Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Walking the Wall

After visiting The Story of Berlin with Fiona (see January Post), I thought about doing some more touristy things in Berlin. I picked up a couple of guides, and reread parts of The Lonely Planet's Guide to Berlin. After speaking with Ingrid, she found a website that maps out the entire Berlin Wall that surrounded West Berlin from 1961-1989). then I found a spiral bound book (in English), complete with maps and directions on where the Wall stood, and information about different buildings, interesting facts etc...

This year, I have decided that I will walk the entire 160 kilometers of Wall (not all at once).

Part One

Potsdamner Platz to Warschauer Strasse - 7 kilometres.

Here is a brief summary of some of the sights along the way.

Here is part of the "Berliner Mauer" at Potsdamer Platz, outside the S Bahn

Through the middle of Berlin, runs about 8 kilometers of a double row of cobblestones
At regular intervals there are metal plaques "Berliner Mauer 1961 -1989. The cobblestones and the plaques are a reminder of where the wall actually stood (I found this really helpful, when I didn't know how to read my map properly! :)

Former Prussian Parliment Building - unsure what it is used for now, but it had a good police presence.
Martin Gropiou Bau. Built in 1881 as a museum for arts and crafts.
Today they were moving this large horse statue inside!
The Topography of Terror. This is where the Gestapo, SS and the German Security Minister had their headquarters. It is also where the Gestapo had their torture chambers.
The outer walls of the Topography of Terrors.
Some of the broken wall, shows the metal reinforcements.
You can go on tours of Berlin in these Trabis!
Parts of the Wall
and more...
The well known Checkpoint Charlie Museum. This large portrait is of an American soldier looking towards the east...

On the other side is a portrait of a Soviet soldier looking west.

The original guard tower was torn down. This is a copy of the American guard house.

A memorial for Peter Fechter. 17th August 1962, he and a friend tried to escape over the Wall. They crossed the first fence, then they were seen, and were shot at. The friend mananged to get over the final barrier, but Peter was shot and lay wounded on the Eastern side of the Wall. The GDR border guards did not come to his assistance, and the West Berlin police and American soldiers could not come over and help. People on the western side called for someone to help him. an hour later his body was carried away. His slow public death was publicised throughout the world.

Between Charlottenstrasse and Markgrafenstrasse is a row of these colourful buildings. they were built between 1994 and 1996. These buildings have courtyards away from the street.

This large dog sculpture is set up in the middle of an empty lot....with no signage...so no explanation for this one!

Heinrich Heine Strasse. This marks a border crossing used by West German people. On 18th April 1962, 3 men tried to crash a truck through the border barriers. They were shot at, the driver, Klaus Brueske, managed to get across to the Western side, but died later from his injuries. His 2 friends survived their injuries. After this episode, the guards erected barriers, which forced drivers to drive slowly around a slalom type formation.

What happens when the double row of cobblestones disappear?

Luckily there are signposts to guide the way

Luisenstaedtischer Canal. This canal was built in 1848-1852. It provided a route to transport constuction materials to build Luisenstadt. The sides of the canal were planted with trees. However the water in the canal flowed too slowly, and developed an awful stench. In 1926-27 the canal was filled in, and turned into a park.

View of the Fernsehnturm in Alexanderplatz on the Schillingbruecke Bridge

The East Side Gallery. The longest surviving stretch of the Wall. It was decorated by painters straight after the Wall fell. In 1991 it became a historic landmark. In 2000, some of the faded paintings were restored with privately donated funds.

Painter Thierry Noir painted this one of people streaming through the Wall.

It's a shame so many people feel the need to "tag" the wall with their scrawl.

The Eastern Comfort Hostel, is on the Spree River...it's an old houseboat.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Lost in Translation, showing my ancestry

well...again my crappy German skills fail me again!
This is the Cooking School place we have booked Alexander's birthday party for in a few weeks. I saw it advertised in the local newspaper, and we went in to see her to arrange the details for the party.

After organising the details I asked about the Wednesday Lunch Special. This is how I translated the blurb in the paper. There are 4 meals to chose from, you cook it, and then you can eat it there, or take it home with you. I missed out a few important words..(later discussed with Inger, my Germany teacher).

Here is what happened...

You don't cook the food....the staff cook the food. (I skipped the words that meant "we cook the food for you) You chose what you would like, and then they give you a plate of it! It was delicious though, and I will go back again.

Here is my funny story for the day....

There was a basket of bread on the table I sat down at...when I was eating my meal, I took a piece of bread. The lady opposite me looked at me strangely...but then that happens often, so I just ignored it.

After awhile, I look around, and notice no other tables have baskets of bread.

When I pay for my meal later, i see that you can "buy a basket of bread" as an extra!

So, I helped myself to her bread...surprisingly she said nothing to me about stealing her bread!!! LOL... Every time I think about it, it makes me laugh. can you imagine sitting down with your meal, and some total stranger helping themselves to your food??

With any luck, I will be caught and sent to Australia...hey it happened many years ago. Phil is convinced I must have some convict blood in me, and it is just starting to show!

So, I will be going next week...if you want to join me, let me know! I will be getting there about 12.30 or so....if you are interested in coming along, let me know, so I can have someone to talk to, and I will try not to steal any of your bread...

Friday, 15 February 2008

Alexander and Phil's Afternoon on the snow

On Friday morning, we skied as a family. It was lovely to ski together - we followed a series on nice gentle runs over to a lake near Schroeken, where we stopped for a coffee, and then skied back to the hotel for lunch. It was busy there, so the boys were outside building ice bridges and things with some other kids, having a great time, while we waited for our lunch.

In the afternoon, Nicole was too sore to continue and Cameron was very tired. They returned their ski gear, and grabbed the sleds and caught the bus back to the place where Klaus and Brigitte work, and the Salober Jet ski lift starts. Phil and Alexander went back up the mountain with a plan to meet there later.

Phil and Alexander then skied all afternoon.. They had a great time together! Alexander is getting quite proficient, and there was lots of skiing off the tracks, through the deep snow, down the moguls, over jumps, along tracks in the bush...

We then all met together to say a sad farewell to our wonderful hosts, with a promise that we would be back again....

Of course, Nicole took her knitting along, and managed to finish the second sock she has been working on.....that will appear later in the week on "Nicole's Needles Blog"

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Klaus suggested that we go across to Lech for the day. It is the next resort over from Warth Schroeken (and is a completely other world!). In the end, Nicole and the kids stayed in ski school and Phil, who is a little bit more competent on skis, took up Klaus' offer. Phil organsied a private instructor for the day as a guide (Juergen)from the ski school, and they went off to Lech to ski the Weiss Ring - a series of runs which circle the resort of Lech.
Above is Phil on the way back - skiing through the deep powder snow (which is very different to skiing on the piste!) The only tracks here are his and Juergens!

Klaus arranged the 'transport' to the neighboring resort - in this case, a tow behind a skidoo (just like waterskiing!) which was crazy and great fun! It saved about 2 hours of skiing through the deep powder and was a great experience in itself! Here is Phil behind the skidoo.
Juergen is a local, and was a fantastic tour guide. He pointed out heaps of things for Phil to see, and also spotted some of the wildlife.. a Snow hen wonderfully camouflaged in the snow, and some mountain goats on the outcropping above. There are 3 of them in this picture, see if you can spot them! Juergen also gave Phil plenty of tips which helped improve his skiing..
Klaus had also organised a table at one of the restaurants on the slopes in Warth. Here is a view from the Rued Alpe down to Lech. It is a resort that can hold 7000 people. It is really the 'upper class' ski resort (very different from the great family atmosphere at Schroeken) where lots of people wanted to be seen, and the ski outfits were unbelievable! You know the sort of resort it is when there are ads on the ski lifts for watches, diamonds and high end cars.....

The ski runs there were great, and after skiing the Weiss Ring, Phil and Juergen skied the afternoon at the resort before getting the ski-doo tow back to Schroeken.

This was a real highlight day for Phil, something he won't forget.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A walk in the twilight

After the ride in the snow beasts, we decided to walk back to the hotel (about 2 km). It was getting late, and quite cold. There was a marked track which led from the Salober Jet lift (where the snow ploughs picked us up and dropped us off) back to the hotel - you just had to climb one blue piste hill first!

The kids had their sleds (snow boogie boards) and used these down the hills on the tracks. It was great fun. Until Cameron's sled slipped off the track and went about 50m down a hill on the deep snow. Phil set off after it... a little bit of exercise after a hard day's skiing as OK!

It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The sun had set, but there was still some light on one of the distant peaks. The stars were starting to come out, and it was so quiet and peaceful. The air as really still and cold, and it was a good thing we were all still rugged up in our ski gear and snow boots!

It was a wonderful walk - after all the activity and energy of skiing in these mountains during the day, it was great to see this other, increadibly peaceful side to the mountian.


Santa gave the kids these great snow boogie boards for Xmas...they were great! At the end of the day the kids would use them to burn off a bit more energy (before going to the pool and swimming for an hour or so!). Whilst we waited for the snow ploughs to get running, the boys found a great hill and sledded for half an hour. great fun!

Cameron finds a more 'advanced' way to ride the snow-boogie... that led to the next picture..

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Eggs for breakfast??

Alexander is growing fast, and eating lots - so a buffet breakfast is great for him! One of his favourites it to have a boiled egg, but we didn't know it would be so hard to get him a boiled egg for breakfast.

The first day, he brings Phil a hard-boiled egg to peel for him... Phil cracked it - and it was raw! It appears that you have to boil your own eggs! This was egg disaster number 1 - with raw egg all over the table!

We found the cooker, and Alexander drops a raw egg on the floor (disaster number 2)

On the second day, we cook an egg, but the water is not really at full boil, so the egg was just cooked. When Phil opened it, it went all over the table again! (egg disaster number 3)(Take note, that Nicole was having nothing to do with these eggs!!)

On the third day, we left the egg in the cooked for at least ten minutes. When Alexander went back to get it, someone had taken it! (egg disaster number 4)

Could it be any harder to have a boiled egg? However, after this, the eggs were fine and Alexander enjoyed them as part of his big breakfast before skiing. We got the timing perfect. We would put the egg into the cooker, as we came into the restaurant for breakfast (right at the back of the cooker, in the hope that no one would take those eggs). Alexander would get his cereal, take it back to the table and eat his cereal. By the time he had polished off a large bowl of cereal, his egg would be ready! It only took us 3 days to get this routine right...and he was happy after that. Luckily the waiters were very good humoured about it, and told us it happens quite regularly!

This is the view behind the boys that we had as we ate breakfast every morning.....to the right a bit is one of the big ski lifts, and we could watch them get the lift seats out every morning!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Hotel Jaegeralpe

We stayed in a lovely hotel at the base on a ski-lift - the Family Hotel Jaeger Alpe. It was fantastic - we had an apartment for the family, the staff were fantastic, there was a great swimming pool for after skiing and the breakfasts and dinners were delicious!

There was also a 'spa' attached to the hotel, which Nicole and Phil used for Saunas after hard days of skiing. The biggest put-off, however, was the gentleman who chose to sit in the sauna, in the nude, in the 'lotus position'... Nothing wrong with naked saunas, but this was a little too much....

We would all swim for an hour or so after getting back to the hotel, then head over to dinner. After dinner we would play some games in the lounge (cards, etc), have a coffee or hot chocolate, then head back to our apartment (exhausted), ready for bed.

We had our own table in the dining room for dinner and breakfast, and we got to know the people on the surounding tables over the course of the week. It was a great atmosphere and a super place to stay.

The flying Kangaroo...

After ski school, Phil would ski back over the mountain to the hotel with the boys. On the first day, the concept of 'stay behind Dad' really didn't sink in. Alexander and Cameron raced by Phil on a slope they didn't know...

Alexander went around the outside of a route marker to do a 'jump' - not knowing what was on the other side! In this case it was a serious drop off and steep section of piste. He jumped all right... out into nothing with a long drop onto the snow! He must have flown about 5-6 metres (arms and legs waving) and slid about another 30 m down the slope. Cameron didn't jump, but hit the steep piste at high speed (straight down) and had a massive spill. He joined Alexander at the bottom of the slope.

The 'Flying Kangaroo' was fine - he was covered in snow and his face was icy where it had ploughed through the snow... After picking up the scattered ski gear, and getting the boys organised, Phil explained why 'follow dad' is not such a bad idea - or at least don't go crazy on parts of the mountain that you don't know!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Our wonderful hosts

My colleague Marc said "Ring my dad when you go"... It turns out that (in Cameron's words..) he is the "Boss of the Mountain". Klaus and Brigitte were our hosts - we were fortunate to meet such friendly and open people, whose generosity to us and the kids was unbelievable.

These two photos were taken by Cameron, and capture Klaus and Brigitte as we always found them - happy and smiling. Klaus arranged so many things for us, and the kids are already asking when can we go back and see Klaus and Brigitte and go skiing with them again...
Klaus takes the boys for a ride on the 'real' skidoo. The boys go to drive it around the lake, and Klaus would turn on the siren - which made it even more exciting for the boys! (Nicole and Phil also got to have a drive, proving that they are big kids too.)
One night after the lifts were closed, Klaus organised for the boys and Phil to ride in one of the 'snow beasts' - the snow ploughs that make the runs each night. For about 40 minutes the snow beast worked on a black (very steep) run - pushing snow, reshaping the surface and getting it ready for the next day. It was really high-tech - Alexander in particular was fascinated by the joystick controller and the groovy information screen. Cameron was most impressed when we knocked some small branches off a pine tree! The trucks work until 4 or 5 in the morning to make sure everything is ready for the next day's skiing.

Phil skied down this run the next morning and retrieved the small piece of branch that was knocked off - If you look closely (photos of Cameron when we is wearing his helmet), you will see Cameron wore it as a souvenir on his helmet for the rest of the holiday!

The boys and the snow beast

At the controls...

Our time at Warth and Schroeken was made so much better by meeting Klaus and Brigitte, and they did everything to make sure we had a brilliant time. (We can say that they succeeded!)