Berlin secrets : Trains to life ,Trains to death

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Kindertransport | Frank Meisler
One station, two destination

October 3 is the German Unification Day or the Tag der Deutschen Einheit , the day that commemorates the unification of East and West Germany. In line of this holiday, I wanted to write something about  Berlin and how it reminds me of a fascinating, and yet sad “secret”I have found from our last trip in Berlin. The story itself is not a secret, it’s not on the top 10 tourist destination in Berlin, but rather, a must-see for anyone who wants to deviate from stereotype Berlin, or dvelve unto something different.

Personally,whenever I am in a new place, I try to discover some off-beaten tracks or beyond the usual-touristy spots, at least if I have the chance.Sometimes, what appears to look  ordinary, plain, and insignificant held quite a mystery, a profound story behind it. But only the keen eyes sees it.

Last time when we were in Berlin, we don’t have an itinerary. We want to make it spontaneous and explore it like a local. Surprisingly,  I don’t feel like a tourist anymore. I felt like I can blend more easily , since I finally got a hold of  my German  and I can understand what’s going on around me. I find it easy now to navigate and read the signs which happened to be all in German, not like a year ago that I basically don’t have an idea what does it mean.I got to ask my friend Google translate for a help!

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Berlin’s secrets : Trains to Life, Trains to Death

One of the Berlin secrets that I discovered is found just outside  the busy station of –Friedrichstraße–the known entertainment center in Berlin. It’s located in the Mitte of Berlin and adjacent to the street that crosses the Spree river.  It’s an important station in Berlin because of many reasons. First, this station was the station used during the Nazi regime to transport the Jews to many deportation camps, or to worst, to their death camps. In the same location can be found is the “Tränenpalast” or the Palace of Tears where East Germans said goodbye to family and friends going back to West Germany. From 1962 to 1989 it was the border crossing for travellers by S-bahn, U-bahn and train between East and West Germany.It is a place of tears, and woeful goodbyes!

Secondly, for all visitors in Berlin, this station is known to  tourists to famous destinations such as Unter den Linden, Brandenburg, and the Reichstag or the Deutscher Parliament.During the cold war, Friedrichstraße station belongs to East Germany and the major border crossing between the East and the West.

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One Station , Two destinations

While waiting for my cousins, we get on to Friedrichstraße  and kill our time. I didn’t expect to find some fascinating discovery—The monument of “The Trains to Life, Trains to Death” built by  Israeli Architect and Sculptor Frank Meisler in November 2008. Meisler himself travelled with a 1939  children’s transport from Berlin-Friedrichstraße to England called “Kindertransport” ( Refugee Children’s Movement ). Imagine, out of 1.6 million children murdered during Holocaust, only approx. 10,000 of them had a luck to escape and saved their lives through the help of Great Britain. The children traveled in a sealed trains, sometimes children carried babies as well.After arriving in Great Britain, they were transferred to Foster homes or reception camps and most of them never see their parents again.

 

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Kindertransport monument by Frank Meisler, Berlin,Germany

It’s  easy to miss this memorial monument especially when you don’t pay attention to details around you. It bears inscriptions both in English and Deutsch and mentions “In gratitude to the people of Great Britain” .When we are out from the station, I was trying to look around to look for landmarks but what I notice is a plain wall with this inscription in the information panels ( Stiftung Denkmal) –” Züge in das Leben, Züge in den Tod ” ( Trains to Life, Trains to Death), upon reading this, I was really struck, moved and my mind fixated on the inscription and was trying to read the rest for me to understand what’s the story behind it. This time, I happened not to look at the Bronze sculpture yet. There was a lady sitting on the side of it, she probably waiting for someone. I noticed that few people were photographing in front of us and I was telling my daughter to clear the spot. I found the story of the Kindertransport very intriguing, it is not your ordinary memorial. This memorial is for children. It’s hard to accept the fact that innocent little children were victims of the horrific Holocaust. Whether you are a parent or not, this piece of story is disturbing.

Then my daughter walked on the other side and decided to climb the statues. It consists of 2 groups, with seven figures of children. On their coats they wear yellow stars. The bronze colored statues , a boy and a girl facing the Spree river symbolise the lucky ones who escaped and were transported to Great Britain. The greyish-bronze group had another destination–they represent the unlucky ones who were transported to the Death camps in the East. What caught my attention was the empty suitcase with a broken doll inside it. The doll has is abandoned and there was a withering violet flower lying beside it. My daughter was saying “Mama, die Puppen ist schon kaputt!” was is passiert?!  ( the doll is already broken, Mama! what happened?!)

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Empty suitcase

I couldn’t find words to explain to my daughter…it is hard to explain.

This is probably the most disturbing memorial, and yet the most moving monument that I have ever seen in my whole life. It really touches you,provokes you, unless you are immune to human feelings. I am not born yet on this dark times in Germany but reading about the stories and seeing all the memorial sites for all the victims of Holocaust made me appreciate life even better, and understand it. Never again, it should never happen again.

My visit to Berlin is not only filled with photographs, or busy tourist spots, it was also full of valuable lessons. This is one of the Berlin secrets that is worth to explore and find. Frank Meisler remind us with this monument that life may lead you  in different destinations, some path leading us to life,the route to safety, or sadly some path leads to death.

This experience encouraged me to see the other “Kindertransport”works of Frank Meisler–one in his hometown in Danzig, Poland, “Kindertransport the Arrival” in Liverpool Station in London and the “Channel of Life “at the hook of  Holland , in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

How’s your travelogues lately? Have you discovered anything sort of “secret” ?

Have you heard about the Stolpersteine or stumbling stones?

If you happen to visit Berlin, make sure you drop by in Friedrichstraße Station, you’ll not regret the experience. If you’re interested about Kindertransport story, here’s an interesting read about it.You’ll find as well some of the famous Jews children who told their stories about their experience.

 

 

Throwing stones and your worries

Why is it so fun throwing stones into the water?

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The water glistened like diamonds against the sun.

Throwing stones into the river – a toddler’s perfect, guilt free way of destruction. A harmless way of destroying something without any permanence…

Yesterday was another lovely, peaceful day, of course its ruhetag (rest day) here in Germany so naturally, everything comes in a slow pace. So unlikely from the routine that I got used to in Kuwait that Sunday is the start of the week. I love Sundays here because If I am lucky, my daughter lets me sleep in a bit, at least until 7 am. After breakfast and doing some much-needed chores, we decided to take the toddler a spin and have a walk. In Germany, all shops are closed on Sundays so the only place to go is nature. The weather was nice, and the sky is clear  so we walked into the woods. The snow have melted and the paths are all muddy-ice and it was really difficult to push the stroller, good thing I wore my hiking boots. We came to the river banks and have a pit-stop. The view was so beautiful and refreshing. The calm waters, glistening like diamonds, the silhouette of winter flowers and moss-filled branches of bare trees against the sun, almost kissing the waters. I gather some stones and started throwing it into the river. My husband followed along and brought my daughter. For the first time, she was able to start throwing stones into the water. It’s like magic, her laughter filled the air. The splash of waters, her fidgety moves while gripping the stones from her bulky mittens, she was having so much fun!

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Choose the block, a heavy burden or stone in your life that you want to throw away.

‘Seems like we  never outgrown the habit of throwing stones into any bodies of water…’

I am an adult and I still love throwing stones into the river, ponds, beaches, creeks, and even to any body of water that is near to me. The urge is there, as always. It’s automatic once I see any water. I find it very entertaining.

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The art of throwing stones into the water , the art of letting go.

Throwing stones is perfect, soul saving interaction with nature. Pattern making is built into the human psyche. If we see something beautiful, we want to participate in it without tearing it down. Ripples from rocks skipped across the water are reaffirmation of our existence in the world, without doing the world any harm. This urge would stay with us for life if we do not turn away from it in our cynical self-absorption. Nature is out there, and out there includes us.

But why water?

I guess throwing rocks into water is relaxing because there’s no pressure trying to hit the target, and the splash and ripples satisfy our need for sensing predictable causal effects.This is so true with kids, my daughter is a perfect example who enjoy this. From splashing in the tub during bath times, up to making messes in the sand pit, even playing with water during painting time.

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A toddler’s fun of throwing stones into the water

People don’t often think about it, but we are not so far removed from our primal instincts as we like to think. “Modern Man” is but a thin veneer, and a fragile one at that. Have you ever watched a toddler destroy a tower of duplos and Legos after you’ve just built something? My daughter always do this, she just love to tear down anything that I am trying to build. At a young age, we have been inclined to disrupt something, knowing that no harm is done, permanently.

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Stones in the water

You might not realize it but throwing stones can be therapeutic. When you pick up a stone, you release your  worries and throw them as well into the water.I felt all kinds of emotions that I wasn’t expecting as I launched more and more rocks into the river. There were a few moments of sadness, of anxiety in the mix but they didn’t last. Most of the time, I felt really joyful.

If you have the chance, try doing it and watch how your mood changes. I was not even aware how time flies, as I keep on picking up stones, and at the same time taking some photos, time was on my side. My husband said that it’s also one of his favorite thing to do when He was a kid.We never never outgrown these things. It’s in us all along.

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Throw your stress into the waters

I am happy to find wisdom such as this in ordinary circumstances.When I look at the vase full of the stones that I gathered from the river, I remember not much of the walk through the river, but the fun that my daughter had, and mine as well.

I guess we’ll be frequenting to do this again especially in summer.

How about you,do you like throwing stones into the water?

How was your experience?

 

If you enjoyed reading this post and got time to kill, you might want to waste more time checking out what I recently discovered as fun thing to do when the weather drops here in Bavaria. Check out these posts  in my Sunday Wandertags;

Walking on a Frozen Lake

Enjoying Solace in Neues Schloss

Chasing the Fog

 

 

 

 

 

The Spider games | Nostalgia

I was going in our garden shed to get some tools then I noticed something in the bush beside it. For a moment I thought it was just a ball of cobweb but looking closely enough I noticed something. It’s a spider caught up in its webbings or something that I am not familiar with. I’ve heard that these creepers are on sight especially in Autumn here in Germany . The color of the spider itself is new to me, a light yellow with tints of black and the size is almost as big as my thumb. Not the kind of spiders I want to mess up with.

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Spider games

When I told my husband about this, He was shocked.Spider fighting is your worst nightmare come true. This ghastly sport takes place in the Philippines and is popular among children although it has attracted a large adult audience as well. The rules are pretty simple. The arachnids are placed on a stick and shoved toward each other until they start fighting. If a spider falls off the stick three times, it loses. If a spider gets wrapped up in its opponent’s webbing, it loses. And of course, a spider match can always result in death. This is one of those situations where winning really is everything.Pretty  simple but exciting,right?

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Spider in the bush 

Looking at this spider brings me back to the distant past of my childhood. At one moment I felt the nostalgic feeling of being a child again. In the place where I grew up, Spider games is a part of any childhood , especially for little boys. Yes, you heard that right, playing with spiders, it’s like a cock fight, a boxing match of spiders. Having a bet on which one would knock-out the other. These spiders are normally house spiders that crept on ceiling, or in the plants. They are trained to fight. Sounds crazy but this is true. If you’re afraid of spiders then you can’t even watch how they murder each other.They are not the poisonous ones like Tarantulas etc. It’s the kind of game I used to watch my cousins,( mostly boys) are playing. We used to keep the spiders in a small box of an empty matchboxes. I remember that one of my cousin has 5-6 boxes with his ‘pet’and always waiting for a suitable opponent.There’s an art to catching the right spider. Kids wake up early in the morning to hunt for future champions, and the best fighters are said to be the ones living on electric power lines

Such nostalgia from my childhood.

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Only in the Philippines : Playing with spiders ( Image source: Google)

I grew up in a place where the only high-tech game on hand is the brick game, with few Super Mario and Nintendo. We don’t have the money to buy Lego, walking Dolls, PSP or Xbox yet, the Apps  for Candy Crush or Clash of Clans (COC), or even a computer which we can play PacmanWarcraft or Starcraft. We don’t have these luxury yet during those times. As children, we contend ourselves by playing outdoors, climbing trees, running through the rice fields, playing ‘Patintero’ which we draw lines using water during full moon, playing ‘Piko’  & ‘ Chinese Garter ‘right after school in the playground, and if its raining, we just slouch on the floor and play ‘Jackstones‘. These are my favorite traditional games.

Nowadays,childhood games have evolved into something else. My daughter’s favorite is playing with her Papa’s old toys like the wooden Bike, Duplo blocks & Legos or just playing in the sand and pebbles. I find them quite special too because they are old toys where my husband used to play with when he was at her age. But kids nowadays have access to more modern toys and entertainment like the smartphones & iPad.

Yes, time has changed our generation. But Nostalgia keeps us coming back to the past. To the old place and old toys that we had that brought joy and happiness in its simplest form. Nostalgia is sweet page to flip on, just like the spiders in the boxes, but let it be there, just a memory to cherish on.

 

This post is in response to this week’s Photo Challenge |Nostalgia.

 

Why is it hard for Expats to make Friends after 30’s?

If the title caught your attention , then most probably you might be in your 30’s and I presume that reading that sentence create a certain churn in your stomach, you nod in recognition and mostly, you have a quirk smile. Why ? Because you knew this feeling.

Why is it HARD for an Expat to make friends after 30?

Do you also have a hard time having friends on your new country?

It’s the sense of recognition when you knew you’re not the only one who is experiencing this . I haven’t really figured this out myself not until I was in the same situation. When you read about it or hear that somebody else is having the same thing as you, you felt more curious. This paranoia is indeed real.

You become OUT of SIGHT.

As an Expat , i knew exactly how friendships goes out of sight. In my post ” Being an Expat is Hard” i touched on the subject that Relationships gets the hardest lag when you moved from your home country to another place. You see, as we get older ,along the way there’s so many changes happening like a big move for work & career, marriage, having a baby, pursuing graduate studies,Divorce, and so on. So much, that it caught us unaware in realizing that we begin to lost friends. Those Best of Friends. I’m talking about real friendships. Those BFF’s! The strong relationship you’ve had when you’re in your teens that went up for years. Those kind of person who sticked it out with you for real. Those  whom you went to kindergarten up to High School and eventually hooking up again in College. Someone who could bring you home when you got too drunk from partying. Someone who was there with you on rough days. Who lend out a hand when you are totally down and the same friend who cheer  with you when you won on that Literary contest. That friend you always have in your Speed dial and Favorites,long before the smartphones existed. But these people suddenly becomes out of sight.

It’s remarkable how common an experience this is: Making friends in your 30s is significantly harder than making friends earlier in life. Do you remember how quick you win friendship in your school’s playground? Almost as remarkable is how little warning I had that this was coming. Nobody told me that when i reached 30, having friends is pretty hard as looking for pearls.  There’s plenty of books that tells you what to expect when you get to college, there’s even more about what to expect when you get pregnant. But how to make friends when you become an Adult? let alone as an Expat? The process is more than just a self-read.

You become OUT of REACH.

People suddenly become out of Reach. Our story is not unusual. When we are at 30’s and 40’s, plenty of new people enter our lives, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. Social media makes you ever present anywhere but totally physically absent. The actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply. As an Expat, the challenge of new surroundings is another thing. If you are single, you are eager to meet new people. You are most likely to meet fellow Expats who are totally of different culture from what you have. At work you are surrounded with people who are overly competitive that they don’t disclose much of their private lives. Part of their personality remains under the box. Its hard to assess who they are over a few drinks or dinner. When you are in this age, you become out of reach.

It’s hard to reach out to people when they don’t want you to go deeper in their lives.

You become OUT of TOUCH

As an Expat you always have the feeling that you are missing something way back home. But because of the toll of new responsibilities, you cannot just follow through your friendships. I am not talking about a few pokes in Facebook or the ever present Happy Birthday greetings  in their walls ,or the number of likes you do on their posts. Not being physically present is the real deal. Although you have created a new life when you become an Expat, those new friends you’ve made would always be regarded as “KOF’s “or Kind of Friends. You accepted them in your life since you don’t want to wear yourself out from tedious way of gaining friendships (You know very well that time is the true test of any relationships) .You don’t want to make another laborious effort in reaching out. It’s another thing when they move on to another place and they left you. You begin the same cycle again. Ever met the parents of your child in Kindergarten? You only became friends with them because your child loves to hang around with their child. You are connected with a link but actually, you don’t really get them.

If you are in your 30’s and you’re still single, you might be trapped in an oblivion. Most of the friends you knew have a different routines and interests from you. A mother would not be constantly be available to grab a drink with you & catch up if she is engulfed with family duties. At this age, you already become wary of the stage of handling relationships and its failures. You knew exactly how to get over it since you’ve been through it all already.

So what can you do when you’re in this dilemma? Do you still make an effort ?

I am giving you my side of my story in this. I have been through all of this. For years that I have been living as an Expat, I have seen so many people come and go. From work , or from the flat i used to lived with. You can’t help this since this is the natural course of life. There’s a saying that keeps me on track : No one is indispensable!

On new people coming into my life, Here’s how I keep my sanity & what i have learned to lived by :

“I don’t like forced conversations, forced friendships, forced interactions, I simply do not force things. If we don’t vibe, we don’t vibe..”

I’m grateful that i have found best friends in my life that I have known for years. They are still and will always be my friends despite the miles that we are apart. I treasure every single time i have shared with them and it’s enough that i had the chance to even met them in my life.

What about you? What’s your story?