Monday, 30 March 2009


For one of our weekends away, we chose to visit Colditz. It is a small town, on a B road, between Leipzig and Dresden. IT is about a 2 hour drive out of Berlin, mostly on the Autobahn.

We collected Alexander from Theatre club and hit the road at about 11:30, and with a stop for lunch, we made it to Colditz early afternoon. We checked into the Guest house and met up with two other families, the Ramsays and the Mawstons, in the town square. Away from Berlin, in the old East, the prices are amazing - good cups of coffee are Eur 1.80, istead of the obligatory Eur 3.00!

We settled into the guest house and the boys (Alan, Peter and Phil) sat outside (all rugged up, it was a bit chilly) and had a few beers. Nicole, Sonia and Alison did their version of this - except with a bottle of Red and sitting inside. The kids amused themselves in the garden and driveway, tipping water about the place. Ralf, the owner, was really cool and had no problem with them mucking about. We could keep an eye on them from the balcony, so everything was under control...except the boys each got their only pair of shoes absolutely soaked! They did a great job of washing the car, too!

Ralf recommended a small restauant for dinner - it was very pleasant, but the owner kicked us out exactly at 10pm! We were still having a few drinks, and there were no others in there, so he was doing himself out of some business. We suspect he got a call from the Missus...

The pension was very comfortable, and we had an excellent breakfast. Being the only ones in the hotel, we had a floor to ourselves, and a breakfast room also for just the three families. Ralf had organised a special treat for the boys. Instead of a boiled egg in their egg-cup, the kids all got a Kinder Surprise! They were very happy!

After breakfast, we went up to the castle for a tour. Because there were 9 of us, Alan had been able to pre-organise an English language tour. At 6 Euro per head and 3 for kids, and lasting over 2 hours, it was really interesting.. The guide was really informative, and also wonderful with the kids - getting them ready for their own 'escape' at the end of the tour.

When we mention Colditz Castle to German friends, they have no idea where or what it was used for, but speak to anyone from the commonwealth, and Colditz is very well known. Do you know its history?

I guess for other countries where movies and books have been written by different escaped Prisoners of War, it has more interest. (I even remember playing 'Escape from Colditz' boardgame as a kid!)

The castle was built as a fortress in the 11th century, and used by a family Augustus and his bride from Denmark, who had 15 children.

In 1800, the castle was used to house homeless people, and then converted into a mental hospital until the 1930's. when Hitler came into power, the castle became a special camp for Allied Officers who had tried to escape from other Prisoner of War camps. What makes this camp interesting was the castle was heavily monitored by the Swiss Red Cross to ensure the men were treated well. The guards were not allowed to shoot the men if they tried to escape. Instead they were sent to solitary confinement for 1-4 weeks. Knowing that they the worst possible punishment they would recieve if they were caught was solitary confinement, the men were more determined to try to find ways out of the castle. Add to this that they were all POWs who had escaped from other camps or prisons, and were officers (including highly educated engineers, etc), and Colditz became known as the 'Escape Academy'. There were over 100 escapes, and 31 'home runs' (successful escapes to country of origin) - 16 from inside the castle itself.
The tour took us around the castle, showed us the various parts relating to the WWII experience, and related many of the interesting stories of the escapes. One intersting story of a non-escape - they prisoners managed to build a glider, with 6000 parts, in the roof of the castle without being discovered! The war finished before it was used, but tests in the last few years had demonstrated that it would have worked!

The whispering arch - sound carries across the arch so the boys can whisper 'secrets' to each other.

Some of the original 'supplies' - monitored by the red cross, the prisoners well well fed. They also received a few interesting packages from MI9, to aid their escape...

A home made sewing machine. Nicole probably would have whipped up a dozen quilts and everyone would have been snug and comfy. Instead they sewed uniforms to help them escape!

One of our prisoners planning an escape....

A hidden radio station, used by the French and later given to the English.

Home made rope for climbing...

Our prisoners... shovels in hand, preparing for their escape. They are 'working' on the tunnel under the chapel.

Quick! Before the guard finishes his rounds!

make a break for it!

The reward for a great escape....

It was a wonderful wekend away. After a late lunch, we drove back to Berlin in time for dinner on Sunday night. As we surfed around stations on the TV, we saw the host from the Pension, Ralf, on a show about touring through Europe ona motorbike. He was hosting the 'star' of the show, and looked the same jovial chap that we had stayed with the night before!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Updated Graffiti

Back in December 08 we saw this graffiti in Kreuzberg...

It's been updated...a bit smudged...but Phil and I are relieved with this news!


Sunday, 15 March 2009

Free to a good home

Part of Cameron's homework this week was to design a poster for 2 hamsters/gerbils to be given away.

After a bit of googling picture searching, he found these furry little creatures and decided to use them for his inspiration. John Pinkerton makes these amazing creatures.

any takers?

Friday, 13 March 2009

An exciting 3 days

A few weeks ago Razor Film company rang our school and asked our Music teacher for any recommendations for 3 boys who could sing, to audition for a scene in a movie being filmed in Germany.

The music teacher asked me whether Alexander and Cameron would be interested, and they were keen to try out, with another boy, Lynes.

The kids had an audition at the Razor Film office and a only few hours later we got a call asking for the 3 of them for the scene! The kids were so excited about it.
They had 2 afternoons of rehearsing with Michael, the composer, and with a few practices at home, they had remembered all the words.

The filming was taking place on a small island off the coast of the Baltic Sea which is a good 5 hours drive from Berlin. Tuesday was a travelling day to get us there, Wednesday was the shooting day, Thursday was another travelling day to get home again.

We left Berlin at 5am in the morning. Our ferry was leaving at 12.45pm, so we made sure we had enough time for some coffee and running around stops for the kids.

Suzanne drove, and the kids amused themselves in the back seat playing games and singing, and we got to the Ferry with time to spare.

Michael was on the ferry as well, so the boys sang the song to him once, and sung a "silly" version they had made up in the car on the way there. Michael was not so sure about the "improved" version.

We arrived on the island and were taken to the set to check on costumes. The kids had been measured up in the Production office, all that needed to be done was adjusting the sleeve length and the hems. Cameron thought he looked like an angel!

Underneath their costumes they wore jeans and was cold and windy.

The day of filming the kids had to be on set at 8am, then into costumes along with jackets, hats, scarves, gloves to keep them warm.

The kids were thrilled that they got their own trailer to wait in until the set was ready for their scene. They played Uno and Nintendo while they waited.

The film set was great and the kids did really well. They had 3 great ladies who looked after them, keeping them really warm with blankets and keeping them in a huddle to protect them from the wind. When the call was made "ready to film",the 3 ladies took off all the jackets, hats, scarves and gloves, and raced off the set.

The kids sang, then the call was made "cut", and the ladies raced back to the kids, got all the warm clothes back on, and covered them with was amazing to see them get in there so quick to keep them warm. They had hand warmer sachets in their gloves that quickly warmed their hands up between takes.

Suzanne and I were really proud of the kids, they did a really great job, and didn't complain about the cold.

There were over 30 crew members on set doing different jobs, and then the actors and extras in the scene. Cameron starts the song all by himself, then Lynes comes in, then Alexander. They did not show any signs of nerves, they were all so confident!

The first few takes they sang a little bit too quickly, and they needed to slow down the tempo. Michael thought they might have been rushing it because they were cold. But once Michael spoke to them, them slowed it down, and everyone was really pleased with it.

After a few rehearsals, and then 2 different camera angles they were finished, and the kids went back to the trailer. They needed to wait to get the OK that the filming was fine, before they could get changed out of their costumes, in case the scene had to be reshot.

Once they were given the OK, we headed off to the wharf for lunch.

At the wharf the kids were thrilled to get a chance to meet Matt Smith, who is the next Dr Who. The kids love watching the Dr Who series, and Matt spoke to them about their favourite things about Dr Who and he was incredibly charming! The kids were so excited, I think this was Cameron's favourite part of the whole experience!

We also spent a lot of time talking to Natalia Tena, who plays Tonks in Harry Potter, Alexander thought she was awesome!

After lunch we had the rest of the day to ourselves, so we took the kids on a good 3 hour walk along the edge of the island. They had lots of fun jumping around, throwing rocks into the water and getting very, very muddy!
and carrying very large sticks around.
jumping on poles and over water
and chasing birds off the paths
at the wharf, with Suzanne and Lynes

Thursday moring it was time to head back to Berlin. What an amazing sunrise to wake up to.

Our ferry left at 7.30am. It was supposed to get to the mainland by 9.15am. However we didn't get in until after 10.30am. The tide was out, and we couldn't get through to the mainland. We just had to sit and wait for the tide to come back in before we could continue. At one stage the ferry was actually sitting on the bottom.

The locals say that some days you can actually walk to the mainland from the islands. I guess you would have to know the tidal patterns really well, in case all of a sudden you were stuck floating in the middle!

Our trip back to Berlin was slow, it rained the entire journey, and we stopped often so Suzanne could rest her eyes.

This was a great experience for the kids, and I think they will be interested to see themselves in a movie, and see how much time and work has gone into the scene they were involved with. It was a lot of background work to have gone into about 1 minute 30 seconds of the film.

All the people involved with the film process were so kind, helpful, and friendly, and it really made it a fabulous experience. When the film is ready to be released I will let you know, but in the meantime, look out for "Womb" by Benedek Fliegauf!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Alexander's 10th Birthday

Alexander was so excited to be turning 10 years old. For the past few weeks we have had a count down of how many days till his birthday!

The morning started with opening some presents. Then a phone call from his friend in New Zealand.

He took Honey Joys to school for the class (with a special request to take one to the Australian teacher at school...honey joys are not a known thing here).

Home Made Pizza for dinner.

Then the Nigella Lawson Chocolate Cloud Cake for dessert.

Alexander has declared this as his best birthday ever!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Phil's 40th birthday

We started the morning with presents and pancakes.

Later, Phil took the kids to BJ's birthday party at Jack's Fun World in the afternoon. It's a massive indoor play centre. Sonia even let Phil blow out the candles on BJ's cake, and the kids sang Happy Birthday to him as well! ;)

Nicole stayed home, and made apricot curry chicken for dinner, pavlova for dessert and 30 honey joys for Alexander to take to school on Monday for his birthday!

The pavlova was delicious! We broke out the Freckles, Clinkers and Violet Crumble stash to add to the top!