Thursday, 2 July 2015

Stumbling Stones

All around Germany, if one pays attention, or if one just happens to look down a lot, these stones start appearing everywhere. These "stumbling stones" are in fact a huge art project by Gunter Demnig, and there are thousands of them. Here are some I've come across. Each one begins "Here lived" and is placed in front of the last known residence of a victim of the Holocaust. In Mainz, they are all over, which tells me that Jews and other victims were well-integrated into the community, and not living isolated in a single quarter.

In addition to the names, they give the birth name and year as well as the person's fate.Sometimes there is just one, sometimes it's a whole family. Each is a little history lesson as well as a memorial.

Deported from Mainz to Piaski (Poland), where they died. Probably mother and child.

A family of 3: the child was sent on a "kindertransport" to Holland in 1939 and age 15, but was interned, deported to Auschwitz, and killed. The parents fled to Belgium, also in 1939, and the mother was also killed in Auschwitz. The father was declared dead, specific fate evidently unknown. The series of decisions this family had to make is heartbreaking to contemplate.

Appears to be three generations in Mainz: the grandparents "humiliated and disenfranchised" committed suicide, the mother and daughter fled to France but were interned, deported, and killed in Auschwitz.

Fled at 17 in 1939 from Mainz to France, was interned, deported, and killed in Auschwitz.

Deported in 1942 from Worms, declared dead in 1945.

Deported at age 13 from Berlin, killed in Auschwitz

Deported from Berlin to Theresienstadt and killed in Auschwitz

Parents  "humiliated and disenfranchised" committed suicide, adult child deported and killed in Auschwitz.

Probably mother and daughter.

Denounced and arrested in 1942, died in Buchenwald
Frau Betram was "humiliated and disenfranchised" and committed suicide. Her neighbor Frau Mosbach was deported to Lublin and died in Sobibor.
In front of the former Gestapo headquarters in Freiburg. These are a little different as they're not where the individuals lived.  
Eugenie Ruf fled to France from Freiburg and survived in hiding. Max Ruf fled to Switzerland and France, was incarcerated in 1939 in a camp in Paris, did compulsory labor for the foreign legion in Morocco, and survived.
The Ullmans were deported from Freiburg in 1940 and died in 1942.

This woman was  93 or 94 years old when she was deported from Mainz to Theresienstadt, where she died.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Corpus Christi

One huge advantage to living right in the middle of town is that sometimes we experience events that we weren't aware of prior to them occurring. Mainz is historically a very Catholic community, and we saw the procession of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Friday, 22 May 2015


There's lots beautiful in Potsdam - this is not an example. Rather, it's an example of that unspeakable era of East German architecture. This is right in the middle of town.

But what we went to Potsdam for was the Sans Souci park! As soon as we arrived in Potsdam we hit the information desk in the train station and bought tickets to the Sans Souci palace - thank goodness, as there were only four left!

Sans Souci is a relatively small palace built in the 18th century, home to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and famous for the Rococo style throughout.
Sans Souci Marble Hall

Sans Souci Voltaire room
Sans Souci Voltaire Room chandelier
Also in Sans Souci Park is the New Palace, also built by Frederick the Great. It's larger and was used primarily for ceremonial purposes. It is similarly done in Rococo style.
Floor in the New Palace
The Sans Souci Park is enormous - the path between Sans Souci Palace and the New Palace is 2.5 km long. Other fun buildings in the park include the Chinese House.


Between train strikes (we just had the 9th in 10 months) we made a quick weekend trip to Berlin and Potsdam.I hadn't been to Berlin since 1992, and that was just a visit of a few hours, and it is a dramatically different city! We stayed in the former East Berlin near Checkpoint Charlie, but you'd be hard-pressed now to identify where the wall was.In some places these plaques mark the spot.

The Ampelmann is a symbol of Berlin - you see it everywhere, even on the pedestrian crossings.

Berlin has great museums, including the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island. Half of it was closed for renovation, but there was still plenty to see. This is part of the Ishtar gate from Babylon. I always have mixed feelings about treasures taken from other lands, but I will admit to being glad to see some treasures from Syria, like the paneled room, preserved.

Naturally we also saw some of the landmarks of Berlin, including the Brandenburg Gate.

The museum of East Germany was really interesting for Wayne and for me - not so much for Gail. Luckily they had a Trabant simulated driving experience set up, which made it fun. We passed on the Trabant tours of Berlin - you can actually do a driving tour of Berlin in a Trabant. Driving one feels sort of like driving a car in an amusement park. Here are some Trabant jokes.

In Berlin there are multiple Holocaust memorials, each dedicated to a different group of victims. The one to Jewish victims is the largest. On approach it looks like a graveyard, but it is deceptive. As you walk into the site the level of the sidewalks drops until the stones are towering over you, some at angles. It is very disorienting.Under the memorial is a museum. It's not very large, but it is very moving.

 And on a lighter note, I loved this Ritter Sport (a popular chocolate bar) advertisement in the train station.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bad Homburg

Bad Homburg isn't likely at the top of anyone's itinerary when visiting Germany, but I happened to have seven hours to kill there and was pleasantly surprised! Finding the best Indian meal I've had in Germany also helped make the day good. The town dates from the middle ages.

In the center of town is a beautiful park with lots of fountains from the town's hot springs. It also has two Thai temples and a Russian chapel.

 And a frog prince.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Dutch weekend

I made a last-minute solo trip to the Netherlands this weekend because Hester was free, the weather forecast for Monday was good, the tulips were in bloom, and Monday was King's Day!

Sunday I travelled to Voorburg and Hester's family took me on a drive to Gouda and to see the polders and windmills.

These first few pictures are of the town of Gouda.

Hester and her mom, Catrine

The polders are the low-lying areas protected by dikes. Narrow roads run on the dikes. This is also an area of the Netherlands with lots of windmills.

stork in nest
 King's Day is the annual celebration of the King's birthday (though it was Queen's day until last year!). It is a national holiday. Children use the holiday to set up tables to sell their stuff, using money to then buy other kids' stuff. It is like a big national garage sale.

The traditional treat for King's day is the Tompouce, iced orange in honor of the House of Orange.

On Monday Hester, Marius and I went to Keukenhof. We rented bikes and rode through the tulip fields and also visited the park. It was a beautiful day!