Day 10: Berlin – the process of coming to terms with your own history.

Let’s wrap this up eh?

Shall we do Berlin today?

I think so.

Travelling from Verona, via Munich, we arrive at Berlin TX on the 8th July, 2016. From there a bus and train ride to Alexanderplatz, the centre of East Berlin where we were greeted by a summer downpour ☔️ which lasted only as long as it took to run into a convenience store to buy an umbrella! We stayed at the Park Inn overlooking the plaza where there was a wine and food festival happening. We ate and drank very well that week!

Our interest in WW1 and the Western Front was covered in a couple of posts earlier here and here, but we are also very much interested in all things WW2. While in Berlin we booked multiple walking tours to find out as much as possible about Berlin, and about the Holocaust. We were not disappointed. I highly recommend these walking tours. We used Insider Tours but there are many others. 

Berlin Wall, My journal, 2016

At the wall, 2016

It has not always been pretty for Germany. Memorials to those times are prevalent all over Germany, the Topography of Terror, is one that bears witness to these. Germany is the only place that is ‘working through a process of coming to terms with its own history’ still. Kollwitz’s Pieta’ (AKA ‘Mother with her dead son’) provides the focal point within a monochromatic room behind the columns of the Neue Wache building, otherwise sparse, the open sky peeks through the circular opening directly above it. The eerie Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, consisting of 2711 grey slabs ranging in height from 20cm to just over 4.5 metres. As you walk through you are engulfed in the grey, you feel lost and alone and melancholic. You just want to run, run, run, to escape, but where is out??? Is it enough to dedicate such a memorial? Will anything we do be enough? 

Memorials of the Holocaust – My journal 2016

Hitler’s bunker now filled with concrete and covered by a dirty, unkept carpark surrounded by public housing  – is that enough? Visiting the many concentration camps, not only in Germany but in many other places, to remember, to pray, to weep. For those who have visited them you know there is not much to say. You arrive with angst and anticipation, courageous even, and while you think you’re ready – you are most definitely not. I wasn’t. I was overcome even more so than at the Western Front. I could hear their screams in the silence. I could hear their silence.

Sachsenhausen Concentration camp

Nothing prepares you. It is after these particular experiences that my journals save me. Once I get back and even sometimes on the way home to our hotels, my journals are where I put my emotions. I tear paper, sections from brochures, I scribble and draw, scratch and write down things I heard said, feelings I felt and memories I must never forget. It calms me. Then I can sleep and be prepared for the next day. Without my journals I am spent.

It is only then that I can find sanity in amongst all the madness.

Museum Island, Berlin – Queen Nefertiti (c. 1340BCE)

After the madness

It was after one of these walking tours that we decided to spend some time on Museum Island. There were two specific exhibits I needed to see with my own eyes. Queen Nefertiti, ‘the beautiful one has come’, stands in the centre of the room at the Neues Museum, surrounded by glass and visible down the centre of a series of open doorways. I fell in love with her. 

The second was the Ishtar Gate, I mentioned in an earlier post. “Simply stunning” is all I wrote next to an image in my journal. I was obviously overwhelmed at its impact. You certainly are dwarfed and to be able to walk right up to it and view its detailed stone work was worth it. It was getting very late and they were closing but I was happy to have seen these most wonderful pieces of history.

Last drinks in Berlin, My journal, 2016 – Cheers!

And so it ends

Alas our 10-day holiday journal adventure has come to an end. Without my journals, my travels would be a litany of endless photographs of people and selfies, artworks and architecture, streets and villas, monuments and landmarks. Pictures and photographs are worth 1000 words. They can be interpreted and discussed, and prompt the most wonderful of stories. Using visuals is a wonderful creative process that I use constantly in my teaching, but the journals are a culmination of the emotions experienced; nothing could replace them. 

Thank you for reading my holiday posts and a special mention to those who took the time to engage with comments and clicks. I do hope you enjoyed the travels. I know I took great pleasure in traveling through my journals again, especially in this time of uncertainty. Perhaps I could do it again some time soon. I have many things I did not share. Some I never will, but still…

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 8: In Martone, Italy, we meet family & friends we never knew we had!

My Journal, 2014

One of the happiest and proudest moments I think my husband experienced on our travels together was when we visited his mother’s birth town of Martone

8 May 2014

While visiting family close by, “we took the opportunity to visit Martone. This was a 10-minute drive up the hill with the most gorgeous views over the water and little townlets (sic) built into the mountain side. Martone is a little place at the top. After parking the car we walked up to the church. … We went over to a group of people sitting outside to ask if they knew where [my husband’s] mum’s family home was located. This was the beginning of a wonderful sequence of events that led us to find cousins and friends who remembered not only his mum (who left the town when she was 15) but who also still kept in contact with Zio Peppe’! [his mum’s brother in Australia]. An elderly gentleman took us up to the house- not 100 metres up the road and then we were invited into a bar [Osteria ‘La Via del Vino’] owned by a cousin*, Carmela, where she offered us chinotto and where we spent the next hour talking of old times and of people they remembered. It made Joe [my husband] very happy. He wanted to take photos of the street, the people and the church, as if I hadn’t already done so. We met Carmela’s son, Giorgio, and after fond farewells went to the cemetery to pay our respects to other family members who had passed. Joe was soooooo happy and excited to have seen the place. It was terrific!”

Joe in Martone, 2014

*not Joe’s cousin as such but related somehow to the family (twice removed) – you know how it is… 🤣

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 7: Our 25th Wedding Anniversary – London calling

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary was pretty much all organised by our eldest daughter, who had spent the previous 6 months studying at Oxford Brooks University in Oxford, UK. I left her there after our visit to the Holy Land. After a week together in London and Oxford, checking it out to ensure she would be ok, I returned home on my own. That, I have to say was tough.

“Rather teary farewell but she’ll be fine and in no time we’ll be off again to London to reunite as a family. This will be a great experience for Nikola, one which I would not take from her. … Can’t wait to hug Jules and P xxx … A presto Nikola ❤️”

Anyhow, she organised it all. We just had to get to London. My husband, our youngest daughter Julia and I arrive in London on the 18th.

18 December, 2011

“We were lucky when we got to our hotel at 7:30am or so cause our room was free, so we went straight in … we arrived to a temp of -0.5° C!!”

“Our road, Penywern, is actually prettier than our street from last time”

We stayed at London Town Hotel. Penywern Road is mostly white buildings that light up in Christmas blue at 4 pm – which is pretty much already dark.

While Nikola traveled on the bus from Oxford to London to meet us, we had breakfast.

“She arrives about 9:30 am. She looks good but sounds different … She’s become very independent like even more than she was at home!!”

All together again, 2011

Our anniversary apparently begins today. Off to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, then Surprise number 1 – Madame Tussauds. 

Day 1 over, we return to Earl’s Court, Nikola catches the bus back to Oxford. She has an exam the next day!

19 December, 2011 – While Nikola sits her last exam we experience Surprise number 2 – Tower of London

20 December, 2011 – Our 25th Wedding Anniversary

“Slept in, missed breakfast LOL! Dressed and off to Westminster Abbey. Porridge, danish and hot chocolate out front. LOL!”

After a tour of the Abbey and celebratory pre-Christmas ritual, Nikola meets us again outside and off we trot to Surprise number 3 – London Show of Billy Elliott at Victoria Palace Theatre!! Wow, wow, wow.

Finally, that night, we travel in a black cab to Surprise number 4!

My journal, 2011

The whole time I was secretly hoping Jamie would come out to say hi, but alas, he wasn’t there. That aside, the meal was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Our mains consisted of fritto misto, tagliatelle, chicken liver tortes and squid risotto!

“… and dessert, OMG they had BOMBA on the menu, same dessert served at our wedding back in 1986! I told the waiter who promptly brought a piece out with a candle – on the house! Only thing better was if Jaime himself had served it hahaha. Waiter blew me a kiss when we left. Great day – Thanks!”

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 6: Terra Santa – Our tour with the Italian Community

In 2011, my eldest daughter and I joined a group of our Italian community and went on a tour of Israel! Mostly they were nonni, with a few of us young ones thrown in for balance hehehe. Oh my what laughs we had (remember the eye girls? 🤣). What lasting memories. I made this trip for my mum whose short life robbed her of the opportunity to travel. I felt her there at the Church of the Annunciation.

“I could ‘feel’ mum in this church and I was overcome with emotion.”

Some of our traveling companions – the Italian Community

Just like the visits to the Louvre in Paris brought my art books to life, so this tour of the Holy Land breathed life into the Bible for me. 

In the hills around Jericho, “the place where Jesus most probably spent the 40 days in the desert, … I truly thought that if I stayed just looking long enough Jesus would appear…” wandering through that desert and mountainous range.

Sea of Galilee, Israel. My journal, 2011

7 August, 2011 – On the road to Jerusalem

“Leaving Nazareth and onto the road to Jerusalem finds us driving through some amazing landscapes. It goes from green, full of date trees and palms and then – it’s desert! A dry, grey white, then suddenly up pops a town perched on the side of a hill. The cliffs are carved through to allow for the roads and every time one moves in and out of the precincts, we pass a check point. We encounter no problems, everyone just lets us through.”

My journal, 2011

But then….

8 August, 2011 – Bethlehem

“Getting in was fine at the checkpoint. Getting out was a little scary. Armed soldiers boarded the bus and asked to see our passports. Soldiers held machine guns and were very young, but scary nonetheless.” 

9 Agosto, 2011 – following the Passion of the Christ, (no, not the movie)

My journal, 2011

11 August, 2011 – Yad Vashem, a ‘name’ & ‘place’, Holocaust Museum

The Children’s Memorial

“The triangular corridor is dark with 5 candles illuminated and reflected on mirrored walls representing all the children killed. A voice recites all the known victims. The walk through was very sad, words cannot describe the feelings that come, only tears fall from your eyes. You feel their innocent spirits around. [It’s not creepy, it’s sorrowful] The museum doesn’t hold back on images nor on information about the Holocaust.” 

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tomorrow we’re off to London …

Day 5: A day at Villers-Bretonneux

I just cannot leave the Western Front without one more post. I’ve been going through my journal that covers this particular trip and have just come across pages of epitaphs I had documented. Once again those feelings return. I remember walking along the gravestones, many unknown, I can hear the bees, feel the warmth of the sun and the cold of the stone block where I sat teary and emotionally exhausted after I had finished transcribing the messages that had caught my eye. 

11 April 2009 – A place that will never forget the Australians

Just west of the town of Villers-Bretonneux in the Somme, we make a quick stop at the Adelaide Cemetery

“We found the place from where the unknown soldier was taken and is now in Canberra – very emotional moment.”

From here we visited the L’Ecole Victoria. A school dedicated to remembering our diggers from the Great War. I peered in through the windows as the school was closed that day, to find beautifully coloured drawings of Australian animals. The artwork continues on the external walls and a great big sign oversees the playground “DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA”. Every classroom looks out onto this sign. ❤️ Never. Ever. Forget.

Do not forget Australia. My journal 2016

 

My journal, 2011

We then visit Viller’s Memorial to pay our respects.

The epitaphs …

“Time passes but memory clings until we meet again”

“Your memory like the ivy clings”

“A nation’s gain. A parent’s loss. A sad bride. ‘Neath the Southern Cross”

“He has fought the good fight”

“Think what a man should be. He was all that”

“He died that we may live”

“Peace, perfect peace”

“My Pal”

Lest we forget 🌺

Thanks for reading 🙂