Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Traveling Teacher is moving....

After 4 years at this site, I am moving my blog!

Please find me at....

Click HERE to get to my new blog!

Friday, July 13, 2012


Well, here's what I've figured out. If I am going to live 5,000 miles away from home, I might as well fill my free time with the best trips I can afford. I mean, really, what is the point of living so far away just to sit in my apartment, right? I could have just done that in my house in Colorado waiting for another tree to take it out! 

So, when I found out that my friend Maura and her friend Lisa (now MY friend Lisa too!) were going to come to Europe this summer, I decided to join them for two weeks of their adventure. As Düsseldorf is a fun place to live, but not really that much of a tourist destination (not to mention the weather absolutely sucks there), we decided to meet in Nice, France where we could have some sunshine! My friend and travel buddy, Lauren, also came along as we sweated and laughed our way around the Côte d'Azur!

We found an inexpensive apartment for a week in a town called Beaulieu-sur-Mer just seven kilometers from Nice. This literally translates to "Beautiful Place by the Sea" and it was indeed. Lauren and I flew from Düsseldorf to Nice before daybreak the day after school let out for the summer. As it had been a rainy mess in Düsseldorf for the previous two weeks, we were über-excited to see the sun! You never know how important sun is when you're living in Colorado because we have it everyday. But, when you move somewhere that is GRAY GRAY GRAY all the time, you really start to appreciate it! 

The Promenade des Anglais (English Promenade) in Nice.
During the late 1800s, English women would stroll this sidewalk in their
corseted dresses & parasols. Sounds miserable to me! WAY TOO HOT!
After our Segway tour of Düsseldorf and how much fun it was, Lauren and I decided to try it again in Nice. We still looked equally dorky and laughed equally as much! However, they wouldn't take the Segways off of "turtle mode" so we weren't able to go very fast, which was kind of annoying.
Lauren got me a Segway Tour of Nice for my birthday!
Great birthday present! We're experts now! 

View of Nice's promenade from the top of a hotel.
In order to be able to have a chair, an umbrella, and a waiter (this IS vacation in the South of France, after all) one must pay to use a private beach. There are free beaches just adjacent to the private ones, but as we had no beach supplies in our suitcases and love us a beach-waiter, we opted for the private.
"Kitty Litter Beach" in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France.
5 minute walk from the apartment we rented.
We called it this because the "sand" was the consistency of kitty litter.
The view made up for that! 
One thing that one notices immediately upon a visit to the South of France is the extreme wealth. This is just not evident at most American beaches I've visited (well, Charleston does has some pretty amazing beach houses!). There are yachts everywhere and though we were at a private beach, teachers are peons in comparison! We decided that this giant yacht below likely belonged to P. Diddy and he was flying back and forth on this helicopter from Brangelina's yacht or something ridiculous like that.
A helicopter landed on a yacht right in front of us!
What? Seriously.
Another life on another planet.

Going to dinner in Beaulieu-sur-Mer's harbor.
Four girls. One TINY bathroom.
Getting ready was a long process.
Each day, we tried to take a small side trip to different small towns along the coast. We became masters of the crazy, wind-all-over-the-coast-so-you-feel-like-puking-while-you-sit-next-to-a-stinky-Frenchman bus because it was only one euro. I can tell you that when you are on a super-crowded bus when it is super hot outside, it doesn't really feel that glamorous to be visiting the South of France. I'm pretty sure that Jay-Z and Beyoncé do not travel via the bus.
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France.
There is a reason all of the cruise ships stop here.
It was utterly charming.
We spent one day in Monaco/Monte Carlo just to check it out. We saw the palace and the palace guards. Not sure what they are guarding these days and Monaco is just largely a tax shelter for the super rich. We also noticed that every single yacht had the same flag on it no matter what town it was in or where it was docked/floating. So, we began the investigating via smart phones. As it turns out, most people register their yachts to the Cayman Islands. This is because though they have purchased close to a $150 million yacht (OR MORE), they are too cheap/greedy to pay taxes on it. I'm pretty sure they are the 1% of the 1%. Not to politicize- but as it is me writing this, I am obviously going to as that's what I do- but that SERIOUSLY pisses me off.

On the upside, I won €24 on a 50 cent bet in a slot machine at the Monte Carlo Casino. Yep, I am a pretty high roller. When I was in Monaco during my study abroad experience, my dad and I compared it's cleanliness level to Epcot- meaning, VERY clean. At the time, that was in comparison to France, where people's dogs poo on the sidewalk and they don't clean up after them. However, after living in Germany for a year- Germany wins the clean award- except at like 3 am on Halloween when you're wading through piles and piles of broken glass!
Standing in front of "our" yacht in Monte Carlo.
This is when we discovered that all of these ba-jillion dollar yachts
are registered in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying taxes.
In the spring of 1998, I spent a semester at the Université de Nice. Mostly, I traveled and hung out at the beach with my friends, but I did learn a good amount of French because I lived with a French couple. Rue Pertinax was my street and I drug Lauren to see it because I just had to see it through adult eyes. It was never a "good" neighborhood, per se, but it wasn't totally disgusting either. It has taken a downhill turn, for sure! The funniest part to me was that there is now a "Church" of Scientology (L'Église de Scientologie) about three doors down from my old apartment. I just really got a kick out of seeing Dianetiques par L. Ron Hubbard. I wonder if Tom Cruise reads it in French?
The street I lived on in 1998 in Nice, France during my semester abroad.
The neighborhood has become increasingly janky since then.
I've said it before, but I will say it again. I can really, truly understand why van Gogh freaked out about the light in the South of France after he had lived in gray, rainy Northern Europe his whole life. For the two weeks preceding this trip, I don't think that I had seen the sun even once. We had summer-like weather in May and then went back to rainy grossness. Even the food markets were colorful in France. The light just has a different quality to it in the South of France (kind of like Colorado!) and many artists have flocked there over the years...which has really fed my ridiculous addiction to buying artwork. I managed to only buy one poster on this trip even though Lauren (because she'd been instructed to) threatened me with me life if I bought any posters. There are just so many charming artists that I cannot help myself. 

Giant outdoor food market in Antibes, France.
Dried fruit of every variety.

There were also olives of every variety.
This is the Mediterranean, after all.
Each small cove had a different type of sand. On the beaches in Nice, there are rocks (not very comfortable to lay on but when I was 19, we didn't care) and we finally found a gorgeous sandy beach in Cap d'Antibes. Oh, look, again, they had waiters. And, a really nice drinks menu.
Beautiful sandy beach in Cap d'Antibes.
I was able to actually order and say the words...
"Bring me another Mai Tai!" 
During this trip, it was also my birthday. We celebrated it a few times! One night we had a birthday picnic on the beach- un pique-nique, as they say in French! Sadly, our corkscrew broke off IN the bottle of wine. We stopped a French couple and asked if they had another and the old man got down on his knees, got out his pocket knife, and with expert Frenchness...he thankfully was able to open it for us! Who says that the French aren't totally delightful- especially when it comes to wine- they don't mess around!
French beach birthday picnic.
Sausage, Olives, Bread, Cheese, Chocolate, Wine, and...
We were obsessed with a particular French cereal called "Fourées au Lait." 
After a lovely week in France, Lauren flew back to Düsseldorf, then back to NYC and the rest of us went on to Munich- or München- as it is in German. I had a 6:50 am flight and got picked up for the airport at 4 am...always fun. We only had 24 hours in Munich and so we wanted to make the absolute best of it. Fortunately, the German national soccer team was playing (and won that round!) and so we got to be a part of a good, cheering crowd!

In front of the Glockenspiel in Munich.
The leis were to support the German soccer team in the Euro Cup.

Auf gehts, Deutschland!
Let's go, Germany!
(They lost in the semi-final to Italy. Not to worry though, Italy got clobbered in the final by Spain!)
Our only morning in Munich, we were standing having coffee just down the street from our hotel and an entire parade of decorated beer wagons from every brewery in Munich and marching oompa bands suddenly began to go by us! We discovered it was "Munich Beer Day 2012" and we were literally right in the middle of it! It was about 9 am and there were already people in lederhosen drinking beer all around us! HA! As Düsseldorf is not exactly touristy, it was so bizarre being somewhere in Germany where EVERYONE was speaking English and there were tourists everywhere.
Paulaner beer horses pulling a few barrels! 
As another birthday celebration, Maura and Lisa got me a bike tour of Munich. (Segway tour AND bike tour as birthday presents...this was a GREAT birthday year!)! Of course, the bike tour stopped at all of the sites of Munich...most importantly, a giant, typical Bavarian biergarten! What's better for birthday celebrations...giant pretzels and giant beers??
Birthday lunch at the München Hofbräuhaus!
We did a bike tour that had a stop with giant beers.
The second half of the tour was a bit tricky! 
Our next stop was Salzburg, Austria...the birthplace of Mozart and where The Sound of Music was filmed! I cannot lie, taking The Sound of Music tour was a main reason we decided to go to Salzburg. But, as it turned out, it was such a beautiful and interesting place even without the tour- which we did- not to worry!
Beautiful downtown Salzburg.
For my final birthday celebration (#3) we went to an Austrian biergarten, Augustiner, which was started by monks in 1621. It was a beautiful treed area with about 100 outdoor tables of all shapes and sizes and hundreds of indoor tables all in close proximity to a giant screen in order to watch the Euro2012 soccer matches. As Germany was not playing, we opted to sit outside in the nice, cool air. They had ceramic beer mugs, as you can see below, and they were VERY heavy. This, of course, did not stop us from lifting them to our mouths. This was a really fun night as we made friends with some funny Austrians who invited us to sit at their table...this would NEVER happen in Düsseldorf. We all laughed really hard in broken English and German. Basically, what we got from a drunk Austrian mechanic is that we were old enough to be called "Soup Chickens..." you know, the old chickens get made into soup. Glad to know I'm officially old. By the way, he was our age so I don't know he was talking about!
The "Soup Chicken" celebrating continued with some weight lifting/beer drinking
in Salzburg, Austria.
We had to watch everyone else for a few minutes to figure out how to even get the beers.
After being woken up by 30 minutes of the loudest church bells on Earth that were evidently IN our room, we embarked upon our Sound of Music Tour! Each bike was named...Maura was Birgitta, Lisa was Louisa, and I was "The Baroness!" On our bikes, there were pictures from the movie zip-tied to the handlebars so that we could compare the sites we were seeing to the sites in the movie. This love of The Sound of Music is completely confounding to Austrians. But, our group was about 30 English, Australian, and American people on a tour that happens twice daily. And, this was the bike tour...the bus tours are even more crowded.
Our reason for visiting Salzburg, Austria...
The SOUND OF MUSIC bicycle tour!
I think that the best part of our tour was that our guide was completely into taking ridiculous pictures of us. He encouraged us to dance around singing "The Hills are Alive" and so we totally partook because, you know, that's how we roll.
The hills are alive! 
This was not in the movie but was pretty cool anyway!
The Bishop's House...or something like that....
If you were worried that we didn't sing, you fears are unfounded because OF COURSE we sang while running through this garden.
Getting ready to "Do Re Mi" through the park.

When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.
We were going to make dresses out of the curtains in our room, but it was more of a "winter fabric."
Our Austrian friends from the biergarten told us that many Americans mix up Australia and Austria. This caused me physical pain. They said that they've heard people ask where the kangaroos are. If someone is that confused about geography, perhaps they should not be traveling?
Apparently people confuse Austria & Australia. 

Beautiful Austrian Mountain Views! 
We visited a small portion of a marionette museum...I secretly felt like they were all part of Team America: World Police as that is the only puppet-ty thing I've really watched. But, they were super creepy looking. Apparently, in Salzburg, this was a important traditional art form. The creepiness factor did not stop me from having the "Lonely Goatherder" song in my head the whole time in the museum.
High on a hill was a lonely goat herder.
The entire time we were in Austria, I had the camp song
"Oh, an Austrian went yodeling, on a mountain so high..." in my head!
This was the actual garden where Fraulein Maria and the kids ran around in the movie. It was perfect for some senior pictures!
Senior picture opportunities abounded.
The bike tour was about 8 miles and we got to see a lot of sites that the bus tour did not show because many of the movie's sites were not on a car-accessible road...bikes only. We became the queens of the bike tours (Segways too, of course!). I might be replacing my love of river cruises with bike tours. I fall asleep less on the bike tours, thankfully!
Do Me Me
Me So So
Ra Fa Fa
La Ti Ti
After leaving Salzburg, we rented a car and headed for the Deutsche Alpenstrasse- the Germany Alpine Road. Germany has a lot of scenic roads (I did the Deutsche Weinstrasse- German Wine Road- last October) and they live up to their names! We drove through the Bavarian Alps in Germany where I learned that there is a huge difference between Bavarian German and High German, which is spoken in Düsseldorf. I could not understand ANYTHING and they basically sounded like the Swedish Chef on The Muppets to me!
Adorable Bavarian Alps town.
There were so many that I cannot even remember the name of this one! 
The pull-offs on the side of the road were amazing and we just couldn't resist doing some posed pictures. Driving through the countryside in a foreign country is always an adventure, even with a GPS. On one occasion, we actually drove until the road was closed by a giant pile of dirt (by driving right by a sign in German that we didn't bother to translate to learn that it said the road would be closed) and then did a 30 minute detour which led us back to the EXACT SAME SPOT. We laughed so hard while staring at the pile of dirt the second time that we were all crying.
Random stop along the side of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse (German Alpine Road).
When I tour around the US (like when I was recently in Estes Park, CO) the touristy crap makes me crazy. But, in foreign countries, I LOVE looking at cheap touristy crap. I rarely actually buy anything but that doesn't stop me from looking at every Chinese-made (probably) souvenir in the store. There were Bavarian hats everywhere. Bavaria has traditions and culture that is unique in Germany (and really, when Americans think of Germany, this is what we think of) and there was never a lack of junk to sift through!
Bavarian Babes!
One of the things that we all really wanted to do was to go to the "Top of Germany" in the mountains. We took a giant gondola to the top of a mountain (it was quite a harrowing ride up and I'm not generally afraid of heights!) and temporarily froze our butts off to enjoy the views over Germany and Austria. We were intermittently actually IN the clouds.
The TOP of Germany.
The Zugspitze.

Seeing mountain snow in summer made me homesick.
Although, there wasn't even this much snow at Christmastime due to Colorado's drought.




I'm seriously cool.

More Bavarian mountains. 

Another pull off from the Deutsche Alpenstrasse.
One of the things that one must do when in Bavaria is to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. It is only about 175ish years old and was built by this crazy king who was later dethroned due to his extreme nutiness and money wasting. It is a striking site- obviously Walt Disney thought so because he modeled the Disney castle after it. It wasn't as exciting as it could have been because OF COURSE, it had scaffolding on it, like all sites do when I try to visit them.
Neuschwanstein Castle.
As you can see, we gave Maura some "Bavarian Milk Maid" hair for our visit! 
From Neuschwanstein Castle, we got on another of Germany's scenic routes- the Romantischer Strasse (Romantic Road) and drove north. The Romantic Road is known for cute towns and it didn't disappoint at all. One of the places we visited was a Medieval fortified village (which sadly, was like 70% destroyed in WWII but rebuilt to look the same!).
Rothenburg, Germany.
Just disgustingly cute.
Bierstein Superstore!

What a great trip! 
Here's a crazy, driving-on-the-Autobahn without speed limits video from our trip! 

After two weeks of a wonderfully fun, funny, constant-laughter trip, I headed back to Düsseldorf while Maura and Lisa continued on their travels. I flew back to Colorado after one night in my new apartment (that's a whole other blog post) and have been on the super-run-around to catch up with people in the short time I'm here. 

Next weekend I am heading to Chicago for a girls' weekend with some old friends! Can't wait! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Stolperstein...a way to remember.

Stolperstein is the German word meaning "stumbling block," "obstacle," or "something in the way." Stolperstein has now taken on the meaning of being a small plaque in the sidewalk. These plaques commemorate the former homes of victims of the Holocaust. They demarcate where Jews (and sometimes where other ethnic groups who were also persecuted) lived and were taken by the Nazis.

Here lived
born 1912
Interned 1939
Gurs (concentration camp in Southwestern France)
Killed 20.2.1943 in
Today I went on a walking tour of Düsseldorf with the 8th grade Humanities classes. They have been studying the Holocaust and each group visited different parts of the city. It was a torrential downpour during most of the trip and we had to take a temporary and warm Starbucks break. But, the kids (and I) were really moved.

Many of the Stolperstein are in front of what are now businesses and some are still apartment buildings. They specifically marked where people lived and were taken. We spent a long time discussing how sickeningly scary it would be and what it would be like to be a neighbor of someone who was just taken from their life in such a sudden manner.

Here lived
Franz Anselm
Born 1905
Deported 1942, Died in Izbica, Poland

The kids placed flowers at each of the plaques. The language on the plaques is very plain. It states that they were murdered, as truly was the case.

We inferred that this was a married couple.
Alfred & Meta Meyerstein
Deported 1941
Murdered in Minsk
The next one was especially sad. This was likely a mother and daughter. And, the fact that it said they were "reported" (auswiesen) lead us to believe that they were hiding but then found out and later murdered in Treblinka in Poland. This was in front of an apartment building that is still an apartment building. It is right along the Rhein River and one can assume this was likely a very expensive area to live then, just as it is now- given that it is water-front property. Pescha was only around 15 when she died and given that her neighbors just down the street were taken in 1933, we inferred that they were possible in hiding for five years.
Reisel Laja & Pescha Birnbach
Reported 28.10.1938
Taken to a Ghetto
Murdered June 1942 in Treblinka
Small but significant.
At each Stolperstein, our directions were to look at the building and infer what it must have been before the war compared to now.
You can imagine people looking out that bay window as the people they'd been hiding were taken.
These plaques are small and only provide an outline of information. But, they help us remember. They put a name and a place to someone's life that would otherwise be forgotten. It makes me so sad and at the same time makes me glad that we are still speaking those names and still remembering- the victims deserve at least this.

Just earlier this week there was an NPR story about Stolperstein.
Click here to read/listen.