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 9: I think Verona & Venice are the go today

Joe and I outside the Arena, 2016

In 2016, Joe and I joined our colleagues at the Western Front for the 100th anniversary, but before this we made a couple of pitstops including Verona and Venice.


So on the 6th July we left our family in Calabria, taking off from Lamezia to Rome and then onto a connecting flight to Verona. We got there okay but our luggage decided to have a sleep over in Roma!!!

Luggage tags – don’t ever throw out your luggage tags. This was the only way I finally got my bags back!

We loved Verona, we stayed at this beautiful B&B (Art & Breakfast), literally around the corner from the Arena. We bought tickets for AIDA the next morning because another couple also staying at the B&B had been the night before and recommended it. Best show they’d ever seen! They were so right. “Spectacular sets, amazing lighting, great atmosphere! [Aida] is Amneris’s slave, the king’s daughter and is secretly in love ❤️ with an Egyptian General named Radames. ❤️He loves her too ❤️”

Aida at the Arena di Verona, My journal 2016

During our stay in Verona we invited friends Mauro and Franca, who drove from Casole d’Elsa for the day. We stayed as their guests in the town on a previous trip. It was great to catch up with them! We had lunch at Romeo’s place – yes really, that Romeo, Juliet was just around the corner 🤣❤️ We saw her just before lunch. I really loved Verona and all it had to offer.

Lunch, My journal 2016


The first time we visited Venice was on our family trip in 2007. Venice was just a last minute addition.

“I cannot believe that I had not put Venice on our list. If there is one thing everyone must do, it is to go there and have a gondola ride. It was magnificent, very beautiful and peaceful. Everyone loved it and at €100, was worth it!”

24 April, 2014

“A very comfortable taxi ride to Milan Central €12:50 and then a couple of hours in a Frecciabianca and we found ourselves in the ❤️City of Love ❤️.”

25 April 2014 – ANZAC DAY

We’ve been to Venice a few times and it never ceases to amaze. That morning, we paid our respects to our own diggers in Piazza San Marco at the raising of the flags ceremony.  We then boated out to Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands. We watched glass blowers creating amazing work on Murano, lacemakers weaving their magic on Burano and visited a tiny little church from the Middle Ages at Torcello!

“Brightly painted houses, legend says that the town of Burano – a fishing village, once had its houses painted in different colours so the fishermen would be able to easily find [them] … when returning … in the dark. Well known also for its beautiful lace and yummy biscuits called bassolá.”


My journal 2014

“I liked Burano the best.”

I do hope you’re enjoying the holiday journal. Just one day left. Hmmm, I wonder where we’ll go for our final stop? Stay tuned.

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 4: Our visits to the Western Front 🌺

In 2009 I joined my school group on a tour of the Western Front. It would be the first of several visits in the years to come. I could write lots more, but suffice to say these trips left an indelible mark on me. I will Never. Ever. Forget. 

8 April 2009 – Ypres, Belgium

“The ‘real’ Western Front tour began yesterday … when I woke up this morning, the beautiful Cloth hall in the piazza was still there!” 

The day before we had visited multiple sites traveling from Paris and onto the Western Front. We had our own bus with Fausto at the helm. A loveable character who spoke no English. We loved him, though I have no idea how we managed to tour the Western Front over the two weeks. It was a mix of broken second languages, lots of map pointing and patience but we got there!

The Fausto Express

“Fausto, our bus driver is excellent, the best U-turner in the country. I speak to him in a mix of broken Spanish, Italian & French and he speaks back in Spanish!”

The Western Front experiences were many and varied. Each time we visited I saw and felt new things. We met many well know characters along the way, who openly and graciously shared of their experiences. I have always found it difficult to discuss my experiences of the Western Front and the emotions I felt. My journals were my escape, they were the ones with whom I shared, sometimes hurriedly scribbling what happened, many times just relishing in drawing, cutting and pasting. It was the time where I could pour out my day so that I would have room to ‘feel’ tomorrow. In this post I briefly touch on just 3 moments: seeing Cobbers, Otto Dix exhibition, and the Last Post at Menin Gate.


As we all stood solemnly around the sculpture of Cobbers, listening to Ian as he told the story. I was instantly catapulted back to my under-graduate days and into the sculpture studio at MCAE (Melbourne Uni). You see the sculptor, Peter Corlett, was my lecturer for a bit and here I was in front of the original piece, in Fromelles. (There’s a copy that stands as a memorial to Australian soldiers and their sacrifice at the Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916 in the Shrine Reserve in Melbourne if you’re interested in seeing it). However, nothing comes close to the feeling that comes over you standing on this land, in front of this sculpture looking over yonder at VC corner where so many of our boys fought and died.

Otto Dix

It had been a full day but nothing prepared me for the images I saw at an exhibition later that day displaying the war etchings by Otto Dix. Harrowing. I could not draw them fast enough so I could leave and close my journal!!!

My hurried sketches of a skull and a rotting corpse

Menin Gate

In Ypres, every night at 8pm the last post ceremony is held under the Menin Gate. It has taken place every night, whatever the weather, since 11 November 1929. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944. 

My journal, 2011

Lest we forget 🌺

Thanks for reading 🙂

Day 3: The Louvre during the day

24 May 2007 – Revisiting the Louvre on my own

You’ve probably realised that I’m not going to give a tourist’s guide to the places I have chosen to share with you but rather a personal take using snippets of writing and images or photos from my journals. I have added links if you would like to read more about these places, artworks, relics and people. Otherwise sit back and just enjoy the adventure through my eyes, hand and heart. I would love to hear about your own visits to these places. Feel free to add a comment below.

Assyrian Warrior      8th Century BC

“I spent the last full day in Paris in the Louvre. I went on my own, on the metro. I didn’t get lost! I just went there [again] to see what I wanted to see. I went to say g’day to Mona again. … [but] the highlight had to be finding the monumental Assyrian Lions right there in front of me!”

Their scale dwarfs you. I was not to know that years later I would come face to face with sections of the Ishtar Gates, in Berlin and be reminded again of the era I saw here in Paris. It’s an epic feeling I cannot describe to come face to face with works I have only seen and read about in my art books. I have been known to quietly greet the works as if they were a long lost friend.

“I saw the carved figures of Assyrians that are in my book back home. I couldn’t believe it!”

Hello, so great to see you in person!

“I also wondered through the Madonna and child sculptures. There are so many of them! This place is just amazing and I’m glad I got a chance to go back and enjoy it again.”

Anonymous ‘Madonna and Child’ circa 1400-1450

I have a photo gallery full of the wonderful Madonnas I saw that day from every age.

Thanks for reading 🙂