Wednesday, November 12, 2014

25th year of demolition of Berlin Wall – and I

Although the post about Berlin was to follow much later in the sequence of my Schengen Travelogue as I went to Berlin at the end of my Schengen Travelogue before returning to Kiel  - my Schengen Travelogue launchpad.  But as November marks the silver jubilee of the demolition of the Berlin Wall, 9th November 1989 to be exact, I thought of talking about my visit to this historic and deadly killing field where countless people were gunned down by the entries of the German Democratic Republic or simply the East Germany since the erection of the wall in 1961 and its demolition in 1989.

 The watch tower behind the wall, from where the East German soldiers watch freedom across the wall and shot at those who tried to climb over it to reach for the freedom (above and below)

Though I wasn't there on 9th November to participate in the silver jubilee celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but during my visit to Berlin in October 2014 last month, visit to Berlin Wall or what remains of it after its demolition was on my list of attractions to be visited while in Berlin. However, I had to cut short my Berlin tour but I still made it to the Berlin Wall in the evening before leaving Berlin and reached the place where this once most dreaded 155-kilomtres wall stood.

 Iron grills have replaced at the site of the fallen wall to show where the wall once stood

Reaching the wall was quite difficult as there was a lot of road repair work underway in the general area and the navigation system of our car was finding it extremely difficult to take us close to the wall. This consumed a lot of time and allowed the sun to disappear in the West, blanketing the remains of the Berlin Wall lest I see the blood stains of those who once ran towards to wall and then fell down dead after being shot by the East German soldiers.

Interestingly, I parked my car in the Bornholmer Strasse, a street that led inside the East Germany once. 
And the building close by must have been the headquarters of the Russian and East German spy agencies keeping a close watch over West Germany across the Berlin Wall.
After parking the car, I moved from the ‘East Germany to the West Germany’ and found a gate open into the still standing portion of the wall, though the notice said otherwise, and I walked back into the ‘East Germany.’ 

 The notice on the already opened gate read:

This gate is closed. Access to the cemetery: Ackerstraße at the confluence of Anklamer strabe

Inside the compound, there is a memorial is in place with photos of those who died trying to reach for the freedom across the wall, beside some sections of the wall stacked away from the actual wall.

I also saw the many slogans written on the wall by the East Germans. Though these are not comparable to some beautiful calligraphic work elsewhere, but these do project the aesthetic sense of the people under oppression on the Eastern side of the wall. 

Can you beat it that in the days of oppression, an East German had to wait for 10-15 years before the car he applied for was delivered to him. This just one example – rest you can imagine.

 I standing by the Glory Hole - something that was a great achievement for some unknown freedom lover - I wonder if he lived to see the fall of the wall and the freedom or otherwise!!

The visit to the wall, that once stood mighty strong and now fallen was a great lesson for all freedom lovers and freedom seekers. No matter how strong ar the walls these finally go down with resilience, motivation and determination.
When I was leaving, I just had a look at the wall from the once East Berlin side and felt a very strange feeling. Despite the wall and the bullets, people once lived here who know what freedom was and how to get it.

* All photos have been taken by and are accordingly copy righted

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To Netherlands - meeting a friend after 43 years

Although my Scengen journey started with my landing in Hamburg on way to Kiel in Germany, but the travel forward from my launch station is when my Schengen countries travelogue actually started. 

Perhaps the first phase of my Schengen Travelogue may not have been as elaborate in Netherlands as it turned out to be for one big reason: A friend and class fellow of 48 years whom I had not met for the last 43 years. I knew he, or should I say Tariq Hashmi, was there somewhere in the Netherlands, but had no clue where. 
 Friends of 48 years of association - last met 43 years ago (above) when they left their secondary school - now in a bid to meet again (below): Left to right: Jalal (that is me), Masood and Hashmi

And then the magic call came from another friend, Zahid Masood Khan, who is presently in England, but had been in the Netherlands many years ago and who happened to be a mutual friend. And this gave me an opportunity to get Tariq's phone number and that is how Netherlands became my first Schengen Travelogue destination.

And thus one fine September morning, we rented a BMW 330d and started our two countries tour of Netherlands and France through Belgium. Starting from Kiel, Germany, we out skirted Hamburg and Bremen and headed towards Groningen.

En route, we came across lush green fields were cattle and horses were grazing and houses with sloped roofs - a typical European countryside landscape.

All along the road journey, I kept looking around rigt and left to catch a glimpse of the typical and traditional wind mills - something that has been the trademark of Netherlands. But unfortunately, most of these seems to have disappeared owing to the advancement of technology and have been replaced by giant three-bladed wind mills now being used to generate electricity. And found these in abundance, coming our way.

However, I was lucky enough to see one from right under it when we went to Dolfinarium in Harderwijk near Amsterdam two days later. I will talk about it along with a small video clip in one of my future posts.

Groningen, like Kiel in Germany is a northern city of Netherlands and almost of the same size.  I will talk of Groningen in detail in my next post.

Thanks to the excellent navigation system installed in the BMW cars that we reached dot at the house of my friend as his address has been fed into to the navigation system of the car. The 330d used by us, as seen above, even had a HUD (Head-up Display) like the one in the fighter aircraft which displayed the speed, speed limit of the road and the navigation information right in front of the driver's portion of the wind screen. This allowed me to know all possible driving information without taking my eyes from the road.

And when we reached my friend's house, there he stood with the same smile to meet and greet me after 43 years - as can be seen in the above photo. You can well imagine who exciton it is to meet a friend after so many years - specially when lads in teens have become almost as old as touching their 60s.
I do not have to describe the moment as we just rushed to each other for a warm and hearty hug while wives from opposing sides met warmly, and so did our sons and became instant friends. We were to stay at Groningen for four days to enjoy the warm hospitality of Hashmi and his family. His wife cooked some of the most delicious foods that I have ever tasted in my life and made us feel as we were in our own home.

It was from here that we went to Amsterdam and Dolfinarium in Harderwijk and finally departing for the Hague and Rotterdam before exiting Holland for Paris through Belgium. I will be covering our stay in Groningen in more details and Holland in coming posts.

* All photos have been taken by me and are accordingly copy righted.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Awe Inspiring colours of Fall in Kiel (Germany)

Ask me which of the four seasons I like the most, and my instant reply would be Spring. Spring is the season when air is cool and scented by the freshly sprouted flowers which paint the landscape with millions of colours.

But what about fall or the autumn? A season of falling leaves and drying trees. But in the process, the trees and the landscape wears such a beautiful and colourful cloak that one is simply spellbound. 

The leaves when drying turn i many shades of yellow, green and crimson and the colour combination is so rich and intense that one keeps looking at the trees, foliage and the grass which is full of leaves - dying but still giving away their last glow.

As you can see, this his post is all about the colours of autumn or the fall here in Kiel, Germany where I presently am and enjoying the colours of leaves I always wanted to see.

Here are some more photos of the amazing and awe inspiring colours of fall here in Kiel, Germany:

 If it is fall in your country, do go out and enjoy the fascinating and awe inspiring colours of autumn - for these are more mysterious and magical than fresh colours of spring.

* All photos above have been taken by and are accordingly copy righted.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Laboe, Germany – home to the lone surviving U-Boat 995 Type VII

While in Kiel, Germany, I am always looking for historical places to visit. I already talked of the Bunker D in my previous post that stands in the premises of University of Applied Sciences, Kiel. While going through the tourist attraction in Kiel on the Trip Advisor’s app on my mobile phone, I came to know of the Navy Memorial at Laboe in the outskirts of Kiel where a German U-Boat 995 type VII is docked near the museum. So I decided to visit the place.

 The welcome sign to Laboe - that reads: Laboe harbour is more than just sea
 Laboe beach in a heavily overcast sky

On one rather windy and cloudy day, we boarded the bus 100 which goes to Laboe – another harbor that opens in the Baltic Sea. The bus soon left the Kiel city limits and entered into vast tracts of green patches leading to Laboe as can be seen in some of the photos shared in this post that I too from the moving bus.

Beautiful Laboe landscape

When we reached Laboe, we thought there would be some guide map at the bus stop to lead us to the Naval Memorial and the museum and the U-Boat. But to our dismay there was none.  It took us some time to find locals there to finally know the location of the museum, which was some two kilometers from the bus stop. So we started walking towards our right along the beach, enjoying the beach on our left and beautiful houses on our right. There were a few shops selling souvenirs and I bought a replica of the U-boat while my wife shopped for some ‘civilian’ decoration pieces.

We continued walking till I caught the glimpse of the boat in some distance. But by that time my wife was tired and decided to rest while I pushed on the Naval Museum and the U-Boat.  There was yet another surprise waiting as the museum had closed and so was the boat. So I could not enter the boat and the museum, but had a chance to see the massive boat from outside and got lucky to find a tourist to take a shot of me along with the boat.

 Laboe Naval Memorial, also known as the Laboe Tower - the 72 meters high tower wit an observation deck on top was constructed by 1937 in the memory of German sailors who died during WW I

This particular U-Boat 995 Type VIIC class was commissioned in 1943 and had the honour of sinking three ships, one auxiliary ship, one war ship and one another. At the end of the war, the boat was at the Norwegian port Trondheim and surrendered to the British. It then became part of the Norwegian Navy, called Kaura. It retired from the active service in 1965 and was sold to Germany, and thus became part of the Laboe Naval Memorial in 1971.

 I standing beside the once mighty U-Boat 995 Type VII

We walked back, watching people enjoying the day surfing and para sailing and gliding in the cold Baltic Sea water and while stopping at eateries to buy something to munch, before boarding the bus back to Kiel.
People enjoying para sailing and gliding in Baltic Sea

All photos have been taken by me and are accordingly copy righted

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