time keeps on slipping into the future…

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future

Lyrics by Steven Haworth Miller


(Fire in Rome by Hubert Robert, 1778 / MuMa – Musée d’art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre, France)

In 64 AD, Rome burned.
And supposedly the Emporer Nero fiddled with abandoned glee.

Now whether or not there was any fiddling on a fiddle taking place, there was no doubt
some fiddling of the facts taking place.

Once the fire had been contained and finally extinguished,
over two-thirds of the city lay in ruins.

The Emperor blamed the Christians.
That subversive religious “cult.”

However, historians actually believe that Nero himself had the fires set because he wanted
to create a grandiose “golden house” that would be a massive endeavor, a tribute
to his reign, and cover an expansive portion of Rome…
so long story short, Nero needed the space.

As the ever gracious Emperor, he immediately began offering food and aid to the
masses of his people whose lives were now decimated.

How kind.

Fast forward to Berlin, 1933.

The German Chancellory, The Reichstag…the home to the German Parliament, burns.
Hitler blames a known Communist sympathizer, however historians are in agreement,
Hitler had the Reichstag burned.


(Burning of the Reichstag 1933, Berlin, Germany)

The burning was the excuse Hitler needed in order to round up all the Communists,
allowing his Nazi party to finally fill in the gap;
the party could take the majority of seats in parliament, and in turn,
take control of the Nation.

How convenient.

Fast forward to 2020.

There is a pandemic along with a quarentine lockdown.

The Speaker of the House brags, while standing in front of her expensive subzero
refidgerators / freezers, that she is ‘enduring’ the lockdown with top shelf ice cream…
all the while small businesses are told they must shutter their livlihood or else.
Houses of worship are closed.

Civil unrest breaks out.

Cities are burned.

Businesses are destroyed.

Lives and livihoods are left in shambles.

Throw in a contentious election with a deeply divided Nation.

The conservative republicans, in particular those “MAGA” supporters,
those who support the President, are the ones who the progressive left
blame for all the woe…

Is there some sort of pattern here, or am I just imagining things…

Ode to the power of the power hungry…

“Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them,
They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it;
For I will bring calamity upon them,
The year of their punishment,” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:12

who doesn’t love a good mystery, but does it really matter….

“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy”
―Zbigniew Brzeziński

Whenever you’re faced with an explanation of what’s going on in Washington,
the choice between incompetence and conspiracy,
always choose incompetence.

Charles Krauthammer


(vintage wartime child’s lead figure of General Montgomery with a leash around the
Führer’s neck/Julie Cook 2017)

Ever so many years, those various agencies and governmental offices in charge of all
things covert and of all things hidden begin to release aged documents…
declassifying that which was once considered “top secret.”
As somehow time works her magic and renders that which was held sacred
as to now being considered ‘non est dignum’, or no longer of worth.

The most recent and tantalizing declassification has been the Kennedy files.

Ever since that fateful November Dallas day when a young president was gunned down,
mystery and intrigue swirled in the wake of a Nation’s grief.

Did Oswald or didn’t Oswald act alone?
Was it the Soviets?
Khrushchev?
The KGB?
Cheka?
Cuba?
Castro?
The Mob?
Hoover?
The CIA?
Jimmy Hoffa?
The Republicans
The Protestants….

On and on goes the swirling madness of whodunit, what ifs and conspiracy…
all of which plays out in the vivid human imagination.

And just this very day, I caught an interesting little questionable news worthy
tidbit…of another story of declassification and some old CIA dossiers…

It seems that as late as 1955, ten years following the fall of the German Reich,
the CIA was chasing credible leads that Hitler was actually alive and maybe
not so well, living first in Colombia, then moving on the Argentina.

Our history tells us that as the Russians stormed into Berlin, Hitler,
along with his long time companion and most recent bride of one day Eva Braun,
hunkered down in an underground Berlin bunker digesting cyanid capsules with Hitler
then making certain things would end by shooting himself in the head.

According to Wikipedia…
In accordance with Hitler’s prior instructions, that afternoon their remains were carried up the stairs through the bunker’s emergency exit, doused in petrol, and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the bunker. Records in the Soviet archives show that their burnt remains were recovered and interred in successive locations until 1970, when they were again exhumed, cremated, and the ashes scattered.

Accounts differ as to the cause of death; one version stated that he died by poison only and another view claimed he died by a self-inflicted gunshot while biting down on a cyanide capsule. Contemporary historians have rejected these accounts as being either Soviet propaganda or an attempted compromise in order to reconcile the different conclusions.
One eyewitness stated that Hitler’s corpse showed signs of having been shot through the mouth, but this has been proven unlikely. There is also controversy regarding the authenticity of skull and jaw fragments that were recovered.
In 2009, American researchers performed DNA tests on a skull that Soviet officials had long believed to be that of Hitler. The tests and examination revealed that the skull was actually that of a woman less than 40 years old. The recovered jaw fragments were not tested

When the Soviet soldiers advanced on Berlin, they were like a pack of wild
hungry and exhausted dogs—their enthusiasm for having crushed their mortal enemy would border on delirium.

Sections of their soot scrawled graffiti, along with holes made by grenades,
still remain on display in the rebuilt German Reichstag.

I find it hard to imagine that as triumphant as those Soviet soldiers were feeling
as they marched upon that city and finding the remains of Hitler, they would
somehow temper their enthusiasm for a hasty and impromptu burial as if some sort
of common sense suddenly prevailed and they found it important to hide the remains of madness lest any sort of shrine would eventually emerge.

I would think rather that there would be pictures taken, as soldiers would in macabre fashion, parade the now deceased and desecrated remains as some sort of trophy
and confirmation of victory….rather than the tale that the Soviets ferried off the remains, sealing them away.
This as we recall how the Italians who, finally rid of Mussolini, strung his body up
in the Piazzale Loreto for public display and desecration…
why would we expect the Soviet soldiers to show any more restraint?

So without a body, our imaginations have been left to wander and wonder all
these many years…

But what of it?

What does it matter all these many years later knowing that Hitler, who would now
be long dead, had run away?
Should we be surprised that a maniacal lunatic who was already cowering in a fortified bunker, wouldn’t consider escape? Would he be so daring enough of a coward to
have actually committed suicide or would he have run and hid if given the opportunity?

What of a president who was shot to death as our democracy played on…

Does some sort of new hidden truth change our lives or change our fate or the fate
of those gone before us?

The German Reich was over, the war soon ending with two bombs being dropped on Japan…
A president was dead as a vice president was sworn in as an assassin was soon
gunned down himself.

Our lives went forward as history turned another page.

And so man, with his most vivid imagination, races forward….
or races backward depending on who you ask.

Was the landing on the moon real?
What happens when you play a Beatles album in reverse?
Did the Holocaust really happen?
Was Jack the Ripper the Queen’s own physician?
Was it a Hillary body double?

On and on goes the often ludicrous speculations of what was, what could be
and what might have been…

But one thing remains certain…
That there is only one Truth that matters.
One Truth that stands the test of time.
One Truth that speaks to each of us consistently.

As C.S. Lewis again reminds us about the greatest
‘what if’ posed by man when he ponders the actuality that Jesus was who He claimed
to be…that of the Son of God as well as our risen Savior…..

“…He would either be a lunatic —
on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg —
or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God,
or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool,
you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or
you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

I myself choose to fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God…
as His word is truly the only Word I believe as fact…
man may speculate on everything else in his world, but the one Truth remains…
Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior….

“You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I told you that you would die in your sins;
if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 8:23-24

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2017/11/02/hitler-wwii-escape-investigated-by-cia-bombshell-document-reveals.html

tuning in

”What the press has been in the Nineteenth Century, radio will be for the Twentieth Century.”
Joseph Goebbels
Hitler’s Nazi Propaganda Minister


(My grandfather’s mid 1940’s Philco shortwave radio / Julie Cook / 2017)

I’m still in the process of slowly but surely picking through a lifetime of
“stuff” buried in Dad’s basement and attic…
Today my husband and I schlepped down and up two ancient pieces of technology…

One being grandfather’s 1942 shortwave radio…which if the truth be told, Dad had commandeered as a teen.

I can remember when I was little, “tuning in” to very “staticky” pitch rising
and falling foreign voices.
What I was hearing and listening to was both thrilling and frustrating.

Thrilling because I was listening to distant sounding voices in Germany,
Italy, Japan as my imagination carried me around a world that had most recently
seemed detached and strange.
Yet frustrating because I had not a single clue as to what was being said.

This was a time during the height of the Cold War.
Spies, Communists and propaganda was rife as was the threat of nuclear
annihilation…and as an impressionable young girl,
I yearned to be a part of it all…
the radio could be my key….or so I thought.

But my spy days were short lived due in part to to my age as well as my lack
of a language other than my own.
And I’m certain that watching shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well
as Get Smart fueled that youthful imagination of mine.

So today as I brought the radio up from the basement,
the memory of my short lived spy days came flooding back
to the forefront of conciousness…

Once home this afternoon, I did a little research and was intrigued
to read that shortwave radio was still alive and well….

Old school technology seems to be happily having a bit of a resurgence…
Maybe low tech just might have a stronger and longer lasting connection
in the long run of importance…
who knew?!

“Did you know that it is possible for you to reach the entire world with
your message? Are you aware that you can reliably communicate to the
entire world from a single radio station that is equipped with multiple
antennas that target the entire globe and multiple transmitters?
If you live in the United States, this is a secret that has been held
by interest groups for nearly fifty years.
This secret is broadcasting on international world-band shortwave radio.”

“Recently, it has come to our attention that the internet as a whole may soon
become a field unsuitable for spreading the Gospel in any form.
More and more it is seen on the news how the United Nations is
trying to seize control of the internet. Countries that are members
of the United Nations are obliged to acknowledge the United Nations as
a superior authority.
As a result, if the United Nations gains control of the internet,
one could very easily find him or herself without the freedoms
guaranteed in the United States,
facing U.N. World Court in the Hague for ‘hate crimes,’
should someone or some interest group take offense to someone’s webcasts
or web page.
International world-band shortwave broadcasting, however,
is firmly protected in the United States under freedom of speech in the
First Amendment of the Constitution, and is protected from such restriction.
The idea of being brought up by the United Nations to World Court
for hate crimes may seem a bit of a stretch, but then again,
who would ever have thought Canada would officially proclaim the Holy Bible as
‘hate literature?’

“You are now aware of the best kept secret of evangelism.
This candle of truth, in America long hidden under a bushel,
is now placed on a candlestick,
where it illuminates America with the truth of the secret of world-band
international shortwave radio.
Shortwave radio is rapidly returning to America as people seek a source of
news and information that is unfettered by the forces of political correctness
and government policy.
With international shortwave radio rapidly becoming popular in the United States,
now is the best time to begin broadcasting, catching the wave of new listeners on international world-band shortwave.”

International Radio Station WWRB

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim
to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;
and he said with a loud voice,
“Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come;
and worship him who made heaven and earth,
the sea and the fountains of water.”

Revelation 14:6-7

Shaken not deterred

“The fact that the Son of man shall come again is more than a historic prophecy;
it is also a decree that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected”

Alfred Delp

dscn1589
(broken bits within Sligo Abbey / Sligo, Co Sligo, Ireland/ Julie Cook / 2015)

Granted it seems a bit early yet to be looking toward the coming season of Advent…
but let’s try telling that to the giants of Sales and Marketing.

It certainly doesn’t seem to be too early for the department stores,
and all things merchandising, to giddily jump on the early bandwagon of Christmas.
as the mass marketing of Christmas frustratingly now precedes Halloween.

Yet we should remind ourselves that it’s really not Christmas,
not the Christmas that Christians know,
of which the Mass Marketing giants are now greedily rubbing their hands over.

And we must, year after year, work harder and harder to be mindful of such as it
becomes far too easy to get sucked into the maddening holiday hype which is currently
underway in earnest.
So much so that I find myself getting nervous just running in to pick up whatever from say
Target or the grocery store as Christmas is staring me in the face….

With the current state of my life being in a constant state of flux…
so unpredictable, so up in the air and so utterly chaotic these days,
I’m finding that I’ve got to grab at things when I can.
Hence why I jumped in a bit early to the Advent Book I received for Plough Publishing House

When the Time Was Fulfilled
Christmas Mediations by
Eberhard Arnold
Christoph Blumhardt
Alfred Delp.

And it was the entry by Delp, The Shaking Reality of Advent that has resonated so
deeply in my soul.

Maybe it’s because his words, written 72 years ago, seem as if they were penned last night.
Written by anyone with Christian conscious who is observing the tumultuous times of our world.

Maybe it’s because I know that he wrote these words while he was being held by the Nazis
as a presumed traitor of the state.
He had been tortured and beaten while awaiting his trial.
As a state prisoner in Tegel Prison in Berlin, Delp had been arrested on the grounds of a
connection with the final assassination plot against Hitler,
of which he was not involved,
it was customary for those prisoner’s hands to chained and handcuffed at all times,
yet Delp manages to secretly write spiritual reflections of Advent and Christmas while
secretly saying mass for his fellow prisoners.
We have his works to this day because they had been smuggled out of the prison and
shared with his fellow prisoners.

Delp was offered his freedom if he would denounce being a priest…
Yet he refused.
He was hung February 2, 1945 just a few months prior to the fall of Nazi Germany.
He was only 38 years old.

Maybe I am so drawn to Delp’s words because despite his position and his suffering,
he could joyfully look forward to Christ’s re-coming to a very darkened world…
because that’s what Advent translates to… ‘coming’…

So whereas, throughout these trying times of this nation of ours,
the family of Believers may be shaken, but we are not deterred…
Come what may…..

“Many of the things that are happening today would never have happened if we had been
living in that longing, that disquiet of heart which comes when we are faced with God,
and when we look clearly at things as they really are.
If we had done this, God would have withheld his hand from many of the things that now
shake and crush our lives.
We would have come to terms with and judged the limits of our own competence.
But we have lived in a false confidence, in a delusional security;
in our spiritual insanity we really believe we can bring the stars down from heaven
and kindle flames of eternity in the world.
We believe that with our own forces we can avert the dangers and banish the night,
switch off and halt the internal quaking of the universe.
We believe we can harness everything and fit it into an ultimate scheme that will last…

If we want Advent to transform us–our homes and hearts,
and even nations–then the great question for us is whether we will come out
of the convulsions of our time to awaken from sleep.
A waking up must begin somewhere.
It is time to put things back where God intended them.
It is time for each of us to go to work–certain that the Lord will come–
to set our life in God’s order wherever we can.
Where God’s word is heard, he will not cheat us of the truth;
where our life rebels he will reprimand it.
We need people who are moved by the horrific calamities and emerge from them with
the knowledge that those who look to the Lord will be preserved by him,
even if they are hounded from earth”

Father Alfred Delp’s writings on Advent smuggled out of
Tegel Prison, Berlin 1944
Delp was hanged by the Nazi’s in 1945
Excerpt taken from When the Time was Fulfilled

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us.

Acts 17:27

Peril

Grüß Gott
(German for Go with God)

“So it is more useful to watch a man in times of peril,
and in adversity to discern what kind of man he is;
for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart,
and the mask is torn off, reality remains.”

― Titus Lucretius Carus

DSC01409 (1)
(a small section of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2012)

Peril.

We don’t much care for peril or that which is perilous.

Yet our world, our society, our civilization is consumed by peril.
Yet we prefer not to think about this.

We prefer to be distracted.
Distracted by that which is…
bright and colorful,
soft and sweet,
happy and nice…
and for some even dull and dark…
anything to take our minds off of all that is now in peril.

Because who wants to sit around pondering peril and perilous…
when one can look at a shiny baubles, happy videos about kittens and puppies
or lose oneself to reality TV—nothing better than watching the lives of random folks
on television fall apart, or lose massive amounts of weight or dance their socks off….

Our politics are in peril
Our colleges are in peril
Our environment is in peril
Our National Security is in peril
Our athletes are in peril
Our foreign relations are in peril
Our race relations are in peril
Our children are in peril
Our veterans are in peril
The family is in peril
Our healthcare is in peril
Many of our fellow human-being’s state of health is in peril
Christianity is in peril
Judaism is in peril
State Governments are in peril
The US Postal Service stays in peril
The TSA seems to cause peril
Our airports are in peril
Our opinions are in peril
Our Country’s infrastructure is in peril
Our young people are in peril
Our safety is in peril
Much of our drinking water is in peril…
on and on and on and on…
ad infinitum…

You get the picture…

With so much peril all around us, it’s no wonder the hits and likes of
the puppy’s and kitten’s videos are skyrocketing.

I like to read but sadly time is not always my friend allowing me to do so.
I have a book that I purchased a while back but have made a point recently to grab it
when running out the door to rush dad to this or that procedure and doctor.

Church of Spies
The Pope’s secret war against Hitler
by Mark Rielbling

It’s a great book.

Spies, intrigue, narrow escapes, secrets, murders, tortures, codes, double agents
double crossing….
and it’s all true.

Real life high stakes espionage involving all sorts of folks…some folks in the most benign places you’d never expect to find double agents, accomplices, or spies.

I have been troubled over recent current events in this country where folks, mostly younger folks, have taken to labeling various political minded individuals as Hitler.
No one in this country comes anywhere close to possessing any sort of similarities to Adolf Hitler.
It is flippant but even more egregious to label anyone as Hitler.
It insults the 6 million individuals who were murdered in his concentration camps–not counting the countless numbers of soldiers and civilians killed during the course of the war…it cheapens and lessens each one of their tragedies.

But most folks today don’t really understand the total enormity of what Hitler’s ideology, atrocities to mankind, and reign of terror did not only to the people of the greater world almost 80 years ago, but what his deluded visions continue to do to us today…

For most of us today this is all merely fodder for the history books…
a bad blip on the radar of the past.

Maybe our generation who has been taxed, as has been the generations before us, with reminding current as well as future generations of the enormity of all that was in those dark days of World War II are not doing our job.
Maybe reminding others of past perils and of the similarities to today’s perils is simply too much, too challenging—- so therefore ignoring it has become the better option….

Opening the backdoors to incoming troubles.

Words uttered in 1940, the words of Helmuth von Moltke, a German lawyer involved in the resistance, ring as true today as they did all those many years ago…
“totalitarian war destroys spiritual values. One feels that everywhere. If it destroyed material values, the people, whose thinking is mostly limited by their perceptions, would know how and against what to defend themselves. As it is, the inner destruction has no correlative in the perceived world of things, of matter. So they fail to grasp the process and the possible means of countering or or renewing themselves.”

Our spiritual lives are currently in peril…shall our means of countering such be also lost, in turn allowing for a new sinisterness to fill the vacuum?
Extremism and radicalization loves to fill in where the spirituality of mankind has faded…

Those brave men and woman who worked silently and secretly to oppose Hitler and the Nazi regime, those who risked everything in order to stop, who even attempted to assassinate the ensuing madness, had to consider not only removing Hitler but what to do in the void following his removal.
That is, should they have succeeded in that removal.

As they were keenly aware of what could fill the vacuum should Hitler be disposed or eliminated.
For chaos often begets chaos….

Father Ludwig Kaas, an exiled German priest turned abettor for the resistance, noted that “the elimination of the furor Germanicus of Hitlerism will leave particularly among the young and restless generation a spiritual vacuum which will have somehow to be filled if another explosion is to be avoided”
As an alternative order-principle, the Vatican proposed European unification. An economic federation, Kass argue, would prevent anarchy, exacerbated patriotism, aggression and war

(Church of Spies p94)

The similarities of then and today are eerily mirrored.

Rather than Hitlerism, Nazism, the Nationalist Socialist Worker’s Party of then, today it is ISIS, the Islamic State, and an extremist Islamic Caliphate. Many of the young men and even woman who leave families in order to go join this barbaric rising regime are most often the restless of their generation.
They are those who are lost, bored, disenfranchised, angry, even oddly hopeful…

Many of the young terrorists who were responsible for the attacks in Paris and later those in Belgium had been no stranger to the local authorities as they had been versed in petty crime, local drug dealing, unemployed, foreign nationals..lost, living on the fringe of a country not their own.
There have been a few however who had been educated, integrated and accepted, yet felt a calling back to something buried deep within their core…

Has our world allowed this latest void, this vacuum, to expand?
Have we allowed the lessons of the past to pass us by…
Have we allowed the perils of the past to lessen over time?
Are today’s perils only those same past perils that have evolved over time into something
new yet equally perilous….

It took brave individuals willing to risk all they had to eliminate the perils of their time
to ensure the safety and wellbeing for us…the future generations they didn’t know.
But it was for those future generations that they did not know, but believed to be worth fighting for…

Have we forgotten that there are further generations worth fighting for?

Maybe we need to think about, taking a closer look at this perilous world of ours, and consider what we need to do in order to make things less perilous…..for not only ourselves but for our future hope…

Grüß Gott

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:10-11

Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

DSC01159
(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

CIMG0122
(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0157
(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0264
(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0493
(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0541
( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

DSC00306
(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00478
(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00505
(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00643
(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00639
(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC00720
(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01188
St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01191
(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01368
(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01375
(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01402
(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01461
(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01477
Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

What will you leave behind

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
Jeremiah 23:3

DSC01384
(the story of a piece of wood found in a cross cut knot / Julie Cook / 2015)

Recently I read a story on the BBC website about an ominous discovery. It was a story about finding, along with the subsequent necessity of diffusing, an undetonated bomb from WWII. The bomb precipitated the largest post war evacuation ever in the history of Cologne, Germany.

As is often the case, a construction company preparing a site for some new underground pipe made the frightening discovery. The unexploded 1 ton bomb was buried 16 feet below the surface.

20,000 city residents, including those from an elderly care facility along with the Zoo, several schools and surrounding businesses were all evacuated in Cologne yesterday as the Rhine River was closed to commerce as was the air space over the city as a bomb squad team was dispersed to safely unarm the bomb.

According to the German newspaper Die Spiegel it is estimated that hundreds of tons of bombs are discovered yearly littered throughout Europe, with the highest percentage being found in Germany–Thousands of undetonated bombs are either buried underground or lying on the bottom of ocean floors–from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Underneath the lives of 21st century modern-day Germans—under homes, major thoroughfares, schools, churches, synagogues, shopping centers, business. . .all unsuspecting that there is a dark reminder which lies hidden just below their now busy and peaceful lives.

Several times throughout any given year, global news is littered with stories of farmers, fishermen as well as construction crews who inadvertently make such grim and frighting discoveries. Be it the fishermen off the coast of Denmark dragging their nets to awaiting underwater remnants, to construction crews in Germany, Poland, England, Amsterdam and Russia who accidentally uncover an all too explosive past to the farmers in France and Belgium who simply labor to plant their fields which are rife with a deadly debris—all live bombs that were dropped 70 years ago which still pose a very real and dangerous threat today.

In 2014 a man operating a back hoe in the town of Euskirchen near Bonn was killed when he accidentally hit a buried bomb, triggering the deadly explosion. Eight others were injured

In 2011, 6000 citizens on the outskirts of Paris were evacuated from their neighborhood when a 1000 pound unexploded RAF bomb was discovered by a construction crew.

In 2012 thousands of citizens were evacuated in Munich when the discovery of an undetonated 550 pound bomb was found laying buried beneath a nightclub made famous in the 1970’s by the British Rock Group, the Rolling Stones.

Yet it is not only Germany or her sister countries of Europe or Russia which are sitting on top of potential catastrophes. . .
Millions of buried land-mines litter the Balkan region which spans 11 countries. In recent years, these countries have witnessed heavy and devastating flooding. . . flooding which has in turn unearthed thousands of undetonated deadly land-mines. Long buried reminders from the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

Last year the British news agency The Telegraph ran an article about how scientists from both France and Croatia have been working together on enlisting “sniffer bees” to help “sniff” out explosives. Scientists discovered that the bees olfactory sense is on par with that of dogs and that the bees can be trained to keenly sniff out TNT. Bomb experts hope to release the bees in the fields while following their movement as they “hone” in on buried explosives.

Southeast Asia is also rife with deadly reminders of its tumultuous past as a fare share of its forgotten nightmares, those thousands of undetonated buried bombs and land-mines, all of which now litter the fields, streams and cities from Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia to Korea and even to Japan.

And then there is the Middle East. . .Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Iran. . .

The global list of the dark reminders of conflicts, police actions, as well as world wars, litter the world like a spilled bowl of popcorn.

The mainland of the United States has been left relatively unscathed when it comes to things such as land-mines and buried undetonated bombs. The US is fortunate in that the sorts of discovery of war paraphernalia is from wars fought long past. . . Revolutionary, Indian, Spanish and Civil Wars—all long before modern warfare’s use of live ammunition and bombs.
Only the wayward musket ball, arrowhead, spear, sword or cannon ball. . .

Yet there are those rare times that a country is privy to more shining historical moments such when a farmer, tending a lone field somewhere in the UK, or an errant treasure hunter detects, then digs up, a hoard of Roman coins or battle gear. There was even the recent story of the lost remains of a once dubious king, King Richard III, being unearthed from underneath a parking lot in Leicester.

These are the stories of what lurks beneath our feet. . .

Yet the question remains. . .
What of future generations?
What shall they be unearthing that once belonged to us. . .
What will our discarded, throwaway, perhaps deadly legacy be. . .
What of the dead zones such of Chernobyl or Fukushima?
What of our own Love Canal and Three Mile Island?
What of the mountains of discarded toxic trash littering Paraguay and Argentina?
Much of which has been shipped from the US to be dumped in impoverished countries.
That whole “not in my backyard” mentality.
It is the poisonous remains of our love affair with the never ending growth of technology and electronics. . .all full of lead, mercury,cadmium, dioxin. . .
Thrown out and shipped out. . .as in. . .out of sight, out of mind. . .

Hidden dark reminders of our fractious as well as industrial past, resting unsuspected and forgotten. . .until a child playing in a field finds a shiny piece of metal sticking up out of the ground and makes the fatal mistake of pulling it out. . .

The question remains, what will future generations unearth that once belonged to us and what will be the consensus?

The Spoils of War

“This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”
Neville Chamberlain

DSC01395

The above image is that of the former allied checkpoint in Berlin, one of three dividing check points, separating East from West or West form East, depending on your luck or lack of— It is the infamous Check Point Charlie. This is the view seen as one would transition from the free American sector to the Soviet sector of the east. On the opposite side of the placard of the young Soviet Soldier is an image of his same American counterpart greeting those traveling to the free West. Only diplomats or “tourists” with permission were allowed to travel to and fro—not so for Germans.

When Berlin fell to the Soviets in 1945, one third of the city had been destroyed due to massive bombing blitz. What remained of the once vibrant cultural city was divided into 4 sectors, sliced like a pie, remnants of a vicious war all going to the Soviets and the 3 major allies; the United States, the United Kingdom and the French. Thus came the deadly spawn of the second World War– the surreal existence known as The Cold War.

The Reichstag, the house of German government dating from 1871 which, in 1933, was a most likely ominous victim of Nazi lies and propaganda, mysteriously burned. The fire ushered in the insidious vacuum known as the Third Reich. But by 1945, as the Soviets powered their way into Berlin, the Reichstag was pummeled once again. Following was a time of neglect and ruin. By the reunification of 1990, the once proud piece of Prussian glory was fully restored, once again being the seat of German Government. Today visitors may view the remaining inflicted death wounds as the bullet holes, grenade holes, and charred remains are still visible–solemn reminders of a wicked past.

DSC01459

DSC01442

From a window from within the Reichstag one can look out upon the River Spree which flows placidly through Berlin. Along the bank of the Spree is a painfully simple memorial dedicated to the 13 lives lost over the course of approximately 5 years as eastern Berliners attempted swimming to the free West. Tragically each attempt to swim across the expansive river was met with the resistance of a machine gun. Each individual cross represents those who were gunned down by East German Forces as they attempted to swim to freedom.

DSC01453

Visitors today to a sleek modern Berlin may still see large sections of the remaining visible division of oppression. . .the infamous Wall which separated freedom of democracy from the crushing regime of totalitarianism.

DSC01375

DSC01368

In March I wrote a lengthy post regrading my visit last Fall to Berlin entitled Taxi Drivers, The Wall and Hope
Today’s post’s intention, however, is not meant to recapture the moments of a trip or to showcase the sights of a now modern city which dominates the European Union, as it is home to the world’s most powerful woman, but rather I’ve chosen to use Berlin as but one small example reminding us on this Veteran’s day, this Armistice day, this Remembrance Day that we must be ever mindful that the cost of our freedom has been and continues to be exceedingly high.

Today’s post could very well feature cities throughout the world such as Beirut, Phnom Penh, Dresden, London, Sarajevo, Budapest, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima… No matter the global location the results are always the same with the sad ending being that at the end of the remains of the day, following any war, it is always messy and terribly convoluted. There will always be fallout and nasty repercussions. All of which usually falls upon our military personnel to pick up the pieces the governmental leaders picked apart.

Theirs is the thankless glamorously lacking task of ensuring peace and safety as they are always the ones left to offer aid in the cleaning and rebuilding. They have been scorned, belittled, maligned, resented, shot, wounded, maimed, blown apart, killed and tragically, often, forgotten. And yet they continue doing their job(s).

As buildings, monuments and lands become known simply as the spoils of war, the easy pitiful pickings and crumbs which are greedily gobbled up by the victor, our servicemen and woman are often sadly the by-products of those spoils.

It is my hope that we, those of us who enjoy the forgotten work and sacrifices made on our behalf by the countless men and woman defending the ideals of freedom and democracy, can work to maintain an awareness never allowing any of our servicemen and woman to be a part of those crumbs, those spoils as it were.

Each day service men and woman are returning home from such far flung places such as Afghanistan and Iraq with not only physical scars and wounds of conflict, but most often, sadly, they return with the unseen aftermath, the mental and emotional anguish and damage that takes such a tragic toll–not merely on the warrior but also of his or her family and friends. Tragically it is those types of wounds, the unseen enemy that remains behind, that, we in the general populace, prefer to ignore as those wounds are not readily “fixable”.

Soldiers came home that way from both World Wars, from Korea, from Vietnam and now they come home broken and damaged from Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet we do little to nothing in the way of support, aid, or help. We live our daily lives with little to no regard to the fact that a conflict of “war” has been going on now in this country for the past 10 years. There is no consolidated war front back home, no ration books, no victory gardens, no nationwide civilian drive to promote the servicemen / woman and their families. No all out show of sacrifice and support from the nation left behind known as the “home front”

Times have certainly changed.
It seems it is now left to the wives, mothers, fathers and children of our servicemen and woman to provide the sweeping show of support that often goes unnoticed by the general population–that is until a day such as today, Veterans Day, rolls around. Then we all take pause to reflect, yet by Tuesday we are back to normal—that is for everyone but the solider and his or her family.

Freedom is never free.
May we not take it for granted on this Veteran’s day, or any other day. . .

I’m including a couple of links that may offer the casual reader of this post a place to begin if the desire to do more than reflect stirs within ones thoughts—-

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
http://troopssupport.com
http://www.militarysupportgroups.org
http://www.military.com/spouse/military-life/military-resources/how-to-support-our-troops.html
http://www.supportourtroops.org

What’s in a door? Utilitarian necessity or art? I say both.

DSC01354

“Strange – is it not? That of the myriads who Before us passed the door of Darkness through, Not one returns to tell us of the road Which to discover we must travel too”
Horace

Over the weekend I had another blgoger visit my “site” and reblog the post on “Thank the Door Openers.” I, of course, am humbled and honored whenever anyone visits my posts, likes my posts, and especially wishes to reblog something I have posted. As I am a relative new baby to this blogging business, having just started at the end of February, I am not the most savvy when it comes to blogging—the procedures, the etiquette, the whole ropes of the blogging world. I just try to do my thing, and hopefully bring some sort of knowledge, pleasure, hope, happiness to anyone out there who may stumble across my little blog.

I also tend to be a bit naive when it comes to people, always just expecting people to be more like myself and mostly wanting to do the right things, especially by other people. So I’m assuming (there I go again) that reblogging is a good thing. The visiting blog site is all about “doors.” I’ve showcased a couple of my daily quotes with some pictures of doors I’ve taken on various adventures. The blog, which visited my little blog, is: legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
And I must say that there are some very beautiful pictures of doors, from all over the globe, on this blog.

When I first saw the name of the blog site, the word whore in the title kind of threw me, as the word has very negative connotations in my world. Growing up the word whore was used to describe a pretty low individual, mostly female, who just threw away, in most cases, one’s body for sex to and with everyone and anyone indiscriminately—it was an individual who possessed little to no self esteem, and as a younger person, the word, to me was just really bad.

As a lifetime high school educator, I have learned that certain words that were once considered negative and bad to, say, my generation, are used very freely and loosely today by this generation. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing and I could write an entire paper on this little topic but that is not my intent today. I just really want to talk about doors.

So back to my being humbled by someone wanting to reblog my posting on a door…which got me thinking…. You may have seen my post “Never be deterred by the closing of a door” with the images of the Parisian doorknobs…I explained in that post how, on a trip to Paris, I had become captivated by the myriad of beautiful and old doorknobs, I was suddenly noticing, gracing the doors to home and shops all over the city of Paris.

Being a history nut, plus spending my life as a visual arts teacher, I saw the knobs as tangible links to Pairs, her ancient stories, as well as very small intimate pieces of her beautiful art…art that was not showcased or housed in a museum but actually free for everyone to see, touch and enjoy—but a type of art that most people simply walked passed without giving a second glance or thought.

I must confess that it was, however, on an earlier trip to Italy, that my visual interest to such things as doorknobs and doors was actually piqued. I began to understand the importance and history, as well as for the storytelling, which was behind so much of the aging architecture in these ancient European cities and towns. Maybe I feel this way because I am an American who has grown up with urban sprawl mentality– the concept of if it is old tear it down and make way for new, modern and sleek, because we know new is much better than anything old…I am sad to say….and that kind of thinking is indeed oh so wrong, but there I go digressing again.

CIMG0520

CIMG0518

Our American story is the story of a baby compared to so much of the rest of the world. In the South, life dates to the Civil War, and in some spots, even to the Revolutionary War. Up North, things date to Pilgrims—out West it’s all about cowboys and gold rushes…none of this Mozart slept here, Galileo taught here, Peter and Paul were imprisoned here, Hadrian built this wall, etc, ad infinitim.

So what someone may see as a utilitarian object such as a knob, a door—I see as art, as beauty as history. On the latest trip, the great retirement adventure, I wanted to look at things other than knobs—windows perhaps. I had really liked windows in Italy. My future daughter-n-law told me that Prague was known for having beautiful doors…. maybe it was to be doors.

Once we landed in Zurich and began the acclimation to our new world, I was finding that it was to be doors after all. I began snapping pictures, much to the consternation of my traveling buds…. “Wait, stop here,” “no, wait, here, this is better,” …but soon my weary companions were eager partners in crime as they canvassed our jaunts picking out and choosing the next “star.”

DSC00510

By journey’s end, almost 3 weeks worth of adventure, I probably had 150 shots of doors alone, not to mention my endless pictures of the sites and visions from our overall adventure. The doors are all from Zurich, Switzerland, Innsbruck, Austria, Salzburg, Austria, Vienna, Austria, Prague, the Czech Republic and Berlin, Germany.

DSC01303

There are pictures of doors from the oldest Synagogue in The Czech Republic, to those of historic individuals such as the door to Kepler’s home in Prague, Mozart’s home in Salzburg, Schubert’s humble childhood home in Vienna. There are the ancient doors to mighty Cathedrals and welcoming churches, doors to wealthy homes as well as to humble homes. There are doors to offices, banks, businesses and schools as well as for back alley service doors.

DSC01172

Doors to hotels, bathrooms, restaurants, doors to castles…some of the doors are well worn with age, some appear new. Some of the doors are metal; some are elaborate and decorated with intricate carvings, some simple and plain. Some of the doors have windows; others are just ancient slabs of heavy wood. There is even the door to Angela Merkel’s office at the German Chancellery, which is no different form all of the other doors in the Chancellery—a simple blue door.

DSC01458

I suppose doors may be seen in one of two ways—they are either doors that invite or doors that repel. They are perceived as either shut and forbidding, or open and welcoming. I, for one, have never looked at a door as something that cannot be opened—at least, eventually opened—as in, come back later during operating hours, or, knock or ring the bell and someone will let you in.
Perhaps it’s all a matter of positive and negative. The proverbial glass that is half full or half empty. I just have never taken the time to think that a shut door necessarily means “no, not ever.”

DSC01168

There are reasons, sadly, to lock and bolt doors—as in “don’t come in and rob me, hurt me, steal from me, harm me”—Churches in the big cities, here in the States, use to always keep doors open—24/7. Even now, in the smaller towns, sadly, churches must lock their doors. What once was open for those indeed of some quiet time lost in prayer is now locked tight from those who wish to take that which is not theirs—or those who wish to harm the alone, the single, the lonely. The sad list goes on and on.

But to me, however, a door, the knobs of a door, are all pieces of something beautiful. They are artistic, especially the older ones, the ones not usually found gracing the entrances here in the US. That’s not to say we don’t have pretty doors—we do, it’s just that they are not a prevalent as they are “across the pond.” If we want an old door, we usually have to go out to an antique store in order to buy one—on the other hand, across the pond, their doors have been up for quite some time—a couple of centuries at best.

May you view doors not as mere barriers but rather as stories—stories old as well as new. May you view doors as the handiwork of artisans and carpenters. May you view doors not as stopping points but as beginnings. There are possibilities behind every closed door, the possibilities begin when you knock and turn the knob—and don’t worry if it’s locked—just come back during operating hours.

DSC00350

I’m including a few of my pictures with this post to give you some idea as to the type of doors found on an adventure. I’m also including a couple of the shots of the door book I put together—similar to the book of doorknobs….
Enjoy one person’s take on the utilitarian…

DSC00371

DSC01201DSC01202DSC01203DSC01204

…and to anyone who sees “their” door here…I am sorry if you are upset. I am not making any money from your door–I just thought it beautiful and wanted to share it with those who just pass by it every day without stopping to see beautiful “art.”

Taxi drivers, The Wall, and Hope

I can’t leave Berlin quite yet without relaying one last tid bit to you.  Remember we were in Berlin for really only one full day.  Remember I am a sponge—I’ve got to soak it all in as quickly as I can!  On this one and only day in Berlin, I had to see and do as much as I could, without exhausting my cohorts.  Hummm…

I had  previously made reservations at the Reichstag.  Our appointment was for 11:30. The Reichstag  was/is an absolutely cool thing, free admission, ( must register on-line prior to visit), as well as extremely informative but that will have to wait to another day—Remember, we’re soaking up…..

We had a great breakfast at our Hotel (Hotel H10 Berlin Ku’damm—great place, I shan’t get into the review here—see Trip Advisor).  After eating, we headed to the front desk to ask for a taxi and if they had any recommendations for, say, a driver we could hire to help with a bit of an impromptu tour (we had that in Vienna—SUPER, but I digress…) .

The lady at the front desk didn’t seem to have anything off the top of her head so we just asked for a taxi.  When the taxi arrived the three of us clamored in the cab all talking at once.  I’m certain the driver was already regretting picking up the three very American touristy women.  We try to blend in, being as inconspicuous as possible, but sometimes our accents give us away. (Hi Ya’ll). We inquire as whether or not he would consider, say, driving us around a bit, maybe taking us to see some of the highlights before our designated time to be at the Reichstag.  “Nein!”

Boy, that was fast.  Well okay then, whatever…

As we start driving we attempt making small talk (say what you will about Americans who travel but I believe in kindness—no matter where I may be).  And after just a few miles of warming up to these 3 chatty women, the driver turns off his meter and tells us he will take us the “see the sights”.  Ecstatic we assure him we will pay him his fare and then some.

Now mind you this is a quick little jaunt as our window of opportunity was limited.  The first stop—The Wall!

Image

Now let me back up.  Remember how I told you in a previous post that I was a bit apprehensive about a trip to Berlin?  Well, I think in part, that all goes back to the fact that I am a tail end baby boomer.  Early on in elementary school, I was well aware of an East and a West.  The West was good, like us…the East was bad, not like us.    We lived with the very real threat of nuclear annihilation (same as today with, say, Iran or North Korea but people today seem to be a bit jaded or desensitized to the whole blowing up sort of scenario—but I digress).  That whole Bay of Pigs ordeal was still fresh in everyone’s minds.  Khrushchev had bammed his shoes on the podium at the UN and we all knew the Soviets were not our friends.  Those very people of the East.

I can still recall the very real fearful thoughts I would find myself having at school—always during lunch, as I would see that dreadful Fallout shelter symbol hung on our cafeteria wall.  Where would we hide when they bombed us?  Would they make us get up in those closets under the stage where they normally stored the cafeteria tables??  Where was all the food and water we would need?  But then my small mind would assure my nerves that it didn’t matter because at the first sound of any alarm I was running the mile home to be with my mother because she would be home alone, and I couldn’t let her be home alone during a nuclear bomb.  Made perfect sense to my 7-year-old self.  Hence the grown up apprehension…

And then came the better memories.  The time of triumph…. 1987

Remembering President Reagan’s immortal statement to Mr. Gorbachev “to tear down this wall” and having witnessed a world away, that joyful moment for not only the German people but also for the World community as a whole– was monumental.

I was thinking back about all of that as our driver whisked us past Check Point Charlie.  “Wow!  Need a picture!” ……  Next he’s speeding down a street pointing out on our left the new sports facility/Arena—it was however what was to our right that had my attention.  There is certainly no mistaking what it is.   For several miles, we drive past it.  “It” is The Wall.  Long sections of concrete that abruptly stop, suddenly opening up to green space and just as quickly, more concrete—and so it goes.  A graffitied, spraypainted canvas of cement wall—to me, it is but a wonder.

Gone are the guards, the no mans land in between the two sections separating West and East.  The towers of machine guns, the miles of barbed wire, all gone.  Gone is the jump from normal color to monochromatic grays when leaving the West while traveling to the East.  Brilliant color is now available to all Germans as is evident in Berlin.

Here I am and here “it” is— now, for me to finally see… “The Wall”.   I’m actually here in person!!!  This is truly one of the most moving experiences of my life… I can vividly recall watching the news as distraught frantic families were shown separated by a cement wall that represented so much more than a mere structure on the landscape.  It was both sinister and infamous.

The area now is almost “park” like with pretty green grass, a beautiful meandering river —a river, mind you, that witnessed many lives taken in a moment of an attempted escape to freedom. The remnants of cement barriers now painted, graffited and decorated with vibrant colors and statements in all sorts of languages. 
I think it, The Wall, almost pretty.  It is a must see for all generations—a part of that “we need to be reminded of our not so nice past” in order to keep our future bright and always hopeful.

Image

WOW….. But as it was a very, chilly, blustery Autumn day, the picture taking was short lived, as we needed to hop back in the taxi and head on over to the Brandenburg Gate along with the Reichstag.

We tell our driver of how well Germany is perceived in the US.   But he tells us not so fast.  It may sound as if Germany is financially sound and doing so much better than the rest of Europe but that is not necessarily so.  He tells us of how he had worked in one of the major car manufacturing plants for 12 years.  Due to the poor financial times, it was closed and now he must drive a taxi in order to take care of his family.

It is at this point that he pulls out a beautiful picture of his wife and son.  His wife is expecting their second child soon.  He asks where we traveled from prior to Germany.  We tell him Prague, starting out in Switzerland and then Austria.  “Ah Switzerland and Austria, beautiful countries no?  But very expensive”— He shares a story.  His wife’s family, from Turkey, (they are Muslims) was gathering for a family get-together in Vienna.  They had all gone out for coffee— “just coffee, that was all we had and the bill was over 100€, do you know how much money that is for my small family now”.  That got us thinking.

He then asked when we had to be at the airport the following day.  We explained that our flight was around 1PM and we thought to leave the hotel around 10:30.  He then surprised us by saying that he would come get us.  We explained that we had a great deal of luggage (3 ladies, 3 weeks, do the math) so he opted to send a friend who had a larger cab.  We were deeply touched.

As we reached our departing destination we quickly gathered up 100€—thanking him for the tour, his time, his company and hoped he could use the money for his soon to be new baby.  He was noticeably moved.

The following day when it came time to depart Berlin, we made our way to the front desk for check out.  The woman at the desk asked if she could call us a cab.  She was not looking up.  We explained that our taxi driver from the previous day had promised to send a cab for us.  She suddenly stopped what she was writing and looked up at me, eyebrows raised.  In that rather sarcastic questioning way one does when one finds something being said quite incredulous, she slowly asks—“your taxi driver from yesterday said he would send someone for you here today?  She said it very slowly, word for word, as if I was suddenly hard of hearing.  Yes, that would be correct.  “Alright” she says with a bit of a sly smile, “Madam we will call you a taxi if this driver does not show up. It will not take long for another, do not worry.”  “Oh I’m not worried.  Thank you” I say with a smile and I make my way to the couch to wait.

A few minutes pass when a young man walks into the lobby and makes his way to the front desk.  I know immediately whom he seeks.  “I am looking for the Cook party,” he inquires in German.  The woman at the desk is almost dumbfounded.  We hop up and schlep all of our bags to his cab as he tries to help us.  As soon as we’re all loaded up we take off for the brief trek to the Tegal airport.  There is an incoming call. The caller is speaking German but I know exactly who it is and what he asks.  The driver, in broken English, tells us the call is for us.  It is our friend.  He tells us he is so glad his friend could be of service and that he wishes us well.  We are visibly moved.

Such a special send off.

We all seem to focus so much on what makes all of us different, forgetting what it is that truly makes us all more alike.  That is why I think travel is so important—makes such a big and diverse world a bit smaller and more familiar.  I will remember Berlin for so many things, but most of all, I will remember Berlin for the small gesture of kindness that was offered to 3 American visitors.

Image