I am typing this in the early morning hours of June 8th. Before us are 13 more nights on the road and then home. In the meantime we continue to enjoy local cuisine, in this case real Vienna Schnitzel.
The June 7th night train from Vienna to Hannover with connection to Berlin did not depart until nearly 9 pm. We took that as an opportunity to spend the day wandering the cultural center of Vienna Austria, and what sights there were! Our 7 mile sojourn left us certain that we would return some day to see the treasures contained within the monumental structures that we passed. The 12th Century St. Stephen’s Cathedral was the only building that we entered, and there we ascended one of the towers for an overview of the central city an to see the “Plummerin” (bell) which weighs nearly 50,000 pounds and is the third largest swinging bell in Europe. I apologize for not including information about the buildings in the following pictures. We felt like ants wandering in a land of giants. Perhaps details will come with a future visit.
We were in Ireland when I made arrangements for the night trains. This was the one part of our journey that I wish I could have planned earlier. I secured the last available first class cabin for out inbound transit to Vienna but only a second class sleeper was available for the outbound. The difference is significant. Unlike the privacy and amenities we enjoyed in our 2 person first class cabin, the second class “couchette” is a cabin for 6 passengers with the beds arranged 3 high across from each other. I and one of the other passengers ascended to our top bunks by a narrow metal ladder and had to be careful not to sit up quickly lest we bang our heads on the ceiling. The cabin was warm but tolerable down below, however near the ceiling it was 10 degrees hotter. In deference to the privacy of the other 5 passengers I took only a few pictures looking out on the countryside from our carriage.
André Lieber was our first foreign exchange student. He was a part of our family for the 1992-93 school year. He still calls us Dad and Mom. André met his wife Asuka as students studying Chinese in Beijing 18 years ago. She was a Japanese national. Among the languages they spoke they held only English and Chinese in common. They have since also learned each other’s native tongues. They and their two darling children live in Berlin where André is employed by the Ministry of Finance and Asuka by a private corporation. The children are bilingual in German and Japanese, also now learning English. Theirs is truly a world family!
André met us at the train and we immediately began a tour of Berlin. He was able to arrange a rare private tour for us of the Reichstag, Germany’s center of government. The Bundestag was in session so our tour did not include the actual parliamentary chamber.
The Reichstag was severally damaged during World War 2. This rebuilt structure is ultramodern but retains much of its historical facade. Atop of the Reichstag is a huge glass dome containing double-helix ramp-ways to ascent and descend the top of the dome.
We saw much in our overview walking tour with André. I will end this note with our moving visit to the 2003 Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It consists of a grid work of 2,711 slabs covering nearly 5 acres. Beneath the field of “stelae” is a museum that somberly details the stories of the 7 million victims of Nazi genocide between 1933 and 1945. In one room brief recorded biographies of the dead are read aloud in German and English 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These biographies are being compiled in Israel and it is estimated that the current collection will take over 7 years to read aloud.
Our day concluded with registration at our comfortable hotel, and a 2 minute walk to André and Asuka’s apartment where we enjoyed dinner with the family.
Peace Everyone. Pete