Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Travels with Lizzie

Today, unfortunately was the last full day of our BFF break.
Here we are, down in Aireys Inlet, staying in a lovely house, fully equipped with heating for these cold nights (a gas open fire, plus column heaters scattered throughout the house), silence when we want, but with a background of crashing waves upon a noisy beach.
Quite a contrast for the two of us, as we both live in rural locations far from the sea and it must be a 'woman thing' or some such phenomena, but it's a full moon tonight, combined with the waves crashing on the shore which makes me think I could perhaps spend a portion of my life down here per annum, and a portion where I do live with my spouse where the kookaburras and currajongs wake me of a morning already!
It really has been therapeutic but alas, like all good things is almost over, as we return to our homes tomorrow.
Yesterday was a drive to Lorne, where we ate breakfast which was more like brunch, then lunch, in the same cafe (read delicious food!).
We drove to the Erskine Falls, and walked down approx. 200 steps to the foot of the waterfall, then slowly slowly walked back up again. They have seats strategically placed along the way for those that need to rest along the way there and consequently we put said seats to good use as we re-oxygenated ourselves before attempting the next climb till we reached the top.
The walk down was ever so pretty and we were enormously pleased with ourselves for getting down there and up again without mishap. I can be a bit of a clutz from time to time, and have been known to fall over absolutely nothing, so those that know such an insignificant fact about myself will be pleased to know no such incidents occurred during our trekking.
A multitude of photographs were collected within our cameras and after our big walk, we had to return to Lorne proper to rehydrate and refuel before hitting the shops.
I was a passenger driving along the Great Ocean Road and Lizzie did a fantastic job of getting from A to B I must say.
There were occasional lands slips we were mindful of, with some pretty big boulders parked along the roadside in various places, but none were recent enough to worry us and there was evidence of road patrols from time to time, quick to report and repair any mishaps such as these were they to occur.
We left Lorne at a reasonable time and got back to our abode whilst there was still light, with a plan to access the lighthouse which is not far from here. Like all good women though, once we became ensconced in editing our photos and placing them on Facebook, not to mention speaking with our respective spouses about our doings of the day, changed our minds and decided to relax and chill for the evening instead. After eating so much in Lorne, dinner was a simple fare of chicken soup with noodles, toast, pâté and Camembert cheese instead of another pub mean. 
It's a tough life I tell you!
We were up relatively early this morning and away by 9:30 following an early brekkie of coffee, tea, toast and jam.
Our plan was to get into the Otways, find Beech Forest and the almighty redwoods.
We got to Colac late morning and stopped for coffee and cake (which you do when on a bit of a road trip break). We were the only customers there in this lovely large cafe with our lattes and SFW with chocolate ganache and carrot/pineapple cake. It was mightily delicious may I say at this point and the staff so very friendly to two out-of-towners. Such a shame the town was quiet and almost still apart from traffic going through. Not many people around unfortunately so business there must be pretty minimal.
We left shortly thereafter continuing on our road trip with the aim to find Beech Forest, neither of us having ever been there before.
Such a beautiful drive, well worth the kilometres and the closer we got to our destination, the more greenery, the more tree ferns and the more tall trees we saw.
Arriving at Beech Forest, early afternoon was good enough reason for a toilet stop and further our knowledge on how to get to our objective, the tall trees of RedWood.
From Beech Forest, we found our way to the Hopetoun Falls, where once again we stared fate in the eye, and walked down a multitude of steps to the foot of these falls.
The place itself was absolutely breathtaking and it was such an honour to be there, witnessing the beauty in this place. Amazing that such magnificence exists not that far from home...within a day or two's reach at least. The sweet smelling perfume of fresh air was intoxicating down there whilst the sound of water crashing onto rocks was deafening but music all the same.
We eventually retraced our steps ever so slowly again up to the carpark, encountering a woman who had hurt her ankle coming down, with her partner, plus, a business man who was between appointments apparently and thought he might just stroll down to the bottom of the falls in his shirt and tie, business pants and good shoes ( hope he didn't slip in the mud down the bottom) as he had an hour or two to spare!
We both made it back up to our car yet again, with nary a splatter between us (going well here) and continued on our journey to the main objective of the day.
We shortly then found the entrance to the gigantic redwood forest which was planted in the 1930's with Sequoia redwood trees as a plantation experiment. The trees are now approximately 60 metres tall and the place is almost sacred because of its beauty and peaceful hush when you enter into it.
The bark on many of the trees is quite soft and there are various forms of moss and lichen growing on some, but not all. The floor of the forest is a carpet of leaves and small needles and twigs and as you wander in there, you cannot help but gaze up to the tops of the trees where the sun is allowed to partially penetrate through, enough to give the growth up there it's required sunlight. There is a stream that runs through the place which has ferns, mainly tree ferns of various sizes inhabiting its banks, with the odd tree which has fallen over to the other side of the stream.
The place is magical. It is serene, ever so quiet with not even any bird sound, due to the shadows within I would think, just the sound of the running healthy stream which I am sure accommodates shy platipii and other nocturnal creatures who wait for the humans to leave for the day before they show themselves.
We are delighted here, and spend a large proportion of our time wandering through this little (not so little) forest, photographing from all angles and all places. I have the feeling I do not want to leave (yet again) and decide when it is my turn, I would be quite happy to have my ashes scattered here for posterity.
Alas, we must go eventually and as Lizzie returns to her car, I stay for one more photo (read a dozen).
As I walk out to the carpark, Lizzie tells me she is injured. Her tripod has decided to demonstrate who is boss and has somehow managed to slice her finger open and there is consequently a bit of a bloody trail by the side of her car. A good little Pommy bleeder is Lizzie, so, pressure on the offending finger is the order of the day until I can whip a couple of kiddies band aids on her fingers until we can get some kind of adult dressing onto it when we get into a pharmacy.
As I am playing out my Urgent Care nurse role, we spy a beautiful pink breasted, blue wing tipped (what appears to be) willywag tail/robin kind of bird. Neither of us have seen a bird of such colour before so it will certainly be interesting to look up its specie on return to our respective homes.
Of course, before we could even think of photographing such a beautiful creature, it had flown off, causing us to wonder what on earth it was that we had seen.
We are soon on our way again, regretfully leaving such an incredulous destination, and wind our way down the mountain range to Apollo Bay where we partake of a local delicacy known as a scallop pie which was quite scrummy (mine was in a curry sauce, whereas Lizzies, a mornay sauce) washed down with a mug of hot chocolate (marshmallow on the side). Just the ticket for replacing those calories we had lost through our earlier walking exercise.
It was then home again, along The Great Ocean Road from Apllo Bay, past The Cumberland River, Wye River, Skenes Creek, through Lorne and back to Aireys Inlet before we knew it. 
Sad to see the devastation brought about by the bushfires along the roadside and once again, it was well demonstrated just how fickle fire is, demolishing some properties in its path,but leaving others.
The positive side I suppose is all the building going on, where people are busy replacing their homes that were lost not so long ago. I admire their courage in rebuilding once again and can only hope that history is not repeated for them in their lifetimes of living where they are.
We are again soon back in our warm and cosy abode with a cup of tea on the agenda as a priority on our return.
Such was our travel on these two, few days.
Our plan is to revisit sometime again in the not too distant future ( maybe twice a year) as a defined stay for a few days is far simpler to organise than a day here or there, given our tyranny of distance living where we do in our real worlds.
It's funny how we both think alike, and with a look, know what the other is thinking at times. I guess that comes with many friends who have supported each other in good times as well as the not so good times but it's reassuring to know that my friend has my back, as I hers.
When living in our own worlds, we may not communicate for weeks on end but like all good friendships pick up where we leave off each time. 
Such a few short days recharge the batteries and reaffirm what we already know.
We then ask......
"What the bloody hell happen with 'The Kettering Incident'"?????????

Saturday, June 25, 2016

All about Noni

Just thought I'd share a little bit about our timid canine, Noni.
With Stuart, she can be as brave as can be, even venturing for midnight rambles by herself coming back smelling of wombat poo, and having the strangest green coloured undercarriage I have seen from time to time.
We know, by her responses to some visitors, especially dogs other than Stuart that she is timid. We won't even go into how she reacts to some children ( all good, nothing to be alarmed about potential visitors).
Stuart loves company in any shape of form, but Noni loves to hide behind Mama's legs occasionally and is generally well behaved except for the 'ball' thing.
Those of you who know her will know what I mean by that!
I know that our chooks unintentionally frighten her, probably because they're all as bold as brass when it comes to animal communication but today takes the cake.

Stuart and Noni each are given a long chewing dog bone of a weekend, compliments of our local butcher, Steve.
This morning's piece was (I think) part of a bovine spine and both she and Stuart contentedly set down outside the house to chew merrily for a time.
Along came the chooks after a while who decided they wanted a piece of the action.
Stuart told them in no uncertain terms to bugger off, go pick on someone your own size etc., when they provided too much interest in his bone, so they as a gang decided to cluck up to Noni to see if they could con her.
Needless to say, not one, not two but THREE times I had to go out to shoo them away as each time they would approach, Noni would drop her bone and move to one side allowing them full access to what was left.
In the end, we ushered her inside near the heater as it is bitterly cold outside (read no snow!!!😡) and then Stuart surreptitiously sidled up and took what was remaining of the bone.
I tell you, the hierarchical structure in this menagerie is a bit skew-whiff these days!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A fall (not Autumn)

So, today sees me with an elevated leg, a swollen and bruised ankle and 'grit your teeth' pain relieved with minimal movement, some voltaren gel and tablets and a good old dose of tlender loving care.

I worked last evening at Bright Hospital. I do enjoy my work there. My colleagues are absolutely fantastic and supportive of this old girl. I am always very mindful of the fact that 40 odd years of being a midwife does not make a great clinical nurse in an urgent care unit but I am getting better at it day by day and even though I know anything has the possibility of walking in through those double doors at all hours of the day and night, I don't panic as much now as I did when I first started there.

Last evening was a busy shift. Poor Pete had to work a double as the other nurse I was working with had called in sick. Pete is a reliable fellow and doubles as an ambulance driver when he's not working at Bright Hospital, so he knows his stuff and I always feel safe and supported when he is on with me.
The DON actually offered for us to have our dinner supplied by a local pizza place last evening as the place had been literally jumping earlier in the day with tricky tickers and mvas and stuff. We were fortunate to only have to contend with the ward doings most of the time (we had one presentation late in the evening) and so that kept us going until knock off time.

As I walked out to my car I decided to step out onto the gravel road, turn right and walk to my car door.
The alternative could have been to walk up a short pathway to my car door, but no, I like to do stuff differently and there is a part of the road that dips down to a gutter and my foot stepped there, went over on its side and I lost my balance.
Funny how such scenarios go through a slow motion sequence and I remember as I fell not to let my head bounce off the concrete gutter so there was no head contact with anything, just the rest of me contacting with solid earth.
I fell right over, landing on my side then rolled onto my back and for a few milliseconds lay staring up at the stars with a soft gentle rain falling onto my person.
I initially tried to shift but couldn't, due to the shock of yet another fall I guess, then eventually rolled over onto my hands and knees and got myself up and limped cautiously to my car door.

I know I should have gone back inside and reported my fall (OH&S and all that) but I felt so demoralised and embarrassed I just wanted to get home. 

The drive from Bright is 40 minutes along the Great Alpine Road on a good clear day. I knew it would take me the best part of an hour as I limped home at 11:30 at night and home is where I wanted to be thinking I would be OK so I took my time and got there eventually.
This morning when I awoke, I found I can only weight bear for short periods and am limping a bit so it was my turn to have to call work and cancel my shift for tomorrow.
I feel quite bad about having to do that as I know the staff on will have difficulty replacing me, but given I am having some issues with mobilising, I will have to take my very first sickie here and suck it up as they say.

I'm beginning to wonder if I should label myself as a high falls risk, given I've had a couple of tumbles of late, the other being out the front of our place last weekend when 'the girls' were here.

I remember when we travelled to Italy and I am sure I left my mark on a few cobblestones in Florence as I managed to fall whilst there a few times also.

Such is life though and apart from a bruised and tender ankle I am ok. I am fortunate at this time in my life to not have more major issues to deal with. I will rest up, elevate my stupid foot, treat it with ice periodically and thank my lucky stars I have not hurt myself even more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you!!!

Sitting here feeling quite sad at the moment.
We are at Changi airport waiting to be called for our plane, to journey home once more.
The last month has flown, as wonderful holidays away/abroad always do and I am left with the fleeting impressions and emotions I have experienced over this last month.
I have been joyous, teary, tired, alert, happy, content, hungry, concerned and pleased.
I have had days where I have not felt 100%. I managed to catch a cold flying over here so had the inevitable cough, sore throat and runny nose for a few days, but that passed. I managed to damage my right large toe and consequently had an infection there but with the help of antibiotics it is slowly healing.
I have been hungry, over full, thirsty and sated. I have drunk tea, coffee, lemonade, beer, wine, cider, water, ouzo (and liked it). I have eaten rice, noodles, sausages a la German style with sauerkraut and mustard, apple strudel with vanilla sauce (aka custard), Weiner schnitzel, potatoes, salads and any number of German sweets. I have developed a love for German chocolate (schokolade), and their German pastries both sweet and sour, not to mention dinky di pretzels....the big ones!
I have learnt to say "Ja" spontaneously and "Danke Schoen" as required, not to mention Gutentag, Gutenmorgen and Gutenaben.
People in Germany smile when you attempt these few words. They are pleasant and polite and smile all the time, especially when they realise you are a tourist come to visit their fair country.
When shopping in Düsseldorf, the women and men behind the register would ask where we came from and when told then ask why on earth would we come to Düsseldorf for a holiday.
I was always quick to explain our daughter lives and works there, and they would then nod their heads understanding our need to see her and her partner in their home habitat.
I do believe Merryn and Kieran have enjoyed having us experience their lives if only for a brief period of time. We have shared meals at their place, eaten out with them, had a beer or two, not to mention numerous cups of various tea flavours and coffee à la Kieran. We have slept there, played 'Cards against humanity', 'Bullshit' (incidentally a great game needing 4 people at least.... The more the merrier with THAT one). We have washed clothes together and rotated them on the clothes horse until dry.
We have ridden numerous trams and trains and walked and laughed and shopped. Both Merryn and I have a love of supermarkets in different countries, so Santorini and Athens were both fun to explore.
I have watched whilst my husband has befriended numerous people...he (and I) have spoken to other travellers from Italy, U.S.A., Canada, Northern Europeans and fellow Australians. We have made good impressions (I hope) on those working where we have travelled to, such as in Greece, and Italians working in pizza shops in German towns (Regensberg) who have travelled to our fair country and reminisced with us about their fruit picking experiences and their friends they have left behind.

All in all, our experience over here has been a wonderful one. Our joy at seeing our daughter and her partner has been paramount and it has been consequently a fantastic opportunity to experience yet again European culture at its best.
Thank you Germany and Greece... We will return one day I am sure.

Well it's now 3:10 am. 
I am sitting in very close proximity to my husband, and both the woman in front of me and the person behind.
You guessed it.... I am flying high in the sky. I just peaked outside and I can see stars above me and clouds beneath. Lucky me, I got the window seat unfortunately for my husband. He at least has the aisle seat. The woman in front has her seat right back but I have mine upright as I type my story.
The glory of the moment though is that I am revisiting my youth listening to Eric Clapton...the COMPLETE album, so right here and right now Sunshine Of Your Love is playing full blast and no one else can hear.  I feel like singing but it might not go down too well on here!. I loved Cream when I was young... They always seemed to be one of the extreme bands in my mind back then...not so much the hippy scene but more the left of centre and when I really wanted to 'be wild' they were it, along with The Band, Led Zeppelin and so forth.
Chicago were always my favourite though, I loved them especially in their early years especially when Terry Kath was still alive. Family and nursing friends can attest to my dogmatic playing of their music incessantly, especially after work!
Ah, those WERE the days weren't they.
We can all identify our lives with the music of our times and when I expire, right here and now I do believe I want a late '60's early '70's medley thank you very much.
You can throw in Black Dog (Led Zep), Sunshine of your love (Cream) but especially Ballet For A Girl From Buchanon and um....I'm A Man (Chicago). Do yourself a favour and check them out... You'll see what I mean!

Sorry guys, I think I'm rambling a bit. Have yet to sleep and am pretty sure I won't get any on this flight. These packed planes are certainly not conducive to sleeping, especially when you're not a small and/or petite person. I envy those than can curl up on nothing and sit with crossed legs on a plane and sleep. It'll take me a day or so to stretch my spine out again I reckon.
Shall have to take the dogs for a big walk when we get home after a sleep I am thinking.
Anyway, will finally sign off now. Eric continues to sing so I shall close my eyes and groove along for a bit.
Bye for now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Munich no more!

We are currently riding a train back to Düsseldorf. It's always exciting when you hop on a train, hoping it's the right one...
We had a couple of hiccups today as we boarded....getting into the wrong carriage and sitting in someone else's seats for example.
Then, thinking we might be on the wrong train, for it apparently separates later on our journey we were able to move through to the right carriage and we are in our own little one else is in this little room with us. We are travelling at a speed of 200+ kilometres per hour which is kind of sad as I am in no hurry to leave this beautiful country. Am thinking the train driver has other ideas though.
Before I tell more tales about where we have just been, I shall tell you reader about our Munich encounter.
We came over to Munich on a train, (incidentally it's the best way to travel over here as far as I'm concerned).
There was a mix up in seating on that train and instead of enjoying our first class tickets, elitist that I am, we had to sit in second class where there is very little room to spread out. I don't know about you but over time when on holidays we tend to accumulate extra bags wherever we go.
We had no wifi which is not really an issue but when you've paid for it it gets more and more frustrating as time goes on.
Given our trip from Düsseldorf was the longest train ride, by the time we disembarked we were a little disillusioned to say the least.
Anyhow, we arrived in Munich. Got out of the Hauptbahnhof into a dirty smelly street with many many men standing around smoking and spitting and began our walk down Goerthestrasse, where our hotel was. We walked past strip joints and gambling houses, past a couple of outdoor/indoor middle eastern fruit and vegetable shops, past a couple of food houses to our hotel so you can get the picture. It was late afternoon, cold, drizzling and we felt slightly disgruntled given that we had paid quite a lot for our accomodation. The chap behind the counter was ever so unapproachable when we told him who we were. He was most uncommunicative and I had a a feeling he did not want to be there let alone us, his attitude was so unpleasant so once we had signed in, we went straight up to our room which was quite a shock. It was a small, dark dingy room with a perennial dripping tap. There were two single beds pushed together. The room window opened onto the rabble down below, the bathroom a high bath with a shower inside it and not much else apart from the toilet. The phone didn't work, not that we required it anyhow. 
Anyhow, you get my drift...we were not happy about Munich, especially the accomodation. We were there when hotels were booked solid apparently as there was a large convention on in town, hence all the men around.
I have just realised too that I took no photos of where we were given my displeasure.
We had our day trips to Neuschwanstein and Dachau that took up a lot of our time fortunately and they were such magnificent day trips. Unfortunately, Munich I guess was the low light of our holiday, but it was all part of the broad experience after all.
We ate at two local Cafes the first two evening and the food was great. The third night we were there, we walked through the Haupbahnhof onto the other side and were swept away with the contrast to where we were saying.
 The streets were clean, you could hear music playing, a tram shuffled by as we walked and we found a cute little Vietnamese restaurant where Murray had duck and I had a rice dish all for 9€ all up so our faith was a little restored, as we had been told wonderful things about Munich and had wondered where we had gone wrong here. 
It seemed the whole time we were there it rained on and off which didn't help the mood I guess and by the time we left we had no qualms about furthering our adventures elsewhere.
Word of warning, don't ever stay at the Smart Stay Hotel in Munich. 

Faulty Towels
Only one towel when we first got there. When asking for an extra towel, got a bath mat instead. When asked for said towel again...."Sorry we have none.".
Surly hotel reception...
Murray's key repeatedly failed to work. Had to go down to reception each time and ask for it to be recalibrated.
Room small, dark, hot. Unclean carpets.
Unable to deadlock room from inside.
No safe in room.
2 small bottles water did the 3 nights we were there. Not replaced.
Ran out of tissues early. Not replaced.
Phone not connected consequently didn't work
Internet not working last 12 hours or so. Actually the server was turned right off.
Advertised tea/coffee in front reception. No cups available for said tea/coffee. "Sorry, we have none"????????
Wrong side of tracks.... Dirty street, noisy, betting houses, strip clubs around. Many men hanging on street corners all times of the day.
Very small flat pillows, one each. No extra pillows
Constant dripping tap in bathroom.
Room very warm, no air conditioning. Hot overnight.
One small single lift. Sometimes we had to wait a while to access it. We were on 5th. Floor. Also used as transport lift for linen to other floors

Two single beds, comfortable.
Clean sheets.
Had the two towels after day 1.
Hot shower with great water flow.

I think when you have a range of experiences throughout a country, however small or large you are bound to have good with not so good. We were fortunate we had no nasty experiences. We didn't lose anything whilst we were there and no one accosted us. I think, the disappointment lay in this place not being up to the same standard of every where else, which is our error and misadventure after all.

As mentioned before, we enjoyed our day trips, the food was great yet again and most people happy to provide great service.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Backwards in time to Berlin.

,Shall I tell you a tale or two?
A tale that encompasses both good and bad, great experiences, mediocre experiences and downright unpleasant experiences.

This trip away of ours, like most good holidays, has gone so fast. We are nearing the end and now I am really into the swing of travelling around Germany I cannot help but feel a little sad.
Mind, if we were to have a longer time, I would be advocating to stay right where we are now in Regensberg, one of the prettiest towns I have had the pleasure to come across.
Following our trip to Greece, we returned to Düsseldorf, if only to wash, rest and prepare for this segment of our holiday. We had the pleasure of Merryn's company still and so the three of us travelled to Berlin for two nights via train. The train travel over here is head and shoulders far superior to what we have in Australia. Our seats are clean and comfortable, we are offered food and drink (at a cost of course) but we imbibe as one does to break up the journey a little. I must say the coffee is not too bad and neither is the food so I cannot complain about that either.
We arrived in Berlin and found our way through a succession of UBahns and SBahns thanks to Merryn, to our destination....Hotel California. We were actually prepared for a dingy dive with a name such as this that harkens back to the 1970's but the reception is genteel and quick and we are up in our room before we know it.
The room itself is smallish but that's because it accommodates three beds as we are all sharing. The room is clean, the beds are ever so comfortable, we are safe in a strange city and there is a bathroom which is generous in size also.
Whilst we were in Santorini, I was trimming my toenails one day (gross I know) and managed to cut the side of my left large toe. I didn't worry too much about it at the time, despite it bleeding just a little, presuming my toe cleaning habits would help it heal.
Unbeknownst to myself, some nasty bacteria decided to enter, and consequently, a nasty little infection has occurred in my toe, with it being rather swollen, red and painful by the time we reach Berlin.
We make an executive decision the day after arriving for me to pay a visit to a local doctor which I thought would end up being a very costly exercise. Merryn and I asked at the hotel desk and they recommended a GP clinic just a few doors down from our abode.
We go in, me limping quite significantly by now. I register my details, and we wait all of 10 minutes. The clinic is squeaky clean, with a delicious fresh perfume wafting through the waiting area. I am called by a young woman, tall, thin and wearing a white shirt and white pants, obviously the medicos uniform as all the doctors appear to be wearing something similar. She is polite, apologising in advance if she has mispronounced my name and asks me my problem. I tell her, she inspects my toe then suggests I need a surgeon to lance the toe to drain it. I explain why this is not possible so she prescribes me some pretty strong antibiotics and I am out the door and paying my bill all within 20 minutes of entering the place. The cost of all this you ask...not 50 euros, not 30 euros, but a whole 21 euros, less than what one would pay in a non bulk billing GP clinic back home!
I am most impressed with this Germanic way of life.
Great health service, great trains, food is cheap and easy to come by. Merryn tells me also that everyone has to have private health insurance over here also, even those like herself and Kieran on visas, so if they are unwell, they are covered.
So, once that was sorted, it is time for tourism. 
And what more could you ask for, our very own tour guide who has been to Berlin before and loved it.

Merryn was able to show us her highlights and also what we were wanting to see as a consequence.
We found remnants of the Berlin Wall, and can you believe, just as we are taking these photos, my bloody camera battery dies!!!
We found Checkpoint Charlie, 

We found the Reichstadt, looked at amazing shops, bought gloves and caps because it was so cold. We ate pizza and pasta and cake and ice cream despite the chilly temperature too but the highlight of our gourmet appetites are the doner kebabs purchased from a street stall. 

We waited a whole hour in a queue for these kebabs and just as we got to the head of the queue we were informed they had literally run out of chicken, which was Murray's preference, so, it was vegetarian for everyone that evening! 
We visited the Jewish Museum that details the history of the Jewish population from before the Middle Ages and learn about the effects of war on this oppressed religion. 

We hunted for, and found brass plaques embedded outside a number of buildings which actually bore the names of the people who lived there, before being carted off by the gestapo and eventually murdered all in the name of war. 

I learnt the history of why the wall was built and its eventual demise and how it divided a city devastated by World War 2, we found the Brandenburg Gate also and inspected a protest about the treatment of women in Iraq. We listened to a man as he played his music box too, expecting to see a dancing monkey but alas, his monkey was literally stuffed and hanging on the side.
Like everyone says, there is so much history here with so many hundreds and thousands of stories.
Mine is but one collection of words that merely skims the surface of life here.
There are so many beautiful people in this city which, because of the devastation of war and division is now so young. The buildings are made to appear old, but most had to be rebuilt after the war and many were then rebuilt once the wall came down in the 1980s also.
Everyone appears to have a purpose here, but there are still beggars in the street. Old women who implore you in a language I do not understand, their hands outstretched. We see police accosting what appear to be possible refugees...young boys with backpacks, young women who look resigned and tired with a baby or two in tow. Berlin is an amazing city but before too soon it is time to say farewell and leave on yet another train journey, this time to Munich.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dachau in a day

So, today we went to Dachau.
I want to begin with our experiences leading up till this day, but I believe Dachau deserves a write up of its own so I will leave the other until next time, maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, depending on how I go for time.

We returned to the main train station aka Hauptbahnhof München this morning hoping to go on yet another tour... 
Yesterday we had the delightful pleasure of travelling with the extremely historical knowledgeable tour guide, Ludwig, so he calls himself for the day, but unfortunately today, our potential Irish tour guide informs us there are not enough people as we wait to go on the tour to Dachau so we are to travel there unguided and do the tour ourselves.
Whilst we wait for this information, I noticed an African fellow sitting on the floor next to where we are standing, initially very quiet, almost asleep it seems. All of a sudden he awoke and made a move to get up but was unable to do so. He actually rolled over a couple of times, got to his knees then proceeded to stand with the assistance of a metal rail. Once he had found his feet that wanted to go in the opposite direction to where his head was heading, he then found his voice and began to berate those around him, taking a swipe at a poster advertising the tours we were to take, knocking it over. Once he laughed at his own folly and everything else, he then stumbled over to a plant shop nearby and in full view of everyone, voided into the plants outside the shop, laughing once again as he did so.
People then moved away as police made a belated appearance and escorted him off the premises, much to the dismay of the florist who was most displeased about her urinated-upon plants.
Not sure what she was going to be able to do about her potted tulips and gardenias as there is no facility within this complex to hose the plants down. I would have been pretty pissed myself if I was her!
Anyhow, once again, I digress.

Our erstwhile tour guide apologised for not taking us to Dachau but kindly assisted us in purchasing train tickets (which we probably didn't even bloody need) and before we knew it we were on the train and we're off.
The ride there took all of 15 minutes from Munich and Dachau was the first stop so we were standing iwaiting for a bus to take us to the Concentration Camp before we knew it.
The bus took us about 10 minutes also. 
Interesting that we have all the comforts of the world with trains and buses, whereas 83 years ago 'political' prisoners had to walk to a beat not of their own making and if they fell by the wayside were left to die.

We walked in to an amazingly beautiful place. It has been raining here today and the local birds were making the most of the wet weather. Our footsteps scrunch as we walk along the path to the entrance and even though there are hundreds of others here as well, there is a hush. People are respectful and there is no laughing, no yelling, no children running and playing, no one taking selfie photographs for a change.
It is peaceful and yet because we know what has happened in this past, there is an underlying sense of horror which is inexplicable.
The place in parts is green and as described before, breathtakingly beautiful. Other areas where the barracks were is stark in its reality and there are frequent reminders of what was.
We acquired audio sets on our entrance that pick out areas that we might not have realised as we travel through......  railway lines that led to crematoriums, man-made hills that blocked the views in days gone by from people passing by. 
The iron gates leading from the path into the camp have a statement saying "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" meaning "WORK WILL SET YOU FREE" which as we know it now is a lie, for not many that entered these gates were freed voluntarily.
Dachau was not only a concentration camp for many men of the Jewish faith, but also those that rebelled against the reich, such as priests, and politicians who opposed Hitler's movement,  those that did not fit into the ideology of the gestapo and their cronies. It was also a training centre for the SS, where recruits were indoctrinated into the system which nurtured and encouraged the torture, humiliation and killing of the prisoners.
It is hard to reconcile this place to what would have been hell on earth for many there. The barracks that once housed hospitals that used prisoners forcibly for experimentation are no longer there, just plaques to remind us of what happened once.
There are barracks still standing to give you the impressions of what it was like in rooms that were supposed to house 200 men, but ended up housing over 2000. 
The supposedly never used death shower rooms remain to this day as a reminder of what was. The crematoriums remain also as do the areas where thousands upon thousands of men's ashes are buried with plaques again commemorating those that lie there. 
There is so much to take in that I weep a little at the magnitude of it all.

Time and time again I ask myself how man could be so callous and cruel and cold towards his fellow human being. I find it incomprehensible that death was such a daily happening there.
At the far end of the complex there are memorials to all religions. There is a Russian Orthodox Memorial chapel.  There is a Protestant Church Of Reconciliation. There is the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel adjoining a Carmelite Convent. What takes my breath away though is the beautiful Jewish memorial which is partially underground and includes a seven tiered menorah which reaches to the sky from where you are standing and allows light in to the area.
I find it difficult to equate this significant reference to religion as it is my personal belief there was no God here, from 1933 until liberation by the U.S. soldiers in 1945. There are many I am sure, who used their beliefs to sustain them until freedom, one way or the other.
Once we have gone from the entrance to the back of the complex, we then walk up to the top again where is housed the most extraordinary museum I have ever encountered. It seems to go on for ages and ages, and tells the story of Hitler's rise and his mass hypnotism of a race of people, it tells the story of events that led up to the incarceration of so many people and his hatred of people of the Jewish faith. It tells the story of life in not only this Camp Dachau, but, also that of Buchenwald, Belsen-Belsen and of Auswichz. It talks about survivors' personal experiences whilst imprisoned, the underground reprisals and the people who risked their lives to tell the world what was happening in their own country. It explains how people were unaware of what was actually happening whilst they were trying to live their every day lives during war time. Most importantly though, this museum describes the events and the day to day lives in this concentration camp and how so many men dared to try and survive against so many odds. It talks about the world's gradual awareness of what was happening here and the shock and horror the liberating soldiers felt upon their entry into the camp.
We also watched a film clip at the completion of our day (which helped us to dry out and warm up a little as it had rained continually the whole time we were there) about the whole damned thing yet again. This once more made me weep to see families torn apart and lives lost so indiscriminately and again I am reminded that there was no religion here, just life and death after all.
Once we are done, once our hearts are heavy with sadness, we leave and return our audio sets. We then call into an adjoining cafe for a bite to eat and a drink, then go onto the bookstore where we both make a purchase.
Murray asked the lady (for she is a lady...gracious and polite AND speaks a little English) why there is no charge to enter this place.

She then tells us "We do not charge, for this is in memory of those who died here and we want all people to come here so no one forgets. If we charged, people would not come because it would cost too much for some. We want all to be able to come here and see what has happened and why it should never ever happen again".

As a postscript to this, I will say I am so very impressed with what has been done to commemorate this site. The people that have restored and maintained this place have done an incredible job. It would have been so easy to bulldoze the place and pretend it never existed whereas the guilt is acknowledged and accepted and reparation is made by the memories created here.
To those that have done this, I thank profusely. I am just a mere bystander who has had the time and fortune to visit this place.

My 'friend' from this morning who was so obviously inebriated, I only hope he is sleeping off the effects of his consumption. I can only imagine his sadness in his life, no longer living in his birthplace. At least he has the opportunity to live and be free from oppression if he should want.

Those 80 odd years ago were not so lucky.