Monday, October 3, 2011

On our Way Home Tomorrow Morning

Hello again everyone!

Tomorrow morning, we are ON OUR WAY HOME! This will be our last entry in our travel blog (unless our neice Lynn-z forgets to pick us up at the airport, then there will be a special edition!).

We have had several days of exploration in Rome, and haven't had a lot of time for writing the blog.

We did finally get the hot water in the B&B shower working after only two nights of cold water showers. It was part of the experience. The place where we are staying is very new, and everything else seems to be working fine. They even have a coffee maker that we can operate ourselves so there is coffee when we get up without fail!

Lighting Candles - Hoping for a hot shower


We all sorts of things in Rome, the catacombs, the Trastevere and the Vatican. We saw more churches than we can count and several great museums. Rome is an amazing city with an incredible amount of history everywhere you look.

Don't fall in the water! 
Trevi Fountain

Palatine Hill
Here are a couple of pictures from the last couple of days, but there are lots more pictures at the links On Picassa; Link to Oct 1, link to Oct 2, Link to Oct 3.

Hope you are doing well, and see you soon!

Stephen & Linda

Friday, September 30, 2011

Second Day in Rome

Hi Everyone!

Today we started out a little later after switching hotels. The hotel that Linda had booked had double booked, so we moved to a place down the street that they found for us. The room is real nice and quiet, but Linda is having trouble getting any hot water in the shower. Hopefull they can fix this tomorrow morning. I suspect that knowing where the hot water heater is located and being able to read Italian will give them an edge.

After our move, we headed out to look for a Roma Pass for an hour or two. Rick Steves spent a couple of pages extolling the virtues of this pass in his latest version of travel mis-information about Italy. It turns out that nobody in Rome sells a Roma Pass these days. If I had actually bought the Rick Steves book, I would take it to a book burning.

We started out by Colosium and Forum area. It was overrun with Boat People that had been dropped off by the various cruise lines. We decided to avoid the crowds and slow lines by going up to the area of the Villa Borhgese instead.

Popular stop

The Forum

We took the metro to the park surrounding the Villa Borghese. We walked through the park to the National Gallery of Modern Art spending a few hours there. We had a great time enjoying the Museum, the art was great and not crowded since it is not on most tourist routes.

Art we didn't understand 
Getting closer

Long tall Sally
Our final stop for the afternoon was the Galleria Borghese, which is on most tour routes. The museum was terrific, but, no pictures as you are not even allowed to bring your camera inside!

We hope you are all doing well.

Here are links to more pictures from yesterday and from today.

Stephen & Linda

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our First Day Back in Rome

Our First day back in Rome!

Today we decided to walk across town from our hotel by the train station to the Vatican. We planned to take our time and see things alon the way. Our journey began by stopping at a small church a couple of blocks from the hotel. The city is covered with churches that are decorated from the floor to ceiling, Piazzas every couple of hundred feet with statues and fountains, and stores and shops tucked in between.
Old and New

Our first stop was to see the cloister of the Cappucian monks who have built a disgusting display of onraments comstructed from the skeletons of the deceased Friars. Oddly, they do not let you take pictures in reverence to the dead. The question that immediately occurs to you, though, is how would you humiliate someone whose skeleton has been used to construct a chandelier, or wall ornament? This is one of Linda's favorite places to visit!

Classic Structures

Rolling down the Tiber

After working our way across town for a couple of hours, we arrived at the Vatican. We decided that since the lines were comparatively short, we would go on in. We have heard that you can not take pictures or wear shorts in the Vatican. Neither of these is true. You can wear shorts, the fashion in shorts now covers your upper knee, and that is good enough. Everybody in the place was taking pictures, and the only time the guards minded at all is when you took a flash picture right up in their face. We actually saw someone do this!

We decided to go through the Vatican museum as well while we were there. The lines are almost gone in the later afternoon although there is still quite a crowd inside. For most of the museum, the tour group leaders are herding their groups past most of the exibits making it a little hard to stop and see the artifacts and art on display. There is way to much to see in just a day or two. Thankfully, as we got closer to the end, the tour groups whipped their herds into a frenzy to see the Sistine Chapel and stampeded past the contemporary art collection. We turned in to see the works by Van Gogh, Dali, Chagall, and Matisse that almost everyone else was ignoring. It was great to be out of the crowd.

Vatican owns the Death Star! 
Pictures everywhere! 
One of our favorites!

Another favorite

We finsihed up at the Vatican and walked back to the hotel. We had seen an amazing number of things and we marveled at the contrasts in Rome, the ancient, next to the old or completely modern. It is all right next to each other. It was a great first day.

We hope you are all doing well,

Stephen & Linda

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Last Day in Berlin

Hello Everyone!

We went to several places on our last full day in Berlin, ending it up with a visit to our favorite museum. We started the day off with what has become a ritual, the trip across Berlin to get some doughnut holes for Linda – the Alexander Platz Balls. It is amazing to contemplate that without a wonderfull mass transportation system that wisks us from one end of berlin to the other, and without the collapse of East Germany, Linda would not be able to get these doughnut holes. For us to ride from former West Berlin to former East Berlin would for Linda's Alexander Platz balls would not have been possible during the cold war.

After our pastry stop we made our way back slowly to the west. We walked past a pretty old building with a couple of Police Gaurds out front. Linda asked if we could go in to look around. The Policeman said 'yes' and waved us in. It was the Berliner Rathaus, the mayor's office. We have always thought that is is a little amusing and somewhat ironic that Germans have politians working in a building whose name sounds like Rat House. It does make it easy to remember though. It was a pretty building inside with some displays about projects with sister cities.

Berliner Rathaus

Berliner Rathaus
Our next destination, which is one that we actually planned was to visit St. Nicholas church which is said to be the oldest building in Berlin. The records of a St. Nicholas Church on this sight go back to the time when Berlin was forming as a trading town in the 1200's. We spent some time looking through the church and listening to the audio guide. Any thoughts of rushing through the tour were set aside by the wonderful staff, the thoughtful and interesting tour, and the unscheduled downpour outside. After a thorough examination of the Church we emerged to dry weather, but we were ready with our umbrellas. When you take the trouble to pack something and carry it around for a month, you do kind of want to use it, even an umbrella.

Waiting outside St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church
Our next stop was a short one, the Friedrich's church (Friedrichswerdersche Kirche-Schinkelmuseum). A church built by and now a museum dedicated to Friedrich Schinkel one of Berlin's greatest architects. It is a pretty amazing building.

Friedrichswerdersche Kirche-Schinkelmuseum
Our next stop was a square called Gendarmenmarkt Platz. It has two impressive domed buildings one either side of a concert hall. We noticed that the door to the southern domed building, the Deutscher Dom was open, so we went in. They had a free tour with an English audio guide. We decided to give it a try, but we decided after about 15 minutes that if we continued until the end of the tour, that we would be at the end of our day. We decided to leave and head to our favorite museum in Berlin as the last planned stop for our visit.
Gendarmenmarkt Platz

Deutscher Dom
We walked over to Potsdamer Platz, and through the Sony building complex. On the other side of the Platz we came to the Kulture Forum which contained our destination the Neue Nationalgalerie. We spent a few hours looking through the Gallery that contains art that is modern, in the sense that it is 20th century art. It is something that we can relate to, and is also thought provoking. We had a great afternoon there.

Potsdamer Platz

Neue Nationalgalerie
We finished up the day by walking down to the premier department store in the western part of the city. Even the Germans shorten the name on this store and they call it Ka-De-Wa. There was a special display centered around silk scarves, it was an audio visual display inside a building about the size of a house which was in the front lobby of the Store.

This just about wraps up our touring of Berlin. We will have a little time in the morning before we have to leave for the airport, I will be posting the blog then. We will be getting into Rome a little late in the evening, and I am hoping that our trip is uneventful with nothing worth talking about. I will probably post something again around Thursday or Friday evening.

We hope you are all doing well.

More Pictures from Tuesday on Picasa

Stephen and Linda

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday the 26th - Berlin

Hi Everyone!

Today we started out with a brief excursion across town on the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz to get some of those AlexanderPlatz Balls (doughnut holes) that Linda likes. From there we walked across town past a couple of great sites like the Hackescher Market and the Neue Synagoge which is a beautiful building (and also hard to figure out when it will be open for tours).

Hackescher Market

Hackescher Market

Neue Synagoge
We made our way across the river and stopped in our first museum stop of the day, the Deutsches Historisches Museum. This museum covers the history of the German people from prehistory to after the Reunification. It turns out this was our only museum stop of the day.We went in at about 10:00, and didn't finish until about 4:30 in the afternoon. It was totaly fascinating and a a lot of things to look at. If you stopped to really look at everything, you could not finish in a day.

Deutsches Historisches Museum 
Deutsches Historisches Museum

Deutsches Historisches Museum
Deutsches Historisches Museum
After the museum we decided to go for a boat ride on the Spree. It was a terrific day to do the ride. Nice weather, no clouds, and as the sun is getting ready to go down. It was a nice way to end the day.

Boat Ride on the Spree 
Boat Ride on the Spree 
We caught a double decker city bus back to our Hotel, so we got a great city tour on the way back to our hotel as the city lights were coming one.

We hope you are all doing well.

Stephen and Linda

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday - Another Great Day in Berlin

Sunday 09/25 – Berlin

Today we decided to do a little more exploring. We discovered by looking at the larger transportation map that there is an S-Bahn line that makes a loop or ring around the entire city of Berlin. This line was outside the main part of downtown, going through the bergs that used to surround Berlin, but have now grown into it. Since we were taking the S-Bahn, it was almost always above ground, so we could see where we were going.

We started our journey by going across town, over toward Alexander Platz in former East Berlin. It was a good way to see Berlin in the early morning, and Linda wanted to get some pastry that looks like doughnut hole – we call them AlexanderPlatz Balls, but I think the locals have another name for them. The shop selling Alexander Balls wasn't open, but we did find something almost as good. There was an organized event with thousands of runners. We saw fans waving flags from several different countries. We talked a couple of ladies with violent red hair in the midst of a bunch of Swiss flags into letting us get close to take a couple of pictures. It was an impressive sight, but we couldn't help but think that my little sister could show these folks a thing or two about running!

Swiss race fans

Marathon Runners

After bidding the Swiss good bye, we hiked back to the S-Bhan and continued our journey. We made our way around the ring and got off at Templehof. We walked a couple of blocks to the old airfield that has now been made into a park. The Templehof air terminal is the largest building in all Europe. It was built to demonstrate the superiority of the Third Riech. After the war Templehof was the landing sight for the Candy Bombers, the American and British airplanes that flew the "Aire Bridge" to bring supplies into West Berlin after the routes through East Germany were closed in 1948. According to the signs at the memorial, the Candy Bombers landed every 90 seconds with supplies, and continued to bring in supplies until the routes through East Germany were opened. One of the signs at the park explained how the name Candy Bombers came about. Apparently one of the American crews came up with an idea to tie candy to little parachutes and toss it out the window of the plane as they were coming in for a landing. The idea was a hit and it became a tradition.

Candy Bomber

Templehof Airport
After we finished at Templehof we were into the afternoon. We made our way over to U-Bahn over by where the Turkish Market had been held in Kreuzberg, and rode it up the the main train station, the Hauptbahnhof. From there it was a short journey to our destination, the old Hamburg Bahnhof (train station) which had been turned into a Modern Art Museum – the Museum Fur Gegenwart. It turned out this museum was a bit more new and sophisticated than we were used to. Several of the displays were more than we could process. (Stephen is being diplomatic. Let's just say they stunk. - Linda)

Found the Alexander Platz Balls

Hamburg Bahnhof
There were few displays that we could relate to. There was a large collection of Andy Warhol's work, but I think they put that in mostly to placate the old farts that wander in. There were some others that we could instantly relate to, one looked like an abstract representation of two dogs sniffing each other. The special exhibit was also very good, it was a huge area with a lot of cables and clear plastic balls, some you could even go inside. It was a very interesting display.
Warhol - Paint by Numbers

View of the Bahnhof Display

Horst's Project

There were a few displays that went completely over our heads. One called "A Secret Universe" was a collection of thousands of polaroid photos by Horst Ademelt. Horst took thousands of photos and wrote all sorts of notes in the margins of the polaroids that you would need a magnifying glass to read (A magnifying glass? You would need the Hubble - Linda.) When we looked at the photos, we began to question whether Horst was firing on all eight cylinders. (We suspect that Horst could be a candidate for the tin foil hat society – Linda) Some of his "photos" were from bad packs of film that produced no image, others were of things like spiders on the wall, and aspects of daily life that few of us would choose to document on film. Horst was not a good candidate for nude self portraits (Words fail me - Linda). Let's face it. Nudes? Horst? It just doesn't work. The biography mentions a "stay in the hospital", it does not mention what kind of hospital or if Horst went in of his own volition. We have our own theory on this. We believe that the family must be in complete amazement that Uncle Horst's "project" wound up in the national museum. We certainly were. In the end though, Horst did make me feel a whole lot better about every bad picture I have ever taken. I am wondering if I had saved them and done a few nude self portraits, if I might have an exhibition in a national gallery.

We hope you are doing well.

Here is a link to more pictures onPicasa

Stephen and Linda

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday & Saturday - Berlin

9/24 Saturday Berlin

Since we didn't do a blog last night, we will do a double tonight. Today we rode the bus over to Charlottenburg to see the Schloss (Palace)Charlottenburg. We had a great time walking through the Palace and listening to the history of the various monarchs who lived there and built it. It seemed like every new monarch felt obligated to build a new wing.

Lunch Break at Schloss (Palace) Charlottenburg 
Schloss (Palace) Charlottenburg

After the palace, we went to the Bröhan Museum which was just across the street. It was a great ccollection of art Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects.

Bröhan Museum

Bröhan Museum

Between the palace and the Bröhan we used up most of the day. We rested for a few minutes at the hotel and then went out to check out the department store across the street. It was intereting to see what people are shoping for in different parts of the world. In some departments like household goods, they seem like they are really into color. It was interesting to see that a lot of the things we made in Germany and not China. In fact, we did not find even one item that was made in China. It looks like their manufacturing jobs seemed to survive.

Karstadt Dept. Store - Linda and the other models.
Karstadt Dept. Store - Color

Karstadt Dept. Store - More color

Karstadt Dept. Store - Lots of floors

We hope you are doing well!

More pictures from Saturday on Picasa.

Stephen and Linda

9/23 Friday Berlin

We woke up to good weather again this morning. We decided to start the day off by riding down to the area where the Turkish Market is held in an area of Berlin called Kreuzberg. It is an area that was not as heavily destroyed during the war, so it still has some of the look and feel of what some call the old Berlin. We like this area and since it was sunny it seemed like a great place to look around while we are waiting for things to open up. It was also a good way to find out which day the Market was going to be held. It is always better to ask locally about things like Farmer's Markets. As it turns out it was Market Day. We got down to where Kottbusserdamm crosses the canal just as the merchants were starting to set up their booths. We walked down the street, found a great little coffee house, and within a 1/2 hour were walking up and down the Turkish Market which was in full swing.

Near the Turkish Market

The Turkish Market

The Turkish Market

Berlin near the Turkish Market
Our next stop was the Musical Instruments Museum near the Kulture Forum and Potsdammer Platz. It is a very nice museum that has not only a lot of old and beautifully preserved examples of most familiar musical instruments, but also a lot of variations that have been invented over the years. For many of the instruments they had exampled of how they sounded on the audio guide. For some of the more exotic instruments, I doubt they could find anyone who knew how to play them.


Portable Music
Our final stop for the day was the Kunst Gewerbe Museum (or Kunstgewerbemuseum) also in the Kulture Forum and a short walk from the Musical Instruments museum. The museum contains many of the design objects that you would find in everyday life, furniture, pottery, jewelry, and ornaments. It was fascinating to see how the form of these kinds of objects changed with the design styles over the centuries. We were fascinated by several of the different periods, although some of the coolest things were the modern design.

Can't find this at the local stores
Our favorite dresser

We don't anyone that can drink this much beer!
After coming back to the hotel we did the same thing that we did last night, which was to ride the pubic transportation and look at the city lights. Last night we visited Alexander Platz. Tonoght we went back to Potsdammer Platz from there we walked to the Brandenburg Gate and then down the street Unter den Linden.

It was a great day! We hope you are all doing well.

This is a link to more pictures from Friday on Picasa.

Stephen and Linda.