September 29, 2011

MVHS Homecoming 2011

I'm done blogging about Berlin. I should move on to Salzburg, but it's that crazy busy time of year for work, school and family. And, I'm worn out. I think I'll take just a few minutes to slap up some photos I took last weekend.

This past Saturday was Mountain View's homecoming. Chloe was a finalist for Homecoming Queen. She didn't make it to the final three, which was just fine with her. It meant more party time with friends in the stands at the game. Plus, Chloe had a date to the big dance with a fine young gentleman named Skyler who treated her like a queen.

Chloe chose to wear a dress she borrowed from a neighbor, and it was even one she had worn before to a dance. I asked Katie if we should get her a new dress, but Katie insisted Chloe wanted to wear this dress again. (OK. Whatever. I'm just saying that I was in one of those moods to fork over big money even though we're still catching up financially from the Vienna trip.)

Anyway, she accessorized the dress differently with a scarf and new earrings, and she did her hair up in a retro style. She looked beautiful—like a starlet in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Chloe had a wonderful evening and excitedly told us all the details when she got home.

The only sad part of the evening was that Chloe realized this was her last high school homecoming dance. I think her senior year is already flying by for her rather quickly.
(Click to enlarge) The corsage Skyler gave her was made up of her favorite flowers, roses and lilies. If I had been given more than 30 seconds for the whole photo shoot, I would have taken a close up. And as you can see, the red Converse sneakers were back. Chloe is all about comfort when she's having fun. Plus, her date probably appreciated no heels.

September 19, 2011

Check That Off the List

When Tomas and I went to Berlin, there was only one thing that I was bound and determined to see. For the rest of the time, I was content to do whatever Rob and Maryann suggested.

Below is a photo I took in the Neues Museum. They allow photos throughout the entire museum except for in one room. Unfortunately, that room contained THE very object I came to see. I tried to covertly snap a photo from down the hall. I was on the other side of the "No photography!" signs, so I thought it was OK. Well, maybe.

However, a security guard kept giving me crusty looks. I'm sure he'd seen my kind before—pretending to look at another work of art while secretly snapping a picture in a split second over my shoulder. I was nervous. I didn't want my camera confiscated—or worse, to be thrown in jail in a foreign country. But, it was a risk I was willing to take.

I used my rapid fire shooting mode, and this was the best I got.*

The evil guard is the one in blue.

Do you see it? Do you recognize it? It's the gold thing to the right of the guard's head.

If you still don't know what it is, watch this. Pay close attention at 2:02.

When I was in elementary school, I was fascinated with all things ancient Egyptian. My mother gave me a to-scale ceramic copy of the Nefertiti bust that I then meticulously painted. My Nefertiti held a place of honor for many years in my bedroom holding up books. I have no idea what happened to her. I think she might have been sold in a garage sale while I was on my mission—along with my classic Fischer Price Little People toys. (sniff) I hope she fetched a good price.

I always assumed the real Nefertiti bust was somewhere in Egypt. I was so excited when I found out from Maryann she was in Berlin. Tomas, who also really likes Egyptian stuff, was almost just as excited as I to see the real Nefertiti. 

And was it worth it?

A most emphatic, YES!

The room they have her in is beautiful, and she is displayed perfectly. I was glad there weren't hoards of people wanting to get a look at her like the Mona Lisa. I was able to get up close and stay as long as I wanted. In person, you can see so many more details than what come across in a photo. She's so lifelike, unlike any of the other Egyptian stuff I've seen. I also learned something new. I found out that the bust was discovered in a artist's workshop and was most likely a sculptor's model. This way, she only had to pose once.

It was sure nice to check Nefertiti off my list. She did not disappoint.

Now, there is only one thing I can think of that I have left to see in Germany before I die. Will it ever happen? I hope so. If you want to contribute to my bucket list fund. Just let me know.

*I'm feeling a little guilty about taking that picture. There's probably a good reason why they have that rule. I'll repent and never try taking a photo of Nefertiti again.

Museum Hopping

How many art museums can you cram into one afternoon?

Answer: three.

And as Tomas and I discovered, that may have been pushing it. There are actually five museums on Museum Island in Berlin, but we selected the three that looked most interesting. You could purchase tickets for all the museums at one place, and they gave you entrance times. We scheduled each museum two hours apart. I could tell the ticket lady thought I was nuts, especially with a seven year-old in tow.

We gave it our best shot though. Tomas was such a trouper, never complaining once.

First stop, the Bode Museum. This museum is in a beautiful, historic building.

I had no idea what was in the Bode. I looked through some of their pamphlets and didn't recognize anything.  They have a lot of sculpture and Byzantine art. Tomas and I had no clue where to begin, but then a docent gave us a brochure for children that was kind of a scavenger hunt. We spent our two hours in the Bode hunting down fifteen works and learning fun facts about them.
This is one of the works we found. In the left of the center panel stands St. George who converted thousands to Christianity by slaying a dragon. Tomas asked me, "If there are no such things as dragons, how can he be a real saint?"  Good question. I told him the story was either just a legend or George just killed a big lizard they thought was a dragon.

Next stop, the Pergamon Museum. This is seriously one cool museum. It completely blew us away. They have ancient reconstructed buildings that were brought from ancient world locations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tomas and I spent our entire two hour in just three amazing rooms.

Here is a collage of the Pergamon Altar, which was originally in Turkey. Most of it is in Berlin, but after World War II, the Soviets hauled some of it off to Russia. Germany has been trying to get it back, but there are also those who think it should all go back to Turkey. I'm of the opinion it should just stay where it is. The Pergamon Museum has done an amazing job displaying it. Walking around and through it, I almost felt as if I had been transported back in time. I keep thinking of what a feat it must have been to bring all the pieces to Berlin and reassemble them.

Here is the Market Gate of Miletus from Greece. In addition to this massive structure, there was another building on the other side of the room. They had a small scale model of how this gate fit into the original city which must have been massive.

And finally my favorite, the Ishtar Gates from Babylon (Iraq). Blue is my favorite color and the color of the bricks was beautiful. They're made out of a rare stone called lapis lazuli. The Ishtar Gates were once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The portion of the gate on display is only the smaller part. The larger portion is too big for the museum and is in storage. I'm sure the entire structure was an impressive sight.

The third and final museum of our afternoon was the Neues Museum. The building was heavily damaged during the war and pretty much left in ruins until 2009. Then, the English architect, Robert Chipperfield, oversaw the restoration. He is my hero. I think what he did with the building is genius. Everything that could be salvaged was from flecks of paint in a mural to stone columns. And then, they put it all together again with modern materials and features filling in the gaps. This way, you can get a sense for how beautiful the building once was; yet at the same time, it's a remembrance of how horrible WWII was. It all worked so well together.

Before coming to Berlin, there was really only one thing on my bucket list, and it was inside this museum. For me, it was such a big deal, I feel I need to devote a separate blog post to it. So until then, here are some photos of the building to help you get an idea of why I find it so remarkable.
The front of the building.

They're still working on the back side of the building.

The architect deservedly won major prizes for architecture.

Some of the pillars still show pockmarks from gun fire and shrapnel. Pillars or portions of pillars that had to be replaced were done so in a different material. 

You need to click to enlarge this collage to see the details of what I was talking about. 

After six hours of museums, we were pretty much worn out. But, it was a good kind of worn out. Tomas and I had a lot of fun together discovering new things. Afterwards, we met up with Rob and his kids outside the Bode. I had to take a break and rest my tired feet, back, neck, etc. Tomas and the other pallies took advantage of the time and made giant bubbles with a guy who shared his bubble making supplies.
Tomas and I have found several websites about making giant bubbles. We plan to try this out back home. I be sure to post some photos.

September 18, 2011

I'm Blue.

It was an absolute perfect day for a football game. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. This weekend was the big rivalry game with the University of Utah, and I received a couple of free tickets through work. Usually, the Utah game tickets are hard to come by, and this was my first time attending one of the rivalry games. I asked Liam if he wanted to go with me.

We were very excited for the game and were decked out in our best Cougar blue. On our way to the stadium, I showed Liam the Saran Wrapped statue of Brigham Young. The Grounds crew does this to all the statues on campus to protect them from red paint or other types of vandalism. (I've always wondered if they do the same thing at the University of Utah.) Everyone in the stadium got white pom poms, which had quite an exciting effect when all waved together. There was also a gorgeous sunset.

How was the game? Well, we should have known it was going to be a long game when BYU fumbled the ball in the first minute of play and Utah scored a touchdown. Six more turnovers were to follow. I don't really know a whole heck of a lot about football, but even though I'm sure Utah played well, it seemed to me that BYU just gave up. The final score ended up being 54-10. I heard someone say this was the worst defeat to Utah on record. Ouch.

Liam and I have never left a game early. Even when it was a blizzard, we stayed until the very end. However, after the 3rd quarter, we just couldn't take it anymore. We thought we'd beat the crowd and go cheer ourselves up with some ice cream. But, the mass exodus had already begun.

Fighting the crowd, Liam and I made it for ice cream, and it did help raise our spirits. All in all, we still had a fun time together. We remain Cougar fans through and through. And, if I score more tickets, we'll be there cheering and singing "Rise and Shout" at the top of our lungs.

September 16, 2011

Anybody Got a Wet Wipe?

Tomas and I took the Mc clan out for ice cream. While Vienna has an ice cream place on practically every corner, we had to do some hunting and asking around to find something in Berlin. I have many photos like the one below from our trip to Europe in 2009. I also have many photos like this from 2011. Tomas hasn't really improved much.

At 7 it's still pretty cute, but at 17 I don't think it will be.

The Berliner Dom

One afternoon, the Mc clan took us to the Berliner Dom. The cathedral was heavily damaged during the war, and they have done an amazing job restoring it.

I actually took this photo a couple days earlier when I attended Rob's class on Schinkel, hence the clear blue sky. Schinkel contributed to the design of the interior of the cathedral.

Here is a collage of views from up top.
(click to enlarge) I would love to know the story of the giant heart carved in the grass field. This field is where the palace will be rebuilt. Notice Rob's grasp on Joss. That photo brings back many memories. Joss is such a fun kid and constantly makes me laugh, but what a handful he is for Rob and Maryann.

I wanted a photo of Tomas and me up on top of the cathedral. Rob and Maryann were on the other side of the dome, and it was just Tomas, Sebi and me. I still can't believe it since I get nervous when anyone touches my camera, but I asked Sebi to take our picture. In my nicest way possible, I firmly stressed how important it was not to drop the camera, and I showed Sebi how to work the camera. I had him take several photos hoping there would be at least one keeper.

And, there was. This photo is actually one of my favorite photos of our time in Berlin. Very artsy.
OK, maybe Sebi can touch my camera. But no one else, so don't ask.
I was taken aback by the ornateness of the inside of this Protestant cathedral. It rivals any of the Catholic churches in Vienna.
I'm not sure if it's really considered stained glass, but the painted windows were some of the most beautiful I've seen. I also loved the intricate mosaic work. The colors used in the interior of the cathedral were also bright and uplifting.
I was excited to find out they had a crypt. I'm totally into that kind of stuff.
Unfortunately, I don't know the ancestry and the stories of the Hohenzollerns like I do the Austrian Habsburgs. There were lots of coffins for royals I knew nothing about. Queen Sophie Charlotte, whose palace grounds we visited, had a beautiful casket/tomb up in the cathedral, but her actual coffin along with her husband's wasdown below. I also found a bust of Bismark and his coffin.
Afterwards, the kids ran around and played on the grass field with the heart while Rob, Maryann and I talked.
Notice everyone's eyes are open? That's call fancy Photoshopping.

Then, Rob had the great idea for all of us to go to a pizza restaurant called the Twelve Apostles for lunch. Not only was it fairly inexpensive, it was some of the best pizza we've eaten. They had a pizza named after each of the original apostles. Since there were two James, they replaced one of them and had a pizza named after Paul. They also included one for Luke and one for Mary Magdalene. I had the Bartholomew, which had Gorgonzola cheese and spinach, and Tomas had the basic cheese pizza, the Andrew. I did wonder how popular the Judas (spicy salami, green peppers and chili peppers) pizza was.
The restaurant was directly under the street car. Everything rumbled a bit when it went by. Inside, the ceiling was beautifully painted with coats of arms. On the outside, Rob pointed out a huge gouge out of the wall from a bomb. Rob said Berlin had earlier tried to restore and cover all that up, but now they are leaving a lot of it as a reminder.

September 14, 2011

Battle of the Döner

The first day of my LDS mission back in 1984, I took a half hour train ride with my companion to Bielefeld for District Meeting. Afterwards, we stopped in at a small corner eating establishment for lunch. This is when Elder Sadler introduced me to Döner Kebapbs, a Turkish sandwich made with a thick flat bread filled with meat, lettuce, cabbage, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, and a choice of sauces. I was immediately hooked and ate at least one Döner Kebab each week for the remaining seven months I served in that area.

Rob claimed that the best Döner Kebabs in the world were sold in Berlin and set out to prove it. Even though I loved the Döner Kebabs in Bielefeld and there is even a stand in Vienna that makes a mean one,  I was only too willing to give Berlin's a try. Rob and Maryann took Tomas and I to XL Döner at Sophie-Charlotte Platz.

Here is the guy shaving off the meat. I can't remember what kind of meat I ordered. Chicken, perhaps? Anyway, I think Rob was on a first name basis with all the employees.

At first glance, it looks like your standard Döner Kebab.

But, there was an immediate WOW factor with the very first bite. Dang, these were good!
My standard "I'm about to nomnomnom" look
Here's my verdict. I think it all depends on the sauce. In Bielefeld, the Döner were a lot spicier. At the stand in Vienna, it's a mild yoghurt sauce. And in Berlin, I had the garlic sauce, which had a little zing to it but not too much. I personally love all three sauces, so I just wish all three options were available in one place (not that I mind traveling to Berlin, Vienna and Bielefeld).

Thanks to Rob for introducing me to the Berlin Döner Kebab. It was fantastic!

The Döner hasn't caught on yet in Utah. I've actually never seen them sold anywhere in the US. This is rather unfortunate since at this moment, I am very hungry.

September 13, 2011

Berliner Mauer

This post is dedicated to the Berlin Wall.

The last time we were in Berlin, the wall had just recently fallen, figuratively; however, most of it was actually still standing. Katie and I wanted to take a piece home as a souvenir, but we didn't have any kind of tool to hack off a chunk. I used another big rock and took a few big swings until a Soviet soldier came and told us rather forcefully that we weren't allowed to do that. I did manage to get a piece of the wall about the size of a dime, which I'm sure is somewhere in our house.

Today, the Russians are gone, and so is most of the wall. Here Tomas and Sebi pose in front a marker showing where the wall once stood near the Brandenburg Gate.

We visited Check Point Charlie, the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. I took a photo of the famous sign, which is a replica.

The guard house is one of the most visited landmarks in Berlin, as you can see from the picture. I decided to avoid the crowd, and this is as close as I got. I also found out the guard house is also a replica. It's too bad no one had the foresight when the wall came down to preserve this area as a landmark.

We visited the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. They have amazing stories to tell of how people escaped to the West and heartbreaking stories of those who lost their lives in the attempt. They also have some very interesting artifacts like the balloon with which two families used to cross the border as documented in the movie Night Crossing. They also had a Trabi (East German car) that was modified so they could hide people in the seats to sneak them across the border.

However, and unfortunately, this museum was a dump. It's dusty, rundown, and unorganized. It's a privately owned museum, and I give kudos to the guy who started it back in the sixties. But, I think maybe it's time for the city to take over. The museum certainly does a great business. They charge a hefty entrance fee of about $15, and while we were there the place was crowded. As it is right now, I guess I can say I'm glad I saw it once, but I don't think I'll go back.

Nevertheless, we did enjoy visiting the East Side Gallery, a section of the wall just over a kilometer long that has been left standing as a memorial. Artists from around the world have painted sections.

Here are some of our favorite sections. Tomas loved the Trabi crashing through the wall, and he and Sebi were thoroughly grossed out by the section titled "My God, help me outlive this deadly love" which depicts the famous photograph of Erich Honecker kissing Leonid Brezhnev
(click to enlarge)
I wanted to have my picture taken with these guys because I think I remember them from last time. I'll have to go through our photos from twenty years ago to see if I have a similar picture from back then.

I still find it quite amazing that the wall is down and Germany is unified. When I lived there in the early eighties, I seriously thought it would never happen. It's been nice to see how the unified Germany has come along so well since 1989. It gives me hope for other areas of the world.

September 11, 2011

Nie Vergessen

As we walked down a street in Berlin, Maryann pointed this out to me.

She and Rob explained to me that it's a Stolperstein (stumbling block), which is a small, cobblestone-sized memorial for a single victim of the Nazis. They are placed in the sidewalk outside where the person lived. The one above reads:
Here lived
born: 1875
Arrested 10/23/1941
Tegel Prison
Died during transport
to Dachau
I later noticed several more around Berlin, and when I got back to Vienna, I found three Stolpersteine down the street from our apartment. I find this to be a nice tribute. It helped make it more meaningful to me to focus on one individual who actually lived there as opposed to just hearing six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. The person is no longer a statistic. It's one more way to help us never to forget.

Today is September 11—the tenth anniversary.

Unfortunately, there is so much that we must never forget.

Today's Lesson: Schinkel

One morning, we left Tomas and the Mc kids in the care of Maddie, and Maryann and I joined Rob for his class. His class was studying architectural styles in Berlin, and the man of the day was Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Schinkel was a prominent 19th century architect in Berlin. He began doing everything in neoclassical style and later in his career switched to neogothic. Rob had everyone meet downtown at Museum Island, and from there, many of Schinkel's buildings were within a few blocks of each other. The one thing I loved to see was how well so many of the structures had been restored. They're still working on some, which is yet another good reason to return someday.

Why do they spell his name with a C?
This is the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse). It was originally built as a guardhouse for the troops of the Crown Prince of Prussia, and although it has gone through several changes over the years, it has basically been some sort of war memorial since 1931. After German reunification, it was restored and dedicated as the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny. Inside building is one large room where they have placed a version of  Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture Mother with her Dead Son in the center.

This sculpture is directly under a round opening in the roof exposing it to the rain, snow and cold of the Berlin climate, symbolising the suffering of civilians during World War II. I would love to see this. The sculpture is quite moving by itself, but the snow and rain would certainly add to the impact.

This is the Altes Museum (Old Museum). On that day, Rob didn't take the class into the museum to look at the art but rather just inside past the entrance to look at the rotunda.

It seems like I've taken a lot of photos of the inside of domes. I think this is one of my favorites. (click to enlarge)

This is the Französischer Dom (French Cathedral) built for the Huguenots. This was not designed by Schinkel, but it's right next to the Konzerthaus, which Schinkel did design. We went up the tower and for the wonderful panoramic view.

Not only was the outside of the tower beautiful but the inside as well. It was also roomier climb compared to the cathedrals like the Stefansdom.

And, here is Schinkel's Friedrichswerder Church.. This was built during Schinkel's neogothic period. Today, it is used as a museum holding a collection of German 19th century sculpture. It's an impressive space to display the collection.

I really loved this building. First of all, it has a different look from anything else in the area. The red brick and the wood inside give it a warm feeling.

I couldn't tell for sure, but I think the bricks on the ceiling are painted on. Either way, it was striking.

The detailed woodwork on the stairs is especially nice, and I love the lighting behind the altar.

The museum holds several works by the Berlin sculptor Johann Schadow, who created the quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate. Rob told us the sculpture below of the royal sisters Frederica and Louise is the most famous in the collection. I guess it created a buzz when it was first shown because it was considered rather racy.

The stained glass windows were also different from any other cathedral I've been in, and the colors were so vivid.

What a great class period. I've become much more interested in architecture this time around in Europe. What a great opportunity for the students where their classrooms are the buildings and museums they're studying.