Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A tribute to Ulla and my Camino friends in Dobeln and Dresden!

     Writing a blog about this all-too-quick weekend has been very difficult.  It was one of the most intensely personal experiences in our life, yet a time that should be shared with everyone!  However, putting it into words has taken many hours of writing and re-writing.  Dobeln is a small town about an hour from Dresden, a place that we had not heard of before.  We actually didn't know that is where we were going, but it was awesome!  

    Before we even started our Adventure, I received an e-mail from my friend Ulla, who I met on the Camino de Santiago last year.  She invited me for the weekend when we were in Germany.  I knew she lived in Dresden, so we took the bus from Berlin to Dresden, a mere 2 1/2 hour ride.  

    We get off the bus, and were greeted by a small horde of smiling people, one waving an American flag, another the Dutch flag, wearing t-shirsts with everyone's name on them!  We were greeted by Camino friends Ulla and her boyfriend Friedrich, Linda and her father Wim, and Ida, Wim's wife and Linda's mother, Gerhardt and his wife Beatrix. Later we would meet up with Yvonne and her boyfriend Ingo.

    Our time with this wonderful group of people, from the greeting at the bus station to our sad departure 3 days later, was magical, unforgettable, wonderful!  The warmth, kindness, friendliness, love, and generosity everyone expressed was so unexpected, but so heartfelt.  We felt absolutely honored that this awesome group of people are in our lives.

    The entire weekend was put together by wonderful Ulla!  She and I shared a very personal experience:-).  One day after walking for many hours on the Camino, I had just completed my shower, and Ulla "accidently" walked in on me (LOL!).  From that moment, we shared a sense of humor and bond!  

    A synopsis of the weekend: a tour of Dresden, then a drive to Dobeln, about 45 minutes away.  Friday evening we had a "bbq" at "the Blue Monday" pension (Zum Blauen Montag) run by Rolf Berndt.  This beautiful old building has been carefully restored by Rolf.  It sits on the river banks of the Mulda river.  If anyone EVER goes to Dobeln, I recommend you stay at the Blue Monday- it really is beautiful!  

     Saturday morning we had a city tour of the town of Dobeln.  We had a personal town tour guide (Irena) who took us through the town hall, cathedral, and around the town.  It was incredible!  It included an interview with the local paper!  We even got our picture in the paper!

    Saturday evening (and into the early hours of Sunday!) we had another bbq at Friedrich's garden home.  He bbq'd the best sausages we have EVER eaten, plus steak, salad, wine, beer, schnapps, and, for Ulla and Rich, vodka from Belarus!  We talked and danced and drank and ate!  It was magical!!!!!

    On Sunday, we went to the local national park and took a boat ride along the lake, and walked around the local castle (Kriebsschloss).  Only in Germany do you have a "local castle!"  I expected 3 crumbling walls, and we were presented with a full-on castle in the midst of a beautiful forest and lake.  And it had a cafe for drinking coffee......and beer (again- this is Germany:-)).   Afterwards, we shared dinner.  Because it was our last day together, we sadly said good-bye to Gerhardt and Beatrix, then Yvonne and Ingo. Monday morning we said good-bye to Linda, Wim, and Ida.  Then good-bye to Ulla and Friedrich at the bus station.

    But, as Yvonne philosophically said, "Good times must end to become beautiful memories of life".  It was hard to say good-bye, and even now, more than a week later, we are in awe of the experience we had with these people.

    Here are some photos I want to share with you.  But they do not convey the deep emotions the entire weekend produced.  Truly, this was a weekend that touched both Rich and I deep into the heart and soul.

 All of us drinking Ice Kaffee in Dresden!
 Yvonne, Wim, Linda, Rich and Ingo 
 In the Dobeln town square Saturday morning.  This is essentially the photo that ended up in the local paper, minus the lady on the far left:-).  Wim, Ulla in her t-shirt!, Ida, Gerhardt, Linda, Friedrich (in back), Yvonne, me, and our town guide Irena.
 All of us on the steps inside the town hall.  Between me and Irena is Beatrix, Gerhardts wife (she is an excellent photographer, so too often she is not int he photos)
 All of us at Friedrich;s garden for the Saturday BBQ.
 Gerhardt, Beatrix, Linda, Wime, Yvonne, me, Friedrich, and Ulla
 The Perigrinos of the Camino: Gerhardt, Wim, me, Linda, Ulla and Yvonne
 Beautiful town view from Ulla's living room!
 All of us on the steps of the Kriebsschloss!
Sad good-byes

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Berlin: Part Eine

So here we are in Berlin!  Our goal was to live here for 3 months, take German classes, and live like Berliners.  Well, not quite as we wanted it, but living here for 6 weeks is good!  We got out visas and we are living at our favorite Pension here in Berlin, and will be taking a couple weeks of German language classes.  Here is part one of our stay here in Berlin!  We will be posting photos throughout.  Hope you enjoy them!  This is such and Awesome city!!!

Rich and I on July 8, 2014, approx 12:15- selfie of us with our visas in our passports!

 The Berlin Cathedral from the river!
 My favorite square in the city- Nikoliviertel- this is, of course, St. George slaying the dragon!  Huge statue in the most beautiful setting!
 Rich at the Catedral, from the front
 Rich with Ampelmann!  The green light is in the shape of a man walking, the red light in the shape of a man stopped.  These were used in the East.  After reunification, they started to remove them, but stopped from public outcry.  Now the Ampelmann symbol grows in Germany!  Totally cute!
 Rich with the Berlin Bear.  Allover town, there are bears decorated differently- we have photos of almost all:-)
 A bit out of order, but here is Ampelmann on the street light
 Rich at the Vistory Column
 The shadow of the Victory Column, from the top
 Beautiful Square in Berlin- Gendarmenmarkt.  Totally cute!  Great for listening to music or sitting and having a beer.
 Symbol of the DDR, the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz.
 Me with a piece of the wall
 Rich with the car of the DDR- Trabi.  They are so cute, and used everywhere:-)
 Checkpoint Charlie- the point between the American and Russian Sectors.  Now a tourist attraction (complete with fake American soldiers who charge for a photo:-)).

We, I mean the Germans, won the World Cup against a worthy opponent, Argentina.  We of course reveled in the win!  Here are a few photos for you to enjoy:

Goetze, # 19, after scoring the winning point.  Rich took this photo from the big screen tv we were watching at a restaurant!
 Me with my # 19, Goetze shirt at the party to welcome the team home (Berlin) from Brazil!  We shared this day with about 1 million of our new best friends:-)
 The winning team coming into Berlin thru the Brandenburg Tor, taken from the VERY large screen tv in the park.
 Rich and I with the German flag on our face.  Rich is also wearing the German flag.
Rich waving the German flag on top of the Victory Column after the party was over:-)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dresden- beauty returned from the ashes

Dresden- just the name conjures up memories of history class: the "firestorm of Dresden".  The allies bombed the city for hours, eventually creating a fire so intense, it fed on itself.  80% of Dresden was destroyed.  Thought of as one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, and a center for education, philosophy, and the arts, the loss of Dresden was felt by all.  But the people of Dresden love their city so much, they rebuilt it brick by brick to its former glory.  To ensure we never forget, any original stone that could be used, was used.  This often leads to a patch-work look of blackened and bright brick that is strangely beautiful.

We went to Dresden to meet up with friends from the Camino de Santiago Patrick walked last year.  It was a weekend to remember!  Dresden is a city that deserves our attention!

 Our first meeting: (l to r) Ulla (Dobeln), Linda (Netherlands), Gerhardt (Dresden), Wim (Netherlands, and me.  (Next blog will cover our great weekend!)
 Cathedral in main square
 Dome of cathedral- the Dresden cathedral is VERY light and airy!  Light colors, lots of light; not at all dark.  It is very inviting.
 The old town from top of the cathedral
 Old town street scene- cute and quaint and lovely!
 Part of the old town from across the Elbe river
 One of the main squares, with all of us together: l to r: Rich and I, Ida (wife of Wim), Ulla, Linda and Wim, and Friedrich, boyfriend of Ulla.
 Another view of the old town center
Us in the palace courtyard

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Heidelberg, Germany: totally cute

A weekend trip to Heidelberg is just what we needed.  We were in Berlin for a week, but mostly for work.  Not real work, but play work- we worked on getting our visa to stay in Europe longer than the 90 days allowed with the Shengen visa.  We got it!  We actually worked hard the whole week, and it was emotional, as well.  For instance, all I wanted was a new shirt for our visa interview.  I wanted to look professional.  We kept getting way-laid.  And when we actually had time the evening before- all the stores closed.  Who closes stores at 8 PM?!  I was having an aneurism over it.  I am sure Rich was ready to book a flight home from my neurotic behavior!  As it was, my black shirt and khaki cargo pants didn't offend the t-shirt wearing visa worker.  With all the emotions, the answer was.... a trip!  Even though we only had 3 days to go and come back, we decided on Heidelberg, as Rich's Yoga teacher went to college here and told him it was a non-to-be-missed city.  Right she was!  Cute as Shannon's kittens and puppies, this city is!

First, Heidelberg has a really long Altstadt- Old Town!  Must be at least a mile long of beautiful old buildings, little streets with cafes, bars, shops, and interesting people!  Add a cool river (the Neckar), which means you have an old bridge, which must have a gate building!  A huge cathedral is always a must, and it is, with a cool staircase to the top of the bell tower.  Castles always make an old city better: check.  And you must have mountains covered in trees: check.  Oh- great pastries, strong coffee, good peasant food, and beer....lots of beer.  

Since Heidelberg was not bombed in the war, you have authenticity.  It has Germany's oldest university, so you have prestige, which means money, which means cool old neighborhoods.  See where we are going?  Cool old city that is cute!  Is there anything better for old men with the travel bug?  LOL!

I think you should encourage all your young ones to attend college here- there are lots of things to do and it is prestigious.  What an experience for your kids!  Plus you will have a place to stay when you visit Germany!  And since it was our idea, we will also have a place to stay!  LOL!  Please enjoy these photos, knowing that nothing does justice to this great town!

 Rich with our Heidelberg beers
 The main square
 The fountain in the main square
 A view of side streets
 Rich on the old bridge- see the city gate at the end, with the church steeple in the background?  So cool!
 The castle on the hill, old bridge, and city view from across the river.
 The old bridge from the castle
 The Cathedral from the castle
 The castle from the gardens

 The river and town from the castle
 Me and the castle
 Rich and the castle from the top of the Cathedral bell tower
 St. George protecting us
And awesome lighting of the bridge and the castle