Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 15 - The Return Home

A wonderful vacation has come to an end. It was a bittersweet morning to awaken, have breakfast with Gerhard and then load the car for the trip to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

I bid farewell to Harald who went off to work and Uschi and Gerhard drove me to the airport with Kira going with us. Kira is one well behaved dog; she lays in the car and is quiet as a mouse all the while we were driving to the airport. The morning was sunny and bright and it would be a good day for flying.

We arrived at the airport and Uschi dropped us off at the terminal and went to park the car. Gerhard and I went into the terminal, found my gate and waited a short time in line before I was able to show my passport and get my tickets. All this time we were waiting for Uschi to arrive; obviously it was hard to find a parking space.

This was a sad time for me. I had to bid goodbye to Uschi and Gerhard and I was feeling sad about this. But it was a wonderful vacation and I am truly appreciative of the fantastic time that they all showed me. We said goodbye and I went through into the gate area to wait for my flight for Düsseldorf. The wait was short and the flight to Düsseldorf was short as well.

Once in Düsseldorf, I proceeded to the gate for the flight to Chicago, waited a short while, boarded the plane and began the long flight home. These trips I wasn't so lucky to have the seats to myself but I read and slept and reminisced about the wonderful vacation that I had had.

I arrived home in Chicago, caught my shuttle to Michigan City where my neighbor and my mother picked me up and then off to St. Joseph. It had been one long, more than 24 hour day, since arising at the apartment in Berlin and I ended up sleeping off and on for the next 2 days.

I can't say enough how fantastic this vacation was. It was a long held dream of mine to be able to go to Berlin and visit Gerhard and his family. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I will never forget this vacation.

Thank you, Gerhard, Uschi, Harald, Kai, Steffi, Oli, Mandy (and Kira) for making this vacation the wonderful time that it was!!

PS...And how did I get to this point where I had connected with German cousins, developed a relationship with them and was able to visit them in Berlin?? The story of how I actually made these connections goes back to the mid-1970's...stay tuned for the saga!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day 14 - The Grand Finale

All good things must come to an end and today would be my last day in Berlin. Our day would be laid back and relaxing and would be a grand finale to my entire vacation.

Breakfast was at 9 at Gerhard's apartment and then we decided to take one last walk around Marzahn, through the parks and the market area and back to the apartments. For a fall day, it was lovely - not too hot and not too cold, not windy and just comfortable.

We returned to Gerhard's apartment and had more genealogy talk and viewing of more photos. Gerhard has a never ending supply of photos, videos and DVD's and they are all professional and interesting.

Dinner at 2 was at Uschi and Harald's where Uschi had made a special dish for me.....none other than wiener schnitzel! I was trying to remember and I believe it was my 5th time having wiener schnitzel and this time was the best, of course, as it was homemade. We had a leisurely dinner with talking and then relaxed.

In the late afternoon, Uschi, Gerhard and myself, as well as Kira, drove to Oliver & Mandy's apartment where we had been invited to visit. This was a lovely apartment, on the 5th floor of the building (more climbing of steps) where we visited and had a lovely coffee, tea and dessert time. As newlyweds, Oli & Mandy had lovely items in their apartment, one of which was a beautiful tea set that Mandy's grandmother had given them as a wedding gift.

Following our treats we sat in their living room and viewed a video tape that Gerhard had made in 2000 after his return to Germany from their visit to us in Michigan. This video was wonderful and, again, I asked Gerhard if he had an English version which drew laughs from the group. He did, however, have more copies of this video and when we returned to the apartments, Gerhard burned a copy for me. I would be going home with several different DVD's that contained movies that Gerhard had made over the years.

We returned to our apartments around 10 p.m. and I went back to my apartment to pack and get some sleep before an early morning flight the next day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 13 - Zoo Berlin

It was a good thing we 'relaxed' yesterday as today would be a very busy walking day. The day started at 9 with breakfast in Gerhard's apartment. We then carried a box to the post office in Marzahn for me to mail back to my home in Michigan. With all the items that Gerhard and Uschi shared with me, it was more than I could pack in my suitcases so I packed what turned out to be a very heavy box and we mailed it back to the US.

Leaving the post office we went on to the train station and off to Berlin city proper. We stopped at Alexanderplatz and took a bus tour of the city for 1 hour and then it was on to the Berlin Zoo.

When Gerhard had asked me what sites I wanted to see in Berlin, I had immediately mentioned the Berlin Zoo. Why, I don't know because I am not a big fan of a zoo. I had visited the Detroit zoo on multiple occasions when I was a child and it never really stood out in my mind. But for some reason, I was fascinated with the web sites I had read on the Zoo Berlin and I wanted to see it. Believe me, I was not disappointed.

The Zoo Berlin is fantastic. It really would take more than 1 day to fully appreciate all the sites to behold. In all honesty, if I were to return to Berlin, I would want to see the Zoo again. But it appeared that I could not get away from reminders of my Urology work back home!

Here are some examples of the sites that we saw:

We did stop in a restaurant within the zoo and had some lunch. The bees were plentiful and Gerhard even was aggravated with them. What am I eating???? Why wiener schnitzel, of course!

The highlight of the Zoo Berlin was the chance to visit Knut. Knut is a polar bear, born in captivity at the Berlin Zoo, rejected by his mother at birth and raised by zookeepers. The story of Knut is moving and poignant in that the zookeeper that raised him had died just prior to my visit. Knut appeared to be mourning the only caregiver he knew and was not the roly poly little bear born 2 years previously. While all the other bears we visited were laid back and quiet, Knut paced back and forth in his enclosure continually making mournful sounds.

Following our time at the zoo, we continued back to Alexanderplatz and visited the Mariner Church as well as the Berlin Aquarium where we saw the most amazing displays of fish.

By the time we left the Aquarium, it was dark outside and beginning to rain. I did have an umbrella with me (courtesy of Gerhard) despite the fact that I had already broken one of his other umbrellas on an earlier rainy day. Good thing he had a supply of umbrellas for guests!

We took two trams back home and spent the rest of the evening watching a television program on the falling of the wall in 1989.

Back to my apartment at 9:30 and bed as these old legs were mighty tired!

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day 12 - Relaxing in Marzahn

Day 12 already of my 2 week vacation; time is moving quickly and it will soon be time to return to the US and a new job.

Today we had breakfast at Gerhard's apartment and Jürgen and Christa began to pack for their return to Meppen. Around noon Gerhard and I walked Jürgen and Christa to the train station and they departed for their return home. It had been a wonderful few days with them and we exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to stay in touch.

Gerhard and I then returned to his apartment to download photos and put them on my thumb drive; he and Jürgen had previously shared the photos each of them had taken so now I had three groups of photos of Berlin taken from different photographers. This was great as both Gerhard and Jürgen are excellent photographers. We then viewed albums of Gerhard's family photos from years past. It is just amazing the amount of genealogical memorabilia that Gerhard has collected; he is a very talented and creative man and his collection is well presented and well preserved.

Around 1 Gerhard suggested that we walk a different direction in Marzahn as he wanted to show me a large store that he enjoys shopping in and in which there is an excellent restaurant. We walked a little distance from our apartments and entered the store Domaene. At first I wanted to characterize this store as typical of a Lowe's in the US but it was far more than that. Furniture, household goods, lamps, cabinets, etc were all sold in this store and on an upper level was a very nice restaurant where I had....................surprise..................wiener schnitzel. Gerhard just shook his head at how often I was interested in having wiener schnitzel but it was particularly good at this restaurant.

We toured through the store and some interesting things were for sale such as this which actually I had noticed in Gerhard's apartment. He told me that he had seen this item in Domaene, told Uschi that he liked it and she bought it for him for his birthday. Quite an interesting birthday gift, huh?

After leaving Domaene, we took the train to the Eastgate mall as I was hoping to find a wheeled carry on bag to buy in order to more comfortably transport my laptop home. We did indeed find a store that had a carry on bag that met my specifications and even found some wonderful egg cups in another store. It was amazing to me the number of customers in this store who shop with their dogs and I saw a little poodle that made me miss my little Zoya back home. These dogs walked along obediently and seemed oblivious to the people and activities around them. That would not be my Zoya!

We did again decide to sit in the mall and have some ice cream and I noticed a wonderful candy shop across the corridor where, of course, a visit was mandatory!

After this day of walking, shopping, walking some more, we returned to Gerhard's apartment and supper and bed at 9 p.m.

Only a few more days remaining on this vacation!

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day 11 - Colberg/Kolberg Family Reunion

Since moving back to my home town of St. Joseph in 1997, my mother and I have organized 5 reunions of our Kolberg family (in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003). These reunions were previously held from 1939-1957 and then had stopped. At our reunion in 2000, Gerhard and his grandsons, Kai and Oliver, traveled to the US to attend.

Now, in Berlin, Gerhard was planning a Colberg/Kolberg family reunion to correspond with my visit and today would be the day.

Breakfast this morning was at Uschi and Harald's apartment followed by make-overs for myself and Christa by Uschi. I asked Uschi if she would like to come to St. Joseph every morning and do my make-up for me; it would really be nice but unfortunately she felt it was a little too far to commute!

Around noon, Kai and Steffi arrived at the apartment followed by Oli and Mandy and we left in 3 cars for a local Chinese restaurant. Gerhard knew that Chinese food was a favorite of mine (after wiener schnitzel, of course) and he had found a very nice Chinese restaurant where we could have a private room. The meal was great and the conversations were equally so and we sat for quite some time visiting.

Following our lunch, Gerhard suggested that we all go to an attraction in Marzahn called "Gärten Der Welt" (or Gardens of the World). It was here that Oli and Mandy had been married this past August and it promised to be a beautiful site to visit.

This huge location in Marzahn featured gardens from such places as China, Japan, Korea, etc along with other sites as well. One could spend hours walking through these gardens and we did stay all of the afternoon. The day was cool but sunny and made for good photos.

Following our trip through the gardens, we returned to Uschi and Harald's apartment for coffee, tea and cakes and discussions of genealogy. Supper followed at 9:30 and back to my apartment and bed around midnight.

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day 10 - Fun Day in Berlin

Time has been flying on this vacation. I have done many things, seen many sites and had restful and peaceful walks. Today would be a combination day of visiting, talking and touring.

The day started off with breakfast at Uschi & Harald's apartment and then Uschi, Gerhard, Jürgen, Christa and I were off in the car to the main area of Berlin. First we stopped at Alexander Platz and visited the Alexis Mall. Gerhard and I had been here before and it is a magnificent mall with many stores to visit. In the mall was an ice cream parlor where we stopped for ice cream cones. I was entranced with the way the ice cream was mounded in the show case.

After this walk around the Alexis Mall we got back in the car and headed for downtown Berlin. I had wanted to visit the large department store in Berlin "KaDeWe" and had mentioned that to Gerhard before I came to Berlin. Today would be the day. I had been to KaDeWe in 1993 when I visited my brother and his family. At that time we only cruised through the store, went to the top level and had some lunch at the multitudes of concession areas available. Today, though, us 3 women would do a women's visit of the store!

Outside of KaDeWe was a Curry Wurst concession stand. Now I admit, I had not heard of curry wurst but evidently it is a delicacy in Germany. Gerhard even told me that my nephew, Jay, when visiting Gerhard last year, had requested a visit to a curry wurst stand. It was told to me that this particular curry wurst stand was a particularly good one.

It was very cold and windy out but we did partake in the foods offered and had a few moments of rest.

Following our lunch, off to KaDeWe we went. The two men, went their own way, to visit the computer area of the store and they returned home to Marzahn by bus. They certainly didn't want to tag along with 3 women in a major department store! In the US, we have many large department stores. I grew up in the Detroit area with the JL Hudson company and my mother worked there for 25 years. A nice department store with quality labels. Over the years, Hudson's was sold to Marshall Fields and now has become part of the Macy's family and in St. Joe there are no Macy's stores available. The closest store is the large Macy's on State Street in Chicago and I have taken the Amtrak there on occasion to spend a day shopping.

There is NO comparison between KaDeWe and Macy's. KaDeWe is 1,000 times larger and much more exclusive than any store I have visited in the US. Christa, Uschi and I spent most of the day walking through all the floors and departments in this store, buying nothing!! Unusual for women, huh?

We did visit the cosmetics counters and there, front and center, was the Estee Lauder counter.

I am a faithful user of Estee Lauder cosmetics in the ReNutriv line and they are very difficult to find in St. Joseph. I have to send to Chicago to Macy's whenever I need to replenish my supply. The costs of ReNutriv have risen over the years and I was curious to see if KaDeWe carried the same lines. Sure enough, they did, and I posed for a picture holding my particular jar of ReNutriv cream. A sales associate approached me and I told her that I would like to know the price of this jar of cream. I nearly choked when I heard that the price was almost 2/3 MORE at KaDeWe. Needless to say, I did not buy it but was amused by the display of Estee Lauder. Felt like home!

Finally when we reached the home furnishings floor, we did buy a few items - some specialty dessert forks for me that I had admired in Uschi's home and a wonderful cake server utensil that I had also seen Uschi using. Being a tea lover and lover of all things "tea" related, I looked and looked at tea pots and tea sets. It had been my desire to purchase a really nice German tea set with teapot, sugar, creamer, tea cups and saucers, etc. There were so many to study in the store and it was a hard decision to decide just which set I liked the best. When all was said and done, though, the prices determined that I would have to forego this dream. It would have been too big of a bite in exchange rates and then the added costs of having the items shipped home. I was disappointed but sure did enjoy looking at all the sets.

At the end of our afternoon, we did visit the top floor where the view over Berlin was breathtaking. There we sat and had some drinks before heading back to Uschi's car and back to Marzahn with very sore feet - my feet - not Uschi's or Christa's. They are very used to all the walking.

After returning home to the apartments, we again spent time viewing family video tapes and had dinner of rouladen, potatoes and red cabbage.

It had been a long day but a very enjoyable one. I was ready for bed, though, earlier than usual due to all the walking I think.

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte

Friday, October 17, 2008

Day 9 - Meeting New Relatives in Marzahn

Today dawned cold and rainy but the enjoyment of the vacation lingered and the weather really wasn't of much concern. My apartment was so nice and spacious and the view was outstanding and even with the cold weather I would go out on the balcony and stand and look over Marzahn. It was a most relaxing time.

Today breakfast was at Uschi & Harald's apartment where we talked about other Colberg cousins who would be arriving from the area of Meppen in northern Germany to spend a few days visiting with us. This was exciting as I had hoped to meet other cousins and this couple, Jürgen and Christa Colberg, were making a special trip to Berlin in order to meet me as well. They would be staying with me in the guest apartment which was certainly large enough to accommodate several groups of people.

They were due to arrive around noon and Gerhard left the apartment to walk to the train station to pick them up while I stayed at Uschi's. At dinner time around 1:30 p.m. Gerhard arrived back with Jürgen & Christa and I was able to meet them. Again, their English was very good and we had no difficulty in understanding each other. It is just amazing how the German people, of varying ages, have better English skills than we would have German skills.

After a dinner of bean soup, breads, yogurt and fruit we decided to walk some around Marzahn despite the cold weather. Again, there were many beautiful sites to see and we enjoyed the walk and the scenery. The park in the vicinity of the apartments had many very unusual sculptures to view. I wondered if they were from the same sculptor/artist but Gerhard said that they were not.

Following this we returned to the apartments where we talked and viewed photos and videos of Uschi & Harald's previous vacations in Africa.

Coffee, tea and cake were again served at 5 p.m. (I do so enjoy this ritual!!) and after more visiting, supper was served with the traditional menu.

Later in the evening, Uschi & Harald's younger son, Oli, arrived with his new bride, Mandy, and I was able to greet Oli again who had visited us in America in 2000. I was also able to meet his beautiful bride, Mandy, and chat some with them. It was the day before Oli's birthday and his mother had promised him a trip to a local candle making factory where Uschi, Oli and Mandy were going to make candles. They left for this excursion and I returned to my apartment at 11 for bed.

It had been a good day of visiting with new found relatives and much family history talk. I couldn't ask for a better day!

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day 8-Schloss Charlottenburg and other Sites

Day 8 already of my long awaited trip and my vacation is more than half over!

Today dawned cold, rainy and very windy but the weather does not deter Gerhard. Breakfast was at 9 at his apartment and again was the standard breakfast fare though he had also boiled some eggs sitting in egg cups. I know that we have egg cups in the US but I have never had any and I am determined to find some German ones here to take home. Of course, do I have the time to devote to a leisurely breakfast? Breakfast usually goes on for 60-90 minutes and is probably a healthier way to start the day.

Following breakfast we came back to my apartment so that Gerhard could view the photos that I have taken and that I have downloaded on my laptop. I wanted to verify a few photos with him as he tells me “everything must be correct”, and for a compulsive person like myself, that is true as well. Once this was done we headed for the S-Bahn which would take us to the Berlin district of Charlottenburg and the Charlottenburg Palace (Schloss Charlottenburg). This was one of the sites that I had wanted to see.

A long S-Bahn trip ensued and then a switch to a local bus and we finally reached the Palace. Even though it was gloomy and very windy, this palace is a site to behold. Charlottenburg Palace is the largest and most important remaining Hohenzollern residence in Berlin. The magnificent palace complex is surrounded by a unique, Baroque garden that merges into a landscaped park. The palace and its garden were originally built as a summer residence for the Prussian queen, Sophie Charlotte and was expanded by subsequent rulers. The palace was heavily damaged in WWII and was restored to its original beauty over the course of many, many years and at an enormous monetary cost.

We toured the entire palace, all floors as well as the adjacent buildings. I can not even describe the grandeur of these rooms and Gerhard kept remarking that “all of this was for one person-Queen Sophie Charlotte, only as a summer home”. While it is true that there are many such glorious historic sites to be seen in Berlin, it is important to remember that only the elite lived in this manner and our ancestors were living perhaps 3 family groups to an apartment during and after the war.

Following the visit to Charlottenburg Palace, we ate lunch in a café in the Palace and I had quiche which is again something I had never had back in the US. It was good to sit for a while because all this walking is definitely foreign to me!

We then set out to return back to Marzahn, first by bus back to Berlin proper where we walked around this particular area of Berlin for some time. At this location is found the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which was another church heavily damaged during the war.

Due to the extensive damage, the church was rebuilt in a modern style but the remnants of the original church remain as a memorial site.

We then boarded the S-Bahn to return to Marzahn. As it was 5:00 p.m. the trains were crowded beyond capacity with workers returning home and the train was standing room only which is a feat to manage as these trains travel at high, high speeds. As soon as a seat was vacated, I quickly grabbed it as it was very difficult to maintain one’s balance.

We had carried umbrellas with us all day and there was no rain and we were remarking about how lucky we were when only a few blocks from the apartments a downpour occurred and we were soaked by the time we returned to our apartments.

Following a trip back to my apartment to change and dry off, I returned to Gerhard’s apartment where he showed me perhaps 5 video tapes that he had created over the years. One of his passions is to video tape all the activities he and his family take part in over the year and then work on creating one video tape presentation of the best of the features splicing all tapes together. He begins the tape with New Year’s Day and ends with the following New Year’s Eve. They are awesome to behold and we watched tapes from 1993, 1995 and 1998 as well as old movies that he created in the 1950’s and has now transferred to DVD’s. A true genealogist indeed and a talented photographer and video technician. I enjoyed these tapes immensely and was able to see family members of Gerhard’s branch of our Kolberg family who are no longer living.

We had the usual dinner fare and I returned to my apartment about 9:30 p.m.

Above photos - Copyright © 2008 by Cheryl Schulte