Weather On the Road

Rain! Again!

Looks like a black and white and gray picture day.

Danes ride bicycles, rain or shine.

We're hoping for sun tomorrow as we drive north, up along the coast to our next stop with a Servas traveler, Janice, who stayed with us several years ago.

Baltic Sea

While checking out the temperature of the Baltic Sea today (too cold for swimming!), I found something interesting in the water. Is it an eyeball? Or an egg sunny side up? Or maybe it's Baltie, the sea monster, second cousin of Baltimore's Chessie?

Lankow, the Town that Once Was

Today we experienced some history from the Cold War...

Maja, Stella, Jeremy, David and me at Lankow.
©Bonnie J. Schupp

Jeremy and Maja took us to see Maja's family's old homestead, Lankow, a town that was bulldozed flat because it was too close to the East German border.
Maja's uncles took it upon themselves to put up this sign along the country road into town so that Lankow, and what happened there, would not be forgotten.  
©Bonnie J. Schupp
This used to be the center of Lankow until it was demolished in 1976.  
©Bonnie J. Schupp

Maja's father's family had to leave their home around the end of the 1960's.  
©Bonnie J. Schupp

This is a picture of Maja's grandmother's home, destroyed along with the entire village. 
©Bonnie J. Schupp

Before we left the site where Lankow used to exist, another car appeared and Maja talked with a man who had been part of the border police who were responsible for keeping East Germans contained. He came to the spot to remember. Even though his job was to police the area, he grew to care about the people who lived there. Before the village was destroyed, he left his post to continue advancing his career.

It is interesting to me that, years ago, these were times I read about in the news... events far away from my life. My high school history teacher talked about the politics of this time and I day-dreamed about my weekend date. These were places far away and people I didn't know. It was remote history.
But it is remote no more. I've walked on these places and met people who are part of this history.

Exploring Lubeck

Yesterday we walked...okay, I hobbled...around Lubeck, known for its steeples and small streets good for exploring. The sun was in and out as it is every day, with some rain. Here are some pictures from Lubeck:

What Did We Do in Germany Today?

We have been staying with Jeremy, Maja, daughter Stella and dog Holly in Ludersdorf which was once part of East Germany. Jeremy and I met in class at the University of Baltimore while he was working on his masters and I was working on my doctorate.

Much has happened since then and Jeremy is now living and working in Germany close to Maja's family who we found delightful.

Today while Maja was taking classes and Stella was in day care, Jeremy showed David and me around the area. What did we do? We saw...

...wind turbines and...

...butterflies and...

...the Baltic Sea and...

...harbors and...

...castles and...
...,after dinner, played in the kitchen.

Fences and Walls - Staying in Former East Germany

My blog posts must be short for a while because of extremely slow connection speeds. I feel like I've stepped back in history.

It seems appropriate, however, that I should feel things slow down. First we are staying with Jeremy and Maja in the small village of Ludersdorf, population 1,000. The pace of life is different in a small town.

Second, Ludersdorf is located in the former East Germany that was surrounded by fences and walls to keep people inside its boundaries.

Today we looked at remnants of the history of a divided Germany at Grenzhus in Schlagsdorf. I couldn't help but notice how much effort was put into containing East Gemans. It was incredible.Walls and barbed wire fences were only a part of the containment. There was raked sand to show footprints in case someone approached too close to the wall. There were dogs and watch towers. There were ditches. Barbed wire was stretched across water. Even the positioning of screws was decided with the goal of keeping East Germans contained.

Jeremy showed us where Maja's father, at the age of 14, saw his home demolished. His family was forced to leave their home which had been in their family for generations. They were too close to the's land... and were given just three hours to gather their possessions and leave. Their home was bulldozed and flattened.

"Borders - they determine everybody's life, human and environmental relations; on one hand they protect, on the other they restrict and divide." (English version of the information guide for Grenzhus Museum.)

I can't help but look beyond institutional, geographical and political borders and consider walls we build around ourselves. On the one hand, we protect our emotional selves. No one can intrude and change us. But at what price? We protect our feelings and security but we imprison our spirit that yearns to connect. The human spirit is all about connecting.

Maybe if we manage to knock down the metaphorical walls we build around ourselves, there will be less chance that real dividing walls will be erected in the future.

Schupp Allee

I was surprised to see a street named after me...or rather after a Schupp. Who knows ... could be an ancestor. David noticed the sign as we were with Silvia in Essen at Zollverein, an old coal factory.

This past Tuesday we spent the afternoon in Hilchenbach where my great-grandmother, Margaretha Miller (Mueller?) lived. A young man named Achim, the town registrar, greeted us with enthusiasm when he heard we were looking for records of my ancestors. He eagerly tried to help us by looking through old books of birth and other records. No luck. He called the town archivist who tried his best. No luck again but he promised to keep looking and to speak with some of his contacts.

Meanwhile we learned more about the region, where the Schupp name originated, and where the name Christian (my grandfather was Christian Schupp) originated. Achim took us to the town's museum. After a bit, we said goodbye as we were on the way to Silvia's, an iStock friend. But Achim said he would look us up if he visited our area.

David took a shot of Silvia and me. Silvia, another iStock photographer, and I met through iStockphoto. When I told her we were coming to Germany, She invited us to stay with her. We had a great time and her wonderful laugh is still ringing.

Baths, Rain, Hully Gully and Wine

Despite a day of mostly rain, we made the best of it in touring around some scenic spots during our visit with friends/hosts Lena and Peter from the town of Rosbach, Germany. This is the artsy (raindropped) view through a window of Peter's car.

A hillside of grapevines beckons in the view from our window seat in a very nice (and equally expensive) stop for lunch at Johannisberg, where the neighbors include an old and very large home (the type called castles, but the castles as we know castles are called kastels) and a Catholic church dating to around the year 1140. It has held up quite nicely.

This is a street scene in the Rhein River town of Rudesheim. Above the town, on the highest peak, rises an enormous militaristic monument to Prussian might erected around 1870 -- and perhaps only slightly smaller than our Statue of Liberty. (Wonder what the old gal might look like holding a sword....)

Another view of the grape crop at Johannisberg, with the river flowing past. (Did anyone say 'Riesling'? We bought some here. The Riesling cost about $10 for a full-liter bottle.)

There's lots of German towns with the word 'Bad' in front of their names. This shot was taken in Bad Nauheim, but it really wasn't bad in the bad/good kind of way. Here, Bad means 'spa,' and this is part of the spa at Bad Nauheim -- a wall through which the local salt-laden spring water drips, and the salt slowly coats the exterior planted surface, producing a supposedly healing atmosphere for visitors to breath as they sit on benches or stroll by on an elevated walkway. It smelled salty -- a little like the aroma at Utah's Salt Lake, but much less putrid. The water is pumped to the top by an old wooden waterwheel.

Belgium has many a pissing statue. Here in Bad Nauheim, they favor spurting breasts -- but about those legs....

Our group poses for Bonnie in front of the central square fountain in Bad Nauheim. Shown, from left, are Silviu (originally from Romania), his German wife Ute (they first were penpals, and their courtship was by pre-Internet mail); Peter and Lena; friends Elaine and Gene from California (who had arrived a day earlier in a nonstop flight from San Francisco to nearby Frankfurt.

An old marble and tile bathtub in one of the historic spa buildings at Bad Nauheim. There were photographs of the spa's many distinguished visitors, including a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt around 1890. (For seemingly unrelated reasons, he later declared war on Germany.)

Our friends Peter and Lena own an athletic club (including several clay tennis courts, indoor courts, and a couple of spacious rooms packed with high-tech workout equipment), and an indoor playground called Hully Gully where the children's bouncing platforms include this toothy critter whose mouth opens and closes. Kids can climb in, get swallowed up, and come out the back somewhere.

Members of the athletic club meet with a personal trainer to create a workout regimen that is programmed onto a memory card they insert like a key into a slot on each machine, which then operates with precise weights and pressures. At periodic intervals, the patrons have an evaluation by the trainer and their cards are updated with any revisions in their workouts.

The dinner table at the home of Peter and Lena showing, clockwise from left, Bonnie, Silviu, Ute, Lena, Peter, Elaine, Gene and David.
(All photos by Bonnie, with captions by David -- in case you hadn't guessed)


Saturday morning we said goodbye to Beate and Ellen and drove our rented car to Rosbach where we're staying with Lena and Peter. Beate and Ellen have promised to visit us in the states again.

We arrived at the home of our hosts in Rosbach where we soon left for a polterabend. We arrived at the party to
find a pile of broken dishes in the driveway. As we found out, a polterabend is a German wedding tradition where guests to the party bring old dishes and break them to wish the couple good luck and chase away bad spirits. Good food, friendly people and even fireworks filled the evening.

Stay tuned for the next Germany installment.

Binary Systems

For a few days, after visiting the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial and the Sashenhausen concentration camp, I noticed the composition of my images had changed. I was dividing my photographs in half. Perhaps it was a subconscious influence of the binary systems I had observed.

Binary systems exist on many levels. Not limited to math and technology, these systems are also about perspectives and the walls, both literal and figurative, that they create.

Former President Bush lived in a binary world which is aptly illustrated in his words, "You're either with us or against us." Binary is about on/off, either/or and, on another level, them/us. It can also be in/out. It is you/me but not "we." The Holocaust is an icon of binary policy. Through an extensive Nazi campaign, the Jewish population (along with gypsies, physically and mentally challenged people and political dissenters) was configured to be unlike everyone else. "You're either like us and fit in or you're out."

We visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin where we reviewed this terrible history. We saw photos of German citizens wearing hooked-nose masks, mocking the "other," de-humanizing Jews.

The Nazi binary system grew into an unimaginable extermination policy between 1933 and 1945. I sat in a darkened room at the Memorial where names of victims were projected onto four walls and a short biography was read both in German and English. The name of Yefim Mintz was projected on the walls surrounding me. He was just three-years-old when he was extinguished by the binary mentality carried to extreme. Four walls...three years...only two possibilities--live/die.

Although somewhat different in context, the Berlin Wall is another example of division caused by a non-mathematical binary system. The Wall divided Berlin for more than 28 years. We visited the East Side Gallery which displays art on a part of the Wall that was once Checkpoint Oberbaum Brucke. It was once a binary switch, in/out.

In 1961 politics divided people with the help of the Wall and now, after the wall's destruction in 1989, the Wall has become a vehicle that brings people together through art. More than 100 artists from 21 countries have contributed to the world's largest open-air gallery.

While we were looking at the art, a group of Chinese tourists insisted that we hold hands together in front of the Wall. The fact that the Wall can evolve from a divisive to a uniting force gives rise to hope. It also reminds us of the power of art.

I cannot help but think about how binary the U.S. has become and how crucial it is to move away from this perspective. Germany is evolving and, in some ways, is ahead of the U.S. As of the beginning of this year, same sex marriage is legal. The "others," those who were once considered so different, are now more accepted as "us." A metaphorical wall is beginning to crumble.

I've noticed, however, that an invisible wall still remains many places in Germany for those who must travel by wheelchair. Inaccessibility spells "either/or." You either have two legs that work like everyone else's or you just can't get from here to there. Germany, as does the rest of the world, still needs to eradicate binary perspectives.

What can we do? As the Wall tells us, "Many small people who live in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world."

Sans Souci and Reichstag

It was a busy day today, starting with a drive to Potsdam where we stood on the bridge that separated the east from the west and where canoers were shot by patrols on the east side if they drifted too far from the invisible dividing line in the water. After that we walked to a castle in Potsdam, Sans Souci built by Friedrich who ordered it fashioned after Versailles.

We ended up at the Reichstag where after a short wait in line and after going through security, we took an elevator to the modern dome on top. It was a photographer's paradise with panoramas, architecture and silhouettes. I uploaded one of my many pictures to give you an idea of the space we walked in.

After returning, we celebrated the marriage of Beate and Ellen who married soon after Germany passed a law permitting same sex marriage at the beginning of this year. Germany has come a long way and seems to have passed the U.S. which still cannot get past this debate.