Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy 30th to my absolutely wonderful, amazing, fun, beautiful Sister-in-Law

Oh Kelly. . . . how I wish I could be there today . . . the four of us friends have started a tradition (Kimberly, Amanda, You and I) and I wish I was there to keep that tradition alive.

Things I wish:

I wish I was there to surprise you at a morning breakfast downtown . . . to kidnap you and whisk you away to an undisclosed location while wearing ridiculous hats and forcing you to carry balloons. . . to eat lunch with you in a quaint little cafĂ© in Monterey consisting of fabulous four cheese grilled sandwiches and some sort of yam/squash soup concoction that was to die for . . . to take stupid pictures in Anthro . . . to drink hot coco in Carmel . . enjoy present opening on the beach while acting like idiots . . . and to finish the day off with a production of "Annie" at the Carmel Forrest Theater while sipping sparkling cider and nibbling on carmel apples and cheese and crackers . . . to act like kids and enjoy the beautifulness of friendship . . . (re-cap of year 1)

I wish I could wake you up and some un-godly time of the morning while video taping your reaction . . . to once again whisk you away to an unknown location while wearing crazy feathers and bows in our hair. . . I wish I could rent bikes and force you to ride miles while earning a great sunburn and full body soreness that would last for days . . . wish I could take you to the Boardwalk and ride crazy rollercoasters while screaming like 8 year old children . . . walk along the pier and find some homeless man to follow us and sing "Happy birthday, it's your birthday" . . . and finish up the evening with an improve comedy club that would tell such off colored jokes that we would try and sneak out the back door after 15-20 minutes . . . (re-cap of year 2)
 I wish I could present you a large card with pictures of us inside to remember fun times and memories. . . 
All of this I wish we could do and more my dear sister-in-law. . . maybe we would make some new crazy memories of sky diving or renting quads for the day . . . maybe we would laugh so hard our innards would hurt . . . we would enjoy the company of our dearest friends and make memories that would be remembered years down the road . . .

I love you dearly!
I am so glad at least I was there at your party in spirit  . . .LOL. . .thanks for making me feel a part of the celebration
(I have just made myself cry)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Zoo . . . German Style

"Crocodiles, gorillas, lions and rhinos: you don`t have to travel to Africa to see these fascinating animals. A trip to Frankfurt Zoo is just as good. 
Frankfurt Zoo is a green oasis in the middle of the thriving Main metropolis and offers not only a green recreation area on your doorstep. Here you can discover more than 4,500 animals in over 450 species.
You will find proud African animals next to feisty seals and majestic tigers, right around the corner from cheeky otters. In the Grzimek House day becomes night as your immerse yourself into the secretive animal world of Madagascar. Fishes, sea horses, penguins, snakes and crocodiles all mill around in the Exotarium (aquarium and reptile house). In the Borgori Forest ape house you can encounter our hominid "relatives" in a genuine jungle atmosphere.
Our animals do well in surroundings as natural as possible, with many places to hide and live in species-specific social groups just like they do in the wild." (
 After reading this on the internet. . . how could you NOT want to go to the Frankfurt Zoo, right?!?  When my buddies Beth and Range from Cali told me they wanted to go to Frankfurt Zoo I was oober excited!  Beth has a picture from her childhood at the zoo (her dad was stationed in Germany for a while) and wanted to take another picture in the same spot all these years later for her mom.  We filled one of the 7 day slots they were here to see these "fascinating animals".  Well . . . I have to admit. . . I was disappointed . . (sorry Beth).  The Zoo was small, run down, boasted animals missing (I think it was the polar bear) and they closed WAY too early!!  We did not get to go into the cat house to see the lions, tigers and whatever other goodness lay within . . .we saw them briefly by means of peeking through the outside walls.
I was impressed, however, by the rhino and hippo!  I had never seen either of these creatures in real life and was thrilled!  (the cages that housed them were pitifully small and made me feel sorry for them)  They also had a pretty impressive "Ape" house and I guess the birds weren't so bad either.  Honestly, I think the Sacramento Zoo had a lot more to offer than the prized Frankfurt Zoo (minus the really rad Rhino). 
Overall . . glad I went . . got to spend time with friends, see a few new animals I have never seen before and had some really awesome gelato down the street.  If you only have a few days in Germany though, skip it!  

The Quest for the Ultimate Cuckoo-Clock

Just about as soon as we arrived in Germany I was drawn to the cuckoo-clocks that were on display at the BX (exchange . . basically a very large store that sells just about anything you could possibly want . . located on base).  There was one particular clock, Hansel and Gretel, that I was drawn to.  Every chance I got I would steal away from my duties that brought me to the BX to catch a glance and make sure it was still there.  I was encouraged by co-workers not to even think about buying a clock at the BX . . instead just take a trip down to the Black Forrest where the clocks are actually made.  Hummm . . . why not?!?  It is only about a 3 hour drive from where we live. 

The opportunity presented itself on a road trip with my good buddies, Beth and Range.  We drove down through the black forrest on our way to Bavaria and stopped in Triberg to do a little shopping!  The first place we stopped at was the House of 1,000 clocks where they boast they have the "largest cuckoo-clock in the world".  It was pretty large. . . but I dunno . . I expected bigger I guess!  I mean, common!!  If you are going to boast about something shouldn't it be extra monumental? Or do I expect to much? . . . it was still a good picture point though :-)

The store was true to it's name (although I didn't actually count every single one of them) and carried much more than just clocks. . trinkets, gifts, little wooden soldiers and ceramic Bavarian houses.  But Alas, my clock was not to be found in this store.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading off to bed . . . had to get up early and hit the next 10 cuckoo-clock stores!

We started the next day off by driving into downtown Triberg  . . . it was beautiful!  There is a lovely waterfall (we didn't have time to climb as we were taking my beloved friends onward to Neuschwanstein Castle . . .aka "Disney" Castle) and the town was quaint and colorful.  We found another store that boasted to have the "Largest Working Cuckoo-Clock" and we were able to see the inner workings of this clock. . . pretty cool!  After stopping at approximately 5 different stores and looking at every single clock in each place. . . I decided . . . that none beat the little clock I found back at the Exchange on Ramstein Base!!  LOL!!  Ugh!
I couldn't wait to get back into town and get my hands on that little clock!  When we finally raced into the store (about three days later) I was met with utter disappointment. . . . the clock was no longer there!!  A store attendant took down my information just in case they could get ahold of another one but for the time being I was out of luck . . . . my heart was plunged into icy darkness. . . I rushed home to see if I could find the same clock online. . no . . . ebay?. . . no. . . the Hubert Herr (manufacturer) website?? . . no . . .called the actual Hubert Herr store here in Germany . . . no
About a week into my heartbreak I received a call from the BX that my clock would arrive in two weeks!!  I was elated!!  When it finally came in I was overjoyed!!  . . . only to find out that the picture on the outside of the box was a completely different (and not as cool) Hansel and Gretel clock!  NOOOOOOOOOOO my heart cried!!  I think the store attendant saw the complete and utter disappointment and unbelief on my face. . . it was clear to all.  I tore open the box right in the middle of the store . . . .
but this story has a good ending :-)  It actually WAS the correct clock with the wrong picture on the outside of the box.  It was mine at last.  I am happy to report that I still love my little clock and it sits happily perched on my living room wall to the left of our family moose head. . . it is happy in it's rightful place.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wewelsburg . . . a beautiful place with an evil past . .

We recently visited Wewelsburg Castle in northern Germany. During WW2 this castle served as Himmler's (second in Nazi command after Hitler) center for the SS forces, SS-cult site and was intended to be his SS training camp.  The SS, or Schutzstaffel in German, was the "protection squadron" or "defense corps".  As paramilitary organization under the Nazi party it grew to become one of the larges and most powerful organization of the Third Reich.  The SS was responsible for many of the hideous war crimes that took place at the hand of the Nazi party.

The castle was built in the early 1600's as a secondary place of residence for the prince-bishops of the area.  Himmler saw it as a perfect location and signed a 100-year lease with the Paderborn district. While we were able to experience some of the dark history that took place in this castle (the museum of Nazi artifacts, watched interviews with survivors of the concentration camp associated with the rebuilding of the castle, the sacred crypt to house the remains of the 12 SS leaders) I was interested in the facts and history that lead up to the hideous crimes that had taken place at the hands of the SS.  I did a little more digging of my own after returning home and what I found was almost, quite literally, unbelievable.

(a leather chair used in the castle with the SS symbol etched into the leather and swastikas carved into the wood)

(Wewelsburg Castle)

A good buddy I work with, and WW2 historian, had shared with me her experience with Wewelsburg and how "creepy" it was due to the influence of the SS-cult.  Our tour guide did not quite explain the details of this cult and the more I read about it the more satanic influence I found.  In the North tour of Wewelsburg castle Himmler had a crypt dug into the bedrock in which there were 12 pedastals for the 12 remains of the SS leaders.  In the center of the crypt was to be an eternal flame with which they were persuaded could be used to call back the spirits of the Aryan ancestors.  Directly above the location of the would-be eternal flame there is a very large sized swastika in the center of the ceiling.  There was an eerie presence in the crypt. . . it was dark and foreboding.

Above the crypt on the second level was the Generals' Hall. . . a large open room with 12 windows and 12 pillars (some say Himmler was going for the knights of the roundtable effect).  In the center of this room is the symbol of the "black sun" . . . a symbol of occult significance and possibly a variation of a Roman swastika The architects who redesigned the castle during the Nazi era called the axis of this North Tower the "Center of the World".

The renovations of the castle (tearing off the exterior plaster to make the castle more "castle-like", digging a moat around the castle, rebuilding and excavations) were provided by prisoners of the outlying concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Niederhagen. Eventually there were approximately 3,900 prisoners of the camps and almost a third of them did not survive through their imprisonment.  The gestapo (secret state police) also used this camp for a place of executions.

(model of the Niederhagen concentration camp as there is very little of it left today)
Pictures of prisoners to the concentration camp above and below some of the actual uniforms that prisoners were assigned.  The purple triangle on the front of the shirt would stand for whatever reason this prisoner was put into the concentration camp.  There were many colors.

The more digging into the history of these Nazi leaders the more I realized how evil and terror filled the early years of the 20th century must have been to many.  Besides the atrocities that were done at the hands of Adolf Hitler, most are aware of these, many more were done at the hands of his compatriots such as Henrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich.  During our somewhat tour of the SS museum in Wewelsburg, our guide briefly mentioned that Heydrich was the worst of all the Nazi leaders and if he had lived (injured during an attempted assassination and soon after died from an infection as a result of his injuries at the age of 38) we would have seen many more atrocities during these years.  I took it upon myself to do some research of my own. . . what I found astounded me.  Heydrich was one of the primary architects to the Holocaust; it was his suggestion to the final solution to the Jewish Question that all Jews be deported and exterminated within the German-occupied territories.  Adolf Hitler had christened this man as "the man with the iron heart".  He was attacked in Prague and as a result of his death Hitler had immediately ordered 10,000 Czech to be killed.  He was urged to reconsider and instead completely destroyed the two cities that the would be assassin were supposed to have received aid.  All men over the age of 16 were executed in both cities and the women and children were sent to concentration camps or executed along with the men.  The four women of one city that were found to be pregnant were first sent to a local hospital for a forced abortion.  Only after the procedure were they then sent on to the concentration camp.  13,000 people were arrested, deported or imprisoned.  At least 1,300 were executed.

(Nazi Propaganda)

(instruments used to measure the head to verify if a person was of superior genealogy. They measured skull size and nose length, and the color of hair and eyes to determine whether a person  belonged to the true "Aryan race.")
(Pottery made for Wewelsburg with various Nazi and SS symbols)
 (a death head ring . . . a personal gift from Himmler to members of the SS. In 1938 Himmler ordered the return of all rings of dead SS-men and officers to be stored in a chest in Wewelsburg Castle. This was to symbolize the ongoing membership of the deceased in the SS-order.)
I am sure there is much more I could research and say about this trip . . but what I will always remember is senseless loss and suffering of thousands of people.  Sometimes I cannot believe that these things happened. . . it seems unfathomable. . . but they did. . . I am looking right at them