Friday, April 13, 2012

Germany and Home

      On Friday we went to a pool.  We went down slides and swam.  The wave pool was the best! When a wave came, I could jump up and grab the wall that was probably 3.5-4 feet high.  They had big columns of ice and it was fun to see how long I could hug it and then touch Mom and Tim with my cold hands.  It was a really nice day.

      On the Saturday before Easter, Sue gave us a guided tour of Weil Der Stadt, the city in which they live.  It's a medieval town and you can tell by some of the dates in a cemetery we went to.  Some of the dates of old grave stones embedded in a wall were from the 1600s.  It was very cool!  We also saw a church and a market.

      Easter in Germany was delightful.  We spent it with Sue and Mo, who we were staying with, and their German friends.  We had grilled ribs, salmon, shrimp, and squash.  The shrimp were peel-and-eat, but I didn't know so I stuck the whole thing in my mouth!  Then Mom told me and I spit it out.  Well, I learned how to eat peel-and-eat shrimp that day.  Then, we got to see some of Mo's patented moves and listened to some good music.

     On Monday, we visited the concentration camp Dachau on our way to Oberammergau.  It was so sad!  The words on the gate were in German, but in English they read "work will set you free" which was obviously misleading to the new-comers and sadly untrue.  We went into one of the barracks which wasn't original because they were all torn down.  It was hard to imagine that at one point, 400 people shared a room in the barracks that at that point held 1,600 people.  When we went to to the gas chamber, that wasn't for mass murders, but only a few at a time, it was just so sad.  there were fake shower spouts that made the people think that they were getting showers.  They had a waiting room so the people didn't know what would happen to them.  The crematoriums were also very depressing.  The fact that they had to make more in the same building as the gas chambers just reminded me of the countless people that died.  It just made me think of how cruel people can be.

     After the sad beginning of Monday, we finished our trip to Oberammergau and had a lovely dinner by a fire at a restaurant nearby.  Oberammergau was so beautiful with all the snow-capped mountains that surround it.  Our place was nice too.  We found a little shop there that actually had stuff that had "Gabi" spelled right!!! The woman was an "itch" with a "b" and didn't want to tell us what something on a mug said.  Then, I think she overheard Mom saying that if I could get her to say it, we could get something.  So, I put on my sweet voice and asked.  She told me that it meant "Gabi the strong."  I told Mom who replied by saying that she hoped the woman would overhear.  we didn't get anything, but she was rude so it's okay.

      On Tuesday, we rode cable car up to the top of Zugspitze, the tallest mountain un Germany.  It was awesome!  When we got to the top, we could see mountains all around.  It was spectacular!  On the way down, the cable car went fast a couple of times and it so fun!

      We then spent one more night at Sue and Mo's and then in Ramstein.  In th airport in Ramstein, I dropped a Cinnibon in my lap, so I had that stain for the rest of the flight.  It was especially upsetting when I saw an attractive young man ;)  Oh, and when we landed, people were waiting to greet us since it was a military flight.  One nice man was giving out little care packages with snacks and a thank you for your service note with a little card from a girl scout troop.  I passed him and then Tim, who was behind me, takes it.  He deserves it, but it's funny because it was for active military and of course Tim would do that.  It was very funny!  The flight seemed faster going back.  I really missed the boys, but other than that, the trip felt like it was only a day long.  Then, i remember all of the things we did and it's truly amazing.  I had a wonderful time!

Things I forgot to mention:

  • Sue and Mo's cat, Ivy, licked me when I pet her :)
  • We took probably over 2,000 pictures!
  • I broke a nutella jar in an Italian grocery store in Salerno

So long and farewell from this blog,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Last Leg

Thursday, April 12th

I'm sitting in Ramstein Air Base, waiting for roll call.  We had a scare this morning when we checked Ramstein's FB page and saw that there were only 35 seats available for our that number has been firmed up to 207, so not only are we making it on this flight, but we can spread out!  Nice!

This has been a great week in Germany.  We started our final leg last Thursday, arriving in Weil Der Stadt, home of our friends Sue and Mo, via train and then rental car (got stuck in an awful traffic jam on the Autobahn), with one of the best meals on this trip - a little hole in the wall that serves spaghetti and shrimp to die for and don't get me started on the tirimisu!  Then we decided to take it easy on Friday, so we went to a swimbad in Filderstadt.  A swimbad is an indoor water park, complete with water slides and a wave pool.  That was fun.  Then Saturday we ran some errands in preparation for Easter dinner on Sunday and also visited a beautiful palace called Schloss Solitude.  Easter Sunday was fabulous.  Sue and Mo invited their wonderful neighbors over as well as an old friend and co-worker of Tim's, so we had a good crowd and Mo's fabulous cooking.  We were entertained by Mo's dancing and Gab's mad DJ skills -  add some wine to the mix and voila!  A perfect day!

Monday we set off to the concentration camp in Dachou, which was about 2 1/2 hours away.  We took a guided tour and learned a lot.  It was extremely sad and surreal being there.  This particular camp was primarily a work camp and not an extermination camp like Auschwitz, but they still had two crematoriums equipped with gas chambers.  There were over 31,000 registered deaths there and only one person known to have ever escaped.  I'm really glad we went.  Being Jewish, I think this was an important thing for Gab and me to do.  Tim had been there before.  We left Dachou and headed to Oberammergau, which is a pretty little town in the middle of the Alps.  We poked around the shops and stayed the night there.  Tim went to NATO school there , so he remembered a cute little Italian restaurant he had eaten at several times before.  We had a good meal and some (more) good wine.  On Tuesday we rode a cable car to the top of Zugspitz, the highest mountain in Germany.  That was special.  I've never seen views like that.  There were majestic (sounds like a cheesy word to use, but truly, it's the one that fits) snow-capped mountain views in all directions.  It was amazing!

Yesterday we packed up the car and headed to Ramstein.  On the way Tim took us to a couple of Weinguts.  Now this is what I'm talking about!  These places are cute little shops that sit on the individual vineyard that the wine comes from and they are everywhere along what is called a Weinstrasse - a long stretch of vineyards and wineries.  This region is called Pfalz. You pull in and get to swig as much wine as you want so you can make an educated decision on your purchases.  Needless to say, Tim and I were well educated.  Gab even dipped her pinky in a glass or two.  We bought over 40 bottles of wine and a couple of bottles of grape juice.  I'm almost embarrassed to say how inexpensive the wine is - the average bottle was about 4 euros!  And this is GOOD wine!  Then a bratwurst later, we headed to our room on base and spent a couple of hours figuring out how to pack it all up!

So, here we are, waiting for Space-A roll call, ready to come home.  It's been an incredible adventure, one that won't soon be forgotten.  We easily have close to 2,000 pictures.  Those, along with this blog, will serve as a permanent record of the places we've gone and the thing's we've experienced.  It was wonderful!  We miss our beds and we miss our boys!    Tons of pics to follow after we get home.

"Work will set you free"  The quote that greeted incoming prisoners as they passed through the front gate at Dachou

View from Zugspitz

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Amsterdam and Germany

Amsterdam: 4/3/12-4/5/12  
     Amsterdam was wonderful!  During our short visit we visited both Anne Frank's house and Keukenhof.  Anne Frank's house was the first thing we saw and it was so moving.  She was young girl with a passion who impacted the world with her words.  The fact that I was standing in the same place where she stood and wrote those words was surreal.  Her story is so terribly upsetting.  When you read her diary, you find yourself in the world of a normal teenage girl who had her world turned upside down. Through all the downs, sitting cooped up in her little two-year home, this young girl wrote.  She stayed optimistic and told Kitty that she knew the war would end.  When she wasn't writing about her future, she was writing about how she felt.  With those feelings, she moved people all over the world.  I asked my mom if I could touch the counter in the kitchen, that we thought was original, because I wanted to touch something that this girl did.  I am one of those many people that she impacted.
     The Secret Annex wasn't furnished because Otto Frank didn't want it to be.  When the Frank family and the others were arrested, the annex was cleared.  Otto Frank didn't want the furniture to be replaced because the people that were killed in the war wouldn't be.  It would have been nice to see it with furniture, but his reasoning was very understandable.  Their was however a small, scale replica of the annex.  It was crazy to see how eight people fit into the annex for two years.  It really shows you how crowded it must have been and how much will it must have taken to just not scream.

   The toilet was still there.  I don't know if it was the original one, but I'm guessing that it is.  It was like china with blue designs.  Even though it was just a toilet, it was fascinating.  Anne's father brought all of her posters and pictures over to the Anne so that she could put them on her wall and make her little room seem more homey.  To see the pictures on Anne's wall, which again, I'm only guessing that they are original, made me realize how she was just your average teenage girl.  She was into movie stars and magazines, which she had one of the helpers bring her, just like girls today.  Then, I read something that said that over the course of the two years, her interests changed from celebrities to history and art.  She was maturing and learning like any person.  What really hit me where lines draw on the wall that I am pretty sure were the real things.  They were lines marking Anne and Margot's growth.  Anne was on the left and Margot on the right.  Margot grew some, but Anne grew a lot.  This was what made the fact that these were real people and not just characters in a book real to me.

     I couldn't take pictures, but I did in my mind.  The memory of going through the doorway that the bookcase hid, their growth lines, and Anne's posters will always be in my mind.

     After you made your way out of the annex itself, there was an exhibition that was just a general one about the Holocaust.  Seeing this exhibition made the fact that the Frank family and the others hiding with them weren't the only ones persecuted, hidden, caught, and murdered clear.  Before this exhibition, Anne's papers and mock diary were on display.  The papers were the part of her diary that she had rewritten in the hope of publishing a book about the Secret Annex after the war.  She did this after she heard an announcement on the radio saying to keep all your records of the war.  Anne was a girl with a vision, passion, and dream.

     On the second day in Amsterdam was out with the sad and in with the cheerful.  We went to Keukenhof which is basically a giant garden.  It mainly had tulips, but it also had daffodils and other plants.  We were about a week or two early considering that the flowers weren't fully bloomed.  It was beautiful either way.  There was a mini lake with ducks and swans that I got awesome pictures of.  I always take pictures of animals.  I guess they just fascinate me :) It was a lovely day.

Keukenhof website for more pictures:

     Over all, Amsterdam is a very fun city.  I could tell, based on the level of noise outside the window at night until 4 am, that it is also very lively.  Oh, and because marijuana is legal there, I got my first whiff of it.  Tip: never go into a "Coffee" shop, but always a "Koffee" shop.  There is a big difference.  Let's just say, "Coffee" shops have less rules :)

Germany: 4/5/12-4/12/12

     Well, we are in Germany now staying with our friends near Stuttgart.  Today, we saw a beautiful palace that belonged to a Duke.  This guy sure got around based on his "rendezvous" rooms, 10-15 mistresses, 56 or so recognized children, and over 200 children total.  The building was made to look exotic using the color red and ivory which represent Asia and Africa and things from there were considered to be just that and also represented wealth.

     We had fabulous steak for dinner last night and delicious tortellini for dunch today courtesy of our friend Mo that we are staying with.  Two nights ago, we had wonderful pasta and shrimp as well as delightful tiramisu for dessert thanks to a well known, little, hole-in-the-wall restaurant near-by.

     I am sad that our trip is coming to a close, but also glad.  It has been a wonderful experience and will continue to be for the next five days.  I miss home though and my boys.  All vacations end at some point which is why they are called vacations and not life.


Friday, April 6, 2012

4/6/12  Friday

We are safe and sound in Germany, staying with our friends Sue and Mo.  After Paris we took the ICE high-speed train to Amsterdam.  We fell in love with the place!  We took a tram from the train station to a central location called Leidensplein (sp?).  We were supposed to meet the person we were renting the apartment from in front of a Burger King there.  Our cell phone decided it didn't like Amsterdam so I had to ask 2 different strangers on the street if I could use their phones.  The Dutch people were so warm and friendly and everyone speaks English.  Our guy came to meet us and led us down a very busy street to a Greek restaurant called "Zorba" and that's where we stayed - in the apartment above the Greek restaurant.  I kept remarking to the guy about what a convenient location it was and he kept saying, "yes, but it gets loud at night."  It was in the middle of the shopping, bars, "coffee" houses, restaurants, and fun in general.                We were thrilled to be staying in such a great spot.

We unloaded our suitcases and took off on foot to the Anne Frank house.  It was about a mile away and as we walked along the canal, I fell more and more in love with the place.  The houses are all cool row houses that are about 4-8 stories tall.  There are huge lanes for bicycles and everyone has one.  There are bicycles everywhere and none of them are what we would consider nice ones.  They're all very basic and all very rusty.  But, the cool thing is that most of them aren't even locked up.  Who would steal a bike when it's no better than the one they already have?  Very cool.

There was a pretty long line for Anne Frank's house but it went fast.  The museum was amazing and so, so moving.  It gave me goosebumps just being there and realizing all that had happened there in that very spot.  If anyone goes to Amsterdam, this place is not to be missed.  If you know nothing about Anne Frank or even the war for that matter, you leave that place in the know.  They did a great job with pictures, interviews, videos and artifacts.  We really took our time going through it, reading everything, watching every video, and just taking it all in.  It was a powerful experience and one that I'm glad I got to share with Gab.

From there we walked back to our neighborhood and found an awesome sushi joint.  We figured out pretty quickly that there were several coffee houses on every block and that they served coffee, but that coffee wasn't the primary business being done there.  Gab now knows what pot smells like!  Oh, well.  Maybe that's why everyone there is so friendly, they have legal marijuana and prostitution!  Why shouldn't they all be happy!

Gab and Mom at the Louvre

More Amsterdam

Beautiful canal in Amsterdam

Adorable painting and mini-garden outside of an apartment in Amsterdam

After sushi we headed back to Zorba's, got Gab settled in for the night, and took off for a few hours to have an adult night out.  We had a blast!  :)  Then we went back and tried to sleep.  The operative word here is "tried."  As it turns out, there was no sleep to be had.  The bars are open until 4 am, and that was our first chance for any shut-eye.  We listened to the party animals yell, scream, and sing (LOTS of singing) all night long.  The next morning we somehow got up and headed out to the Kukenhof gardens.  Spectacular!  Tulips, flowers, gorgeous landscaping, amazing!  We spent several hours there just breathing it in.  Back to town, another meal, more walking around, then up at the crack of dawn (wait, to wake up, one first has to have been sleeping) to catch a 7 am train to Frankfurt, Germany.  We landed in Frankfurt, rented a car, got lost, got stuck on the autobahn in a horrible traffic jam because of 2 accidents, then finally, finally made it to The Ritter Sport chocolate factory.  Enough said there.  Then we met Sue and Mo at a little hole in the wall for one of the best meals we had on this trip!  Slept like a rock last night,  woke up at 10 this morning and went to an indoor water park and to run some errands today.  We really needed a day to take it easy and recharge the batteries.

Gab and Mom Inside the giant letters that spell "I AmSterdam"
Mom and Gab enjoying a stroll in Amsterdam

Gab and a giant weenie!

Gab and the Easter Bunny in Keukenhoff.

Gab and Tim in the "d"

Gab in Keukenhoff

Mom and Tim tip-toeing through the Tulips.

Gab and Tim in Keukenhoff.

Gab in the giant clogs.

I wear this size!