Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Off to home

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

I am so sad to leave, but excited to see my family. We boarded a plane to Munich, the rushed to make our connection to Dulles. I found the super shuttle, an hour and a half later got to union station. I switched my train to an earlier one. The train needed to replace the engine, so we were 45 minutes late. I arrived at Penn Station, caught a cab to the airport parking lot and retrieved the car. 1 hour later I was safe at home. I cracked a beer and turned on house hunters international, Mongolia. Bob and Ceci will be home around 4am...

Last Day Berlin

Well,it flew by and I can not believe it is almost over. Today we traveled to have round table with the Commissioner of the District of Lichtenburg on issues if immigration and migration. We learned that the issues surrounding this topic are interwoven with the forced relocation during the GDR time. So in essence the immigrants came from communist nations. Surprisingly, North Vietnam. The commissioner was an inspiration for her philanthropy and devotion to young people and helping them succeed.

We then traveled by train to Potsdam for a bike tour. The bikes were even different and I was given one much to large for me, so I took a tumble. After a new bike we had a great bike tour. The only problem was the rain, in fact pouring rain. The bicycle tour to Schloss Cecilienhof and Sanssouci, and ended in Potsdam Altstadt (old city). Potsdam had the status Windsor has in England. It was the residence of the Prussian kings, and thus the German Emperors, until 1918. Around the city there are the parks and palaces of Sanssouci, the German rivals of Versailles. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-World War II conference between the victorious Allies, was held at another palace in the area, the Cecilienhof. Schloss Cecilienhof was the last palace to be built by the Hohenzollern family. Wow! I walked in the footsteps of history. You will see some images here from the conference as it is preserved today.

Our last dinner, a cruise on the river Spree was a bust. The restaurant cancelled to reservation without calling, I know crazy. And the boat had left. We ate there, had some free appetizers and sparkling wine, but not the same. Thank goodness I was sitting under a canopy as the Sky opened up. The meal was great, but bitter sweet.

Berlin Day 3

A day I will never forget. Today we traveled to Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen
Guided tour of the Memorial. The Memorial at the site of the Concentration Camp, formerly the GDR’s “Sachsenhausen National Memorial”, was redeveloped in 1990. The Concentration Camp itself was taken over by the Soviet Army in 1945 and was used as a special camp for political prisoners.The SS established the Sachsenhausen concentration camp as the principal concentration camp for the Berlin area. Located near Oranienburg, north of Berlin, the Sachsenhausen camp opened on July 12, 1936, when the SS transferred 50 prisoners from the Esterwegen concentration camp to begin construction of the camp.

In the early stage of the camp's existence the SS and police incarcerated mainly political opponents and real or perceived criminal offenders in Sachsenhausen. By the end of 1936, the camp held 1,600 prisoners. Between 1936 and 1945, however, Sachsenhausen also held Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, "asocials" (among these prisoners were Roma and Sinti), and, later, Soviet civilians. Words can not express the emotion one feels when you are experiencing a memorial to such horror. Needless to say I am not the same, nor will my teaching be.

Given the rain, we had to postpone our bike tour to Potsdam and had the afternoon to explore the museums of Berlin. We decided on the Pergamon Museum. The idea for the new museum came about in 1907 and completion took 20 years - from 1910 to 1930. It opened during one of Germany's most turbulent periods and was subsequently largely destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during World War II.

Fortunately, many of the pieces had been stored elsewhere for safe keeping and a number of the museum's larger pieces were "walled in" for protection. In 1945, a portion of the original collection was taken to Russia and is still housed in the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museums there. Many items were returned in the late 1950s but, due to Russian restitution laws, some still remain in those two museums.

The Pergamon Museum is divided into three distinct sections: the Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, Pergamon Altar, and the Near East Museum. We saw several large-scale pieces, like the Pergamon Altar (180-160 B.C.), which is so huge that it requires an entire room. Constructed in Pergamon, Asia Minor, as an altar to Zeus, the gigantic structure is the centerpiece of the museum. We also saw the magnificent Roman gate which led to the market of Miletus, also in Asia Minor.

The Near East Museum is one of the largest and finest collections of antiquities from ancient Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the fa├žade of the throne hall of King Nebuchadnezzar. There is also a model of the Tower of Babel in the Babylonian Hall.

The Islamic Art Museum, focused mainly on the Middle East including Egypt and Persia, features art from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries. Guests can view architectural decorations, ceramics, jewelry, metalwork, wood carvings, textiles, and calligraphic works.

Berlin Day 2

Today we took a walking tour of Berlin. we viewed the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe.

Today was a jam packed day full of exciting ideas to bring into our classroom. The day began with a quick 3 minute walk to the Network for Democracy and Courage. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe designed by American architect Peter Eisenman, was dedicated on May 10 2005 in central Berlin. The memorial is located very close to the Brandenburg Gate, An underground information center at the eastern side of the field houses an information center and an exhibition about the Holocaust which includes records from the Yad Vashem database about 3.5 millions of the Jews that were killed in the Holocaust.

The history of the memorial dates back to 1988 when the publisher Lea Rosh took the initiative to build a Holocaust-memorial in Berlin. A competition was made in 1994 but the winning proposal was not well received by the German Government, which however decided to continue the work by initiating a second contest in 1997. In 1999 the jury decided to give the commission to architect Peter Eisenman and in 2003 the building started. I have to say the out side structure is impressive. with concrete columns varying fron 2 feet to 12 feet in height. the ground varies in height as well and there are no clean lines, everything is at an angle.

An interesting note it stands at the foot of the famed hotel, where Michael Jackson displayed his child over the balcony. Weird! We then traveled to the Brandenburg gate. I know what I am doing for my lesson now!Here is a preview: The use of political systems around the world has had significant impacts on various societies and cultures around the world. The affects of developing political systems have been felt not only by single countries, but by the entire world as well. Systems of government, which include but are not limited to direct democracy, communism, absolute monarchies, fascism, and theocracy, have influenced the course of world history since the first political systems were first created several thousand years ago. As these political systems have developed and evolved over time, so have the groups of people who have been governed by them. As a result, political systems have drastically changed over the course of human history and have had both positive and negative outcomes for both individual nations and the world as well. The Brandenburg Gate and the role this historical place plays in history has been witness to many, if not all of these political systems. The gate is a German symbol of both division and unification. It is a former city gate, the only remaining one of several that was used as a formal entryway into Berlin in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally constructed in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II and designed by Karl Gotthard Langhans. Throughout this unit, we plan to review several unique political systems, the characteristics of each system of government, how each has changed over time, and the impacts that each political system has had on specific countries and the world as well.

We then had lunch at the invitation of the Directorate-General for Culture and Communication. Great food and conversation. We then moved quickly past the memorial to the night of broken glass and were off to tour the Reichstag building (seat of the German Parliament) with information about the German parliamentary system.
The German Bundestag has convened in the Reichstag building since 1999. It was built in the late 19th century and was the first German parliament to be built. It has had a interesting history since then. The coolest part for me was the Russian graffiti that has been preserved on the wall after the fall of Berlin. Interesting to historians, and me, is that it is not derogatory it simply has manes ,dates, and home towns of the soldiers.

In the evening we were treated to a string concert featuring Vivaldi four seasons.

Off to Berlin

Trains, Trains, Trains! We traveled with our same guides Garrett, and Isha to Berlin by train. We had a nice cozy separate cabin and laughed the whole way there. I know this will surprise everyone given my soft spoken manner, but we were asked to quiet down! We were apparently having too much fun, but a nice east German man named Wolf joined us and regaled us with tales of German past.

We arrived in Berlin, got a quick 10 minutes to freshen up and we were off for an amazing tour of Former East and West Berlin. We saw a portion of the wall still standing, with incredible murals. We saw the river that children would play near and god forbid they went in, as it was part of the death zone, meaning they could be shot. We saw memorials to the wall, those murdered in the death zone and the proximity to the residential dwellings. People could literally jump from their windows in east Berlin to find sanctuary in West Berlin. Although the reality is they were shot.

We drove past the former checkpoint Charlie and were off to visit a new concept in banking at the Duetsche Bank. Very cool banking concepts with themed rooms, a cafe, bar, and shopping. They even had a nursery for the children. All I get at my bank is a dum dum.

We then experienced an interesting Turkish street market that was crowded and buggy. Not a highlight for me, but we did stumble across more tripping stones. We were tired and hungry and we were off to a loud (think crying babies) pizza place for dinner. The salad came out with vegetables whole, we needed to cut an toss our salads. But the pizza was good and so was the beer.

Dresden Day 3

Wow! Today began with short 3 minute walk to the The Netzwerk für Demokratie und Courage - NDC, Think teaching tolerance, or educators for social responsibility. They are a non-profit, non-governmental organization in Germany. The organization’s main field of activity are one-day seminars carried out at schools and vocational training centers. Issues addressed in these seminars include a critical interaction with problems like prejudices, racism and intolerance. The seminars entitled “Show courage
for democracy” encourage young people to democratically engage in their communities and speak up when encountering racist ideologies and other forms of discrimination. Based on the approach “youth for youth”, the seminars are carried out by young, specially trained volunteers. Within the past 10 years, the NDC has spread successfully to different areas of Germany. Per year an average of 1.000 seminars are carried out at schools based on the active engagement of more than 500 active volunteers. The organization closely cooperates with partners in France and Belgium. We discussed their program and participated in one of their lessons. I am using it to begin my year in African Asian studies.

We then traveled by metro to the The Saxon Ministry for Education, Cultural Affairs and Sport is responsible for education and training. The Ministry is Saxony’s supreme schools supervisory authority. The subject was the education system in Saxony, developments in the field of bilingual education. Interesting to note that the supervisory system is very different given the status of teachers. One evaluation every 5 years! They surprised us with delicious sandwiches and juices.

We the traveled to our most unusual visit yet. Dresden Environmental Center. There we discussed environmental education in schools – experiences and outlook
Since 1994, the Dresden Environmental Center has provided a base for a large number of initiatives, associations and small companies that work in the field of the environment. They take responsibility at local level for developing the regional capital of Dresden in a way that will meet the challenges of the future. The Center offers courses for children and young people in the field of environmental education. They also have a bird sanctuary of sorts. Injured birds are treated and then set free when ready. This was really cool.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dresden day 2

Cloudy and overcast, temps around 50, but no rain. I will take it! Today we had a bit of a free day. The program will pay for museum admittions, so we decided to view the collection at the best-known museum of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. It is the Old Masters Picture Gallery in the Semper museum building adjoining the Zwinger, where the most famous painting is Raffael's Sistine Madonna.The Electors and Kings of Saxony were enthusiastic collectors of art and acquired art treasures of immeasurable value over the course of the centuries.

With his Electoral collection of cabinet pieces, Elector Augustus laid the foundation for the original collection in Dresden, which was counted among the most remarkable sights in Europe as early as the 17th century. So rapidly did the collectibles grow in number and variety that special museums were founded as long ago as the 18th century. Thanks to the collections, state-owned since 1924, Dresden is one of the most important museum cities in Europe today. Sadly, they allowed no pictures to be taken.

We the travelled to the Dresden Frauenkirche (German: Dresdner Frauenkirche, literally Church of Our Lady) a Lutheran church. Built in the 18th century, the church was destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden during World War II. It has been reconstructed as a landmark symbol of reconciliation between former warring enemies. The reconstruction of its exterior was completed in 2004, its interior in 2005 and, after 13 years of rebuilding, the church was reconsecrated on 30 October 2005 with festive services lasting through the Protestant observance of Reformation Day on 31 October.

On 13 February allied forces began the bombing of Dresden. The church withstood two days and nights of the attacks and the eight interior sandstone pillars supporting the large dome held up long enough for the evacuation of 300 people who had sought shelter in the church crypt, before succumbing to the heat generated by some 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city. The temperature surrounding and inside the church eventually reached 1,000 degrees Celsius.The dome finally collapsed at 10 a.m. on 15 February. The pillars glowed bright red and exploded; the outer walls shattered and nearly 6,000 tons of stone plunged to earth, penetrating the massive floor as it fell.

The building vanished from Dresden's skyline, and the blackened stones would lie in wait in a pile in the center of the city for the next 45 years as Communist rule enveloped what was now East Germany. Shortly after the end of World War II, residents of Dresden had already begun salvaging unique stone fragments from the Church of Our Lady and numbering them for future use in reconstruction. Popular sentiment discouraged the authorities from clearing the ruins away to make a car park. In 1966, the remnants were officially declared a "memorial against war", and state-controlled commemorations were held there on the anniversaries of the destruction of Dresden.
In 1982, the ruins began to be the site of a peace movement combined with peaceful protests against the East German regime. On the anniversary of the bombing, 400 Dresdeners came to the ruins in silence with flowers and candles, part of a growing East German civil rights movement. By 1989, the number of protesters in Dresden, Leipzig and other parts of East Germany had increased to tens of thousands, and the wall dividing East and West Germany toppled.

The images of this time are haunting. I can not wait to upload them here. We then were off to find parties and cappuccino, which we did! Delicious! We continued to the porcelain collection of the museum The collection was founded in 1715 by the Saxon Prince-Elector Augustus the Strong, and was originally housed in the Japanese Palace (then known as the "Dutch Palace") on the banks of the Elbe. It moved into the Johanneum in 1876. The collection largely survived World War II thanks to evacuation, and moved into its current home in the south part of the Zwinger in 1962. Today the collection features 20,000 porcelain artifact. I was afraid to sneeze, or risk imprisonment for breaking an irreplaceable item.

We then stumbled across a Tripping Stone, small plaque on the pavement that note the names and Holocaust deportation dates of former residents of the areas. So eerie, I took several picture. This man was deported to Dachau in 1941, and dies in 1944. we staggered home tired and cold for a quick 20 minutes and met for dinner at a delicious eclectic restaurant.