Merry Christmas

Hope you are having a very Merry Christmas, with the ones that you love, as well as remembering those that are no longer with us. I’m lucky enough to be with my parents, enjoying my Mother’s roast dinner, and watching the grand-daddy of all Christmas movies.

Can’t forget this one either,

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Christkindlmarkt

christmas market 2One of the reasons we braved the winter cold and snow in Berlin was the chance to visit the Christmas Markets. I’ve been to a couple in Japan, or what Japan thought that a German Christmas market should be. But I decided I needed to see the real thing.  What isn’t there to like? Bratwurst, Gluhwein (hot spiced red wine), handmade gifts, and more than enough Christmas spirit to go around. Its pure magic.

christmas market 4 christmas market 3 I love Christmas time and probably have a disproportionate amount of enthusiasm for this holiday.  I ate close to my weight in sausages, and a few gallons of the gluhwein while taking in the magic.

christmas market 1We went to four different markets in the weekend that we were in town and each had its own theme and beautiful decorations. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the Christmas season.

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Drawings on the wall

I don’t know much about street art, but I do quite enjoy it. I can’t always say whats good or bad, but I do enjoy walking through cities and finding little treats in unexpected places. The art is Berlin was like nothing I have seen. It was like there was so much going on throughout the city that it was bursting at the seams and therefore art was leaking all over the place. (In the best way possible of course.) The creativity I witnessed just walking down the street will keep my inspired for a long time to come. The biggest and most obvious place to start our street art exploration was the East Side gallery of the Berlin Wall. After the fall of the wall in 1989 artists were invited to decorate a 1.3km stretch to create a memorial for freedom and celebrate hope for the future.

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Berlin was awesome

481788_10151180536761365_1710334936_nI’m pretty sure the title says it all. The first weekend of December the 6pack decided to take our show on the road to the grand city of Berlin. Berlin has been on my short list of places I had to visit while in Europe. We decided that December would be a great time to visit since we would also be able to visit the Christmas markets.

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The Reichstag

The Reichstag

IMGP6997It was one snowy weekend, but we didn’t let that slow us down. We still managed to see most of the big sites of the city, and fit in some snow angels, park wanderings, and one epic snowball fight. Berlin has such a rich history, it was great to explore both the east and west areas of the city.

Brandenburg  Tor

Brandenburg Tor

Chechpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

 

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

The only problem with travelling is that I feel like I want to live in each of the cities I have visited. All these trips seem to be just a tease, like I just getting a taste of how cool that place could be. It happened in Paris, Chiang Mai, and Berlin was certainly no exception.

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Dank U Sinterklaas

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Thanks to Sinterklaas aka my totally amazing host family I am the proud owner of a sewing machine. I was pretty excited to begin stitching things together however there was one problem I didn’t know how to start. Since the machine was purchased in the Netherlands the instruction manual was written in Dutch, German, or French, none of which I understand well enough. I was able to find several youtube videos explaining how to get started. After 7 attempts, 3 tread jams, 2 tantrums, and 1 emotional breakdown, I finally figure out that machine. Just a few minutes later I cranked out some hair bows for my little ones. It was pretty satisfying, and if others would have been watching I bet it would have been inspiring. I’m pretty sure I heard chariots of fire playing as I completed my first hair bow. Look out world. There’s a whole lot of sewing going to happen soon.

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Christmas Craft Mania

12074_904427682869_1197452766_nRecently we got our first snow of the season in Holland. Sure it didn’t last too long or even stick on the ground but it was SNOW!!! And you know what snow means, Christmas. You know what Christmas means? Crafts. It just so happens that Christmas and crafting are two of my favorite things on this planet, so I take every opportunity I can to combine the two into an explosion of awesome.

484170_904427692849_1121740247_nWhen my kids came home from school I convinced them to make snowflakes with me. We gathered several pairs of scissors, a stack of computer paper and started pumping the Christmas tunes on my computer. Sure their enthusiasm didn’t quite match mine, but there’s a good chance that I was a little over excited about this whole ordeal. We managed to crank out a whole array of flakes as well as a 12ft long paper chain. I’d say we’ve gotten a good start on our Christmas decorating.

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Keeping it classy with Prins William the 5th

429523_904423281689_293033366_nAfter taking in the brutality and horror from the Gevangenpoort’s gory past, Sanja and I decided to class it up and take in come culture in the near-by art museum.

300036_904423296659_2007852856_n-polaAttached to the Museum de Gevangenpoort is the Galerij de Prins Willim V. Throughout his life Prince William of Orange amassed an impressive collection of art. In 1774 he opened his private gallery to the public to be the first public art gallery. The collections is primarily pieces from Dutch and Flemish painters from the Dutch Golden age, such as Steen, Potter, van Mieris, van Honthorst and Rubens.  Although the actually gallery is long gone, his collection remains and is on display in a similar style to the original gallery. In addition to this specific gallery, pieces from Prince Willem V’s collection comprise the basis for many museums throughout Holland.

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Locked Up

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Last week Sanja and I got locked up in prison. Its wasn’t because we were arrested, we chose to go there. It was a bit cold though, as the prison is over 700 years old. This building isn’t actually a working prison, but now functions as a museum called Museum de Gevangenpoort in Den Haag. Sanja and I took the tour of the prison and museum. It was everything I thought an old prison would be, huge crossbars on the windows, small bleak cells, and thick walls covered in writing. There is a good chance this was on a an episode of International Ghost Hunters. (So maybe ghost shows are a guility pleasure) They also took us into the holding cell for the upper class as well as the torture chamber.

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Gevangenpoort’s most famous captive was Cornelis de Witt, a high-ranking politician,  who was charged with plotting to kill the King. After brutal interrogation by torture he refused to admit to the crimes charged against him. Eventually he was released due to the lack of proof or confession. The public took matters into their own hands and brutally killed him and his brother just steps outside the prison. The following is a recorded account of a witness:

“every one of the miscreants, emboldened by his [Johan’s] fall, wanted to fire his gun           at him, or strike him with blows of the sledge-hammer, or stab him with a knife or swords, every one wanted to draw a drop of blood from the fallen hero, and tear off a shred from his garments.

And after having mangled, and torn, and completely stripped the two brothers, the mob dragged their naked and bloody bodies to an extemporised gibbet, where amateur executioners hung them up by the feet.

Then came the most dastardly scoundrels of all, who not having dared to strike the living flesh, cut the dead in pieces, and then went about the town selling small slices of the bodies of John and Cornelius at ten sous a piece.”

-Dumas

The tour was fascinating even though I didn’t understand more than 20% of what the tour guide was saying. It was like walking through a movie set, only this time it was real. I was also given an english guidebook from the sympathetic tour operators, and continued to geek out at home and further researched the prison and the story of Cornelis.

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down in the chicken leg

Last weekend I headed down south to the “chicken leg” of the Netherlands, to the city of Maastricht. The city boats a rich history dating back to the 11th century. Construction of the largestchurch in the city, Basilica of Saint Servatius, started in the first half of the 11th century. That’s 700 years older than my country. I always get blown away by how old european history can date back and this was no exception. The rest of the city was more open than most other dutch cities and also lacked the typical canals.

 

We spent the day wandering through the city and eating just about any fatty food that happened to be in our path. Being a saturday there were several stands in the Markt squares, and it was an especially good day to be hungry.

Although our time there was grand, the transportation there and back was another story.  We knew that it would take longer than usual to get down south, were were prepared for a 2 1/2 hour trip. 2 1/2 hours would have been lovely. Our first hold up happened when the departure station was closed because a shooting had occured just an hour before. Ok, we found a tram to get the group to another station. A couple train transfers later we were moved to a bus. A portion of the tracks were under construction that weekend, so all the train passengers would be transported via bus. You don’t realized how many people are on a train until you have to fit them on buses. It got messy. Between all the transfers and alternative routes our trip was nearly twice as long. On the way back we decided to take a pit stop at a bar in Utrecht. We knew it was going to be a long trip home, why not make the most of it?

busy month ahead

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This December I’ll be a-travelin’ I’m starting out the month by going to Berlin for a weekend with my ladies. And just a week later its back in the States for me, to visit Mom, Dad and my homies for the holidays. Excited is an understatement.