Germany Part II

After my post yesterday Simeon and I walked across town to take an English walking tour of Berlin. Along the way we stopped to grab a soft pretzel and a hot dog from a friendly street vendor. Mmmmm (that’s German for Yummy). We arrived at the location where the tour was to meet and didn’t see anyone around. Simeon instantly panicked thinking he read the pamphlet wrong and we were to meet at 2:30pm instead of 3:00pm. As it turned out we were perfectly on time (the 2:30pm was the tour on the other side of the city) it was just a smaller group and we didn’t notice them among the crowds. The smaller group was preferable to me, as it brings a more individualized, intimate feel to the tour. Julie, our guide, was fabulous and had lovely anecdotes which made the tour very interesting and memorable.

The most entertaining thing about Berlin is while it looks like a grand old city, it is very new. So much of the city was destroyed during WWI and WWII and has been rebuild to look like the original structures. They even went so far as to copy the styles of architecture from other ancient cities to give it a more “old world” feel, which I believe they have accomplished. Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a mere 19 years ago, the city has slowly been working to rebuild itself. Being an impoverished city, it has taken decades to repair the damages. Even as we walked the streets, we can see much of the buildings are under construction to repair the wounds inflicted decades ago.

I am not a big history buff, and can honestly say I had no real expectations of our stay in Berlin. But I have been so moved by the devastation and oppression the city has experienced and fought to conquer; WWI, the holocaust, WWII, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. While the majority of the buildings and monuments are very elaborate and decorative, I think the site that really impacted me the most on our tour would have to be one of the simplest: the monument in Bebelplatz Square. In the center of a cobblestone courtyard is a pane of glass. Below the glass is a lit library with rows and rows of empty book cases. It is to commemorate the scene of the Nazi bookburning in which 20,000 books written by Jewish authors were all destroyed. There is a plaque that reads “In the center of this place on 10 May 1933 National Socialist students burned work by hundreds of free writers journalists, philosophers, and scientists.” Perhaps more moving than the empty library is the quote by Heinrich Heine: “where books are burned, in the end people will burn.” If only Heinrich knew just how true that was.

But our tour was not all doom and gloom. A more humorous monument would have to be “The Pope’s Revenge.” The Fernsehturm, Berlin’s Television Tower, is a very noticeable monument that can be seen from much of the city. (In fact Simeon and I saw it from the air as we landed in Tegel airport–we thought it resembled a Christmas tree topper and kept referring to it as such.) When the sun shines on the Tower’s shiny “disco ball” the reflection creates a sort of cross. There was massive religious suppression as a result of the Communist governments atheist undertones which went so far as to ban all crosses. Though they have tried and tried, there is no stopping the reflective cross from appearing on sunny days, thus Berliners call the cross Rache des Papstes, or “The Pope’s Revenge.” You gotta love a religion with a sense of humor! I just never would have thought it would be the Catholics! (Just kidding….kinda.)

Anyway, we saw way more of the city than we ever imagined on our tour and as a result are taking it easy today. The weather has been quite drizzly and wet, so Simeon and I took the opportunity to sleep in and spend some time relaxing in cafes, drinking rich coffee, and enjoying German cuisine. It doesn’t get any better than that! Later today we may take advantage of our hotels fabulous spa before venturing back into the city again. I am determined to find me some Lederhosen…..

(Once again, all pictures are in my Flickr.)

Guten Tag aus Deutschland!

Or “Good morning from Germany! Simeon and I are having a fabulous time. We keep reminding ourselves we are on no one’s schedule but our own and just trying to enjoy our vacation. We arrived yesterday (after layovers in Chicago and London) and managed to find our way out of Tegel airport, caught a bus to the subway and found our hotel. We took much needed showers (after 22 hours of traveling it was quite necessary!). Normally when we stay in hotels we have two concerns: the shower and the bed. The bed was heavenly (literally. We are staying in the Westin and the have the “Heavenly” beds.) and the shower was amazing. Its one of those rain shower heads and Simeon and I have to practically force ourselves out of the shower otherwise all we would see in Berlin would be our hotel’s bathroom!

Then we wandered out to find dinner in an authentic German restaurant. Sim ventured out of his comfort zone and ordered a leg of rabbit served with pickled onions, cabbage and bread dumplings (or, as the menu read, “Zart geschmorte Kaninchenkeule mit Spitzkohl und Serviettenknodel”). I veered to the safe side and decided upon the grilled “Nurnberger” sausages with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes (Nurnberger Wurstchen mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelpuree). Sim tried some beer while I enjoyed a wine that went straight to my head! We rounded out the dinner by sharing two desserts: A mousse of Berliner Weisse beer with chocolate crunch and raspberry sauce and luke-warm cream strudel with vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream and cranberries (I will spare you the translation). Then we walked back to our hotel and went to bed at a very civilized 10pm (Berlin time- or 1pm our time).

We slept in this morning til 9:30am and only woke up then because the sun was streaming in our window. But I was officially woken up when I realized I was leaking and desperately needed to pump! (My body misses Ana as much as I do!) Then we got ready and went to this lovely little cafe and enjoyed a yummy pastry, a “Hawaiian” sandwich (it had ham and pineapple on it, thus the Hawaiian name) and some much needed espresso. So far we have really adjusted well to the time change and aren’t experiencing any jet lag which has been wonderful. I think the fact that we only manged to sleep for an hour or two on the planes really helped in that area! Then we wandered around for a couple hours checking out the beautiful buildings and marveling in the architecture.

We came back to the hotel to rest for a bit, check email and sunscreen up before we head out this afternoon. We have plans to take an English walking tour of the major sights of the city. We figured we should have someone telling us what things are and their historical significance rather than just admiring the beauty of the buildings. A little learning never hurt anyone, right? So I will post more pictures and document our adventures more later. I am uploading all my pictures of the trip to Flickr until I am back stateside and can upload them to my gallery, so check my Flickr for all the pictures!

Auf Wiedersehen! (Good bye!)

Hop Across the Pond

I am not sure if I have mentioned this or not, but Simeon and I are leaving tomorrow for Europe. Yep, that’s right. Tomorrow. Simeon is speaking at RailsConf Europe, in Berlin, Germany. Not wanting to pass up a chance to visit Europe, I decided to tag along. Since we didn’t know when we will ever get back to Europe, we decided to extend our trip beyond just Berlin. We are only going to be there for ten days so we had to prioritize what we wanted to see, and decided upon Paris, France and London, England. While we are there (on September 21st) we will be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary. I think spending our anniversary in Paris, the city of romance, couldn’t be more perfect.

Oh and did I mention we are leaving Ana stateside? She is going to be splitting the time between her Grandma Nana and her Auntie Jeni (and all the cousins that come with her). What is even more surprising, is I am actually handling leaving my daughter for the first time (for more than a few hours anyway) very well. I know it will be harder once I actually leave the country, but at least I will have Berlin, Paris, and London to distract me! Plus I know Ana will be in very capable hands and she loves her Nana and Auntie very much. But worst case scenario? She is totally miserable for ten days. In that case, it is a damn good thing she will be too young to remember it, eh?

9 Month Doctors Appointment

Ana had her nine-month doctors appointment this morning. Here are her stats from the appt:

Height: 28 1/2″ (80th percentile)
Weight: 18 lbs 12 oz (50th percentile)
Head: 44.25 cm (60th percentile)

The only things of note from the appointment were the test for anemia, which she passed (meaning not anemic) and a flu shot, which she barely fussed over. Fairly uneventful as check-ups go. Her pediatrician said she is doing wonderfully and meeting all the milestones perfectly. Ana played very nicely for her doctor, wiggling to get down and show off her ability to stand. She even got a little cocky and tried not holding on…thankfully Mama was right behind to help her stay balanced. He gave us the green light to go ahead and get her toys that encourage standing and walking since she is doing so well. Hmmmm. A walking baby? I don’t know if I am ready for that just yet!

A Letter: Nine Months

Dear Ana,
You are nine months old today. Nine months. You have officially been outside of my body as long as you were inside. How weird is that?

But I have to say, while it was mighty convenient having you inside, it is so much better having you out here where I can play with you. Sure, when I was pregnant my hands were always free and I didn’t have to worry about you rolling off the edge of the bed, but now I get to watch your eyes light up when I hand you something for the first time or listen to you laugh as I tickle under your chin. It is moments like those that are some of the most pure and wonderful parts of being a parent.

In the last month you have recently shown an interest in moving. You use to be fine to just sit in one place until someone came along and moved you, but not any more. Now you want to GO. Unfortunately you don’t quite possess the skills to actually crawl just yet. When you lay on your back you can push with your feet and slowly move forward. When you are on your tummy you try to push with your hands but just end up going backwards. Oh man does this frustrate you! So you have taken to doing anything you can to get around the whole “crawling thing” and decided just to move your focus to standing. You try to pull yourself up on just about every vertical surface. You are particularly fond of climbing couches as well as your mama. The other day I had my hair in braids and you decided to grab one in each hand and pull yourself up. Quite resourceful if you ask me.

You work so hard all day trying to learn how to move around, you even do it in your sleep! When I come get you in the morning I never know what kind of tangled, twisted mess I will find you in. You are always facing the opposite direction from where I left you and, more often than not, have your head wedged into one of the corners of the crib! Yep, you are officially my little wiggle monster.

So I know you have noticed both your top teeth are really coming in, because you have taken to biting and chewing on just about anything you can get your hands on. But what you probably didn’t notice is just how far apart those teethies are. There is quite a gap in the middle! I have seen that very same gap on your Aunt Darcie. Over Labor Day we took you to visit your Auntie and showed her your pearly whites. She wants you to know she is very sorry you got her teeth. And that sometimes genetics can be a real bitch.

While you were cutting those new teeth you kept getting a runny nose and you discovered you could make noise with your nose. You starting snorting. Now when you get really excited you smile big, scrunch up your nose, and snort. It is the silliest, cutest thing ever and it never fails to make me laugh.

Speaking of super cute baby tricks, you have started waving. It was kind of an accident really. I was across the room from you trying to get you to say “hi” and I happened to wave while I was doing it. Then all of a sudden you waved back at me! I was so excited I ran across the room to hug you and you waved the entire time. Now you don’t always wave on command, and you sometimes spontaneously wave at the cats or the television, but we can always count on you to wave at the baby in the mirror. Every time you see your reflection you get so excited you can’t help but wave.

Oh my little cutie patootie. I just love you so much. I love getting to know the little person you are becoming. I love that you know when your Daddy is home and watch the top of the stairs to greet him but then get shy and hide at the last second. I love when your burrow your face into my neck. I love when you throw yourself backwards on my bed and squeal with glee. I love that you laugh every time I try to get you to say “Mama.” I love how much you are excited by animals. Even the ones that are stuffed or in books. I am not so crazy about the fact that you cry when I leave the room, but I LOVE the fact that you wiggle with glee when I come back. And just know that no matter what, I always will.

All my love,

Playing in the Sand

The weather was exceptionally beautiful over Labor Day weekend so Simeon and I decided to take a trip to Seaside. We visit the coast quite regularly, since both of our parents live out there, but this was the first time we have gone when the weather was nice enough to actually take Ana on to the beach.

We packed up a couple sand toys and headed down to play in the sand. While the day was pretty mild, the wind was blowing like crazy and within moments we were all covered in sand.

Lucky for Ana her Uncle Jesse wasn’t afraid to get dirty and he plopped right down in the sand to help Ana build her first sand castle. Rather than helping build the castle, Ana was much happier to pet it.

We kept our visit short because of the wind, but we made Ana’s first time at the beach a memory to treasure forever.

You can see all the pictures from our trip to the beach in the First Beach Visit gallery. Enjoy!