Sunday, August 14, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Berlin was the final weekend trip in a thrilling yet tiring series of trips. Each was beautiful and fun in its own right, but we left Berlin with a certainty that it was the most important historical city of the 20th century. We took a free walking tour, which lasted 4 hours, that included the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (within a block from the confirmed bunker in which Adolph Hitler shot himself, which is now a parking lot where all the Berliners let their dogs relieve themselves) and Checkpoint Charlie (where the US and USSR faced off at the height of the Cold War). The scars of the Berlin wall were special to me, as I remembered in awe the decision of my parents to bring their young kids to this amazing and controversial place, right after the Wall was torn down.
Needless to say we had a serious history lesson, which included a picnic and wine in the Tempelhofer Airport’s Tarmac. This is a converted park from the airport that was the site of the Berlin Airlift, potentially the most important airlift of recent generations. Certainly the most important for Berliners. With all roads and rails cutoff by the Soviets to West Berlin, the US and other Allies landed a cargo jet here every 3 minutes for a year to supply the city until the Soviets lifted the blockade. Now there are people rollerblading down the runways and landing their remote control planes, with this massive structure in the distance. It was at one time the largest building in the world by square feet, and went down far underground (we were told 20 stories down before the Soviets flooded it). The Nazis built their planes at this location underground and lifted them to the surface to take off, so they had less risk of loss. The airport is immense and the whole place feels post-apocalyptic.
On our last day we went to visit a concentration camp outside of the city. We figured this was relevant given our work at the tribunal, and it was moving. The camp, Sachsenhausen, was the administrative HQ of all concentration camps and was supposed to be the model camp of the 15,000 camps that were spread across Europe. We met a couple from Australia as we exited the tram and walked with them the 2km to the camp. It turns out that they were from Germany originally, and Ian's grandfather, Arthur, had died at Sachsenhausen during the World War II. His father was rescued by the Allies at 18 after the war and moved to Australia.
After the camp we had to hurry back across Berlin to catch our flight, but not before one last Kebap (Gyro). We stayed at the Metropol Hostel, with an amazing street vendor just out front and a good bar upstairs. We spent our nights in the neighborhood fell in love with the Kebabs (they had separate grilled veggies for Sara). So we waited in line for 45 minutes to get that last one while we watched time tick away before our flight. We had to run down to the subway, then catch a bus, made it through security in 10 minutes and barely made our flight back. It was an exciting trip through and through, and a nice weekend for Sara and I to enjoy alone. Next week Sara is off to Tennessee to Rachel's wedding (which I unfortunately could not attend) and my brother comes here to visit! A much needed taste of home for both.
Hope everyone else out there is having a good summer and staying cool! We come to the beach for the summer and The Hague has the coldest, rainiest July in history. Miss you all, be back stateside in a little over a month...
Monday, July 18, 2011
We spent four beautiful days in exotic Malta, and now all that remains are memories, pictures, and a peeling tan. We left early Saturday morning to take the train to Eindhoven, Netherlands, where our airport is located. One of “our crew” (Consisting of Girls: Jordan, Sara, Yaira, Boys: Arthur and Liam) missed the train and only barely caught the plane. Yet, alas! We all arrived at 3pm on the beautiful and hot island of Malta. There, Arthur, had been clever enough to procure us a “Gypsy” SUV-type car, stick shift, with no power steering. All the readers here probably know that Arthur loves a challenge (evidenced by his choice in girlfriend) and so he was extremely happy to contend with driving this animal of a machine on the left side of the road. He even successfully navigated the dozen or so roundabouts.
The first day we checked in at our adorable hostel (Splendid Hotel) at the end of the island in the city of Mellieha. It lived up to its name, with a very sweet and accommodating staff, and blessed air conditioning at only 6 euro per night. We immediately set off in the Gypsy to buy groceries for a picnic and find a remote, secluded beach area. While we were delighted when our trip down the side of the cliff resulted in a charming little secluded beach find, the couple we discovered at said secluded beach were slightly less delighted. Nonetheless, we settled our loud, American selves in and made sandwiches from a giant bag of blessedly cheap groceries.
That night we headed to the coast again (literally unavoidable on an island) and has a nice dinner overlooking the sea. Afterwards we walked back yawning after several of the weakest tequila shots ever seen.
We woke up and headed to a not-so secluded beach. We repeated the picnic experience from the day before but purchased both iced coffees and pitchers of Tequila Sunrises (which they called Riviera Sunsets). We swam and read for hours. That night we went back to the hotel, got dressed, and headed to Valletta where we searched, in vain, for a restaurant. First we decided to climb these beautiful cliff-side historic looking buildings (which turned out to be the Police Headquarters…) While walking around looking for something to eat, we were surprised by the firing of a canon. Yes, a real canon. To our dismay, this was followed by more canon fire, and what sounded like artillery fire. Turns out, this is an island way of celebrating, because before we knew it the Cathedral we were passing was swarmed by cheering locals as clergy carried around a statue of the local saint. Apparently, we accidentally took part in an annual religious holiday. Afterwards we found a restaurant which we chose based on its cleanliness. It turned out to be the first day the restaurant was open (hence the cleanliness), so the food was either amazing, or really bad depending on your meal.
Having (clearly) had enough of the beach, we took a cruise to the Blue Lagoon (a real place) where we swam around with goggles, snorkelling through the caves. The boat was a ton of fun, with cheap drinks and food available the whole time. The entire ship ride our party of five rode at the bow of the boat, enjoying the wind, drinking Malibu and coke, and listening to the on-board DJ sing hoarsely and off-tune over outdated songs.
That evening we returned to the town of Mellieha and had a really lovely meal consisting of an entire pizza per person. Then we returned to try to finish our wine from the wine festival on the roof of the hotel (we sadly had to leave some behind).
The next morning we left the hotel at 5a.m., took the Gypsy across the island at sunrise, boarded the plane, arrived in Eindhoven, took the 1 ½ hour train back to The Hague, and returned to work sun-kissed and exhausted.