Our plane didnt leave Munich until 730 PM so we had a good portion of the day to do some sightseeing. We researched beforehand and decided on going to the Dachau Concentration Camp, about an hour and a half train ride from where we were staying by the airport. I had never been to a concentration camp before and wasn’t sure I wanted to go but i love history and have read extensively about the World Wars so I knew I would rather go than not. The Dachau camp was the first WW2 concentration camp and ended up being an example for the rest that followed. Here is the link for more info. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp
We took the bus from the train station to the camp and walked down the road from the railroad tracks to the entrance where thousands walked before us. The entrance to the camp itself, past the visitor center, is a once-white building that stands guard. The entrance gate in the middle of the building is a thick, wrought iron one that reads “Arebeit Macht Frei” or the Nazi slogan, “Work sets you free.” This particular camp was a forced labor camp, not necessarily meant for mass killings, although they later built a gas chamber and crematorium for those who succumbed to the workload.
We entered the gate into a large yard that contains a museum that once was the metal work shop, watchtowers, the prison, the crematorium, and rows where the barracks had stood. We walked through the museum and around the large yard. Most of the buildings are original. The walk to the crematorium is long. Morgan and I walked slowly and looked at it all quietly. It’s so much to take in and try to understand. There were lots of people here today, more than we expected. I wonder what is going through their minds.
My heart aches. It’s an ache that comes from being a problem solver and wanting to help the people who had been here but being unable to. It aches because these barbed wire fences and dirt paths have witnessed the cruelty of a world who needs Jesus. It aches because I feel hope for my future, and guilt because their future had none. It’s easy for me to over sympathize and think I can take away some of their hurts by letting myself hurt. But. I was put where I am for a purpose. I am not meant to live in guilt and fear of the past. When we have children, I want them to grow up knowing these pieces of history that shaped us. I want them to understand the incredible blessing we have of living in a free country. And mostly I want them to know that even through all of that death and hopelessness, God reached down to His children in those times and somehow gave them a glimpse of something beyond this world that carried them. I hope your children know this too.
We flew into San Francisco last night at 830 and Gary picked us up. I think we three slept on the way home. It was so happy to wake up in our own little house this morning!♡ my mobility is limited still so I’m mostly on painkillers and sleep. I ended up getting a sub today and will see about tomorrow. Thanks for the well wishes.
Guten tag I guess is the greeting I should give from Switzerland. Mom Yolanda brought us and Levi to the airport Thursday evening after school. We only packed backpacks so we breezed through security in the airport and had a quick meal before our 11 hour flight. We each got a little bit of sleep somewhere after the supper they provide and the before the breakfast. I love airplane suppers. Not that the food is so great, although its tolerable. But everything is nea(T)ly packaged and little spoons and little packets and it’s just cute. For this supper we dined on pasta, rolls, and strawberry cake.
We arrived into Zurich on time and took some time buying train tickets before we left the station. Their central train stations here are all big and ornate and beautiful with big clock towers and tons of little shops and cafes. We got tickets into Zurich and then walked to the Grössmunster Church. It’s quite a nice town with little cobblestone streets and narrow alleys full of shops. The church is big with an underground crypt you can walk through so we went through and the sound was so good that we quick sang a verse of What a Friend we have in Jesus and it echoed so amazingly. Then we stopped at the hostel and dropped our backpacks off before we went to find a place for supper. The man at the hostel recommended a German/Swiss place that was essentially a big lunchroom and you sat with other people wherever there was room. We ended up by a couple from Zurich so we talked to them abit. After supper we rode the train around town so we could see it at night. Stopped to admire the swiss watches and the Opera House and the old bridges. Zurich is really clean and classy with lots of expensive shopping and hip people. Not like winton I can assure you.
We shared our little hostel room with 2 guys, one of them from Michigan “by the Ikea” he told me. So we talked about Detroit and it was fun to meet someone from home. He is actually teaching English in Austria. We were all exhausted so slept early. Now its 4:00 am and were up getting ready to walk back to central station to catch a train to the airport. We fly into Rome at 9 this morning!
Also. I am doing a project with my awesome Grade 5s so if you see random capital letters is parentheses that’s why😁 good luck grade 5!
Yesterday, March 17
We woke up and it was snowing outside which was so happy. But it was sorta late and the guys got breakfast downstairs while I got around. We were at the hostel for awhile in the morning because we didnt need to be at the airport until 2. We got the final Metro to the airport and had lunch at a pizza place.
One fun thing we did at the airport was stop and watch the Maarten Baas Real Time clock. If you ever get to Amsterdam Schipol Airport go to Lounge 2 and you will see it as well. Anyways the clock is hung from the ceiling and instead of two hands to tell time, there is a man that draws in the hands doe the time. Every minute he paints the hand on, then by the time hes finished drawing it he has to clean it off so he can draw the next minute on. We had debates on whether or not the man is real in the clock or if hes a video. I of course think it perfectly possible for people to take turns being in the clock. Morgan and Ja think its a video. I will let YOU read up on it here and find out who’s right. Wink wink. https://www.designboom.com/design/maarten-baas-real-time-schiphol-clock-airport-amsterdam-07-04-2016/
We got into Dublin at 5:30 ish and got a bus downtown in snow and 30* weather. It was hilarious. St. Patricks Day was still in full swing and there were crowds of people everywhere and all of them wearing green hats or a fake red beards or Ireland flags. Everyone was jolly and singing and those who had drank more than average were saying such funny things we overheard as we walked by. We ate supper at Eddy Rockets and warmed up. Then we walked around downtown Dublin awhile before making our way back to the airport. We camped on the comfy chairs overnight and fell asleep to the sounds of wind and snow.
Today, March 18
We woke up also to the sounds of wind and snow. We all crossed our fingers that our flights wouldn’t be cancelled or delayed and none of them were! Our plane left at 12:30 but with deicing and stuff we didn’t leave til 2. Our flight felt so so long. It was about 11 hours long and none of us could sleep really and we all just wanted to be home.
Jo&Kellie picked us up from the airport so another 2 hour drive and then…we were finally home at our little house surrounded by almond orchards. There are no grand medieval churches, or bumpy cobblestone streets, and the Eiffel Tower can’t be seen from my house but the feeling of having a little house that’s a home with someone you love is far more beautiful than anything else on this good earth. Its nice to be back with my alpaca blanket around me and my moccasins on my exhausted feet and a little pile of love mail to open from friends and family. Xo❤
Yesterday, March 15
We went across the street for breakfast this morning to Zeit für Brot and had coffee cake and lattes. Then we shopped for awhile at the Belgian Quarter here in Cologne.
Then we once again I think for the last time😥 bought train tickets to Amsterdam. We had lunch in the station and watched people for awhile. Then a 3 hour train ride to Amsterdam. We will be here in Amsterdam tomorrow cuz we have some stuff we want to do here yet. We got a cool hostel abit out of town that has games and a place to hang out so we were just there for supper.
Today, March 16
So we woke up slow today cuz we’d had a weird night. Some guy came in at 4 am and shook us awake demanding an iphone charger and higher than a kite and making lots of noise so we all were awake and tried to go back to sleep. We got up and had breakfast here and then walked to the metro.
It was bitterly cold today with a strong wind so it was good we walked lots. We went to an area of Amsterdam where there were lots of little boutique and secondhand shops along a cobblestone street. It was a good day looking around and we spent several hours there. Ate lunch at a cozy little place that had free tap water thankfully. It’s hard to get water some places without paying alot for it but here in AMS it’s more available.
One of the shops we went in was a meat shop that had whole legs and shoulders of meat with hooves still attached. They aged it for awhile and the price was between $300 and $1,150 dollars for ONE pound. There were some guys in there buying some and they said its really worth the money. Obviously we didn’t try it but we watched for a bit and they just take a leg and cut super thin slices off that reminds me of prosciutto. Id never seen anything like it.
Another thing about the cities we’ve been here in Europe (so not necessarily europe in general) is that pedestrians here do NOT have right of way. If you assume youre in Canada you will be the hood ornament on a bike, tram or moped. I guess it makes sense because there are so many people here.
So we bought some neat stuff and froze so we came back to the hostel and had supper and relaxed and repacked for the next leg of our journey. We leave tomorrow for a St. Patrick’s day layover in Dublin🎉 and then onto San Francisco. Gnite from the Netherlands..
We are staying in the quaintest place ever. You enter ground floor into a mismatched furniture, cozy chair, coffee and drink place. We are on the second floor where you have to use an old key to do laundry or go to your rooms. In the evening its quite busy with little groups of 2 or 3 people drinking and chatting. There isn’t free breakfast here so on the way to the train station we found a little cafe that we tried. I ordered the typical dutch breakfast which was a baguette, a roll, a boiled egg in a little cup, and marmalade. I traded with Morgan and ate his black bread which is a specialty here and its sliced super thin and is quite dense and seedy. I adore it.
Then we got a train for an hour out to a little town just past Bonn. We looked for castles we could go to and this was one close enough even though it wasn’t massive. We took a tram through thick woods up to the castle from the train station. The castle was pretty neat. The man who built it was a Barron and he had died before he even got to live in it. We climbed the North turret and it had really good views of the Rhine river. The Rhine river is so busy. Any time you can see tugboats pushing boats or barges hauling coal or shipping containers. So we hiked around the grounds and toured the castle for a bit. It was a really woodsy hilly area exactly where I would picture the kings of old on horses hunting birds or stags with their dogs. Took the tram back down and caught a train back to Köln.
When we got back to the station we were starved so we got little pizzas and croissants. Then we walked outside and there was the Cologne Cathedral! Its a gothic medieval castle that began being built in the 1200s. The architecture is amazing and during World War 2 it was one of the only buildings around that wasnt destroyed by bombings. The Allied forces used it as a navigational landmark. We climbed the 533 steps to the top tower which is like 100 something meters high and has tremendous views of the city. The concrete steps were very worn from the hundreds of years of use and the stairs were a tight spiral up so it was a crazy climb.
We walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge which is right behind the cathedral. This bridge was one of Germanys most important bridges in WW2. Now it has become a popular, 2 tons overweight bridge that holds thousands and thousands of locks that people have been placing there for 10 years and then throwing the keys into the Rhine River below. One of the black and white pictures for sale near the cathedral is of the bombed out Hohenzollern Bridge with the cathedral behind it and its very striking.
Then we trained back to the hostel and had tomato soup for supper. Another day gone and what a beautiful one. It was sunny and 55 all day! 👋
So we had a really relaxing easy day today. We went to the train station which is huge and almost like a 3 story type shopping mall and had breaky/lunch and walked around a bit. We bought tickets for the train from Paris to Cologne, (pronounced Köln) Germany. The shops in the train station had the most darling little food in them! Little two inch long cream filled eclairs decorated to perfection, chocolate eggs in little cartons that fit in the palm of my hand, and lemon tarts with crimped crusts. You can buy 4 inch pancakes from Starbucks just like you would a cookie or scone in the states.
Another interesting thing we happened upon today as we drank coffee at the station..I noticed a man nicely using the bathroom outside the building which isn’t abnormal here. Since you have to pay to use public toilets it seems like the street pee-ers are more rampant. Anyways so we continue chatting and a little bit later one of the guys is like hey there’s another guy using that same spot! So we got to looking closer and we were actually witnessing the use of an outdoor urinal. There are concrete type spots along the wall you just step from the alley to and face the wall while the buses go by 3 feet behind you. Well we were stunned. And of course Morgan and Ja went and tried it out while I questioned my life.
Also we haven’t seen one pickup here. Only cars or vans. If they need a crane they just put it on the back of the van.
We had a 4 hour train ride to cologne with beautiful scenery and lots of trees. Reminds me of Michigan❤ We ate when we got into the station…half a chicken with fries and a little cup of coke with some “freshening cloths” that come on your fast food tray. Step it up McDonalds. Haha.
We found our way to the hostel on a busy little street in cologne. We are sharing our 4 bunk room with a man who makes me nervous but hey welcome to hostel life. Thank goodness I have Morgan & Ja here. Anyways the guys went and picked up food and we made spaghetti and pizza and veggies in the common room for supper. We all got full really fast and then we figured we ate our 3 meals every four hours so no wander we were so full. We get hungry at weird times like in the night here but suppertime in Cali. We hung out here this evening cuz its cold and rainy outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 53 so that will be a nice change. Nite.🌙
I didnt finish writing last night because i had a raging fever that had me in bed early. But here is yesterday’s finished entry.
This morning we were up early and ate breakfast down in the restaurant. We decided to go to the Louvre first, a famous museum that houses artifacts from before Christ. We took the metro and came up right close to it. It is absolutely huge. An old majestic marble building that has large marble halls and wide staircases and so many different rooms going everywhere. We got tickets and started at the first floor. The first part we went through was the Mesopotamia and Egyptian era with some of the artifacts from 1200 b.c. We went to rooms full of art and paintings from the 1300s, and saw halls full of carved marble and bronze statues. Big glass cases held little vases from the Assyrians and huge stones full of hieroglyphics. We also saw the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting “Mona Lisa”. There were so many people waiting their turn to get close to see and take pictures of it. We spent several hours walking around the Louvre but to truly see it you would need several days. My head was overloaded when we were done.
From there we took the Metro to a little street that has one of the top 10 cafes in Paris. It was cool out but we sat outside and had quiche, smocked salmon, and penne pasta. There were little round tables we ate at with a big white paper doily covering it. After you ordered they brought out a little container of flavored nuts for you to eat. Then your food came out and let me expound here how expensive it is to eat or buy here. Most cafes will charge around 4,50 euros or 5.60 US for an espresso. Sodas will be up to 6,50 euros which is almost 8 USD. An average entree at this place would cost 24 euros. We got food off the starter and brunch menu so it was cheaper but it is pricey. Bus or metro tickets are pretty cheap.
So after we ate we walked the streets with all their little stores and shops. I bought a black beret that I will also wear in Cali because its too cool not to. After a lot of indecision, Jalen bought an olive green hat that is really cool too. We walked over to the Cathedral of Notre Dame and it is another amazing church. The crown of thorns, a nail from the cross, and a piece of the cross are inlaid and kept there. It has amazing architecture and gets millions of visitors every year.
Spent some time there and walked down to an artsy neighborhood where we found La Fronde and sat to have espresso and crepes on the sidewalk. We were relaxing and suddenly the owner comes out and tells us to put our phones and backpacks away and we hear tons of noise and drums beating farther down the street. The lady tells us this is when lots of robberies happen. Then down the street comes this flood of people. At the front are people dressed in weird suits with terrible masks on. After them comes a banner saying something about “Karibbean” held by girls and then just a mob of people following chanting, blowing whistles, and men with big black whips cracking them in the street. It was a weird feeling because we didn’t know what was going on but obviously a protest of some kind. We headed over to the Metro again a couple streets away and on the way there we encountered another rally but this one was middle eastern and had banners that were pleading to let this man go. Some of the posters likened as different man to Hitler. There were maybe a thousand people chanting and walking and a very heavy police force in front and behind the group. They were protest police with shields, smoke launchers, etc. I told Morgan this was probably not a safe place to be with hundreds of people yelling about Allah. So we finally got to the metro. phew.
Took it back to the hostel and relaxed and ate supper. I was feeling pretty gross so I went to bed early.
American bomb at the museum
This morning we had hostel breakfast and then got train tickets to go to Normandy. This wasn’t really planned but we talked about it and decided to spend a day and go there. We took a 2 hour train ride to the town of Bayeux. The countryside was green with lots of trees and woods. From there we took a taxi 20 minutes out to Omaha Beach where the US troops stormed the beach on D-Day.
It is my favorite place I’ve been while traveling. It was really cold and windy and it kind of fit my mood. There really wasnt much to see as far as the beach..it was pretty greenish water with nice sand. It was at low tide so we walked aways down the beach and looked at the huge cliffs that border the beach where the worst fighting took place. The cliffs are preserved and you can still see where the bombs hit on soft parts. The beach still has broken pilings from the fighting. It wasn’t hard to imagine D-Day playing out there but to be standing where that part of history had happened was unreal. There were 5 landing spots for the D-Day operation but Omaha Beach was where the bloodiest fighting happened. You should know all this already. If you don’t, I’m ashamed of you.
After walking on the beach for awhile we walked up to the museum of Omaha Beach. The most recent things they’ve uncovered were found in 2006. There were absolutely amazing things in the museum. They had it set up to walk through and lots of artifacts in cases. Any kind of German or Allied shell or gun was on display along with packages of toilet paper, gum, coffee, uniforms, land mines, and old postcards from the Allied troops. At the end of the museum was a little film on D-Day where survivors spoke. It was really neat to know you were where amazing and terrible things had happened. Also we take it so for granted that we can live freely because of these people fighting for us. I think we dont realize the true cost of human life because of our stance on war and somehow going to a place like this makes you realize the incredible freedom we have.
After we finished there, we spent a long time walking up the road trying to hitch a ride back into town. Since its off season we had to finagle with different people until we caught a taxi back and then the train into Paris. Got to our St. Christopher’s Inn hostel and got burgers for supper. We’re half done our trip and that’s sad. But we also can’t wait to sleep in our own beds. Ciao❤
We didnt get around in very good time this morning so we hurried through showers and breakfast. We did manage to meet a guy from the Bay area this morning over breakfast tho! So we had a lot to talk about and he gave us some ideas because he was just in France where we are going.
We took a bus to Bruges Station and got the train back to Brussels. Got lunch at the statio there and ran to our next train. Jalen thinks we are stressing him out by cutting it too close. We maybe are. I didnt realize there was security so I just hauled on through and they didnt bother stopping me but Morgan got nabbed. Trying to communicate with people here is funny and frustrating. They call bathrooms “the toilet” and it costs half a euro to use them anywhere basically. And its discouraged to pee publicly because you can get a fine. So we caught our train to Paris finally and it had plush red seats and tables and it went 180 mph mostly but up to 190. It was so smooth and things just whip by outside. The countryside on the way into Paris was green fields with trees bordering them and it was pretty flat but getting closer to Paris there were way more trees and it was a little hilly.
We arrived in Paris. Oh my. I wish my mom and fam were here with me. We checked into our hostel and dropped off our bags before getting lunch at the restaurant on the bottom floor of our hostel. Then we got on the metro and headed to le Eiffel Tower! The metro is always so crowded that you just squeeze on if you want a ride. We got to the Eiffel Tower at maybe 3 or so. My first thought was that the base was way bigger than I thought it would be and the tower itself was shorter. We stood in line a bit and got tickets to the top! Its cheaper if you take the stairs instead of the lift so we climbed the 714 stairs.(yes I with my lean and athletic physique also made it the 714 steps) to the second floor but any higher and you take a lift so we rode that to the top and view was ·amazing·. You can see for miles on all sides. We stuck our heads through the fencing which I suppose is discouraged but wow looking down was cool. I video called Mom, Madi and Dillon from the top so they could be there with me❤ and the guys called the siblings and folks too. We were up there for awhile and it got later so the city lights started coming on all over and that was a whole different kind of beauty. We came down and walked up to view it from farther away which was neat because it was lit up against the sky. Every hour they have a light show on the tower which basically makes it all sparkly.
Then we brought the metro back to the hostel and relaxed. Ate snacks. Drank water.
The fashion here is funny. Lots of girls wear tights with black combat boots with buckles and little berets on their heads. They wear quite heavy makeup especially lipstick. A lot of men wear brown shoes with skinny jeans with the hem rolled up on the pant legs. This is usually worn with tweed coats and scarfs.
The city from the Eiffel Tower we noticed is painted mostly white it looked like. It has way more cars and people than the other cities we’ve been so far and the streets are dirtier. It could just be the areas we’ve been in though. I can’t wait to see more tomorrow. Bonne nuit mon amours✌
We got up pretty early this morning to a 50* sunny day. At least most of it was but it did start light rain later this evening. Had a typical breaky here at the hostel and rented bikes to see as much of the town as possible.
I am so in love with this town. The old old houses line the canals and churches stand watch over big cobblestone squares. All the houses are very old and line the streets with only steps into the street to break up the line of housesm no porches or big window boxes. The architecture everywhere is amazing.
We went to so many churches and cathedrals that I have no clue in what order we did them but ill tell you about some of the more impressive ones. We went to a place called the Belfry of Bruges that is a medieval bell tower. For a fee of course you can climb the 366 stairs to the top. We voted to buy waffles rather. Haha. We walked around several of the big squares and into shops of chocolate and lace and little bakeries.
We also stopped at a place called the Secret Garden where a very old house had the roof fall in etc. and instead of tearing it down they cleared out the rubble and began planting flowers and bringing in pots so the whole whimsical brick house is full of plants and flowers. Also an orange cat that came whipping out of a window box.
We stopped for lunch for paninis which here are about a foot long and sort of like a soft skinny baguette. The next stop was was the Church of Our Lady where one of Michelangelos marble statues is. It is one of only a couple of his works that is outside of Italy and is titled “Madonna and Child.” The church itself is incredible with the brickwork tower being the second highest in the world. They have recently found original artwork on the ceilings and some walls by scraping away layers of paint. Most of the churches we go into here have paintings dating back to the 1500s or some other far away time.
We spent some time there before going to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a place famous for having a supposed vial of Jesus blood. See more about it here. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_the_Holy_Blood It is very reverent in the small church and many people come away weeping. I know there are probably many skeptics among you but when I stood in front of it and thought just what if this really was the blood of Jesus, I felt so incredibly small and it seemed to become so real to me that Jesus had lived on earth just like me. And to think that his blood would have been spilled for me and my sins. What a feeling.
We stopped for coffee at this little vegan cafe where hot chocolate is actual belgium milk chocolate cubes that they pour hot milk over and drinking it tastes like heaven.
Came back to the hostel and relaxed a bit. We met two of our roomies. One is a guy from Australia and the other guy is from India. Both of them are divers and the guy from Australia told us to definitely scuba dive by tulum and playa del Carmen in mexico and we told him we had this Christmas and he was stoked! The guy from India is a rescue diver and had performed over 150 rescues. His dads friend owns an island and for this guys 21st bday they had the island to themselves. I don’t know anyone else who owns an island just to be clear.
We had shawarma for supper..I fell asleep and now woke up to finish this. Cheers to everyone🎉 and a happy anniversary to my amazing mom and my dear dad who I miss so so much.