On Saturday, I joined Clara’s family in a very unusual activity: Roman warboat rowing. There is a site not far from here in Bad Iburg where an ancient battle mask was discovered. After some archeological exploration, experts have decided that it is likely the site of a battle between the Romans and the Germanic peoples, where the Romans were beaten for one of the first times. Today, there is a museum on the spot, and since this year marks the 2000th anniversary of the battle, the site is hosting special exhibitions and events.
One of these events is the rowing. A costumed leader directs vistors on one hour tours in a recreated Roman rowboat. We trekked down to the river to join in, and I tried to follow along as best as possible, despite all of the directions being in German. But the hardest part turned out to be just handling the paddle, which was wooden and surprisingly heavy. Steamboats passing us on the river stopped to stare at the strange sight. After the workout, we took a quick tour of the museum, which has a gallery of painted masks, which are now symbols of peace, from all of the countries in the European Union.
Yesterday, we took a bike ride through the surrounding countryside, which was quite fun, despite my lack of biking skills, because we were mostly passing through flat, untrafficked farmland. At night, there were fireworks going on in town, which we watched from the roof, to celebrate a local festival going on right now, called Schutzenfest, which I still have only a dim understanding of. From what Clara and her family tell me, it’s become an unexplainable local tradition, mainly a time for the old men to drink beer and wear green. In a few hours, I’ll be leaving Germany for Brussels, Belgium by bus (an eight hour ride!), as the final leg of my journey begins. Today marks 7 weeks that I’ve been away, with one more to go before I return to the United States.
Today, Clara and I took a day trip to Berlin. It’s my third time visiting Germany, but I had yet to see the capital (and considering I spent a lot of the summer in Paris, it seems only fair, of course). We took the 6am train, which was horrible at the time, but great because it got us to the city (into Europe’s biggest train station) by 9am. The nine hours we had in the city were packed with activity. We explored the center of the city, where most of the tourist attractions are, entirely by foot. One of the first stops was the Brandenburg Gte, the city’s most famous icon. From here, we saw the Holocaust Memorial, which only opened four years ago, and is very unusual, with 2711 stone slabs of differing heights, which are blank and can be walked through like a maze. The memorial is supposedly without symbolism, which seemed to me a little strange, but I suppose this leaves it free to be interpreted individually.
in front of the Brandenburg Gate
Berlin’s history continued to unfold as we went to see the remnants of the Berlin wall, which is still standing and preserved in a few small sections. The most touristed wall site is of course Checkpoint Charlie, the old checkpoint between the Soviet and American sectors of the city, which today has an open air exhibition on the wall’s history, actors playing Allied soldiers who pose for pictures (for one euro), and loads of vendors selling East German passport stamps, Soviet helmets, and bits of the wall. Today Berlin seems, at least to an outsider, so united, modern, and stable. It made me wonder, seeing the recent history so quickly turned tourist attraction, if someday my generation’s grandkids would be touring through a stable Iran, reading plaques about how bad things once were, or something else that is unthinkable today.
old sign at Checkpoint Charlie
Filed under Berlin, Germany
The last few days have been very relaxing here in Germany. Although I miss life in Paris, it’s been nice living with a family and not having to take the metro, or cook, since I’ve been here. Yesterday, Clara and I went to the Burg Hülshoff, a small “water castle,” in the area, which is an old aristocratic estate, and family home of a famous female German poet, who lived in the 19th century. Today, it’s a very peaceful place, with immaculate lawns and gardens, a small museum, and an outdoor restaurant.
Today, I went to the nearby city of Münster (which is not related to the cheese, apparently), with Clara and her two sisters. Both of them also spent years abroad (one in America also, and one in New Zealand), and so they are very good at English, and we’ve all been spending a lot of time together. We visited Münster mostly for the shopping, but there is also a university, large cathedral, and beautiful town hall which is now a symbol of peace, as it is where the treaty of Westphalia was signed.
I’m now in Germany, enjoying a quiet week at home with Clara’s family in the small town of Bad Iburg after leaving the Parisian city lifestyle behind. Now that I’m finished with my internship, several of my articles have been posted to the Bonjour Paris website.
Feature articles (some of these might be available only for paying members of the site, but if you’re really interested in the full text, let me know):
Top 10 Views of Paris
Top 10 Picnic Spots in Paris
Puces St. Ouen (market)
Palais de Tokyo (art museum)
Filed under France, Paris