Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 9)

Prague to Amsterdam: Day 4

By Noah

A day out on the Rhine.

Today was another one those days (similar to our day in Nuremberg) where we packed as much as possible in order to fully reap the benefits of our surroundings. Today we found ourselves in the incredibly beautiful upper middle Rhine Valley – the only section of the river that is a UNESCO sight and filled with lots of things to do. Hiking, biking, and boating are just a few of the many activities to enjoy in this area.

After much thinking and consideration as to what to do, we decided on one of the most popular things at the Rhine: biking along the river and returning on a ferry. Thanks to the helpful folks at Burg and Bike in Lahnstein, we got our whole family outfitted with bikes and a handy map showing us all of the 40 castles and palaces in the upper middle Rhine area. Castles are one of the coolest things to see so everyone was very excited.

A castle we rode past.

A castle we rode past.

Another castle.

Another castle.

The very first castle.

The very first castle.

Riding through some gardens on the river bank.

Riding through some gardens on the river bank.

Our first section of the hike was very flat and we all took it at a leisurely pace in order to enjoy the incredible surroundings. About halfway into our trip the bike trail ended so we had to take a ferry across the river to continue our ride on the other side where we stopped to have lunch. After a tasty bratwurst lunch we were fully re-energized to continue our ride. Riding along the banks of the river surrounded by castles, steep green cliffs, and tiny little German towns was amazing.

The small town of Boppart we stopped in for lunch.

The small town of Boppart where we stopped for lunch.

A delicous Bratwurst lunch!

A delicious Bratwurst lunch!

Other then a small number of cyclists, the trail was pretty empty. From the churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia, to the Lycian Way in Turkey these are the moments from the trip that really stick with me. Though the super touristy sights we have seen such as the Duomo in Florence or The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona were also great to see, there is something special about having the place basically all to yourself.

Caleb riding down the river.

Caleb riding down the river.

After a couple more hours we reached our destination: the town of St. Goar where we hopped on a ferry and settled in for the long ride back to the start. As our unfortunately short time in Germany comes to a close I’m sad that were leaving such a incredible place, but also excited for our next (and very sadly, last) leg of our trip.

Romi on the boat.

Romi on the boat.

Caleb was sleepy on the ride back.

Caleb was sleepy on the ride back.

I have decided that before I die I want to see every single Unesco sight so this is my first officially documented one.

I want to see every single Unesco sight so this is my first “officially” documented one.

Prague to Amsterdam: Day 3

By Noah

Shwaig to Horhausen.

Today was very uneventful. We got up, had breakfast, then got in our car to drive to Horhausen. We drove most of the day other then a stop for lunch in the town of Mainz. Two cool things that we saw today was a free little library Germany style and a bike stand in the city that has all of the tools you need free to use.

A free little library in Mainz.

A free little library in Mainz.

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A bike repair station in Mainz.

Prague to Amsterdam: Day 2

By Noah

Shwaig to Nuremberg to Rothenberg to Shwaig.

With only four days in Germany, two of which are travel days, we knew we needed to pack as much as possible into the other two day. That is exactly what we did on Wednesday, our second day in Germany. We left the town of Shwaig for Nuremberg to visit the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which is a huge and fascinating museum on the site of the former Nazi rally grounds in Nuremberg. The museum focuses less on the Holocaust and more on the rise of the Nazis in German. The museum serves to make sure something like that never happens again.

The now empty former Nazi rally stadium in Nuremberg.

Former Nazi rally stadium in Nuremberg.

Though all the exhibts are in German there is a great audio guide that tells you all you need to know about the National Socialist’s rise to power in Germany. After we left this museum I felt like we had finally pieced together the whole puzzle of WWII and the Holocaust. From the rise of the Nazi party to this formation of the State of Israel and everything in between, we have really hit it all on this trip.

We then left for the Nuremberg castle where we walked around, climbed towers, and learned the history of one of the most important medieval cities in the Holy Roman Empire. Next we grabbed lunch in the Old Town that consisted of potatoe salad, sour kraut, meat, and dumplings. By this time it was 2:30 and it was past time to set off towards the next stop on our tour.

At the gate to the castle.

At the gate to the castle.

Nuremberg from one of the castle towers.

Nuremberg from one of the castle towers.

Lunch in Nuremberg.

Lunch in Nuremberg.

We hopped in the car for an hour-long drive to Rothenburg to Ob Der Tauber. Rothenburg is a medieval city that has been preserved for over 250 years and looks excatly the same as it did hundreds of years ago and is a stunning example of medieval life in Germany. As a result of being struck by the both black plague and the Roman army, it was never modernized and everything from the the outer wall to the streets, buildings and guard towers are original and beautiful. And the amazing thing is it is not completely overrun by tourists like the medieval cities of Spain and Italy.

A side street in Rothenberg.

A side street in Rothenburg.

Rothenburg at night as we were leaving.

Rothenburg at night as we were leaving.

The wall around Rothenburg.

The wall around Rothenburg.

One of the highlights of the city is the medieval crime and punishment museum. Unlike the cheesy torture museums in almost every other medieval city in Europe, this museum is more about the medieval legal process and less about gruesome torture methods. It is the only legal history museum in Europe.

Outside the medieval crime and punishment museum.

Outside the medieval crime and punishment museum.

Next on our agenda was the Night Watchman Tour of the city. Starting at 8:00 pm the tour is a fascinating walk given by the “Night Watchman” of Rothenburg who takes you around the city telling stories about medieval Rothenburg. It is so famous and popular there were well over a hundred other tourists on the tour with us. We also got a special surprise when my dad ran into a colleague from Michigan on the tour.

The Night Watchman.

The Night Watchman.

My dad ran into his freind!

My dad with Colin Ripmaster!

One of my favorite stories from the tour was of how Rothenburg was saved from destruction during WWII. The Under Secretary of State during the war had grown up hearing stories of Rothenburg from his mom who visited it once and fell in love. He even had a picture of the town in his living room though he had never been there. When he heard the town was going to be demolished at the end of the war, he told the town that if they surreneded he would spare them because he loved their city. Ignoring the laws of the Nazis to never surrender, the town imediatley surrendederd to the U.S. and was saved.

Prague to Amsterdam: Day 1

By Noah

Over the next four days we will be on a road trip from Prague to Amsterdam through southern Germany planned by me and with much help from our Seattle friend, Frank Strobel. So for the next four days I will be posting every night about our day out on the road.

Day 1:  Prague to Nuremberg (Or Shwaig to be more exact)

We started today out right by getting up early, eating a healthy breakfast, and leaving our hotel at 9:00 to go pick up our rental car at the Prague airport. Thankfully we ended up with a good sized Skoda which was a relief because we were all still scarred from the incredibly small Kia Picanto from our road trip in Israel.

The Kia Picanto in Israel

The Kia Picanto in Israel

Our first stop of the road trip was for lunch in Plzen (Pilsner), a small city one hour away from Prague. In Plzen we had a meal at a small Italian restaurant that was owned by a really nice couple. As we left, they gave us a bottle of wine; my parents were happy. Some other things in Plzen we saw were the main market square of the town, the third largest synagogue the world, and a monument titled “Thank you America” commemorating the American army liberating the city from the Nazis.

The Pilzn hills.

The Plzen hills.

The city center of Plzn.

The city center of Plzen.

The third largest synagogue in the world in Plzn.

The third largest synagogue in the world in Plzen.

Thank you America monument.

Thank you America monument.

Next we hit the road to Germany driving past beautiful fields, mountains, castles, and little towns sprinkled throughout the countryside. The drive went surprisingly well with no bickering, obsessive cell phone gaming, or messiness. My mom put it best “nothing is better than driving through the Eastern European countryside listening to classical music while all three of my kids are reading.” Two hours later we pulled up to our apartment in a small suburb of Nuremburg called Shwaig (Nuremburg was all booked up so we had to stay here.) Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update of Prague to Amsterdam.

German countryside.

German countryside.

German highway signs with funny words.

German highway signs with funny words.

The Holocaust – Krakow

Sitting on a bus to Prague for 8.5 hours provided plenty of time to reflect on the week we just spent in Krakow.  This is a trickier post to write as Krakow provided us both the saddest and most intense moments of our trip as well as many happy memories.  Ultimately we experienced an odd juxtaposition of having access to a history of genocide through visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oskar Schlinder’s factory and the remains of the Jewish ghetto while also enjoying a beautiful city and feasting on borscht, pickles, pierogies, and chocolate.

We posted briefly after our day at Auschwitz, but with a few days distance from our trip a fuller accounting of what we learned about the events of World War II in Krakow and Poland is possible. Auschwitz is the starkest and saddest place one can imagine.  Here the enormity of what the Nazis conceived and executed is laid right before your eyes.  While the tour is very tangible in terms of what you see and hear, we were overwhelmed both emotionally and intellectually trying to make sense of how such hatred and violence could occur in such an organized and systematic way.  No visit to a well-curated museum can match the raw reality of a visit to Auschwitz.

Gate to Auschwitz.

Gate to Auschwitz

Auschwitz I

Auschwitz I

Birkenau

Birkenau

Birkenau

Birkenau

At Schlinder’s factory, we learned much about what happened to both Poles and Jews during World War II as well as the story told in Steven Spielberg’s film Schlinder’s List. Here we learned that the Poles, while not targeted for extermination like the Jews, suffered greatly under five years of German occupation.  In fact, it was ethnic Poles who were the first ones sent to Auschwitz with thousands of them dying from starvation, exhaustion, and execution.

Plaque outside the museum.

Plaque outside the museum.

Oskar Schinder's office in the factory.

Oskar Schinder’s office in the factory.

This museum also does a great job documenting the Jewish Holocaust experience from early government-sanctioned anti-Jewish laws that severely limited basic rights, to forced relocation to the ghetto, and ultimate deportation to concentration camps.  Before the start of World War II, Poland was home to 3.3 million Jewish residents. By the time the country was liberated in 1945, there were fewer than 70,000 who survived the war. To see how the Holocaust played out in one community really brought to light the utter cruelty and devastation to the Jews and the community as a whole.

Finally, we also visited the Pharmacy Under the Eagle Museum; a small, but powerful museum which tells the story Polish chemist, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, who refused to leave his pharmacy when the Jewish ghetto was created. Risking his own life as well as those of his family, Pankiewicz allowed his pharmacy to become the center of resistence activity to Nazi policy.  Whether it was communicating messages, helping to hide Jews, or providing hard to acquire medicine, Pankiewicz was the staunchest of allies to the Jewish community.

Memorial plaza in the Jewish ghetto.

Memorial plaza in the Jewish ghetto.

Inside the Under the Eagle Pharmacy.

Inside the Under the Eagle Pharmacy.

We left Krakow with a deeper understanding and compassion for the experience of both the Polish and Jewish communities during the German occupation.

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