Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hiking in Bavaria

I take the kids on a hike every morning here. The trails start about 50m from our front door. We have a few favorite routes, though there are enough criss-crossing trails that we can mix and match the path we choose to get anywhere.

There's Ice Cream Mountain (we hiked that one when we were here before).

Johannes Kappelle, where you can go inside and ring the bells (!!!!).

and Amy Kappelle, which is actually called Romanische Kappelle.

We call it Amy Kappelle because a dog named Amy lives in a house near the trail, and she often joins us for some play time near the chapel. That's her on the stairs, in fact.

Sometimes we get lost in the network of trails. Sometimes we have to blaze our way through a stinky cow manure field and up a steep, forested hill to get back on track. Sometimes Sterling starts to fall asleep in the backpack and we have to laugh and goof with him like fools so he will wake up again and take a proper nap once we're home.

We run into a lot of spiderwebs. We pretend we're Hobbits or some of Robin Hood's merry/henchmen. We get caught in the rain. We do Choose Your Own Adventure hiking where each kid takes a turn deciding whether to go left or right at each fork in the road. We come across signs that say "Botanische Lehrpfad" and do not understand what that means.

That happened last week. I kept the phrase in my head all the way home and looked it up first chance I got. Except I typed it in wrong and Google Translate told me it meant "Botanical Instructive Mortgage" and I was so confused.

It actually means "Botanical Learning Trail," and we went that way this morning. I think all the lehr (learning) has been taken out of the Pfad (trail), though. It was just a regular trail. But still a nice hike. We came across this old wall.
Who knows how long that's been here?

I'm soaking in this summer of hiking. Trails and forests and spiderwebs in the face, even, are good for the soul.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flossenbürg Concentration Camp

This post might suffer from a touch of Feeling Introspective After Visit to Concentration Camp.

Today, we visited Flossenbürg Konzentrationslager, about an hour away from where we're staying. This was my first visit to such an awful place - while we were there, I was trying to think of anywhere else I've been that made me feel so awful awful awful. Quneitra came to mind, but even that misery was on a much smaller scale.

The interpretive materials on site were so well done. The most moving aspect of them was the way they set up displays of old photos around the site on the spot they were originally taken. It gave the site so much more meaning and context, to be standing in the courtyard, for example, looking at an old photograph of prisoners lining up just there.

I was apprehensive about bringing the girls there. Fortunately, they have been really interested in Anne Frank since we came to Germany, and that has provided a relatively child-appropriate access point to the whole mess of WW2. Still, I hated having to tell them that some horrible people did horrible things to other people, right here in this place. I do think their naivete and their tendency to see things only in black and white will protect them for now. On this visit, they had ears only for stories of good guys and bad guys, allowing none of the ugly complexities of these people's nuanced, difficult lives to cloud the picture.

I recall a moment in one of the exhibit halls, standing in front of an image showing the pictures of a dozen female guards who worked at Flossenbürg. They had soft hairstyles and warm smiles, and yet these women helped run the concentration camp machine day after day after day. Magdalena looked at the pictures and was immediately able to categorize the women as bad guys. I looked at them and thought of the parents, siblings, or children they were supporting during a frightening time of war, possibly with the only work they could get. Shades of grey can be so unsettling sometimes.

It was overcast and raining when we first showed up at Flossenbürg. We spent time in the exhibition halls and visiting the grounds, and gradually the sun came out. The kids and I headed back to the car ahead of Jeremy, and as we walked out through the gates, we made an effort to shake off the feeling of that horrible place. Thankfully, we were successful. The sunshine definitely helped.

Here are a few pictures, though I felt gross somehow taking any.

In the foreground are markers for each country who lost people "to bloody Fascism," as the Russian put it. In the background is the crematorium chimney.

"In honor of the 90th US infantry division which liberated Flossenbürg Concentration Camp April 23, 1945."

 There was a wall with cards where you could leave your thoughts. These were Magdalena's two contributions. "Never forget the war today. 22.7.14 war time 1938."

"In the next few years it got better in the war."

Yes it did, thank goodness. Even though this was a pretty terrible place to visit, I'm glad we have the chance to do so.

Monday, July 21, 2014

More fun than Disneyland

We've never actually taken the kids to Disneyland, but I have to believe that they could hardly have more fun there than we did at Playmobil FunPark near Nuremberg on Saturday. And for a fraction of the price and hassle, too!

This place reminded me of Enchanted Forest in Oregon - low-key, laid-back, not too sprawling, lots of shade, (almost) no lines, and focused on fun for a range of ages. Sterling (age 9 months) even got to be more than a blob in the stroller - there was a baby obstacle course that he enjoyed, as well as a water play area that he hung out in quite happily for a while.

For the big girls, there were more difficult obstacle courses, paddle boats, a castle, a pirate ship, a Wild West area, dinosaurs, and mini-waterfalls to play in after we were all hot and sandy.

I think in two or three years, Miriam will have aged out of the activities this park has to offer, but for this stage of our children's lives, we could not have chosen a better place for all of them to have a blast.

Plus, I had so much fun watching them have fun - you know the feeling?

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18th, outsourced

Here's an interesting and fairly interactive infographic about where certain majors end up working. [HT Bryce]

Sorry for the clickbaity source, but these really are neat Google tips.

Maybe I don't entirely agree with his tone, but seriously, sometimes kids need to travel and yes, it is harder for us (the parents) than for you to endure.

I do not fully understand the context, but there's some crazy obstacle course and recently, a woman successfully completed it for the first time. Pretty awesome.

Ooh, long cons in the social media era: how to flawlessly predict anything on the internet. [HT Andrew, maybe?]

This was a tough week for international news. In Gaza, "Imagine for a second that Hamas had leveled a synagogue. Can you imagine what Israel would feel justified in doing as a response? Or imagine if a Jewish extended family of 18 had been massacred by Hamas, including children? Would we not be in a major international crisis? At some point the lightness with which we treat Palestinian suffering compared with Jewish suffering needs to be addressed as an urgent moral matter. The United States is committed to human rights, not rights scaled to one’s religious heritage or race."

Also in Gaza, four boys, dead on the beach.

In Syria, more heritage treasures are being damaged or destroyed.


We spent the day in Dresden. It was our first trip to (the former) East Germany since we were in Berlin in 2002.

I confess I expected a little more firebomb-burned-out Dresden, and a little less thriving-restored-Baroque Dresden.

Then again, it's been almost 70 years since 3900 tons of bombs were dropped by the Allies on Germany's last untouched city in the east. I understand the need to rebuild. Frauenkirche (in the last picture, above), however, was left in ruins as a war memorial until very recently - 2005, I think? There's something to be said for that particular depth of emotion that can be experienced when looking at a beautiful thing ruined by war. Berlin and its Gedächtniskirche agree.

It reminds me of how I felt when they announced that the Nauvoo Temple was being rebuilt. Hooray, but visiting there as a teenager, I loved the feeling evoked by those lonely foundation stones lying in their sunken plot of ground more than I loved the rebuilt temple when we visited there in 2010.

But Dresden was beautiful, as you can see. Since we were there with our kids, a random (awesome!) park made it onto the day's itinerary.

And Magdalena made friends with a statue.

We also tried to go see the hill that was made by the hauled-away rubble after the bombing in 1945. It's called Türmberg...and nobody seemed to know a thing about it. A lone hotel doorman said he remembered his father (age 80) talking about it, but he thought it was not a place you could visit - just some rocks and junk in holes.

Another attraction of the day was a visit to the Mormon temple in Freiberg. It was opened in 1985, which means it was the first temple (and maybe the only one ever?) behind the Iron Curtain. Go read the Wikipedia article - it's pretty interesting. Today, there were no secret police to bother us. Instead, a local member opened up the chapel and small photo exhibit for us to look at.

I remember knowing of East Germany's existence as a kid, and one of my first news-related memories is of the Berlin Wall falling down. I was also somewhat obsessed with WW2 as a kid, so today's day trip was interesting to me on many levels, even if it's possible that my kids admitted to the park being their favorite thing!


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