My whirlwind adventures have come to an end, and I’m back in Canada, trying to re-organize my life. But, for a bit of closure, I thought I’d do a last posting about my final week, in Germany. I was lucky enough to visit with an old friend, James, who works in the city of Mannheim, near Heidelberg. I appreciated his amazing hospitality and the chance to meet lots of his friends and co-workers. We also did a trip up to Berlin together, which stands as one of the highlights of my whole trip.
|James & I on the terrace and Heidelberg castle, overlooking the city.|
In both Mannheim and Berlin, the effects of the Second World War are evident in many ways. In particular, the architecture is much more modern than anywhere else that I visited in Europe – for the very unfortunate reason of almost-total destruction during the war. In Berlin, there has been significant reconstruction after German re-unification, to join together the two halves of the city and to modernize infrastructure. James and I visited a couple of museums and did a walking tour to learn about life in the divided city during the Cold War. We heard recordings of poignant stories of escape attempts and divided families; the train station Fredrichstrausse was known as the “Palace of Tears” because it was the main site where family members and friends said goodbye when West Germans returned to West Germany after short visits to the East, and where some East Berliners said their final good-byes to their homeland.
|The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe -- in central Berlin|
|At the site of the former Berlin Wall -- the bricks in the street trace the former route of the Wall|
|One of the fantastic holiday decorations in Berlin - this is in the ritzy shopping area in Charlotteburg district|
A trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, just north of Berlin, was one of the most memorable parts of my time in Germany, although it was obviously not a joyful place to visit. James and I discussed how it was appropriate to visit on a cold snowy day, as we were shivering despite multiple layers of warm clothing. It was all too clear how the imprisoned people would suffer from illnesses brought on by the cold, given that they had inadequate clothing and that there was absolutely no insulation in the barracks that we visited – the buildings where the Jewish prisoners were kept. The temperature inside the wood-framed buildings was exactly the same as the temperature outside -- very cold and damp. It was a haunting place to see, but I would recommend the experience to everyone. It left me with a lot to think about.
|The cell at Sacherhausen concentration camp where Pastor Martin Neimoller was held because of his criticisms of Hitler and the Nazis.|
On a happier note, a highlight of my time in Germany was visiting a number of Christmas markets. This seems to be a major tradition across the country. There are stalls selling gifts, including handicrafts and Christmas cakes, but the main focus was the food and drink. There is mulled wine to enjoy, along with all sorts of seasonal food. My favourite treat was “langos”, a type of Turkish fried flatbread loaded with toppings, but there are lots of sausages, sweets and potato-based treats. I was impressed, as well, that the wine is served in ceramic mugs – you pay a deposit of $2 per mug, so people have an incentive to return the mug, preventing any waste or littering. Impressive!
|The market in Mannheim|
On the other hand, the ugliness of suburban landscapes hit me hard while driving to all ends of Barrie to complete a long list of errands. I love many aspects of life in Barrie, but the aesthetics of parking lots and mini-malls do not top my list of local highlights!In any case, thanks for those who’ve read and commented on my postings, and hope to see you soon. Happy holidays until then!