmacht (the Nazis’ unified armed forces). Later, buildings were torn down and new ones constructed when Hamburg erected two prisons on the site after the property was turned over to the city.

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After the prisons were closed in 2006, survivors of the WWII camp insisted that the one memorial pillar erected in 1953 be expanded to an exhibit encompassing almost the entire original grounds.

Similar to other concentration camps we’ve toured, we ran into groups of high schoolers. As a center for historical studies, the Memorial offers not only public tours but also paid, two-hour programs as well as multi-day projects. Conferences, workshops and seminars are available as well. In short, this Memorial works hard at keeping people informed of what did, and can, happen based on a political situation and the wrong person in charge.

Neuengamme Concentration Camp was established by the Nazis as a brick factory using slave labor. Hitler wanted to transform Hamburg into a model architectural city; to do so required hundreds of thousands of bricks made from Neuengamme’s clay pits. Additionally, inmates worked on digging a canal for the transportation of the bricks. These two work details–digging clay for bricks and digging canals–have been described by former inmates as the most onerous tasks in the camp.

By 1942 the camp’s production was expanded to include armaments. More than 85 satellite camps were set up over all of Germany to support this weapon production as well as clearing rubble and constructing bunkers and industrial facilities.

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We began at the “House of Remembrance” with its scroll-draped walls listing those who died,

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names taken from the detailed death journals the Nazis kept.

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Just outside we saw a haunting sculpture. No words needed.

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From there we viewed several exhibits, one featuring the SS, the other, the inmates. Some of the survivors’ drawings provide a terrorizing glimpse into an inmate’s life. These, along with children’s poems we’d read at the camp in Theresienstadt (near Prague), were amongst the most poignant testimony of inhumanity we’ve witnessed.

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One memorial marks the spot inmates called simply “The Bunker” for its solitary confinement cells, the place where hangings and executions took place, and where on occasion the poison gas Zyklon B was tested. The site of the camp’s crematoria is located nearby.

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We left the site in silence feeling fortunate we were leaving it on our own volition, as we thought of those who hadn’t.

An hour later we arrived in Bremen where we planned our excursions for the next day, which dawned bright and clear with a cool wind.

BREMEN

Saturday, May 6

Catching a train we landed in the historic center of the city. Being a Saturday outdoor markets were on display, some promoting activist messages, including a bakery booth supporting Ukraine.

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By now you know one of our first errands is locating the Tourist Information Office where we typically purchase a self-guided tour map. Like Lubeck, Bremen featured a lot of historical buildings, so we decided to stroll around the area and then select several of the main ones to view inside.

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The walking tour started outside of the Marktplatz (Market Square).

What surprised and delighted me were the sculptures and fountains along pedestrian walkways. These two appropriately stood on Sogestrasse (‘Street of Sows’)  where they used to drive the pigs out to the common pasture.

Fountains spouted water so, at least, one would think it was a spring day in spite of the chill.

One of the most famous sculptures features a donkey, dog, cat and cock pyramid. It’s based on a Grimm’s fairy tale titled THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS. Although ‘Breme’ and other towns have been used in the title, one reason why the Brothers Grimm (Jacob 1785-1863, Wilhelm 1786-1859) may have used ‘Bremen’ is their friendship with the city’s mayor  Johan Smidt. Who knows but Bremen has adopted the tale and these four ‘musicians’ as a symbol of their city.

Rumor has it the wish you’re making comes true if holding onto the donkey’s forelegs.

With everyone attaching their hands to the ass It only made sense that Max try it out. I wouldn’t be surprised if his wish entailed sailing to a yet-to-be-named destination. Either that, or a new boat part.

Next to this statue stands the Liebfrauen (Our Lady) Church built around 1229. Normally I’m not a huge fan of modern, religious stained glass but this I liked… probably due to my not recognizing any come-to-Jesus element in the design by the French artists Alfred Manessier, only the fantastic colors swirling about.

An interesting tidbit about this church relates to its cemetery:  When Emperor Napoleon and his troops occupied the city (1811-15), he had the graveyard destroyed because he thought it unhygienic. Just one of those extraneous factoids that I like.

In the Marktplatz stands a 15th-century statue, one a bit more dignified than the four musicians. Roland, a knight who died in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass serving Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Great (aka Charlemagne), represents Bremen’s independence and freedom. Why Roland as the symbol no one really knows, but, since 1404 thar he be.

The statue faces St. Peter’s Church sending a message that city rights trump any prince-archbishop’s claims (a wooden Roland was burnt in 1366 by Prince-Archbishop Albert II).  Evidently, a lot of Rolands populated town squares back then representing civic liberty and freedom. However, Bremen’s Roland is the oldest surviving one and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

He just didn’t represent Bremen’s freedom but also a one-Bremen-ell measurement:  housewives used the two spikes on his knees (riders used them to stab others’ mounts) to measure their cloth at the market. And, if you’re wondering like I did what length is an ell, it was based on a person’s radius or lower arm. According to some websites an ell equals two feet.

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Depending on which way you face away from this stately knight, you’ll see four main buildings, the oldest being St. Peter’s Cathedral.

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In 789 Charlemagne designated a wooden church to be built. Below is a statue of him gracing the front of the current cathedral…

while another one is of the cathedral’s namesake, St Peter, who holds a key.

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Speaking of which, the key is Bremen’s symbol on their flag, and one you see throughout the city such as on manhole covers (photo for Ellen :).

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In the 9th century the Bishop Ansgar of Hamburg used the site as his bishopric and began missionary work to convert the northern pagans. This establishing of ties to the Scandinavian countries is credited with serving as the Hanseatic League’s intro to their commerce up north.

By the middle of the 11th century the current cathedral was constructed in place of the older wooden one.

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When the Reformation occurred in the mid-1500s, the cathedral became evangelical. From the modern displays throughout the church we quickly saw that current church members take spreading the gospel seriously. Although, some of the exhibits promoting confirmation and type of gifts seemed a bit odd. And, yes, once again the heathens show their true colors…

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We looked for a mini-MDT (Max Disaster Tour) of some mummies located next to St. Pete’s but didn’t find it. Just as well for the brochure made a big deal out of saying the eight mummies on display are now under glass ever since “… an American tourist once took a thumb home…”.  Ouch.

By far the most magnificent site for us was the Rathaus (Town Hall), another UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Built between 1405 and 1409 the Town Hall served as a meeting place for the councilors, those being the wealthy merchants running the city. We opted for a tour of the second floor, which took one’s breath away when you walked from the more ‘modern’ banquet hall to the original upper chamber.

Allegorical paintings adorned the walls reputed to be by one of Rembrandt’s apprentices

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and elaborate carvings covered the walls

while four model ships from the 1500-1600s hung from the ceiling. Our guide told us the miniature canons (you can just make them out in two rows on the first ship below) really worked as tested by centuries of partiers.

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Portraits of 33 past rulers looked down from the ceiling

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while a Golden Chamber, an art nouveau room, represented the new age.

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In the mid-1600s the town started hosting a traditional meal. This annual occasion funded insurance for shipping widows and their children. Called “Meal of Brotherhood” (or some say Schaffermahl) and by invitation only, this event still occurs on the second Friday in February with 300 guests from all over Germany attending.

Bremen was a major German port and hence an important target for Allied bombing. With 60% of the city reduced to rubble (some due to pilots not recognizing specific targets during the night), I can only imagine the sighs of relief to find Roland and the Rathaus still standing after the war.

Outside again we looked across at the Schutting or House of Merchants crowned with a statue of Neptune perched above a painting of a Hanseatic ship.

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The one modern building gracing the Market Place is the 1960s Parliament. Before the war the Stock Exchange stood in its place. Although controversial when erected, this “glass house” symbolizes that all political discussion should be transparent (think we could use some of that?).

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Before leaving the main square we enjoyed a brockworst and spotted the spitting stone where the murderess Gesche Gottfried, responsible for killing 15 people, was executed in 1831. People still spit on it, but I didn’t.

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While walking around the Market Place a narrow alley with a golden relief aptly entitled ‘Bringer of Light’ beckoned us to a brick rabbit warren.

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In the 1900s the guy who sold caffeine to the chemical industry, Ludwig Roselius (1874-1943), used some of his wealth to renovate this alleyway called Bottcherstrasse. Bernhard Hoetger (1874-1949) designed buildings in expressionism architecture repurposing the old bricks. Art galleries, crafts and coffee shops (Roselius also sold coffee under the brand name HAG), and statues decorate this street where coopers (barrel-makers) lived during the Middle ages.

More sculptures decorated the walkways…

with Max finding a favorite. In his words, he didn’t want to dishonor the locals; when in Rome …

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Curiously a glockenspiel is part of Roselius’ art where we gathered along with other tourists to hear sea chanties (didn’t recognize any) played on 30 Meissen china bells.

While the bells are chiming, a section of the tower wall slides open revealing ten pictures carved in wood featuring men who have ‘conquered the ocean, captains and pilots, pioneers in their field.’ We caught sight of aviator Charles Lindbergh (1902-72) when peering up.

A bit anticlimactic as Max commented after the tinkling.

Moving to another neighborhood close to the Market Square we explored the Schnoor. The area’s name comes from the Low German word for string, ‘snoor’; and, it’s called such due to rope makers once living here and the houses strung along the alleys like pearls on a string. Filled with restaurants and shops we simply wandered around enjoying a treat from the bakery (moi) and a refreshing soda (Max) while spotting even more sculpture

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Our last stop was on the waterfront where we enjoyed not beer but glasses of German wine at one of the outdoor cafes.

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Followed by an excellent Turkish Doner (which has become one of our favorite go-to street meals) and then the train back to hotel.

BREMERHAVEN

Sunday, May 8

Sunday morning we packed up and headed to Bremen’s sister city 31km due north on the North Sea. Remember Johan Smidt, the mayor that the Brothers Grimm liked? Well in 1827, he had the foresight to purchase the territories at the mouth of the Weser because of the silt threatening Bremen’s shipping trade. Since then Bremerhaven has been a thriving port and home to a special exhibition, the Klimahuas (Climate House). (Bremerhaven is also the port where Captain Von Trapp was going to be sent as Max likes to announce.)

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This space-like building features one man’s solo circumnavigation of the world, but not the usual horizontal route but a vertical one. Axel Werner left Bremerhaven and traveled along Longitude 8º 34’ E down one side of the globe and up the other ending back where he began.

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With his photos, videos and notes

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Werner documented various cultures and the effects of climate change. The Klimahaus features eight of his stops:  Switzerland, Sardinia, Niger, Cameroon, Antarctica, Samoa, Alaska, and two places in Germany, the last being Bremerhaven.

Visitors explore the world through interactive screens, replicated environments (including temperatures similar to those environments),

animal displays including aquariums,

and tons of factoids concerning the featured sites’ geography and cultures.


In some instances he made some rather unusual observations.

When we asked at the tourist office what the typical touring time was, the young woman said four hours. We enjoyed two hours and called it quits. Not only was it packed with families (this place is perfect for kids) but we could only take in so much of each featured location.

However, some parts were difficult to leave such as the Niger exhibit with the Tuaregs. We had read about these fascinating people awhile ago in the non-fiction book called SKELETONS OF THE SAHARA. Below is a shot from one of the videos of the Tuaregs, which you viewed lying on a mat.

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One of the most memorable sights was of Werner playing a piano while floating next to ice. How he did it, we don’t know, but the music was hauntingly lovely.

Once through the exhibit we sat in the sun for a quick lunch before starting our journey back. Spending the night just outside Groningen our ETA was Monday mid-afternoon, back to JUANONA in Terschelling via car, train, ferry and feet.

Another road trip was coming to an end. With a potential favorable forecast for our three-day passage to Norway on the horizon it was time to head home.

And, with just a wee bit more waiting (fingers crossed) on the next island over (Vlieland) we’ll soon be on our way to our next adventure.

Signing off until Norway!

 

 

Waiting for weather…

TERSCHELLING

Saturday – Monday, April 29 – May 1

With Danielle on her way to new adventures we readied JUANONA for our next port, a Friesian Island off the northern coast of Netherlands. Having stopped at Vlieland Island going to/returning from Norway last summer we opted to explore a bigger one just to the east.

Because of the strong tide we timed our departure from Hindeloopen so we’d exit the lock with close to a high tide. With another sunny weekend  the Dutch and Germans also decided to get out on the water with plenty of boats sharing the lock with us.

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Once out we carefully followed the marked channel through the sand banks. Three hours later we entered Terschelling’s harbor greeted by one of the friendliest marine managers we’ve yet to meet. He smilingly welcomed us and told us to tie up anywhere along the docks noted for 12-meter and longer boats.

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Not only was the harbor guy wonderful but so was docking with tons of space. No stressful timing of lassoing pilings here.

Bike rentals provided us a breezy yet sunny ride around most of the island the next day. We spotted soaring kite surfers…

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pedaled through pine trees

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and beside dunes,

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then stopped to gaze at the seemingly limitless horizon of sand and sea.

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But, we wanted to cross that sea, not just look at it. Realizing we had another nine days, if not more, before the weather systems would be favorable to sail to Norway we did our usual ‘let’s-go-somwhere’.

LUBECK

Tuesday – Friday, May 2 – 5

So, we did :)  We selected northern Germany, specifically some Hanseatic towns as our road-trip destination. The Hansa or Hanseatic League began in the 13th century when some German merchants formed an association to protect their trading interests. Northern German towns located in strategic sites, such as on rivers and coastlines, became powerful commercial interests with Lubeck taking the lead.

We headed to that city via foot, ferry (Where Max practiced some of his yoga moves),

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train, and car arriving easily within eight hours of travel.

The next day a bus close to our small hotel dropped us next to to the main landmark of Lubeck, the Holsten Gate. Built between 1464 and 1478 this Gothic gate guarded the entrance to the city during the Middle Ages and remains one of Germany’s most important city gates from that time.

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This landmark is also close to the Tourist Information Office where we purchased a self-guided tour map in spite of the dour and uninspiring agent behind the desk. But, hey, we had our map, our feet, and a decent day to explore this medieval city.

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What we discovered during our tour were a lot of historic churches. It seemed like no sooner had we exited one religious building we were entering another beginning with…

St. Peter’s:  built in the 13th century with subsequent renovations over the years as displayed on outdoor signage as yet another renovation is in process

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and where we had an elevator ride to the tower offering a bird’s eye view of the Holsten and the 16th & 18th brick warehouses to the left, which once housed salt shipped from Lunenburg;

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Lubbock Cathedral:  founded in 1137 by Duke Henry the Lion,

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and whose vastness and splendid religious art made we wish for a live guide versus the little pamphlet we held as we walked the 130 meters (over 427 feet);

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St. Jacob’s Church:  dating back to 1334 and the one for seafarers and sailors with its kegs protecting trading goods or, just possibly filled with grog…

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And, our last churchy-inside view,

St. Mary’s Church:  constructed around 1200 and called the ‘mother of Gothic brick churches’ because of providing the architectural design for approximately 70 other churches in the Baltic region… it’s also where we viewed bells smashed on the floor following the 1942 bombing raid during WWII.

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We wandered into and out of the impressive Hospital of the Holy Spirit, which provided care for the elderly and the infirmed as early as the 13th century; the complex is huge as you can see from this model.

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This day we had designated simply as getting a sense of the city and its medieval flavor, not as one filled with any museums; but, we did take in one excellent exhibition, the Willy Brandt House. His name was familiar but I couldn’t tell you much else about this man. We had only planned to peek in yet the displays and Brandt’s story seduced us.

This location in Lubeck is a sister one to a site in Berlin, both run by the  Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation. The foundation’s mission is historical and political education, and we did receive some excellent information as our ‘just a glance’ led to a thirty-minute absorption of Willy Brandt (1913-92).

This small museum offered visitors a fairly quick, but excellent, biography of Brandt’s life, beginning with his birth in Lubeck and continuing to his death in Bonn 79 years later. Below are just a few highlights:

his resistance against the Nazis–resulting in his immigration to Norway under an assumed name following threats to his life 1933-45…

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rising to leadership of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG aka West Germany) 1948-70s…

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receiving the Nobel Peace Prize 1971…

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and continuing his work as an elder statesman on a global scale in his fight for human rights.

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The exhibit also explained his controversial “Ostpolitik”, the policy which began the de-escalation of Cold War tensions between the FRG and the German Democratic Republic (GDR aka East Germany) by beginning a dialogue with the Soviet Bloc in 1969.

Another political controversy ended his rule as chancellor when five years later Brandt resigned after discovering one of his aides was an East German spy.

But, Brandt didn’t stop working towards unification of Germany, which he witnessed with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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And, he tirelessly advocated for overcoming the socio-economic gap between the north and south hemispheres believing the main causes of terrorism and wars are hunger and social injustice. The world could use a heck of a lot more politicians like him.

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Time to catch a bus back to our hotel and scrounge for dinner.

Thursday with its forecast of rain was the perfect day for what was one of the highlights of our trip:  the Hansemuseum, which opened in 2015.

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This museum benefits from the new technology used to immerse visitors in the displays. With a simple paper ticket we began our tour,

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one lasting for almost four hours.

For anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes tech usage at the museum, check out this link:  https://www.amptown-system.com/en/references/europaeisches-hansemuseum.html.

The museum begins with the early foundations of the city

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and then quickly provides information on how Lubeck came to be the power house of the Hanseatic League.

I discovered that Novgorod, one of the oldest cities in Russia and an important trading center, played a key part in Lubeck’s success. With luxury goods arriving from the Silk Road and other ancient trading routes from the East, Novgorod attracted foreign merchants, some being those from Lubeck and surrounding towns.

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Initially Low German merchants would sail to Sweden’s Gotland Island to join their Scandinavian counterparts for the journey to this Russian city. (The Scandinavians knew the route across the Baltic having traded with Novgorod for longer. As commerce grew among different cities, agreements would be signed with rulers designating specific rights to merchants.)

In 1159 Duke Henry the Lion grants Lubeck special privileges and rights. He also agrees to let Scandinavian and Russian merchants trade freely in his city. These two components position Lubeck for leadership of the Hansa.

To control their trade even more German merchants set up trading posts, the first one being in Novgorod with others in London (it wasn’t until Queen Elizabeth I’s rule that the Hansa lost their post there), Bruges, and Bergen (the latter we had visited last summer when in Norway). Eventually, the Hansa has its own governing body, tariffs and exchange rates. The League also had its own military, but peace was preferred in order to keep the goods flowing.

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The museum provides exhaustive detailed information on all aspects of the Hansa. Just take a quick look at a few of the displays:

a chart of Lubeck merchants’ capita…

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contractual information…

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navigation at sea…

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ties to the crusades…

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construction equipment (note the interesting source for the illustration)…

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and even economic effects of the Plague.

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We also saw connections to other sites we’d visited such as a pilgrim badge with its image of Saint Servatius whose church we recently saw in Maastricht, Netherlands

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and a replica of stockfish warehouse such as what we spotted in Bergen, Norway as well as in most Lofoten towns we visited.

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I have no doubt whatever question you have about the Hansa, you’d find the answer here.

After almost four hours our eyes were spinning and you could have fried an egg on my brain. With a stop in the (over-priced) cafe for lunch and wifi access, we ended our day by visiting the Castle Friary. Constructed in the 13th century and originally for the Dominican monks, it later served as an almshouse after the Reformation in the 16th century. Later, this morphed into a hospital, a prison, and a court of law. Nice to have old buildings reused vs. torn down.

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As part of the museum, the Friary had a display answering my question on how the Hansa become defunct: the development of profitable trans-continental trade by Spain, Portugal, England, and the Netherlands; and, increased power of regional lords over their cities’ laws and commerce. The League also had competition for their Baltic trade, which eroded their power even more. The last parliament was held in 1669 and only a few showed up in spite of the League’s threat of expulsion for non-attendees. The finale was in 1862 with only three members (Lubeck, Bremen and Hamburg) remaining as members. However, some former members still call themselves “free and Hanseatic Cities”.

One could say the League just went dormant until the 20th century for some folk credit this early Germanic association as the forerunner of the European Union. Hmmm… a foretelling of that body’s future?

Next, another Hanseatic port…

Where to begin? PART V

DAY 19:  Monday, November 3 (arrival in BERLIN)

It was time to end our wanderings around Germany, and Berlin was the place. After stopping off in Lutherville, aka Wittenberg, we drove another three hours, turned in our rental car, and found our VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner) apartment. We were staying in Charlottenburg, a western suburb of Berlin located about a 30-minute S-Bahn (fast urban train) & U-Bahn (underground subway) ride from the city’s center.

The owner of the apartment couldn’t have been more helpful in our pre-planning for Berlin. The approach to the apartment, however, didn’t bode well for what the interior might look like (graffiti walls, trash on sidewalk, grungy windows). Fortunately, it was nicer on the inside than out although a few extra dollars wouldn’t have hurt to improve first impressions. But, it was clean, offered a nicely outfitted kitchen, and was plenty large. Climbing five sets of stairs to reach it ensured we’d have plenty of exercise (Only after our stay was over did Max point out the complete lack of a fire escape).

After figuring out places we wanted to go, and sights we wanted to see, the next morning we walked to the convenient metro stop. Like a lot of our German experiences, using the public transportation was another example of this country’s efficiency:  you purchased a ticket (lots of different configurations; we chose the 7-day fare); hopped on the public transportation; arrived at our destination; hopped off; end of story. No turnstiles, no swiping, no barriers to entry or exit. The way they ensured compliance was by spot-checking passengers’ tickets. Talk about streamlining transportation.

With so much to experience in this historical city, it was a whirlwind of a visit in spite of allowing ourselves seven days; so, I’ll try to keep each day’s wanderings to captioned photos beginning with our self-guided city walk on Day One in Berlin…

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Brandenburg Gate was our first stop. The only surviving gate of the 14 surrounding the original city, this impressive structure was built in 1791.

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It was originally designed as an arch of peace with the Goddess of Peace riding the chariot as the God of War sheathes his sword. After several mishaps and misrepresentations–Napoleon stole the statue in 1806 but lost it when Prussia beat him 1813; Hitler used it as a symbol of aggression–in 1989 it reverted to its original symbolism with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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And, since our trip was timed to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s demise, we were fortunate to have the East-West Berlin history in front of our eyes as we walked around the gate (THE major site for the November 9th celebratory events) and throughout the city.

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Squatting in the square in front of the Brandenburg Gate we spotted a small blue car. Later we found out it was a Trabant, an East German car manufactured so cheaply it became a symbol of that government’s economy. Supposedly, a ‘people’s car’ in answer to West Germany’s VW Beetle; yet, it made TIME Magazine’s list of the 50 worst cars in the world…

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Looking around the square we noticed the Adlon Hotel, famous for Michael Jackson’s baby dangling over a balcony.

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Realizing this would be the primo place to be for November 9th’s celebrations, we casually walked in to inquire about a room. Well, let’s just say we weren’t dressed like the people who typically stay at this hotel, and the desk clerk definitely thought it was out of our price range the way he answered our question. In spite of his being right, we still thanked him and said ‘we’ll think about it.’ At least the doorman was nice. And, frankly, if we had known Gorbachev was staying there that weekend, we might have even said ‘to hell with it, let’s do it!’  (We did, though, find another place much more reasonable and still in close proximity to Sunday’s coming celebration.)

Nearby was the DZ Bank building designed by Gehry with his saying he thought it was his best designed shape ever.

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A short stroll away we found the stark memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, a granite maze of pillars of varying heights.

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Continuing on we stopped in at one of the ghost subway stations, stations blocked off by during the Cold War. When the wall fell these subway stations re-opened, providing a step back in history with the decor still unchanged since they were built in 1931.

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As we walked towards Museum island away from the Gate on Unter Der Linden, a major boulevard, we saw a lot of construction, both in buildings

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with temporary offices simply attached by cables

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and temporary, above-ground pipes as they worked on the underground water and sewage systems.

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One way you knew you were in the former East Berlin was the pedestrian signal. This East German, street-crossing light is seen around the city today and is one of the few ‘friendly’ symbols to have survived from the Cold War. There are even Ampelmann shops selling little green man logo items.

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Humboldt University was lovely and large, stretching across the street. We had a light lunch at the school’s library cafe and snapped a photo of the famous 1968, stained glass featuring Vladimir Lenin (after being admonished by the librarian not to include any people in it due to privacy issues).

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When you realize Lenin studied law here, it made more sense.

In the square opposite the library’s entrance is the site where Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, instructed university staff and students to burn 20,000 books in 1933. The memorial is an underground, empty book shelf you can barely see when peering through the covering at your feet.

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That was only a prelude, there
where they burn books,
they burn in the end people.
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One of the fun sculptures we spotted

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which you can see is quite large:

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Another piece of sculpture, only much more sobering, is one by Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), “Mother with her Dead Son” also known as the pieta. This replica sits in the middle of a stone floor in an 1816 building, the Emperor’s New Guardhouse, which was remodeled in 1993. This national memorial reads “To the victims of war and tyranny”  with the only light coming from an opening in the roof. The sculptress, Kollwitz, was known for her artistic expressions against government repression, and her life is an interesting read.

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We crossed the river to Berlin’s Museum Island.

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With the fading light and falling temperatures, we decided to visit some of these another day. We headed back to the apartment where Max performed his culinary art and we planned our next day’s tour.

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DAY 21:  Wednesday, November 5

The next morning we continued our getting-to-know Berlin crawl. We ended up along the Spree River where the Chancellery and Parliament buildings stood.

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With the build-up for the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Wall we were constantly educated by some amazing ‘Wall Stories’ along the wall’s path. The city had erected 100 of these blue boxes, and we stopped at every one we came across. The snippets of history related by a large photograph and accompanying story made the wall come to life, many through the terror and pain this structure caused.  I took photos of many of these, and, hopefully, you can enlarge them to read the mesmerizing tales.

We found one here along the Spree River.

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A bit of history about this concrete snake…The wall was 96 miles long with 27 miles separating East and West Berliners (the remaining separated the East Germany countryside from West Berlin). Originally it began with barbed wire and some cement blocks in 1961 and eventually morphed into the ugly combination of a secondary wall, electric fence, trenches and death strip.

If anything can be comical about this structure it was how it came to ‘fall’. Over the years other communist leaders were realizing how out of touch the East German leader, Erich Honecker, was becoming. Enough so that Gorbachev was warning him of the futility of not accommodating the growing freedom occurring in neighboring countries (Russia’s Gorbachev’s reforms, Poland’s Lech Wales’s first free labor union, Hungary’s Miklos Nameth’s opening the border to Austria). Push came to shove and Honecker finally resigned October 18, 1989.

During this time a new law easing the travel ban was being considered. At a press conference on November 9th an official for the new East German government was asked about this proposed law. Not having clear instructions the woefully unprepared spokesman fumbled and stumbled and when asked when the proposed easing would take effect he finally said at 6:53pm “Well, as far as I can see, … straightaway, immediately.” Thousands ran to the border gates only to have the guards refuse to let them through. Evidently one guard kept trying to reach his superiors without any luck, so after a while he said open the gates. The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to the Wall Stories, over 2,000 white balloons were being posted where the wall once stood. On November 9th at 7:00pm individuals would stand next to their balloon and release them one by one. As we were walking around Berlin we saw the numbered posts (so the assigned individual knew which one was theirs) with their deflated balloons being readied for the event.

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We walked to the Reichstag and saw the memorial to Politicians Who Opposed Hitler.

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Heading south we stopped on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate on the Pariser Platz where the US Embassy stands.

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We then espied more Wall Stories to read.

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and saw a memorial to those who participated in the June 17, 1953, demonstration in Potsdamer Platz. Called the People’s Uprising in East Germany, it began when East German construction workers went on strike June 16. They were joined by the general public the next day, resulting in the Democratic German Republic (GDR) confronting the protesters with tanks and guns. Ironically, it all started when the GDR, under pressure from the Soviet Union, announced easement of some work policies (10% raise in work quotas plus higher taxes and prices) they were going to put into place. Rather than diffuse the bubbling unrest, it inflamed the citizens, resulting in this demonstration.

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Further on Max bought a hotdog (there are so many names for their hotdogs I can’t remember them all so now they’re all ‘hotdog’ to me). In doing so, he befriended a sparrow

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who quickly drew a flock of his friends…

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Escaping their clutches we strolled along the eastern side of Tiergarten, a 400-acre public park and read more Wall Stories

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and the site of the memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted Under the National Socialist Regime…

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and more Wall Stories (for someone like me these history blurbs were like candy).

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Further on we reached Potsdamer Platz, the “Times Square” of old Berlin and a postwar wasteland until businesses and a mall sprang up. This was also another site for celebrating the fall of the wall with a large screen showing a Berlin Wall documentary on continuous loop. This area was more like a carnival site with a snow slide, a lego-ed giraffe, commercial billboards, and the new Sony Center.

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The colorful sights seemed a bit bizarre when juxtaposed next to the history of this area.

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We saw one of the guard towers that was saved from being demolished and moved to a site for easy access. Guards who worked the wall weren’t allowed to fraternize with one another so, if one tried to escape, the other wouldn’t feel so bad shooting him.

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Our final destination of the day was the Topography of Terror sited on a former Nazi building used by the Gestapo and SS. Like all of the museums which we toured in Germany, the amount of detail and information is overwhelming. Two hours only seems to touch the surface but it’s at least enough to give you the basic overview; and, when you’re viewing the horrors of what was performed under the Nazi banner, two hours can seem like an eternity.

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Because the history found in this museum was so well documented, I took photos so you can experience first-hand the terrors of that time.

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The faces of the terrorized children is something I’ll never forget, and I don’t think I should. The memory is too much of a reminder of what can and did happen.

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It was still early afternoon so we decided to head across town back to the Unter den Linden (at one end is the Brandenburg Gate) next to Berlin’s Museum Island, a UNESCO site. The Deutsches Historisches Museum was our last stop of the day and it offered a mind-numbing but fascinating journey through Germany’s history. Centuries of artifacts, including Roman mosaics, items from when Napoleon was captured (they had a photo of his hat saying it was on loan… we later saw it was up for auction), a Turkish tent from the Ottoman siege of Vienna (1863), paintings and busts, Nazi posters, a trabant car, basically, almost anything German and it’d be there. Unfortunately, what we didn’t do is wander into the Pei annex. Saved for a later visit.

We stumbled out after our typical two-hours meandering to find it dark and chilly, which meant we were a bit disoriented. But we located an S-Bahn and found our way home with this sign illuminating the night sky and offering a suggestion for our heads ready to explode with German facts. Note to self:  never do TWO museums in ONE day.

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DAY 22:  Thursday, November 6

Another chilly day out but still easy for sight-seeing as no rain (or snow). We decided to visit another site, the Berlin Wall Memorial. The museum was closed with a new one opening up on November 9th; however, just seeing remnants of the wall and walking in a former death zone strip gave us a good feel of what happened here.

Still unsure of navigating our way around various U-Bahn stations we happened to ask a fellow rider directions. He kindly said he was heading there with his wife to visit his wife’s mother and offered to lead us towards our destination. Along the way we spoke with his saying he’d come from Africa to study and ended up staying for work. He also shared with us that it was difficult at times living in Germany because of racism. Just as in the states, we are reminded of how different skin colors and cultures can cause ugliness instead of opportunities to learn from one another.

After a ten-minute walk we reached the Berlin Wall Memorial, a green expanse with some memorials placed around. Formerly the site of a church (later demolished by the East German government to make way for the death zone) some graves still exist.

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In 1961 the wall seemed to appear overnight, with apartment buildings actually used as part of the wall along Bernauer Strasse where this memorial was located. This site was also where the first casualty of the wall occurred when Ida Sickmann fell to her death August 22, 1961, attempting to escape from her 3rd-floor apartment.

The open-air memorial listed with photos those who died trying to flee from East Germany.

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Some were young children and teenagers.

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Photos showing the final wall were on display.

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To visit graves remaining after the church was demolished required special passes.

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A sculpture on the grounds embraces the sadness and grief caused by the wall separating families. One copy exists in the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

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Some of the wall still stood along Bernauer Strasse, such as one where kids were playing after the fall in 1989, and where I stood 25 years later on the other side.

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Looking across the memorial from the street side we saw the second (or first) wall that bordered the death zone.

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Unfortunately the Visitor Center and the Berlin Wall Documentation Center weren’t open but  we absorbed the bleak ambiance just walking in this former death grip in the gray, damp day.

With that somber memorial seen, it was time for some lightness. I had read about a famous chocolate store on Gendarmenmarkt, a beautiful historic square where Berlin Symphony’s concert hall sits. We didn’t hear any music but were able to watch a young girl entertained by a street vendor’s huge bubbles.

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Not to be distracted I made a beeline for Fassbender & Rausch, supposedly Europe’s biggest chocolate store. I don’t know if it’s true but this family-owned store offered up some treats; and, after 150 years of creating chocolate candies, I can truthfully say they know their craft.

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They even commemorated the Fall of the Wall’s 25th anniversary…

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We were hungry for lunch and scoured the area for street food. No luck so we found a grocery store off the square and picked up a wrap. While looking I spotted some dyed eggs being sold. A bit weird considering they were being sold as regular, uncooked eggs.

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We had a cabaret date at a little restaurant bar later that night. Something we had wanted to do, being familiar with the 1972 movie Cabaret starring Liza Minnelli. Although it wasn’t half as spectacular as the movie it was still fun to experience a live performance. Plus, we met a nice couple from San Francisco, which added to the night’s enjoyment.

DAY 23:  Friday, November 7

We ended up going to different destinations, with my heading for the shopping district and Max to Potsdam.

My excursion resulted in an ornament gift I had tried to purchase in Rothenberg but the shop was closed the morning we left. Locating the store took me longer than I had expected; but, It was a lovely day, warmer than previous ones, so it felt wonderful walking up and down Kurfurstendamm, up and down because of getting lost.

Max discovered the trains were on strike so his trek to Potsdam (to see the grim room where the Final Solution was initiated) didn’t happen. Instead he landed at the Berlin zoo and enjoyed a lighter outing amongst animals and their antics such as the ‘roos :)

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Arriving back home within thirty minutes of one another we packed up. We had booked a room downtown for two nights so were moving out. Thanks to economizing on our VRBO.com apartment, we felt we’d give ourselves a treat, especially since we had discovered a day earlier the S-Bahn, the fastest way into the city center, was on strike. Let the festivities begin!

DAY 24:  Saturday, November 8

Knowing Berlin had beautiful art museums, we wanted to see at least one; so, we headed into the city with our bags dropped off at our hotel in Potsdamer Platz.

The museum was the Gemaldegalerie, the “Painting Gallery”, located fairly close by to our hotel. The modern building held Germany’s top collection of 13th-18th century European paintings. [The following are from the Internet because I didn’t take photos of the museum and I couldn’t take them once in the galleries.]

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Thinking it would be packed on a weekend day, we were surprised to find it rather deserted. Although a fascinating example of modern architecture, it felt rather cold and lonely, lacking a feeling of vitality. Yet, the art was sumptuous, and I’m no art aficionado.

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Once again, two hours wasn’t enough time to soak in all of the magnificent paintings; however, I will say religious art can get rather redundant in my eyes (I need a guide who knows something about it), but there were other paintings that were captivating. One was Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-1675) The Glass of Wine.

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Another was Lucas Cranach (the guy who was friends with Luther in Wittenberg) and his Fountain of Youth.

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This museum I will definitely revisit if we ever return to Berlin. Only next time I’ll be better prepared.

We had purchased matinee tickets for a Las Vegas-like show, WILD, so we headed across town. The circus-like acts were entertaining, the best one being the acrobatic strongmen. The costumes alone were eye candy, and the singing and dancing entertaining. But, like our cabaret experience, the walking around Berlin was more of a highlight.

Once back at our hotel we prepared to go out again as the city was lighting up in anticipation of the next day’s celebrations. But, not before I recorded our dream room…

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Once you live on a boat bathrooms take on a whole new appeal…

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Yes, it was a slice of heaven.

With my drooling under control we went out into the night and took in the sights, beginning with the lit snow slide.

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Our hotel was right in Potsdamn Platz so balloons (they were illuminated starting Friday night) lined the sidewalk where the wall once stood.

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We took photos for strangers and they took ours. Everyone was excited to be there. And, rightly so! It was exhilarating, spellbinding, and joyful. We felt we were participating in history.

From our hotel it was a straight walk up to Brandenburg Gate where the moon hung over the Peace Goddess and her chariot.

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The stage for Sunday’s events was being checked out for the festivities.

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And, the lights splashed across the sky and venues.

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The crowds thronged around the stage and the Gate, while Max documented it with his iPad.

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The screen with the documentary was showing on the other side and I snapped some screen shot, including Kennedy’s proclaiming ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ June 1963.

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Outside Hotel Adlon (the one we inquired about and gulped) featured a banner of Gorbachev; that’s when we wished we’d paid the $$ just to be in the same proximity.

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Back to hotel primed for Sunday’s events.

DAY 25:  Sunday, November 9

And, we thought last night was packed. Saturday was just a tease for Sunday’s crowds.

We decided to go to several locations, the first prompted by CNN’s reporting of Angela Merkel at the dedication of the Berlin Wall Memorial’s new center. We hurried there hoping to catch sight of the German Chancellor. It was freezing but waiting around for her to appear we met a visitor from outside of Hamburg with whom we traded tales and kept each other company.

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We saw another Wall Story, one of a guard escaping.

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Finally, Angela left along with her entourage and I caught the back of her head while Max got a profile view.

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From there we headed north to Bornholmer Strasse. This is the spot where the wall was ‘opened’ and the first East Berliners poured into West Berlin’s working class neighborhood Wedding. By 11:00pm over 20,000, Angela Merkel being one, crossed into freedom.

Walking towards the gate and park the festivities included street music enjoyed by young climbers. Colorful, graffiti walls looked down into the park.

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It was frigid so when we finally reached the end of the walk, we were looking forward to the next stop via S-Bahn, East Side Gallery where CNN was broadcasting the signing of the Trabant car.

The riverside in Friedrichshain is the longest surviving piece of the inner wall. The wall has become a famous work of art thanks to over 100 artists from 20 countries using it as their canvas in 1990.

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We managed to find the CNN car only to discover the reporter had left and they weren’t allowing anyone to sign it. However, we persuaded the assistant we had come all this way to do so. She thought a second, then handed us the pen saying ‘do NOT give this out to anyone else.’ Orr’s Islanders, your home is immortalized or, at least, it decorates a car in Berlin :)

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Walking back along the river we saw a youth hostel, and I was ever so glad we didn’t have to stay there.

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Having seen the sights here we made our way back to our hotel to warm up prior to heading out for the night.

After an hour we were ready to hit the street again and, man, it was CROWDED. I have never felt so smooshed as when I was trying to reach the other side of the walkway during this celebration. We tried getting to Brandenburg Gate but quickly gave up when we were being routed through Tiergarten by police. We knew we’d never reach the stage area, let alone hear the speeches.

To give you an idea, here’s a crowd scene:

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So, we turned around and returned to Potsdamn Platz where we met a German family of two sisters (one married to a guy from California and they were living in London, the other married and living in Germany) and their uncle born and raised in East Germany.

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We grabbed hotdogs and beer along with our new-found friends and proceeded to enjoy the night in spite of the sardine-like situation.

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We watched the large screen and recognized places we’d been during our walks to see the wall, only this time it was before the fall of the wall:

East Side Gallery (where the car that we signed earlier in the day was located)

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Bernauer Strasse (where we went to see Angela Merkel and where we had been Thursday)

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Mauerpark (where we saw the live band and the little girl climbing the rock)

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and Checkpoint Charlie around Potsdam Platz (so called because “C” is “Charlie” in the NATO phonetic alphabet)

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With images like the ones above captured from the screen you can imagine how stunningly powerful this documentary was.

A yell went up when the balloons were released and we all watched mesmerized as they drifted into the heavens.

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The documentary (which we hope to purchase once it’s released) played on…

http://youtu.be/PJIiLiKZ-Qc

http://youtu.be/8ym5NWBQt0o

and the night was one of shared appreciation for what mankind can do if thinking the right way.

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Berlin, Thank you. We had the time of our life.

DAY 26:  Monday, November 10

Up and out early for our plane, we took the U-Bahn to catch our bus to the airport via a connection in Stockholm.

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Of course, when I say via Stockholm I mean wandering in a deserted airport for an hour or two and ordering a salad that cost at least double what it’d be back home. But, hey, we were in ‘sveeedin’ :)

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Catching the bus from Heathrow to Ipswich we were charmingly entertained by Vinnie, our driver. This guy was great, and nuts. He demonstrated the stopping power of the bus by coming to a complete stop… on the highway. Yes, there was a slowdown due to traffic ahead, but, still, a complete stop was a bit over the top.

He had been to the states to visit his cousin and her husband in Mississippi. Come to find out his aunt was married to Eddie Willis of The Funk Brothers! Holy moly. We ordered the documentary Vinnie told us about, the DVD Standing in the Shadow of Motown, so we could pick it up when back in the states. Pretty cool.

Dropped off at the rail station, we walked home to Juanona. Our Germany adventure had come to a close, and all we can say is we’ll be back humming the Ode to Joy. 

And, to practice, i’ll just have to watch this over (and over) :)

YOUTUBE:  Flashmob Flash Mob – Ode an die Freude ( Ode to Joy ) Beethoven Symphony No.9 classical music