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Seeing A Surviving Synagogue in Lubeck, Germany, Made My Day!

11 Sep
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The Holestentor, gate to the old city of Lubeck.

When we toured the UNESCO Heritage site of Lubeck, Germany, I loved the oval-shaped, island city which is surrounded by the river Trave.  I never thought I would enjoy being in Germany.  I carried my grandparents’ and parents’ distress about the destruction of our family in Europe during the war. But I hoped that Germany of today is not the Germany of the 1930s and 40s. So I went with an open mind.

Of course. I had to ask our tour guide about Jewish Lubeck.  She was open and sincere and had knowledge.  I am sure I am not the first person to ask her. She informed me that before the 1800s Jews were not allowed to live in the old city.  But afterwards, when the French took it over, Jewish residents moved in. But they had to leave again after the French and Napoleon were defeated. Jewish residents did not move back until 1848.

She told me that the synagogue in Lubeck survived because the Germans did not want to damage the museum that was next to it. It was built in the middle 1800s.  She gave me directions to find it during our free time.  The synagogue was closed for renovations, but I had to see this German synagogue that survived the war.

My husband and I took a ten-minute walk in the rain to the building. For me it was well worth it.  It seemed, from the outside, to be in good shape. A red brick building set far back from the street, the area in front was gated off and a sign explaining what was happening was in front.  When we were there a group of elementary school children were walking by.  Their laughter and joy in the rain, lightened my spirit.  Although I could not go inside, below I have put a link to what the shul looked like inside in the 1920s.

Our guide also told me an interesting story. She said that Jewish resident of Lubeck who escape Germany and settled in England helped to save the city. She said that the city was bombed by the Royal Air Force of Britain in March 1942 in retaliation for Germany bombing Coventry.  During that bombing 20 percent of the historic area was destroyed.  That was the only major bombing of the city, but it caused much damage.

From what I had read, the reason it was bombed was to test the firebombs to see how much destruction they would cause on the narrow streets of the old city. About 300 people were killed during the raid, so I think the RAF succeeded in destruction.   Her story is not totally correct from what I can tell. But that bombing was the only major attack on Lubeck.

She also said, that the Jewish resident who fled Germany to London wanted to save Lubeck. That made me wonder, could it be true?  Would a Jewish resident want to save a city in Germany?  It is a lovely historic area, but really after fleeing to survive, would I want to save my home town? I am not sure. However, that was her comment.

She continued that this man was a relative of the head of the Red Cross. So, I did research.  I think it all goes back to a man named Eric M. Warburg, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, not far from Lubeck in 1910.  He fled to the United States in 1938 and he became an intelligence officer for the US army and helped get German scientists and their families to the United States and out of Germany. He served as a liasion officer between the RAF and the US Army Air Force.

He along with Carl Jacob Burchhardt, who was president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, made Lubeck port a Red Cross port to supply prisoners of war with aid. Since Burchhardt was not Jewish, I assume she was referring to Warburg, even though he was not the head of the Red Cross, he had contacts. Also it made sense for Lubeck to be the Red Cross port as near Lubeck, the Nazis had a prisoner of war camp for officers, Oflag X-C, from 1940 to 1945.

Mr. Warburg was a member of a large Jewish-German banking family.   Could he have had a relative who lived in Lubeck and wanted to save it?  Maybe? Or could it be Mr. Warburg himself, a Hamburg native, who supposedly tried to save Lubeck?

I just have no proof of this. But I do have proof that members of the Jewish community in Lubeck were murdered by the Nazis.  I found five Stumbling Stones (Stolpersteine) for Jewish residents who were murdered in Riga. In fact, the last 85 Jewish residents in Lubeck were deported to Riga Ghetto in 1941-42, including Rabbi Joseph Carlebach (1883-1942), who was murdered in the Shoah.

You might notice that two of the Stolpersteine are for victims with the last name Alexander.  I have in my family members with this surname.  I will admit that I felt an extra pang in my heart when I read these two stones.  (See blog below about my Alexander family.)

I am not sure if there are any Jewish residents in Lubeck now.  There are about 3000 who currently live nearby in Hamburg.  At one point, before WW2, Hamburg had almost 20,000 Jewish residents.

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Salzspeicher houses along the Trave River.

Lubeck has many lovely medieval buildings.  I saw the unique entrance gate, the Holestentor,  that leads to the old town.  I ate marzipan at the famous Cafe Niederegger, which was founded over 200 years ago.  I saw the Salzspeicher houses that stand along the Trave River close to the gate. We walked past the home of Thomas Mann’s family. But for me, seeing a synagogue that survived World War 2 in Germany, was the highlight of the day in Lubeck.

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_L%C3%BCbeck_in_World_War_II

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_M._Warburg

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10165-lubeck

https://dbs.bh.org.il/place/hamburg?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2PabjJTH5AIVBr7ACh3P1gVmEAAYASAAEgJd4vD_BwE

 

https://dbs.bh.org.il/image/interior-of-the-synagogue-of-lubeck-germany-1920-c

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

 

The Floors of St Petersburg

10 Sep

It is a bit overwhelming to try to see as much as possible in two days in St. Petersburg. We went to Czarina Catherine’s summer palace in Pushkin. To two cathedrals: Isaac and Church of the Spilled Blood and the Hermitage, also known as the Winter Palace.

They were opulent, they were amazing, they were beyond belief, and so they made you realize why the ordinary Russian peasants and people rebelled against the aristocracy! The dichotomy between the rich and the poor was extraordinarily!

While in these churches and palaces, I began to notice the marble floors and the wood floors. They were also astounding. And I became obsessed, especially in the Hermitage where the floors were stunning examples of inlaid word and marble.

So here are some of my many floor photos.

First the floors of Catherine’s Summer Palace in Pushkin.

The marble floors of The Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg:

Finally the most magnificent inlaid wood floors of the Hermitage. I need to say that while we had to put on special booties to protect the floors in Catherine’s Palace, we did not have to wear them at the Hermitage. Some of these stunning floors are beginning to show damage. Here they are:

These buildings were so astonishing, it was often impossible to decide where to look. I think i focused on the floors, which are usually simple, as a way to relax my brain from the overwhelming lushness of what I was seeing. If you have ever been through the Vatican collection, then you know that exhaustion of seeing so much at one time. That is the feeling I had throughout my visit in St. Petersburg.

Discovering My Amsterdam Heritage in Amsterdam

26 Aug

Amsterdam has been the destination my heart has yearned to visit. My Grandfather’s last name was Amsterdam. We know his family moved from Spain to Portugal to Amsterdam to Poland where his family got the last name Amsterdam while others became Hollanders. So I always wanted to see where my family found safety. (I have written about this in the blog below.)

My first connection came unexpectedly. We first toured the Anne Frank House, which was of course heartbreaking to know how close they came to survival. But while there I noticed something I never realized. Anne’s mother’s maiden name was Hollander. I had an Oy vey moment. I knew that Anne Frank and my mom were both born in 1929. But now there was the connection in name. Could we possibly have been distantly related? My horror was multiplied. I have already found so many of my family murdered in the Shoah. (See blog below.)

Then while taking a canal tour we rode past the new town hall and ballet. We were told that the old Jewish Section of town was razed to build this and there was a community outcry. But it still happened. As we rode past I saw a black monolith with Hebrew inscribed in gold. I knew I would be back.

The next morning my husband and I took the 14 tram to the Portuguese Synagogue. We walked around the area. It was not open yet, so we could not go inside. But I assume this is where my family worshipped after their arrival in Holland. I saw the outside of the Jewish Museum. I need to go back to visit these sites in he future.

In front of the Synagogue was a statute with the date February 25, 1941. On this date was major strike started against the Nazis because of the roundup of Jewish citizens. The Germans were harsh in stopping the strike. Many would died and be deported. It was my first reminder of the Shoah.

But my focus was on finding the monolith. My husband and I started walking the almost mile to the Town Hall. Along the way I saw my first stolperstein, golden stones, in front of a home listing the Holocaust victims. I knew they existed but had never seen them before outside of photos. It was another ache to the heart.

We continued our walk until we found the monolith on the edge of the land overlooking the canal. The black monolith commemorating those who died. Again I thought of all who found safety there in the 1600s but could not find it in the 1900s. I have to be honest, it reminded me of the giant black monolith of “2001 A Space Odyssey ” indicating great change. The change here was the decimation of the Jewish community.

A short walk away from the monolith was a statute in honor of Spinoza, who was born in Amsterdam at this location. I was surprised to find it here, although I know his history. There was a plaque nearby that discussed Spinoza’s impact on ethics and philosophy.

My desire to discover my Amsterdam heritage in Amsterdam was not totally quenched. I will need to go back to the Synagogue and museum another time. But I still feel closer to my family history.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/09/as-spain-welcomes-back-jews-expelled-in-the-1400s-i-share-my-spanish-roots/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/

A Great Place for a Staycation

8 Jul

I love living in Johnson County, Kansas.  Our county is constantly listed among the most wonderful places to live in the United States.  We have beautiful parks, delightful museums and a multitude of theaters; our schools are excellent.  When my children were little, I often took advantage of the many free or low-cost activities available to keep them occupied.   It is easy to have a staycation, a stay at home vacation,  because there is so much to do.

Even though I no longer have small children, but am not yet a grandmother, I still like doing these fun activities. Luckily for me I have a friend who enjoys these activities as well.  I hope that we never grow up or grow old.  As they say, age is just a state of mind. And we keep exploring.

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In the last two weeks, my friend and I spent an afternoon at the local Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.  While there we visited all the farm animals.  But we also walked through the historic sections we were went through an apple orchard, visited a cow barn, spoke to a school marm in a one-room school house, visited a bank and a doctor’s office, went to a mine, visited an Native American encampment,  and entered several shops learning about blacksmithing, ice cream and the general store from the late 1800s to early 1900s in Kansas.

I admit we did not go on the hay ride or the pony rides.  We also did not go fishing or pan for gold.  But we could have!  And I have done some of these activities in the past.

We walked through the lovely gardens.  In some ways it was more delightful than the last time I was there with my friend and her grandchildren.  We did not have to keep track of anyone or find things for them to do.  We just meandered and enjoyed.

About two weeks later, I called my friend and told her we should go to the Johnson County Museum, located in the Arts & Heritage Center. I wanted to go specifically to see a temporary exhibit about The Wizard of OZ.  And for people living in Kansas, OZ and the Wizard are a big deal. This exhibit was from a personal collection of OZ memorabilia.

We did not only go to that exhibit.  We went through the entire museum learning about the history of our community and seeing mementos from the area.  The museum moved to its current location about four years ago.  I had visited the museum in its former location many times with my children, but this was my first time seeing it in its lovely new location.

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The electric house and a period car.

The exciting part for some of the children who were there, was the house in the middle of the museum. One of the first all-electric houses in the county, the house was enclosed inside  the new museum before the new building was completed.  Moving it took over six-hours from its previous location.  I actually enjoyed watching a video about the move.

There was another area called Kid Scape for the children.  My friend and I did not go in to experience the activities and the crafts, but we peaked inside.  I think my friend will be returning with her grandchildren!

The Heritage Center, where the museum is located, was a bustling place.  When we left the museum, we walked over the historical society, although we did not visit the displays as we  were captivated by the sounds of music. In another room, at the end of a hall,  a live band was playing ballroom dance music, specifically a tango.  We watched as about 12 couples danced around the large room.   I might have to come back with my husband one day.  We enjoy ballroom dancing. Unfortunately, he is usually at work on a Friday at 2 pm.

As we left the building, I looked over to where the black box theater is located.  Beginning in the fall, my husband and I will be coming for productions of the Spinning Tree Theatre shows.  We have been season ticket holders for several years and are looking forward to the company’s move to Johnson County.

I think our next adventure is a return visit to the Overland Park Arboretum.  The plants, the art work, and the pond, the train garden, provide a lovely spot to walk.  It will be another fun day in Johnson County.

 

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/deanna-rose-childrens-farmstead/

https://www.jcprd.com/327/Arts-Heritage-Center

https://jcprd.com/330/Museum/

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/arboretum-and-botanical-gardens/

https://spinningtreetheatre.com/

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/c/johnson-county-ks/rankings/

 

 

Loving All Things Dr. Seuss

10 Jun

I am a bit obsessive compulsive.  For me that means when I like something, I want to know everything about it.  When I like an architect, I study his or her work.  When I like the books written by a certain author, I also want to learn about the author.  When I like art, I need to know about the artist.   I think it all started with Dr. Seuss.

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My collection of Dr. Seuss books.

I believe I remember the first time my Dad read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me.  I can see myself sitting on one leg with my brother on the other leg.  We are wearing footsie pajamas.  I loved that book.  I also loved Go Dog Go!   The pictures, the language, the rhymes all contributed to my anticipation of a new book by Dr. Seuss.  I loved all books Seussical.  I wanted my parents to read them to me again and again and again.  In fact, I learned to read by reading Dr. Seuss books.

And who can ever forget The Cat In The Hat?  I am always worried that the house will still be a mess when Mom gets home.  Even when I am the Mom!!

Of course, when I had children, I made sure that all the Dr. Seuss books were in my home for me to read to my children.  Which I did as much as possible.  Although my children are grown, I keep those books as I await the arrival of grandchildren.  I know that I will be excited to read these books to a new generation.

Among our favorites was The Lorax, as my husband and I are committed to keeping our world as green as possible.  Reading The Lorax is a wonderful way to explain what happens when people do not care for or protect the world and the environment.  We used to watch the 1972 animated movie about The Lorax when our children were little. Yes, we own a 1990s VHS of this movie!  I guess it is a collector’s item now.  We have seen the new 2012 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but for me the original is best.

My husband loves these books as well, especially And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  Why that one?  Because he grew up on Mulberry Street in St. Louis!

When our children were little we were excited when “Seussical the Musical” was presented by the local children’s theater. I especially loved the songs, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think and How Lucky You Are! (See link to songs below.)

When the book, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography was published in the 1990s, I had to have it.  Reading it was somewhat eye-opening.  Theodor Geisel was a much different man than his alter ego, Dr. Seuss.  I was a bit disappointed in what I read, but how could I not still love what he created?  So I did. I also learned from the book, that he lived just north of San Diego for the last part of his life.

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The Cat In The Cat at Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss

In 2015, while spending a few days in San Diego, I wondered about finding something related to Dr. Seuss while we were there.  I did not have to look too hard.  While we were visiting museums in Balboa Park, we came upon a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the History Museum: “Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss.”   Serendipity to be there at the right time! 

The artwork, the statues, the rooms set up like scenes from his books.  All of these gave me joy. The exhibit is closed now, but I can always remember it because I purchased the book that went with the exhibit.  I also purchased Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War 11 Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Geisel. They actually mailed the books home to me, as I had no room in my luggage. But I needed those books! I still enjoy them.

But my love of all things Seuss does not end with books, books and more books.  Four years ago, I discovered that there was an area at Universal Studios in Florida called Seuss Landing.  Is it possible to find a more delightful spot for a Seuss addict?  No.  We went to see the Harry Potter worlds of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, which were quite wonderful.  But when I found Seuss Landing on our way out of the park, I knew I had found my happy place.

I realized I loved Seuss Landing more than the World of Harry Potter.  Do not get me wrong.  I purchased a Luna inspired magic wand that I can use to work magic.  I loved the atmosphere, the shops, the rides and the food of Diagon Alley.  But the world of Dr. Seuss still has my heart.

A few weeks ago we went back to Universal.  Yes, we did visit Hogwarts again.  And yes, I did have my wand with me.  And yes, I had fun.  But the magic for me was returning to Seuss Landing.

 

It was our first stop beginning our day at Universal, and our last stop on the way out.

I enjoyed walking all over this area with all the children and their families.  My husband and brother-in-law were with me.  Luckily, they are both pediatricians, so being around many children does not frighten them.  My husband went on two of the rides with me, and the three of us rode together for the Cat in Hat ride.

Just walking around makes me happy!  Seeing all the places from his books come to life delights me.  I love the book store filled with the many children’s books he created.  Yes, I went to the gift stores. This time I did not buy very much, as I had stocked up the last time we were there.  However, I do not mind the rides that end in a store, which usually drives me crazy.   In a Seuss Landing store, I just browse with a smile on my face.

Harry Potter World is wonderful,  but crowded with the many Harry Potter fans.  Seuss Landing is delightful, and not as crowded.  It is a great place to bring your younger children and enjoy going into a great world of imagination. An imagination that is not frightening at all, just fun!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36b07-zZZ8A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOIh1uVb6as

 

 

Visiting Kennedy Space Center: My Celebration of the Walk on the Moon

6 Jun

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landing fast approaching, I knew our recent trip to Florida had to include a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  How could we not go and relive the excitement of the United States’ journeys to the sky and the moon?  So we did!

We went on an uncrowded Sunday, the first one in June 2019.  Not quite seven weeks before the historic 50 anniversary which will be on July 20!  Although we did not take the bus tour to the launch pads, since we did that four years ago, we still had more than enough to do by touring through the exhibits.  At each one remembering our own excitement as we watched the race to space advance during our lifetime.

While there, we made sure to visit the memorial to those men and women who gave their lives while involved in the space program. The names of the Apollo and shuttle crews who perished are inscribed in a black wall reaching to the skies.  We were the only ones at the memorial when we went.  I wish everyone would visit this area of the Space Center.  Those who perished in the two shuttle catastrophes are also memorialized in the exhibit featuring the Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Atlantis, the last of the Space Shuttles, is housed in a giant building.  You cannot appreciate the size of the shuttle and its rockets until you are standing next to them.  Impressive! You learn so much about the ability of so many who worked together to create the space program.

But before the space shuttles came the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  The Center is filled with information about the astronauts, the engineers and the many people who helped create the leap into space.

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Friendship 7 Mission Control

The Heroes and Legends includes an Astronaut Hall of Fame and an exhibit of the original mission control.  While looking at this room, you watch a short video about John Glenn’s first orbits around the Earth and the fears when one of the lights came on indicating that the heat shield had come loose.  Luckily that was not the case, but you sense the fear.  Mission control looks so outdated today.  Computers and electronics are now so advanced.

I now understand, even more, why the mathematicians I learned about in the book and movie, Hidden Figures, were so important.  The state of technology was low, and brains were important.  I loved learning about Katherine Goble in the movie.  Seeing the mission control short movie about the Friendship 7, reminded me the importance of her calculations, which were also used in the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions, even though she is not mentioned.   I believe it is important to remember all the women who also had an impact on the space programs! I once thought my daughter would join these women at NASA. (See blog below.)

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Mock up of the newest moon rocket.

At the Kennedy Space Center, you can watch a variety of movies on the space program at the IMAX theater.  My favorite was the opportunity to listen to a briefing about what is happening at NASA and the chance to meet an astronaut at the Universe Theater.   We did learn that there is an effort to return to the moon in 2024 and we even saw a mockup of the space craft that will take astronauts there.

I still remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. (See blog below.). The summer of 1969 Is one I will never forget for both the walk on the moon and for the Woodstock music festival that was less than two miles from my home in the Catskills.

Space has had a place in the fabric of my family.  Visiting the Kennedy Space Center and learning about the past, present and future of the space program is a way to celebrate innovation and science.

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I visited the gift shop to purchase a t-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary. I had to get a Snoopy shirt.  For me, the Apollo missions to the moon will forever be attached to Charles Shultz and his cartoon character, Snoopy.  In fact, the Apollo 10 lunar module was called Snoopy, while the command one was called Charlie Brown.

Earlier this year I watched as Israel sent its first spacecraft to the moon with the help of Space IL and the Israel Aerospace Industries.  The Beresheet spacecraft crashed in its final moments, just before landing.   Think of the capabilities of technology today compared to 1969!  And even today it is nearly impossible to have a perfect landing.  This indicates so spectacularly how remarkable were the United States early trips to the moon.   I look forward to the 55th anniversary and the next attempt by the USA to have a man and a woman once again walk on the moon.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

www.KennedySpaceCenter.com

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-and-peanuts-celebrate-apollo-10-s-50th-anniversary

https://www.space.com/israeli-beresheet-moon-landing-attempt-fails.html

 

Visiting the Van Vleck House and Gardens

3 May

Another delightful site to visit in Montclair is the Van Vleck House and Gardens.  Once a private estate, the house and its gardens were donated to The Montclair Foundation in 1993 by the heirs of Howard Van Vleck, who owned this Italianate villa.  The house was built in 1916.  While other homes once were on the estate as well, this is the only house that still remains.

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The original main entrance to the house on Van Vleck Street.

The gardens are open to the public for free every day!  No holiday closures!  The lovely house is used as a center for nonprofit groups for meetings, events, and fundraisers.  I actually saw people having a yoga class in one of the rooms! What a spectacular yoga studio!  The windows overlook the gardens!

The house and gardens were a short walk from the Montclair Art Museum, just along Upper Mountain Avenue.  Our visit came after several days of rain, so all the grass was lush.  But the blooming season, except for the daffodils was not yet in progress.  I think by the end of May these gardens will be stunning.  When we saw them, everything was greening up, but not much was flowering.

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The formal garden in the back of the house.

There are several walkways and levels of gardens.  The formal gardens behind the main house are lovely. Staff members were setting up for an event when we were there, so we tried to stay out of the way. Although not much was blooming yet, it was a great place to get a good walk in a lovely setting.

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One of my favorite spots.

The Upper Lawn had several stations to check out.  You can download the Van Vleck house’ app and learn about the different areas using codes on the signs.  I liked an area on the upper lawn that had many daffodils and a bird house.  When you walk across the upper lawn, you come to the Mother’s Garden and then to a percola that was renovated.

At first, I was not sure if you were allowed to walk on the lawn, as there were no paths. But seeing the information signs across the way gave me some confidence that this was acceptable.  Also the Garden Etiquette flyer we picked up at the Visitor Center, says, “Walk only on the pathways and grassy areas.”  So we did!

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The Visitor Center with an Ap sign.

The children’s butterfly garden should be lovely as well. It is located behind the Visitor Center. (Where there are good restrooms.  Always important when walking.)  I also liked the colorful signs with details about insects and disease impacting trees and what to look for that lined the path from the butterfly garden to the front of the Visitor Center.  I was glad to see on the website that there are many children and family activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

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The pavilion by the Tennis Garden.

We did not go on the Rhododendron Walk.  It was somewhat muddy and damp, and I was not in the right shoes for that.  However, I did enjoy the Tennis Court Garden, planted where the estate’s tennis court once stood.  To the side is little pavilion.  I could, in my mind, see people resting there between sets of tennis, or watching those playing while enjoying the shade.

I hope to go back to Montclair and visit the Van Vleck gardens when everything is in bloom!

 

To learn more about the gardens and home, go to: www.vanvleck.org