Monday, March 29, 2010

Ways to Go

Sorry for no pics on this blog the signal is too low.
Well, here we are on the last days of our journey, just 9 days to go and looking for the end. It is a very rainy day in Dublin, quite rainy and we are planning how we will get to Trinity College to meet Megan Proper and stay dry, my short rain jacket will manage to channel all the water onto my pants. We love Dublin though! The few days we have been here have been grand. We love Ireland and have decided to forgo our return to the south of Spain for some exploration here. We will travel to Belfast tomorrow and then right up to the north coast to stay by the sea for our last few days. We had a great stay in Edinburgh last week, exploring the city and enjoying the pubs there. Thanks to our friends Sean and Megan Adams we learned that we really like Haggis, Neeps and Mash and I found heather(the shrub) beer very tasty. We explored the many historic sights and learned from our "free" tour guide just how the Scots managed to include the Pics, the Romans, the Norse, the Vikings, the Saxons, the Anglos and anyone else who happened along, in their community. I was saying to Terry how this has been a history tour as much as a vacation and we have really enjoyed it.

We are to the point where we won't do anymore laundry until we come home and the clothes which we have been circulating through will be gradually discarded, dirty now equals garbage. We are really quite a sight sometimes as so many of our shirts and other things have warn out. They have lost their elasticity, become faded and developed random holes and are ready to be let go. You know, "If you love something, let it go and if it comes back to you it is beyond dirty and should be burned." We will be glad to get home and I think the two things I am looking forward to is having my own bed and not sharing a bathroom with strangers anymore! I don't think I will ever get used to coming out of a stall in a common bathroom and having to greet the young women who is also there. Just what do you say in a situation like that? I think I settled on the Australian phrase, "How ya goin?" but even that gets some funny looks.

I have actually become quite the expert on bathrooms over these last five months, toilets especially. I have seen every kind of toilet you can imagine, from squatties to real bowls and even ones that appear completely backwards to me. I think the most fun ones are squatties on trains. Mind you Terry does not show the same appreciation I have for these little times of adventures and prefers the elaborate one we saw at the Monte Carlo Casino. That one actually rotated the seat through a sanitary wash before the next person used it. You can just imagine how much that one got flushed just to see it work! Speaking of fun toilets, the ones on airplanes are always adventures. Did you know if you hold a long piece of toilet paper close to the spillway on this toilet it will virtually pull it from you hands when flushed and the paper will disappear down the spout with a snap. You should try it when you get the opportunity. The most annoying toilet I have used are the round ones. It is like sitting on a tall bowl or vase. They are very efficient in flushing but 'going' on one is like dropping stones into water, there will be a splash! The most interesting set up I saw was the, so called, by Jacob, Dutch toilet. This toilet seems to be completely reversed. There is a small reservoir of water but it is completely at the front of the toilet. When you have completed your task your work sits on a little platform waiting for you to flush to wash it off. Very disturbing to see unless you are into examining the efficiency of your digestive system. So you see why I will be so happy to be home and enjoying the 'comforts' I am used to there. Well that's all for now, I have to go!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Having a rest

Since I have last written we have left Berlin, visited Ghent or Gent in Belgium and landed in Amsterdam. We have been here for about 5 days and are staying in a great apartment we found on a house exchange site. It seems everywhere we go since we have landed in Germany we have encountered places that remind us of the holocaust that took place during the second world war. Amsterdam has been no exception. Here we visited the Anne Frank house and also traveled to Harleem to visit the Corrie Ten Boom house, which is also a museum. It again raises questions about what went on and why some people acted and others did not. We picked up a book at the Jewish Memorial in Berlin called, "The Righteous" which I have been reading. Part of the preface reads like this' " . . . the Germans could not have done what they did without the assistance of their Ukrainian, Polish, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Croatian "helpers". Furthermore, the roundup of Jews in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and even Norway, would not have been so "successful" without significant local "help"." It still makes me wonder how this could have taken place and how people have recovered from such racism. Again I don't have an answer. Terry and I have chatted about this quite a bit and it has left us with many wonders, wonders as to how people could be so cruel and how the people who have rescued Jews could have been so brave.

On a lighter note we have had a marvelous time over that past week or so. The stay in Gent was charming because of the accommodations, a converted river barge bought in France and sailed to Gent and made into a hostel. We were not just near the water but in it. Gent was originally a textile town and was the second largest city in Europe until the industry faltered and other cities grew larger faster. You can still find many quality products there made of cotton and flax. I would recommend a visit to anyone

Amsterdam has been most wonderful, made wonderful because we have connected with some old and new friends here. We have had a great visit with Heather Britton and her sister Rachael and husband, Jacob. Melisa Ytsma has been our tour guide and they all have been to our place as dinner guests. The nice part of this is it's not over yet. On Saturday we will see Jos Dekker and Heather and Melissa again, it's almost like being home. Being home is something we are thinking about. We have about 18 days left of our journey and although we are still having a great time and looking forward to the places we have yet to see, being home on April 17 will be just fine! By the way, this is our third visit to the fine city of Amsterdam and we would suggest it makes a great vacation destination. The buildings and the people are quite amazing and we will be sad to leave. From Amsterdam with love, we will be seeing most of you soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More Questions Then Answers

The trains seem to be the best place to write blogs as they are quite comfortable and usually have electrical outlets for the computer. So here we sit writing on another high speed train going from Munich to Berlin.

We have really enjoyed Munich and again regret that we have to leave a place before we are finished enjoying it. Munich, the city with a lot of capitals and yet not "the" capital. Munich is the capital of Bavaria, the heart of the German empire established in 1871, the heart of the the kingship, home of the Ludwig's mad or not. Munich is also the beer capital of Germany with some monks starting it all sometime around the 6th century. They are very proud of this and beer is very important to them. A traditional breakfast includes beer and most people only have a half liter of beer for lunch. I mean that's all they have, no food at all, yes men and women. So you can see how important beer is! It the home of 'the' Oktoberfest when no one can imagine how much beer is consumed and on one occasion a brewery actually went dry!

Munich has other capitals to tell of. It is the Catholic capital of Germany. The home of the current Pope, who is a lover of Augustiner beer. Any casual observation will tell you that Munich is the Catholic capital as churches can be seen from any vantage point and it was one of the rare places where I did not need to consult a map to get around. Church landmarks are everywhere and any confusion is resolved by looking for the nearest steeple. Munich is also very new despite looking old. Munich was nearly destroyed during the second world war, 87% of it's buildings were knocked down. They knew that this would happen and so a campaign was mounted to photograph the buildings, inside and out, so they could be restored to original after the destruction ended. This brings the question, "Why would this happen?" It's because Munich is also the capital of Nazism and the second home to the most infamous Austrian of all time, Adolf Hitler.

It was from Munich that Hitler started his movement to rule Germany. It was from Munich, the third story of the New Town hall, that Hitler ordered the opening of Dachau, the first and longest running concentration camp in Germany. It was from this same place, in 1938 he commenced "crystal nacht" (night of broken glass). When the Jewish population of Munich went from 12,000 to 1,000 and every Jewish business and Synagogue was burned to the ground. This same place, in 1941 launched Hitler's "Final Solution" which led to the death of 6 million Jews. All this has left me with many questions about Munich. How can it boast of being the capital of many good things and be the the capital of evil at the same time? I know that Munich is dealing openly with her past, which is why Dachau still stands and the third story of the old town hall is pointed out to tourists, but some questions still remain. I don't think this is a question just for Munich, it's one that needs to be asked by all of us because evil still exists amongst the good. It makes me want to be quick to speak out against injustice, unrighteousness and hate when I encounter it. My hope is that I do.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lost and found in Paris

We only had 3 days in Paris so we spent the 1st two at warp speed. There was so much to see and so little time. We bought a pass for museums and other attractions and lost ourselves in the rush of the city. On our first day we visited the Museum D'Orsey, an art gallery in a very interesting, modern building that reminded me of the Eaton Centre. It was full of sculptures and paintings, including Monet and Van Gogh. After that, we went to the Rodin museum. We didn't realize that Rodin was creator of the "Thinker" which we got to view first hand. Next was Hotel D'Invalid. This is the burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte and many others. Again, the building itself was magnificent, having been a church build by one of the Louis kings. Off to the Eiffel Tower just as the sun was setting. The view all over Paris was incredible as we watched the lights come on. We could see Notre Dame, the Hotel D'Invalides, the Seine River, and many other sights we had just learned to recognize.

We started the next day at the Louvre. We saw the Mona Lisa right off. We saw many different paintings from the 13th century up and sculptures. We barely scratched the surface and could easily have been lost there for a week. Off to Notre Dame. It is so huge and I loved it's simplicity of decoration compared to many churches we have visited. It was mostly stone without frescoes. As with many of the great cathedrals, I love the archways all over the church. The stain glass windows were magnificent, especially the Rose. We also went to the crypt in front of Notre Dame. It contains ruins from the old city of Paris from as early as 5th century AD. The city was re-build on top of older cities several times. Sometimes the old parts were torn down and the ruins used to rebuild. Next we went to the Cluny museum which was in an old Roman bath. I was more interested in the building then the 5th century artifacts which were around the 5th century. At the end of the day, we visited the Arch de Triumph. It is so much bigger then I expected. It was dark when we arrived so it was beautifully lit up. I didn't realize that you could go up inside of it to the top and as we looked out over the city we saw the Eiffel Tower suddenly light up like white flashing Christmas lights all over. Another spectacular site. Also, the city panned out in triangles from the Arch. We could see right down the Champs Elysee.

On our last day we decided to take it easy as we had been running for 2 days. We went to Basilique St. Denis. It is the crypt of most of the Kings and Queens of France and was full of burial statues. The history, monuments and building were very interesting. It also had some beautiful stain glass, including a rose window like Notre Dame. Our next stop was the Champs Elysee. We walked for a bit and saw the Grand and Petit Palaces. We stopped in a coffee shop on the Champs and watched all the people walking by. It was so fun, relaxing and fascinating just observing and chatting about the people in Paris. After 3 days, we finally found ourselves again.