Happy Birthday Zach

The last birthday of the year for our family, but certainly not the least!

Happy 15th Birthday Zach!

I commented to him yesterday how I had started labour with him and he seemed a bit surprised that it had gone on for so long.

Yup. He took his sweet time. Always on his schedule:)

But arrived with black hair and gorgeous dark blue cross eyes.

He’s certainly grown and changed; to being blonde with brown eyes!

But there are little things that he does now that I can still see him doing as a young baby, or little boy.

I am so happy that I had the chance to spend so much quality time with him on his 15 trip. I’m so glad that we got to explore our family history and heritage together. Truly a trip of a lifetime in many respects.

I’m especially glad that when I do things that annoy or bug him, I can remind him that he has my genes, so he’s likely going to (or already does!) the same things! Mwhahah

Here are 15 things that I love about him:

  1. His love of travel. How could I not? He is a wanderer and I love that!
  2. His love of photography – he takes awesome pictures! I love watching him take pictures!
  3. His love of record keeping — ok – I know I’m listing all the things that we have in common, but it’s so nice to share these things with him! He’s got a great travel journal going.
  4. His love of soccer – (that’s not from me!) I love how he loves to play, and I love that he is such a good captain.
  5. He’s such a hard worker (obviously on the things he chooses!) but when he chooses, he knows how to work. His soccer skills are proof that hard work pays off.
  6. His quickness. He’s fast – he gets things done, he walks too fast, he thinks quickly and responds quickly. It makes him quite witty!
  7. His awesome sense of humour. He makes us all laugh! All the time. I sometimes have to laugh because I don’t even know what else to do!
  8. His ability to get people talking and laughing. Although he can be super shy with adults, he does have an ability to get everyone around him (peers, siblings) talking and having a good time. Our dinner table is more entertaining (and chaotic) when he’s around!
  9. He’s a good brother. Yes, he teases like mad, and can frustrate and annoy everyone, but he is also a solid, there for you kind of guy. He is our family gatherer and I love how he loves having “a big family”
  10. He is smart. He can remember things, he can problem solve and he can study. If he puts his mind to it, he will go far.
  11. His sense of style. He knows what he likes and he is the first to give you an opinion on something you are wearing!
  12. He will share stories and let you in on some info—- if you agree to scratch his back. It’s kind of hilarious.
  13. He’s responsible and you can count on him. If he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it.
  14. His sense of honesty and integrity. Even if he knows he might get in trouble, he tells it like it is.
  15. His spirit. Of course he’s a jokester and can be a handful, but he has a beautiful spirit that is growing each day and he knows the importance of remembering who he is.

All I can say, is that those hours of labour were worth it. Although, I do think he owes me….

Happy 15th Zach.

Love you more and always.

Mom

xoxox

A few pics to remember the day:

IMG_9371 IMG_9374

We celebrated the night before since that’s when we had the whole gang. The traditional ice cream cake is always his request ^^^

IMG_9381 IMG_9383

Candy poster ^^^ It gets hard to be creative doing 5 a year for the past 8 years!!

IMG_9385 IMG_9390

An unexpected cancellation meant we could head out for lunch… for poutine, of course! ^^^

IMG_9391

We laugh how the best place we have found is in the worst area. Yes, across from a strip club! ^^^

IMG_9392 IMG_9393 IMG_9394

Pretty tasty. No better birthday food!

Last Day in Prague

While we had the best intentions to wake up early and head out to view all the “touristy” sites without the masses, our bodies wanted otherwise and we had a nice sleep in.

We strolled through the streets and made our way to the Charles Bridge to look out. We saw some cool things on the way:

IMG_9255

IMG_8496 IMG_8498 IMG_8493 IMG_8495

IMG_9258

DSC07280

IMG_8081

We then climbed the tower:

IMG_9263 IMG_9265 IMG_9266 IMG_9267 IMG_9268

IMG_8087 IMG_8089 IMG_8090 IMG_8092DSC07262 DSC07265    DSC07276 DSC07279

We continued over the bridge:

IMG_9270 IMG_9269

We then stumbled on one of the many “Thai massage” places that are all around Prague and decided to have foot massages.

DSC07292DSC07290IMG_9275DSC07283

We then went and walked through St. Nicholas’ church.

DSC07294 DSC07308DSC07296 DSC07299 DSC07301

IMG_8530

^^^ Looks like we are praying…but kids were checking their phones, and I was reading our guide book about the church (truly)

We found a great little place for lunch and had some traditional Czech food.

IMG_9276 IMG_9277IMG_8537IMG_9279

DSC07305

We then headed up to the Royal Palace and St. Vitus Catherdral – which was simply incredible.

DSC07330DSC07309 DSC07314 DSC07320 DSC07322 DSC07324IMG_8542IMG_8117

DSC07336DSC07331 DSC07333

We saw some more of the palace and then Rob got  the chance to shoot a bow and arrow:

DSC07347 DSC07348 DSC07350

DSC07343

Best Starbucks ever:

DSC07306

After we did the palace tour, we headed back down to the village and it started to rain.

DSC07339

What do you do in the rain? You find cover and get dessert.

DSC07354 DSC07355DSC07356IMG_8584 IMG_8586 IMG_8587

And that is exactly what we did until the rain passed.

We decided we wanted to go to the organ/soprano concert at St. Nicholas, with different renditions of “Ave Maria”, so we headed back to the Church to buy some tickets. Because we were a bit early, we hung out in Starbucks, where the kids enjoyed some wifi.

The concert was really cool. The acoustics were incredible and it was neat to hear the organ that Mozart once played on in that very church! The kids, while not thrilled about going to a concert, knew that it was something memorable and sat and listened, while doing the standard “church tickles” (you scratch my back for 2 min, then we switch).

IMG_9281 IMG_9283

We found a great little restaurant right under the Charles Bridge and had some incredible Schnitzel. It was a great meal to end our trip on!

IMG_9287 IMG_9286 IMG_9288

We headed back to the hotel to pack, and got a rained on a little near the end of our walk. We lucked out with weather this trip, I tell you!

All in all, it was an incredible trip. It’s really hard to describe my favourite parts, as it was truly all so good. But I know in time, as we talk and reminisce, we will come up with our favourite memories.

IMG_8499

Daytrip to Dresden, Germany

In April during our semi annual church conference, one of our leaders (Dieter F. Uchtdorf) spoke of the city of Dresden:

“Not far from where my family lived was the city of Dresden. Those who lived there witnessed perhaps a thousand times what I had seen. Massive firestorms, caused by thousands of tons of explosives, swept through Dresden, destroying more than 90 percent of the city and leaving little but rubble and ash in their wake.

Dresden in ruins
In a very short time, the city once nicknamed the “Jewel Box” was no more. Erich Kästner, a German author, wrote of the destruction, “In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.”1 During my childhood I could not imagine how the destruction of a war our own people had started could ever be overcome. The world around us appeared totally hopeless and without any future.

Last year I had the opportunity to return to Dresden. Seventy years after the war, it is, once again, a “Jewel Box” of a city. The ruins have been cleared, and the city is restored and even improved.
During my visit I saw the beautiful Lutheran church Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. Originally built in the 1700s, it had been one of Dresden’s shining jewels, but the war reduced it to a pile of rubble. For many years it remained that way, until finally it was determined that the Frauenkirche would be rebuilt.
Stones from the destroyed church had been stored and cataloged and, when possible, were used in the reconstruction. Today you can see these fire-blackened stones pockmarking the outer walls. These “scars” are not only a reminder of the war history of this building but also a monument to hope—a magnificent symbol of man’s ability to create new life from ashes.
As I pondered the history of Dresden and marveled at the ingenuity and resolve of those who restored what had been so completely destroyed, I felt the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. Surely, I thought, if man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises toward the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?”

It was an awesome talk:

It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.

While I could go on with how the talk was so inspiring, within minutes of him talking about Dresden, Rob was asking me, ‘Are we going anywhere near there?” and Zach was telling me, “It’s halfway between Berlin and Prague, Mom.”

While not in our jammed packed agenda to see Dresden, when we were in Hamburg, it came up again. I was reading about the history of Hamburg and how on July 27, 1943, explosive bombs were dropped on Hamburg during an attack given the codename of “Operation Gomorrah”. In 3 hours, 35,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands were left homeless and eight square miles of Hamburg was reduced to rubble…”While the firebombing of Dresden two years later is more famous, far more people died in Hamburg.”

Dresden came up again, and the desire to see it.

We had not planned on renting any cars this trip, but ended up renting on in Hamburg and Berlin, and both times loved getting out of the city to see a bit of the country and explore areas we would not otherwise. We decided to do the same in Prague, and head back to Germany to visit Dresden.

Dresden is another one of those “Wow” cities. While it has mostly been rebuilt, they did a fantastic job, and every thing looks really old.

We headed out early in the morning and made our way on the highway, but hit a road closure and was detoured off. We ended up driving through the cutest little Czech Republic towns – but were a bit skeptical about where we would end up!

IMG_9229

DSC07144 DSC07146 DSC07148 DSC07149 DSC07152

We did make it to Dresden, and found parking — at the fanciest hotel there (without realizing!).

DSC07154

We decided to follow Rick Steves’ walking tour (honestly, his books are the books to get. So much great info and his tours are the best) though the old town.

DSC07164 DSC07167 DSC07186

DSC07163 DSC07171 DSC07179 DSC07183 DSC07193IMG_9234 IMG_9235 IMG_9236

IMG_8474 IMG_7942DSC07225 DSC07229IMG_8063 IMG_8040 IMG_8046 IMG_8047 IMG_8057

DSC07208

Sadly, when we got to the famous Frauenkirche, it was closed for a concert! We were so bummed. It started to rain like crazy too, but luckily good old Rick Steves had our backs and led us to an awesome little cafe courtyard, completely sheltered, where we had a great lunch with fabulous desserts.

DSC07211 DSC07214 DSC07216

IMG_8470 IMG_9238 IMG_9237 IMG_9242

Sporting my sunglasses ^^^

IMG_9240 IMG_8465 IMG_8462

DSC07231

After lunch, we walked along the river, but hurried as the skies looked dark.

We were able to climb Frauenkirche tower, and take peeks inside the cathedral. It is a super high tower and it was really really windy, so we didn’t stay long, but it was beautiful.

DSC07204 DSC07230

Remnants of the original church ^^^

DSC07241IMG_9244 IMG_9246

DSC07255DSC07233DSC07251 DSC07243 DSC07245 DSC07246 DSC07247

We headed back to Prague, but out GPS broke, leading us through cute towns, but then to this.

IMG_9249

Luckily, we had our phones and made our way back.

It was raining in Prague too, so we decided to go get dinner. We headed back to the same Thai restaurant and had another great mea. We shopped a bit, then headed home in time for the soccer game.

Can’t believe tomorrow is our last day:( It has been such an incredible trip. Zach said the cutest thing yesterday. He said he was having an amazing time, but he missed Gabe, Josh and Sam. He said. “It’s fun traveling with them. I guess I just like having a big family.”

Me too, Zach. Me too.

 

Prague, Day 1

Another early morning as we had to make our way to the train station as we were heading to Prague!

Prague has always been on my list of places to go, as I have heard it is beautiful.

I’m just going to say, “Wow”.

IMG_8404 IMG_8400 IMG_8399 IMG_8398

As Zach said, “It’s like Harry Potter at Universal – except it is real!”

But first, we had to get there.

The train is about 4.5 hours from Berlin. I had told the kids there was wifi, and they were horrified that there was none… oh my. What to do? They slept.

DSC07016

I read. So nice.

But when we crossed over into the Czech Republic, the wifi kicked in and the kids somehow woke up and were very pleased.

IMG_9174

We arrived without any panic this time, and decided to make our way to our hotel by walking.

IMG_8260

IMG_9177 IMG_9180

Along the way, we saw some yummy Thai and Vietnamese food and decided that is what we wanted for lunch. A break from sausage and schnitzel.

IMG_9183

IMG_9250

We found our cute hotel, checked in and headed out for a meal. We had a relaly good meal at a Thai restaurant.

We then had an “Intro to the Grand City Tour” booked. It started off with a bus.

We are not bus tour people. We were all asleep within 5 min.

And you can’t see much on a bus. We did see things like this:

DSC07010 DSC07014

But it was only bus for a bit, then it was walking.

Truly, I wasn’t thrilled with the tour as it was super rushed but it gave us a great overview of the city.

Boy, it is gorgeous.

I got some great snaps:

IMG_7939

 

DSC07143IMG_9185 IMG_9187 IMG_9189 IMG_9192 IMG_9193

DSC07056 DSC07018 DSC07022 DSC07028 DSC07031 DSC07034 DSC07037 DSC07040 DSC07045 DSC07047

IMG_9195 IMG_9197 IMG_8357 IMG_9199

IMG_8264 IMG_8266 IMG_7806 IMG_7808 IMG_7818

We finished the tour and then decided to backtrack a bit.

We took in the views of the Charles Bridge.

IMG_8367 IMG_9203

DSC07066 DSC07056 DSC07059 DSC07063

We had the most yummy “trdelniks” filled with icecream.

IMG_8362 IMG_8363

We found our way to the John Lennon wall

IMG_8392

IMG_9207

and came across some interesting things:

DSC07094

We then found a spot where Rob could have a sandwich (he was dying for one the past few days).

We went and climbed the tower on one end of the Charles Bridge for some amazing views.

IMG_9208 IMG_9214 IMG_9225

DSC07136 DSC07110 DSC07124 DSC07131

We then headed back, strolling through the streets, stopping to buy some souvenirs.

DSC07084 DSC07085 DSC07074 DSC07078

DSC07140

We then picked up the pace so the boys could watch some soccerJ

Prague truly is a spectacular city and we agreed it is definitely on a “favourite list!”

 

Happy 11th Birthday, Sam!

We have another birthday in our house!

Sam turns 11!

This little firecracker is still our little “Sam-wee” although he’s getting bigger every day. One more year of elementary school before he goes on to middle school! I can’t believe it!

It’s nice to see that even though he is the wee one in our house, he has great relations with all. Everyone loves Sam! I have noticed though, that he and Josh seemed to have a forged tighter bond – as they are the “littles” in our house, so are often the ones just hanging out and will often head out to play some soccer or basketball together. Such cuteness.

There are many things I love about Sam, here are the top 11:

  1. His energy! He is filled with it. All the time!
  2. His positivity and enthusiasm. Maybe I could say that it seems that he is so positive and enthusiastic because he is still young and fresh, but this has been a consistent trait of his throughout the years!
  3. His teachability. He absorbs things like a sponge. He hears it and then wants to apply it. What an awesome trait to have!
  4. His desire to do better in things. He wants to do more and he knows when he can do more!
  5. His desire to be like his older brothers. Sam was made Captain of his soccer team and he was thrilled, partly because he was Captain now, just like ZachJ
  6. His quickness. I love how speedy he is (although he can take more time on school things his teachers say!) and his quick thinking
  7. His eating habits. He will eat pretty much everything – you never have to worry about him!
  8. His gratitude. He is always the first to say thank you – for everything – for the small, the big and everything in between
  9. His independence. He gets by doing so many things on his own (benefit of being child 5, I guess!)
  10. His Spirit and closeness to the Spirit. He is a shining light.
  11. His sportiness – he is eager and willing to always play a sport – and does a good job at it!

Yes, Sam is an awesome little guy and we love him an absolute ton.

Happy Birthday Sam!

A few pics:

IMG_9318

Sam requested homemade ice-cream sandwiches with chocolate chip cookies for his bday dessert – we had them when he had his party. This was a bonus cake!

IMG_9319 IMG_9326 IMG_9327 IMG_9331

Love his face reading a card! ^^^

Happy 18th Gabe

Need to press pause in our travel stories, as it’s a big day today — Gabe turns 18!!!

18! Holy Cow! That’s crazy!

I met Gabe when he was 9 – so that means I have known him for double his age!

He has grown from a cute little 9 year old, into a great young man! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. He just graduated from high school, and is going to head off to University in the winter, after spending some time trying to save some money.

18 things that I love about Gabe:

  1. He is FUNNY. He makes us all laugh so hard.
  2. How he loves to debate and gets really passionate about topics
  3. His smile – he’s a cutie
  4. His love of technology – not the using it part, but the understanding it:))
  5. His passion for investments and finance
  6. His love of cars and knowledge about them
  7. His relationship with his brothers. They are so funny together and I love how they share secrets
  8. How he often offers to help with anything that needs to be done around the house
  9. How he leaves his clothes all over his bedroom floor. Just kidding.
  10. How he sleeps in his bed upside down so he and Zach can have good nighttime chats and see each other
  11. His ability to work a crowd and get to know people
  12. How he can be very focused and intense on things he desires
  13. His ability to impersonate and tell stories. He really is a story teller.
  14. His ability to jump into almost any conversation and contribute
  15. His curiosity – he likes to learn new things and find new things
  16. When he like a certain meal, he loves to eat it right up and thoroughly enjoy it
  17. I love hearing him bless the sacrament at church – even better when he does it with his Dad
  18. I love the kindness in him and how similar to his Dad he is in so many ways!

Happy, Happy Birthday Gabe! This is a big year for you – but one that I know will be memorable and a time for growth, adventure and smiles.

We love you tons and tons. So glad you are part of our family.

xox

A few pics to remember the day:

IMG_9323

Brownies are his fave ^^^

IMG_9324 IMG_9325

Funny boy ^^^

Berlin, Day 3

Today we decided to step a bit out of Berlin and see a few areas.

IMG_9143

We first headed to the concentration camp Sachenhausen. We had been to Dachau outside of Munich with Gabe on his trip a couple of years ago, and it had been a moving experience, so we decided to take the kids to Sachenhausen.

We rented a car and headed off. We had a few problems along the way as we ran into some police baracades. The police officer politely told us we had to go around the center of the town as there was a bomb they were dealing with.

He said it in the calmest, most non-chalant way. We figured it likely must be one of the bombs that we had heard about that are all over Berlin and neighboring cities from WWII that remain undiscovered (Rob came home and did some research and sure enough, the area has quite a history with WWII bombs).

We got a little lost, but enjoyed the scenery:

IMG_9123 IMG_9125

Just like when we were at Dachau, we took very few pictures, and just listened to the audio guide and read some of the history in my guidebook. Words can not really describe these camps, so I won’t try.

IMG_9126 IMG_9129 IMG_8233  IMG_9132

We went back into the small town of Oranienburg, where we had a lovely lunch at an Italian restaurant

IMG_9142 IMG_9133 IMG_9134 IMG_9136

We continued down my quest for family history and headed towards some neighborhoods mentioned in Granny’s book.

Over the past couple of days, I have also referred to my Grandmother’s book for information about my Grandfather, Papa or more formally, Wolfgang Friedrich Paul Büsing (he went by Paul).

He was born in Berlin, and there are several sections dedicated to his life in Berlin, especially the time in the early to mid 30’s.

He met my Grandmother while he was studying at University in Tübingen. He began his studies in Bonn, beginning with German literature, and then as he says, “lightning struck” and theology became his passion.

He decided to go to Tübingen in the summer of 1932 and in his words again, “it proved to be the most fateful decision I have ever made in my life”, as it was there that he met and rapidly fell in love with my grandmother (they were engaged in under 6 weeks). Marriage would not come easily to them, as my grandmother was half Jewish (her mother’s parents were both Jewish).

In Papa’s memoires, he writes that in the summer of 1933, he was at Greifswald where he was part of the “confessional theological students’ group”. He tells the story of putting up a poster on the faculty’s notice board protesting the threatened election and having a leader of the Nazi student appear at his door step a few days later demanding the withdrawal of the poster. He writes to my Grandmother (Erika) (who was in Hamburg studying at the time) a postcard that he had , “single handedly thrown a storm trooper down the stairs from my landlady’s apartment.” She was not amused; she was worried.

In the winter of 1933/34 and the following winter, he was back at the University of Berlin. It was there, during a little address he was making that a door on the far end of the room opened and in came Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Papa writes, “I am quite sure that I was not aware to what extent his coming into my life would change it, and to what extent I would be indebted to him from then on.” Later, Papa took full part in the often underground activities of the Confessional Church at the office of Martin Niemöller.

Granny writes how she was in Berlin from October 1935 until March 1936: “That was when we had all these sessions in Niemöller’s house, and since one was forbidden to do anything, we had only Bible studies and there were crowds of people. We were a whole group of young people in Berlin…. There was a great feeling in Berlin with this group that you were fighting together. I never felt that way in Hamburg. Yes, the months I spent in Berlin were in a way very exciting. As I said, we spent some time over at the famous Niemöller’s house, putting cushions on the telephones for fear of being bugged and so on. We were close to Niemöller, who was a very prominent pastor. He had been a U-boat commander, and now was taking a strong stand against the Nazis. There was a lot of enthusiasm and camaraderie. We were quite involved as young people in fighting this horrible system.”

Niemöller was eventually sent to Sachenhausen and Dachau for his opposition to the Nazis’ state control of the churches from 1937-1945, and fortunately he survived both.

We saw a plaque on the wall in a cell in Sachenhausen where he was assigned.

IMG_9131

After lunch, we drove to the Dahlem area, where the Bonhoeffer family lived, and where the Niemöller house was. Apparently my Grandfather was ordained at Niemöller’s chuch there too. I wasn’t able to find that (I didn’t have enough info), but we went to Niemöller’s house which was turned into a “Peace Center” in 1982 (unfortunately, it was closed).

DSC06961 DSC06958DSC06955 DSC06956 DSC06957

We continued on to an area called “Friedenau” where Granny writes about Papa’s family: “One member of his family built much of the suburb of Friedenau in Berlin, and it was there that Max Büsing lived and worked.”

DSC06954 DSC06952 DSC06950

DSC06964

A very cute area, and we were quickly able to find “Büsingstrasse” where Zach was particularly pleased that he is the first of the next generation of Büsing blood to come to this street.

IMG_8234

DSC06966 DSC06968 DSC06986IMG_8239 IMG_8235 IMG_9158

We made our way back to city center, returned our rental car and headed back to the hotel.

We made our way to have dinner on the waterfront.

IMG_8242 IMG_9165 IMG_8247 IMG_9166IMG_8252 IMG_8253

It was a fascinating day, one that I will always remember. There is something about immersing yourself in little bits of family history, and seeing where YOU come from. Who YOUR people were (are?). It gives you a sense of belonging and pride of being part of a larger family and knowing who your ancestors are.

I think part of travelling is to see history with your own eyes. To feel that history is more than just words on a page, or scenes in a movie. It is the story of people’s lives. Real people. Real lives. Struggles. Challenges. Joys. Love. Travelling helps you broaden your perspectives and gain a deeper understanding for diversity. It is to help you appreciate what people have lived through in order to give you the world that you have now.

Our visit to Germany has been incredible. It has been intense, it has been overwhelming, and it has been moving. It is a place I want to come back to and spend even more time. Again, I’m glad that I have had the chance to share this with Rob, Zach and Zandra.

IMG_9167

Berlin, Day 2

We chose to sleep in a bit today as everyone was tired and needed a bit of a break.

Good thing, because we squeezed a lot in!

We decided it would be a museum day; a sample of several museums.

We first went to the German History museum and spent some time there and really enjoyed it. We spent more time on the 1918 and on floor, but saw some of the early history too. IMG_8204

I came around the corner and found Zach:

IMG_9114

We then had a little break with a chocolate croissant to give us some energy:)

DSC06908

DSC06907

IMG_8199

We made our way to the interactive DDR museum (which highlighted what life was like in East Berlin during the cold war) and the kids really liked this museum.

DSC06911DSC06909IMG_8200 IMG_8202 IMG_8201

We decided to walk to the East Side Gallery (which is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall located near the centre of Berlin where artists from around the world painted on the east side of the Berlin Wall.) It was very cool!

IMG_8205IMG_7802 IMG_7803 IMG_7804 DSC06926 DSC06927DSC06918 DSC06916 DSC06920 DSC06924IMG_9115 IMG_9117 IMG_9120

We took a cab back close to the Jewish museum (where we were going next) and found a cute place for lunch to enjoy more schnitzel and sausage. It was a nice break!

DSC06930

He’s totally hamming it up ^^^

DSC06929IMG_9122

We spent the next part of the day in the Jewish Museum and especially enjoyed the architecture and the personal stories. There was so much to cover, and we really didn’t make a dent, but we enjoyed what we saw.

DSC06928 IMG_8224DSC06947DSC06938 DSC06944DSC06948IMG_8218

DSC06946

IMG_8219DSC06942

DSC06941

Our plan was to head to the Topography of Terror, that we had seen on our tour yesterday. We made our way there, but we all pretty much crashed except for Rob, so he spent time going around while we tried to gain some more energy!

DSC06949

IMG_8227

Bonhoeffer had a profound influence on my Grandfather (as I will explain in the next post) ^^^

There was so much more we wanted to do and see, but we just headed back to the hotel to rest and chill. As much as we want to do it all, it stops getting enjoyable! Berlin is really filled with such a complicated history, it’s emotional and cognitively exhausting to process it all. I do really love the city, and would very much like to come back and spend much more time to soak it all in a bit more.

Berlin, Day 1

We decided to take the train from Hamburg to Berlin. I love European train stations and wanted to get to enjoy taking a high speed train.

IMG_9062 IMG_9064 IMG_9066 IMG_9061 IMG_9078

We all sort of missed out on a lot of the scenery unfortunately, as we were all catching up on our writing, work (Rob) and sleep:)

IMG_7691 IMG_7690IMG_9073 IMG_9074

I had a bit of a panic moment when I saw a stop for Berlin and we needed to get off the train (it was going on to Munich). Alas, it was not the right stop as we were going to Berlin Central station. Everyone had a good laugh about my panic and it has become the biggest joke that makes us burst out laughing as they imitate me. Luckily, no one filmed it:)) I won’t get into it, but let’s just say that everyone on the train thought I was some crazy Canadian (although likely American) woman!

IMG_9077

IMG_9079

We arrived and took a cab to our hotel – the NH Berlin, which was super nice! They weren’t ready for us to check in, so we didn’t waste any time and just headed out for the day.

DSC06772

Coming to Berlin, we knew there was a TON to see. Just like Paris, we decided we would take a “sampler” approach. A little bit here, a little bit there. So we squeezed in a lot at surface level, with the intention that one day if anyone wants to return, they know what to return to (and if we never return – we have had a nice taster sample!)

We strolled along looking for somewhere to eat and came across the Berlin Cathedral, which we decided to explore and climb the tower. Gorgeous views of Berlin. A nice introduction.

IMG_7700DSC06780 DSC06779IMG_9080 IMG_9082 IMG_9085

DSC06784 DSC06787

We found the super cool aquarium in the Radisson Blu, but could only see it from the lobby.

IMG_7725

We stopped for lunch and had our first currywurst and it was “yummy” (using that word all trip now after the waitress at our restaurant in Hamburg made fun of me for using it!).

DSC06800

We then stopped for some ice cream while waiting for our tour to start:

DSC06805 DSC06808

We then met up for a 4 hour walking tour of Berlin. We thought it would be great to have someone show us around and give us some history. It was really great, and we got to see a lot in 4 hours. Some highlights:

Now if only I can remember what everything is:

Museum Island:

DSC06814 DSC06816:

Neue Wache : Sculpture of Mother with her Dead Son

DSC06819

Bebelplatz : Memorial to the nazi book burning May 10, 1933. Heinrich Heine’s famous quote from 1821: “That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people” (translated)

DSC06827 DSC06828

Unter den Linden Blvd:

DSC06830

Brandenburg Gate:

DSC06831DSC06832 DSC06834DSC06822

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe:

IMG_7744DSC06835 DSC06852 DSC06855DSC06842 DSC06841 DSC06849

Bundesfinanzministerium: one of the few buildings that survived the war:

IMG_7750

Remnants of the Berlin wall outside of Topography of Terror:

IMG_7752 IMG_7754DSC06860

Checkpoint Charlie:

DSC06863

Konzerhaus in Gendarmenmarkt

DSC06870

French and German churches in Gendarmenmarkt:

DSC06869 DSC06872

After the tour, we were exhausted to found our way to an outdoor patio for some more sausages and schnitzel. We would have all returned to the hotel gladly, but had our reservations for the Reichstag dome (you need to book it at whatever times they have available).

DSC06876

We went for our tour just as the light was changing, so it was pretty awesome.

DSC06879 DSC06880DSC06884 DSC06885IMG_7772 IMG_7784 IMG_7787 IMG_7789DSC06785 DSC06786 DSC06788 DSC06789 DSC06791 DSC06793DSC06889 DSC06890 DSC06891 DSC06896IMG_9095 IMG_9101 IMG_9102 IMG_9103 IMG_9107 IMG_9109 IMG_9110DSC06899 DSC06902DSC06901 DSC06903

We finally stumbled home, checked in and the crashed with exhaustion (in our really nice and roomy room! This is the kids’ area:)

DSC06906

What a day. I’m exhausted just writing about it! What an amazing city!

Lübeck, Germany

Lübeck was definitely in our plans, as that is where Granny spent her early years.

We decided at the last minute that rather than take the train, as originally planned, we rented a car. We felt this would give us more freedom.

Boy, I’m glad we did.

We arrived in Lübeck (after taking a few detours off the highway, so got a nice flavour of the surrounding area) and were taken right away by its small town, German charm.

We made our way to the Niederegger cafe (I talked about the story in my last post here) and ordered brunch (which was awesome) followed up by a bunch of cakes (with the famous Lübeck marzipan). The waitress asked the kids if they wanted a “cold chocolate drink”, and of course, they said sure. It ended up being a full on chocolate ice cream/whipped cream dessert! We laughed, as everyone was so full!

DSC06596 DSC06597 DSC06594DSC06598 DSC06611 DSC06614IMG_8030 IMG_8034 IMG_8036 IMG_8037

DSC06618

We wandered the old town, stopping at St. Mary’s church:

DSC06628 DSC06623 DSC06624

We went to the Holstentor:

DSC06589

DSC06649

We chuckled at how Zach can’t take the sun, so had to put his shades on!

DSC06652 DSC06651 DSC06654

Then we climbed St. Peter’s tower and got some great views:

DSC06663 DSC06664 DSC06665 DSC06668 DSC06669

IMG_9029 IMG_9027

The streets are just so cute:

DSC06656DSC06587IMG_7642IMG_9013 IMG_9015 IMG_9019DSC06636 DSC06655 DSC06660 DSC06658 DSC06661IMG_9057 IMG_9018

We did a little marzipan shopping, then decided to search out Granny’s old school. It was easy to find, right across from the hospital (I talked about it yesterday too:))

DSC06686 DSC06693 DSC06697 DSC06699DSC06700 DSC06694IMG_8078

The hospital:

DSC06684

We then headed out of the city, and made our way to Travemunde beach. I don’t know if Granny ever specifically went there, but the little rented beach chairs were the same ones in pictures we have of her going to the beach on the Baltic sea when she was young. She records going to other resorts in the area with her father’s family too. So, if not the same beach, then something similar.

IMG_7652 IMG_7653 IMG_7655

It was a cute beach, and we walked down to the water.

DSC06710 DSC06712 DSC06714 DSC06716 DSC06722DSC06718 DSC06719

One of the first places Granny lived was a place called Falkenhusen, which they moved to in 1914 and Granny reported everyone loving it there. They were there until 1926 when they were forced to leave. Granny told of stories of living on the farm, the nearby forest and going to school in a neighbouring village. So, we set out, using goggle maps, and think we found it (any of my family had been there but I didn’t have directions – just knew that it was outside the city). If it wasn’t the right one, well, it fit the descriptions well enough for me:)

I felt quite emotional thinking of her as we drove through the forest. I was reading some parts of the book aloud and my voice quivered a bit, and Zach immediately asked why I was crying. “Not sad tears”, I told him. But tears of missing, familiarity, nostalgia, and love and appreciation for the family I was born into and the example of an incredible woman I had in my grandmother. I was humbled by the privilege to be walking those streets and seeing the same sights, and felt the warmth that I always felt and could hear her voice calling me “sweetheart, darling” in her German accent, and nodding her head, “Ja”.

DSC06725 DSC06726 DSC06730 DSC06733 DSC06735

We drove home and got back early enough to spend some time in Hamburg. We headed to the beautiful city hall, and then wandered around a bit.

IMG_8101DSC06746IMG_7667

IMG_7665 IMG_7666 IMG_7671

DSC06749

IMG_7672DSC06755 DSC06753 DSC06759

We also made our way to the beautiful St. Michaels’ church ( 2 minutes from our hotel) and climbed the tower.

DSC06762DSC06764

DSC06767 DSC06769 DSC06768 DSC06766IMG_9033IMG_9036 IMG_9037 IMG_9039

We grossed the kids out:

IMG_9041 IMG_9042

And then we were super goofy in the cool elevator:

IMG_9043 IMG_9044 IMG_9045  IMG_9047 IMG_9048 IMG_9049 IMG_9050  IMG_9052 IMG_9053 IMG_9054

It was our anniversary, so the kids offered to grab a quick meal on their own (truthfully, they just wanted McDonalds and Zach wanted to go back to watch soccer), so they did.

Rob and I wanted to go to a fish restaurant we had read about, but it was closed:( We ended up at a mediocre restaurant, but in a nice setting, and debriefed over our time in Hamburg and Lübeck. Rob patiently listened to all the family history I knew, and the memories I had.

We headed back completely zonked again, and got our bags ready for the next adventure… Berlin.