Friday, 30 September 2016

Reflecting on Anne

Each red block represents one person.
A total of more than 100,000 red blocks stand in Westerbork
When my sister and I first started thinking about our road trip, there were a few places we really wanted to visit. Like Vienna and Prague. And when we looked at a map, we realised there were a few other places that we wouldn't mind having a look at. Like Kraków in Poland.

Teddies were taken, along with everything else
Once we had the basic outline of where, we needed to find the things to see. I didn't want to spend three weeks looking at churches only, so other sights were wanted. And near Kraków, there was concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. 

Arbeit Macht Frei
The entrance to Auschwitz I
Neither of us had ever been there and we both felt it was something we needed to do. Then I realised that Anne Frank had been there for a short time and from that thought it was a hop and a skip to follow her road, through the first Dutch transit camp to Auschwitz and then on to the concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, where I had been before.

Part of the possessions taken from the victims
Here pots and cups and such
Concentration camps are tricky beasts. They all served the main basic goal: get rid of the unwanted, but the way in which it happened was different. Westerbork wasn't really a concentration camp as such, it was mainly a transit camp: send people on to get rid of them. And they did: over 100,000 people were sent on to other camps and only a fraction of those survived.

The women's part of Auschwitz II (Birkenau)
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) were completely different. Here, the main aim was either work them to death or gas them to death, with a few other methods thrown in for 'good' measure. As long as they got rid of the Jews it was okay in the minds of the Nazis.

Part of the men's part of Auswitz II (Birkenau)
Bergen-Belsen was yet another camp completely. As calculated as Auschwitz, but completely different in its approach. Work them to death was the main aim, although in the end it was starvation that worked equally well.

The post in which Brom says goodbye to Anne, originally had the word died in the part about who survived. But they didn't die, they were killed. Bullets, gas chambers, thrown under a train, starvation. All with one aim: get rid of the Jewish population. 

Bergen-Belsen with the memorial in the background
Me and my sister talked about it several times. I know I am quite strict and like to follow the rules. Would I have gone along with them? Or would I have gone against them anyway? Would I have been brave or would I have cowered away? I don't know and I will hopefully never have to find out either.

Anne Frank
I wish Anne's diary had never been published. Because she would have survived or even better, because she wrote a boring diary about her life, without war and without hiding. I would have loved to have heard from her in other ways though: as the famous actress she wanted to be for example.

Photos 1-6: Gera
Photos 7-8: Mara
Photo of Anne: Anne Frank Museum

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Back home

A panorama photo of the River Danube through Budapest
Yesterday was the last day of my holiday and it was spent traveling home. My parents had been very sweet and had driven my sister and I (yes, and Brom) to the airport. I wanted to reclaim some money from a purchase I had made in Germany, but I hadn't read the form properly and already checked in my luggage, including the tax free item! That will teach me next time!

Since I traveled business class (or some such), I had an extra luggage allowance and I made real good use of that! I had managed to keep everything in the two suitcases, since I really didn't want to have a carry-on as well. I wouldn't have known how to get it home for a start. The two cases were heavy enough as they were.

A sneaky photo back
Miss Oswin was a bit unsure when I got through the door, but she soon realised I was the treat person and climbed on my lap and drooled all over me. Before she was allowed to go outside for a bit! I did actually buy her a few souvenirs as well. I give her treats that I buy here in Norway, but in Prague and Vienna there were several other flavours available. Four bags of treats made their way into my luggage. 

Even though we visited or traveled through seven countries in total, I only managed three flags. Since Slovakia was only a drive-through, we never saw anything touristy. In Hungary I did see a flag, but it was too small and I figured once we hit the souvenir shops, I would get the proper size. Well, opera got in the way and we never got to a souvenir shop that sold flags. But I did manage to get the flag of the Czech Republic, Poland and Austria to add to my collection. I had one of Poland, but it wouldn't stand in my vase, so I needed a new one. 

Me and my sister Gera
This morning was an early morning again: back to work. I had not been looking forward to it, especially since the weather is not that nice either, but in order to go on other holidays I will need to work and earn some money! Mind you, playing the tourist does become tiring in the end as well. Plus that castles, churches and beautiful town centers did start to blend a bit in the end. 

There will be a few posts coming up regarding the holiday. Thoughts and reflections so to say, that I didn't want to bother Brom with when he was writing. And when all that is done, I will make a book for me and my sister with all the posts and a lot more photos of this holiday. As a reminder of a beautiful holiday. And of course in due time there will be calendars made as well and you will get the chance of winning one, but more on that when they are made/about to be made.

Photos by my sister Gera

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Brom apologizes


Over the past two and a half weeks I have been on holiday with two quite dopey girls. Although I must admit, they did behave quite good this time and didn't do too many strange things. Even if some people think it strange that they take me on holiday and let me write about it! 

The door to the prison in the castle where we had dinner with Andreas.
Yes, we had dinner in a castle!!
There have been several things happening during our road trip that I haven't told you about. Like the case of the missing car key. Which happened on the same day as the hole in the tire. 

One exhausted doggie on top of the mountain
Mara and Gera both had their own car key on loan from Papa (Mara) and Mama (Gera). And when they left Vienna they used Gera's key. On arrival in Augsburg Mara wondered where her key was. She looked in her suitcase: no. In her handbag: no. In her souvenir bag: no. In the games bag: no. In her back pack: no. When she phoned the hotel in Vienna, they told her to ring back the next day! 

ET Gera phone home!
The next day she thought she would first look through her suitcase again. She unpacked the whole thing and right at the bottom... was the car key! I think that was quite dopey.

The Dancing House in Prague
During our day in the Alps we spent the day with Andreas, a very nice gentleman. And even though he didn't like to go up in the cable car (even less than Gera), he took us up that mountain anyway, so we could have that beautiful view. He said he would have preferred to walk up and down those 900 meters! 

That's Andreas, right at the top!
Now, that sounded very strange to us, but he had told us he was a runner. And not just any run either. A marathon was just for training fun. He ran mountain runs. He had done a 86 kilometer (which is over 50 miles) run in Switzerland, crossing six mountain tops. It took him 20 hours! He said he was the second to last to finish, but half of them didn't finish at all, so I thought he was a winner anyway!

Changing of the Guard at Prague Castle
On our way from Augsburg to our last hotel we had to cross some beautiful countryside. And all of a sudden we saw a sign for Wild Gera! And then not long after, we saw a sign for Tame Gera!! Of course we didn't have a camera at the ready and we didn't want to drive back, so we haven't got the proof. But we did look it up on Wikipedia and they said that the Wild Gera and Tame Gera are both contributary rivers to the River Gera. But that river has nothing to do with the town of Gera!

Dinner in Kraków
And then on Sunday night (after the Wild and Tame Gera) we arrived in a lovely hotel. Mara had been there many times before and she was recognised by the owner. Unfortunately Mara wasn't feeling very well and only had a tiny bit to eat. After that we went to our room so I could dictate what she should write about that day. Mara told me though: short and concise and if it can be even shorter, it would be even better!

Taking a selfie of the three o...
After she had written the very short version (in which I didn't even get to mention the name of the church: Vierzehnheiligen or Fourteen Holy Helpers Church in Bad Staffelstein), she put in some photos (a sheep with a bird instead of me!), closed the lap top and went to the bathroom to throw up! Fortunately she felt better after that.

Taking a selfie of the three of u...
When we had returned home, they wanted to open the front door, but both dopes had left the house keys in their suitcases! Gera was the first one to find it (Mara didn't even try) and then tried to open the door! Nope! Papa and Mama had CHANGED THE LOCK!!! 

Taking a selfie of the three of us in the German/Austrian Alps
Fortunately the garden door was okay, so once Mara got in, most of the luggage came in through the kitchen window (including me!) and then the big suitcases came in through the garden door. There was however a great yum waiting for me! So it wasn't all bad!

Papa's home made apple pie.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Brom says goodbye to Anne


Today was our very last day of the road trip and we ended with a very serious visit. We started our road trip at Westerbork transit camp, where Anne Frank was sent after they had been discovered. Halfway through our trip we visited Auschwitz where Anne was sent after only a short while in Westerbork transit camp. And our very last visit was Bergen Belsen.

The little square in the top photo shows how much room each person got on the cattle car.
Enough room for a little orange teddy, but for 60-80 grown men and women it was not enough
As I told you Anne and her big sister Margot left Auschwitz by train probably in late October of 1944. After an unknown amount of time (likely about a week) they arrived at a small train platform on the 3rd of November. They were told to get out of the train and then forced to walk approximately 5 kilometers (three miles) to the camp. 

We are not seventy yet! (art by Zsuzsa Merényi, a Hungarian Jew who survived)
People were ill, underfed, cold, underdressed. They had to march, but basically could only drag themselves forward. It was a long slow procession to the camp. 

The camp was originally built to house the German workers who were building the military camp a short distance away. Once the war broke out, French and Belgian prisoners of war were sent there. Soon followed by Russian prisoners of war. The difference in treatment was terrible. The French and Belgians got food, a roof, medical care. There were only 600 of them. There were 21,000 Russians, surrounded by barbed wire and not much else. No shelter apart from the shelter they dug themselves, hardly any food, and no medical care.

Even though the camp is mostly known for the Jews who were killed,
they 'only' numbered a few thousand. Many more Russians (25,000), Poles (15,000),
resistance fighters and political opponents were killed here.
More people arrived: political opponents and resistance fighters. Thousands from all over the occupied territories were killed. Jews were there too: those who might get exchanged for imprisoned Germans in allied countries, those with 'foreign' passports or papers: Spanish, Portugese, (South) American and eventually those coming from other camps.

Anne wrote this while in hiding
As we know Anne had scurvy before leaving Auschwitz. Overcrowding, underfeeding, lack of medical care, bad sanitation and bad housing (like tents and bad baracks) wouldn't help her get better. And she didn't. In fact, she and her sister probably contracted typhus due to the lack of everything. 

NOT their grave, only a memorial stone
Their exact resting place is not known
I think the only thing that kept them going was being there together. In April 1945 the British arrived to horrifying scenes of dead and dying people. In fact, in the month after the liberation 13,000 people died, their only solace probably that they died as free people. Anne and Margot never saw the British soldiers or freedom. They were killed in February 1945, two months before liberation. Anne was 15, her sister Margot was 18 or 19. 

One of the 13 mass graves in Bergen Belsen
Only ten thousand or so names are known of all the victims.
Many more found their last resting place here.
Of the eight people hidden in the 'Achterhuis', only one survived, Anne's father Otto. Anne's mother was killed in Auschwitz in January 1945, her sister Margot in Bergen Belsen in February 1945. Hermann van Pels was killed in Auschwitz in October 1944, his wife Auguste was killed while on her way to Theresienstadt (Terezin) in April 1945, their son Peter was killed in Mauthausen in May 1945, only three days before liberation. Fritz Pfeffer was killed in Neuengamme in December 1944.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Brom goes to church


We are nearly home again, but today we had to drive a looooong way. All the way from the South of Germany to nearly the top! At least it felt like that.

But along the way we had a stop and visited a church. Mara had been there years ago and knew it was a pretty church, and bear, was she right!

The church was just sort of ordinary on the outside, but on the inside it was beautiful. A lot of paintings on the walls and ceilings, a lot of really pretty statues (apart from the saint without a head, I didn't like that one very much) and a lot of gold. 

The service had just ended when we got there, so we were able to get in and have a good look around. After about half an hour inside and then another three quarters of an hour outside, we continued on our way north.

Because it is a Sunday today, there were hardly any lorries on the road, which meant that the drive north was quite nice and easy and we arrived at our hotel in time for a nice dinner. 

This will be our last night in a hotel and tomorrow we have one more thing to see before heading home.

Brom's Photo on Sunday 2016-35


When we went home after the concert in Vienna, Mara saw some shoes. I am not sure about them... I think it will be very hard to read the time when you're walking!

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Brom goes upper


Today we had our very own driver. Gera's friend Andreas came to pick us up a little after nine o'clock. The original plan had been to visit Schloss Neuschwanstein, which is a castle and is beautiful. But the path we wanted to take up was closed because rocks could be falling. So, Andreas came up with a few other ideas.

View from the car
One of his ideas was to go through a very narrow canyon and that sounded okay to us. It only took us an hour and a half to get there, but the view was beautiful and we didn't mind one bit. The canyon was real good fun. It was narrow, there was water and there were fantastic views. 

Is it a ghost?
No, it's Gera in a little tunnel
It wasn't very long before we got to another part where we would have to pay and where it got steeper and less interesting, so instead we turned back, because Andreas had another great idea.

Getting a good view of the canyon
Close to the canyon there were several villages and in one of those villages there was a cable car up the mountain. Up and upper! And if we got on after two o'clock, we would get coffee and cake included!

Going up
Guess what we did: we waited for two o'clock, got on the little cable car and went up the mountain. And upper and upper and upper until we were upperst! And when we got there:


I think it is the best thing we have seen during this whole holiday! The views were so wide and magnificent it was unbelievable. We could see for miles and I felt even smaller than I already am. 

Mara said we started at a little over 1000 meters (over 3000 feet) and we ended up at 1900 meters (over 6000 feet). 

I wouldn't have minded staying there a bit longer, but we needed to get back for some dinner and then back to the hotel. But I really hope to be back some day to see some more of the Alps! 

Thank you Andreas for the beautiful day we had. I loooooooved it!