As the weather heats up in Queensland I am reminded of the rainy Autumn days that we spent in Venice in 2015. For the most part, the weather was cold and wet, a high tide was predicted and we could not have been happier. Protected by the covered passage of the Doges Palace we watched a parade of colourful umbrellas and plastic ponchos pass us by.
Variations on a theme is the choice for this week’s photo challenge and given my tendency to photography a subject numerous times from various angles it wasn’t a difficult task. The difficulty for me was deciding between the doors of Venice, dogs of Italy, street art in Melbourne, The Rape of the Sabine in Florence, Notre Dame Cathedral and so on. Sorting through my catalogue of images, the Eiffel Tower in Paris seemed an obvious choice. There are not many places in Paris that provide little or no view of the Eiffel Tower and I don’t care whether it is touristy, a cliche or over represented. I love seeing the tower rising out of the fog, peering from behind trees or twinkling in the dark, it means I’m on holiday in Paris and that always makes me happy.
This week’s theme for the photo challenge is silence and whilst many images came to mind the ones that stuck were photos taken in the presence of sobering memorials to victims of the holocaust in WWII. In Paris we signed up for a guided walking tour of the Marais, there was probably 15 of us in attendance and we happily followed our guide through the streets and villages of the Marais district. Although only a small group, everyone was pretty chatty until our guide led us to the Shoah Memorial and Holocaust centre. Then there was silence.
The title “Righteous Among the Nations” is awarded to non-Jewish people who, at the risk of losing their lives and those of their family, helped save Jews during World War II. The Wall of the Righteous at the Shoah Memorial and Holocaust Centre is dedicated to 3,300 people in France who were awarded this title. Standing in front of the wall our group was speechless as we contemplated the heroic effort of these people and of the sorrow and suffering of who could not be saved.
The historical city of Florence in Italy is famous for being the home of some of the most magnificent renaissance art and architecture in the world. Visitors to the city don’t have to venture into a museum or gallery to view great examples of renaissance art because you are literally surrounded by it in this UNESCO heritage listed city. However, if you like something a little more 21st century, look around and you will see modern art everywhere you walk. When we were in Florence in 2011 I never really noticed any street art, but in 2015 we saw plenty and the artwork varied greatly in style from cartoonish to realistic. This is a small selection of what can be seen as you walk around the city and as you can see, nowhere was off limits with art painted on metal utility boxes as well as on the walls of buildings.
The train trip from Innsbruck to Berlin was a long one, 8 hours sitting and wondering what Berlin would be like. Anyone we knew that had visited Berlin said it was amazing and awesome, I was worried that we wouldn’t like it as much as our favourite cities in Italy because it was so new in comparison. Little did I know how wrong I could be.
Our first full day was spent in the company of our Polish friend Tomasz, his girlfriend Barbara and Tomasz’ s family friend we called Boogie. Boogie had lived in Berlin for 40 years and she had lots to share, starting with a visit to her place of work: the Humboldt University library. We had woken up to a light sprinkling of snowflakes, the temperature and our noses got colder as we walked along the river to the Reichstag and our smiles got wider. As cold as it was, Marty and I were loving our walk in the snow and it seemed incredible to be standing under an umbrella, watching as snow fell one of the world’s most famous and modern, government buildings. Our friends were used to this inclement weather and our enjoyment amused them greatly. Tomasz did a bit of translating for Boogie, her English was good but she sometimes searched for the right word so Tomasz would help out and often he would add a little something extra and we would all end up having a good laugh.
We didn’t spend the day doing all the typical things that tourists do in Berlin, Boogie wanted to open our eyes to what life was like during the cold war and when she first moved to Berlin so she took us to the “Palace of Tears” or the Tränenpalast,the former border crossing at Berlin Friedrichstraße station where East Germans said goodbye to family and friends going back to West Germany. The Tränenpalast museum is now a modern history museum, the exhibits highlighting the division between east and west and how that impact the lives of Germans during the Cold War era. It is free to visit, but handbags have to be left in a locker which cost 1 or 2 euros. Adding to that experience was a visit to the DDR Museum. The DDR Museum is an interactive experience that gives the visitor the opportunity to see what daily life was like in East Berlin. Hubby had a simulated driving experience in a Trabant, a popular and cheap car for East Germans and apparently not that easy to ‘drive’ as the experience ended with a crash into a pole. I enjoyed exploring the living room and kitchen installations, the formica and colour scheme reminding me of some of the cheaper places I lived in as a university student.
Boogie also led us out of the centre of Berlin, several trains and buses later, to find a well known, popular vegetarian restaurant. I stopped counting how many changes we made after the first couple of stations and I had absolutely no idea where we were, thank goodness for Boogies. By the time we reached our destination, the smiles had worn off a little and our feet were cold and wet. As it turned out the restaurant was closed until later that day, feeling famished we entered the nearest open restaurant and proceeded to order a Chinese banquet. The food was fresh, tasty and very cheap and the time spent there allowed our shoes to dry a little and our feet to warm. Without Boogie we would never have found a delightful ‘village’ in the middle of Berlin, she took us to a restaurant that specialised in potato dishes and showed us beautifully decorated buildings. It was a truly wonderful introduction to Berlin, I’m not sure we would have loved this city as much without the Boogie walking tour and the company of our friends Tomasz and Barbara.
Where’s my backpack has an interesting and challenging travel theme this week. Late is the theme and it is not an easy one for me to find suitable travel photos, but I hope you appreciate my effort anyway 🙂