Friday, September 21, 2012

Germany Part 3

Probably our favorite part of our journey was our visits to Berlin. My parents were awesome and watched the kids for a day so Ty and I could go by ourselves. We went on an amazing walking tour and learned SO much about city history. Then, we went back a few days later with my Dad and Jennifer and the kids. 
This is the Berlin Cathedral. It burned after a bomb set it on fire in WW2, but has been reconstructed just like most of the buildings in Berlin. It was amazing how many of the buildings had been refurbished or were nearing completion in an attempt to restore buildings after the rule of the GDR. 

This building was Hitler's headquarters, which after the war became the headquarters for the GDR. There is a mural on the wall of the building which depicts the Socialist ideal of happy East Germans. In the foreground is a blown up photograph memorial of the realistic faces of the unhappy protesters wanting their freedom. 

An obligatory picture of Ty next to a piece of the Berlin wall. 

Some beautiful flowers. We went at apparently just the right time of year. The bitter cold was over and we had some very pleasant weather and lots of sunshine. 

We tried to get a family photo in the train station.

Funny story... Levi hopped into a fountain in front of the Berlin Cathedral which got his shoes and pants soaking wet on a fairly chilly day. To keep his toes warm, we put gloves on his feet. After sulking for a bit, he eventually thought it was funny. By the end of the day, Colt wanted to wear gloves on his feet too :)

We went to several museums. I remember the boys were making fun of this particular statue's member. This is the armory museum that was really interesting with lots of old stuff :) We didn't spend too incredibly long here as we got reprimanded a few times for the kids behavior/noise. It was interesting that despite the most recent history of WW2 and the GDR (Communistic rule), the tour guides kept reiterating that most of Berlin's history was focused around rulers wanting to welcome other cultures and religions and trying to make Berlin a place of tolerance and culture. 

We did visit a really cool chocolatier. They had tons of famous Berlin buildings built out of chocolate. After several tastes of milk, dark, mint, and the like, we were ready to continue on our day! 

This is the Leipzig Hauptbonhauf or train station. I loved the architecture of the place. 

One thing I'll remember about Germany is all of the graffiti. It was EVERYWHERE! And the graffiti was WAY better than most American graffiti I've seen. This stuff was actually art with different paint shades and really quite impressive to look at. 

Anyway, this is a very brief (3 part... ha!) recap of our trip. I took almost 500 pictures that I'll put in a book for our family, but wanted to share a bit about it here. While it was a difficult trip in many ways because we had our 4 year old, 3 year old and 18 month old kids with us (you haven't picked up on that by my comments have you? ;), it was also a trip where many memories were created and hopefully will be one our kids will look back on fondly for years to come. Thanks for hosting us, Dad and Jennifer! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Germany vacation Part 2

While in Germany, we took a few day trips without my parents to places nearby. The kids LOVED the train rides and would often time be ready to go back to Leipzig shortly after we got out of the train station in our destination city!

We took a trip to the town of Weimar and toured the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. This is the front gate. The words mean "to each his own" or figuratively "everyone gets what he deserves" and is only legible from inside the camp. 

This is a view of the entrance building from the far side of the camp. The barracks were located in the empty space, but were destroyed in the bombings of 1945. This was a camp with lots of hard conditions, starvation and executions.  

It's hard to imagine the terrors that occurred here at this camp set in such a beautiful setting. Ty and I took the audio tour of the camp, which was difficult to listen to with whining/tired kids (who eventually fell asleep in the stroller and in our arms), but it was definitely a different experience to take a tour with kids as opposed to the 2 of us by ourselves! Another thing I'll remember from this trip is that Colt fell pretty quickly after we got inside the camp and scraped up his knee. He was crying and carrying on for a while. It made me think of the numerous children who had been there before him, scared, cold and tortured. Those kids weren't allowed the comfort of their parents or even medical care to clean up their wounds. In a way it made me want to tell Colt to "suck it up." In other ways it made me want to hold my little boy and continue to teach he and his generation how to live a life of love, embracing others despite different cultures, values and beliefs from our own. As one holocaust survivor said, "It happened, therefore it can happen again." 

After our visit in Weimar, we headed to Erfurt. This is the town where Martin Luther attended college. There were a few sights we wanted to see, but as soon as we arrived, the kids melted down. So, we found a sushi joint out in a town plaza and fed our family while listening to a saxophone player share his gift. All these months later, the kids still ask to go back to Germany to get sushi!! 

The fields were full of these yellow rape seed flowers... beautiful!

Another expedition took us to the Leipzig zoo! The kids had been looking forward to the zoo for months prior to our trip and the zoo did not disappoint. 

Ty wasn't impressed with the variety of animals at the zoo, but I was definitely impressed with the zoo environment. It topped any US zoo we've been to! Great care and detail was put into each animal's environment, as well as little learning opportunities and hands on experiences for the kids. 

The kids desperately wanted to ride the train. 

But, all these months later, still talk about how some other kids got to ride in the engine car and how they wished they could ride again, this time up front!

My Dad and Jennifer and us at Auerbachs Keller restaurant. This is the 2nd oldest restaurant in Leipzig, where Goethe used to hang out and described in his play Faust I. We had a delicious German dinner and night out without the kids :) 

Ty and the kids at the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, also known as V√∂lkerschlachtdenkmal.
Can anyone say that without messing up? One perk of having kids... we got to take an elevator to the top instead of taking the stairs! 

There were some breathtaking views of Leipzig from the top of the monument. Leipzig is a really cool town with much history. Bach wrote his music here and conducted the St. Thomas Church choir. It was also played a key role in the fall of communism in Eastern Europe through peaceful demonstrations. The city has been undergoing extensive restoration since the fall of the GDR. 

My parent's apartment had this fun park in the back right next to the river. The kids had lots of fun playing here. 

This was Colt's favorite toy - a bucket and string that lowered the bucket over the fence into the river. He brought lots of water up to pour into the sandbox! 

Anyway, those are our Leipzig and day-trip adventures in summary. Next up, Berlin! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Germany vacation

Our family was blessed to take a trip to Germany this past April. My Dad and Stepmom were in Leipzig for the Spring semester teaching through ACUs Study Abroad program, and they missed their grandkids, so we were forced to go visit them. Sometimes family obligations are so cruel. 
The students and my parents had a scheduled trip to Prague a few days after we arrived, so we tagged along as well. 
Here is the Jewish Cemetery. It consists of layers and layers of graves stacked on top of one another. You can see the gravestones at the top, near the fence line. 

When in Europe, you must take time to stop for gelato.

Lots of gelato. 

We found a park to give the kids some play time. This zip line was a hit as well as many of the other unique park features. 

I love this picture of my Dad and Tatum on our boat tour.

The St. Charles bridge

Grandad and Grandma with the grandkids

All tuckered out. The kids took lots of naps in this stroller. There is no way we were adhering to a nap schedule when there was so much to explore!

The kids loved the breeze in the tunnel waiting for the underground subways. 

The anticipation!! 

So excited to see the train come!

The red rooftops of Prague

Aunt Abbey and Aunt Ashley were also visiting for the first week of our trip. It was SO nice to have them there to help with our kids. Oh yeah, and it was nice to experience Prague with them too :) 

The beautiful cathedral 

Aunt Ashely and Levi hanging out on the train back to Leipzig. The iPads came in handy on this trip! Aunt Ashley tried to watch Levi's movie for a while too, but eventually gave up b/c of Levi's desire to condense a movie into about 15 minutes via fast forwarding. :) 

This train ride to/from Leipzig to Prague was my favorite. The countryside was beautiful and picturesque. I will always remember its beauty and peacefulness. Almost enough to make me want to move there. 

I took about 500 pictures, so I won't post them all on the blog, but I do plan to have 2 more posts on  our visit coming soon!