Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away a husband and wife and their 3 boys set out on an adventure around the world. As part of their quest to see the world, they spent time exploring the Fairy Tale Road in Germany.
It was the land of The Brothers Grimm. The brothers grew up there, hearing the stories, exploring the woods, castles and towns throughout the region and then spent their lives writing stories that would entertain people for generations. The stories they wrote were further made popular by a man from California by the name of Walt Disney and the stories spread around the world.
As the family drove through the villages, walked through the woods and explored the castles, they were able to experience the stories with a whole new perspective. The perspective of the Brothers Grimm.
Unlike The Brothers Grimm who used horses to travel the dirt roads where the stories took place. The family was able to use the horsepower of their Opel horseless carriage and drive on the autobahn! The Father used this opportunity to get the family there as quickly as possible! He was right in his element.
Their first stop was the town of Bremen. Although the animals in “The Musicians of Bremen” never quite made it to Bremen they still have a statue and play in their honor. Legend says that if you grab both legs of the donkey and make a wish, it must come true. While I hate to dispel this long held belief, my wish that my boys would stop fighting did NOT come true. I will have to try some more orthodox methods to deal with the situation.
From Bremen they traveled small roads through villages until they reached the town of Hamelin. It was in this town that the Pied Piper played his tune to lure the rats,and then the children out of the town forever.As the sun began to set, the family grew tired from their travels
and decided to stop for the
night in Trendelberg, a small town in the
mountains and stay in Rapunzel’s castle. While Rapunzel had long before been rescued out of the tower, the family had a wonderful stay in the castle.
The outside of Burg Trendelburg
Rapunzel was not the only princess to live in the region and the next day the family traveled to visit Sleeping Beauty’s castle where the boys explored how they would break in and save the princess! (Or maybe they just like to climb anything the can).
After another nights rest they ventured out to the woods and the mother told the boys the story of Little Red Riding Hood as they wandered through the forest. Fortunately, they did not come across any wolves, but they did find some amazing views and trees to climb!
They continued along the road and stopped in the town of Fiskar to eat and explore. This was the only place along the road where communicating was a bit of an issue, but a surprise lunch every once in awhile is good for you!
Alas, the family’s time on the fairy tale road had come to an end and it was time to move on to other adventures, but their time on The Fairy Tale Road would never be forgotten and the stories of The Brothers Grimm will forever be imprinted on their hearts.
It’s hard for me to say we had a great time in Berlin because it was a somber experience being there, remembering so much tragedy.
While we were in Berlin and surrounding areas there were two terrorist attacks in Germany. When our family heard the news in the US, they checked in to make sure we were ok. Fortunately, we weren’t near the places where the attacks took place, but we felt the heightened sense of anxiety from the people here. For me it made remembering and learning about the past that much more meaningful and important. We are at an pivotal time in our history as well, and hopefully we will be able to defeat intolerance, genocide, and discrimination just as they did before.
It was interesting trying to teach the boys about The Nazi’s and Communism. They just kept asking, “But why would the people choose that kind of government?” or “Why didn’t anyone do anything to help them?” They just can’t even fathom what it would be like to not be free. Frankly, it’s hard for me too. We are so blessed that we live in a country where we have the freedom to choose. That freedom comes on the backs of so many who died to make and keep us that way. I am so grateful for all of them and to be from a country that values freedom and diversity.
The historical sights in Berlin are a representation of what happens when evil is able to take root and thrive. As we visited The Holocaust Memorial-Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe we were reminded of the evils of The Nazis. At first I thought the name of the memorial was a little bit strongly worded, but then I realized we can’t gloss over the atrocities that happened. They need to be remembered so that they NEVER happen again.
Next we visited The Brandenburg Gate. It was at this spot in 1987 that Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech saying, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.” I remember this happening! I can’t believe that it was such a short time ago that ALL the people of Germany were given the freedom that we take for granted everyday. The wall he talked about was put up because people were fleeing East Germany into West Germany because of the communist government. In response, East Germany came up with a way to stop the mass exodus.
On the evening of August 12-13 1961, while most of Berlin was sleeping, trucks with soldiers and construction workers came to the border and constructed a barbed wire border between East and West Berlin. Telephone lines were cut as well. The people of Berlin woke up to a city split in two. This separated family, friends, an entire people from one another. The fortunate ones had already crossed to West Germany. The others were essentially held prisoner in their own country. Again, this was difficult to explain to our kids. The idea that you couldn’t choose where you lived, your job, your life.
We also visited Checkpoint Charlie, the most common crossing point in the wall between East and West Germany. It became a symbol of the Cold War representing the separation of the East and West. This is also the spot where Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.
As we rode our bikes around Berlin back and forth from what used to be East and West Germany it was hard to believe that a wall split this city in two in the not too distant past. It was not all sadness though…I also felt hope. I was hopeful that oppressive governments that still exist in the world today can be changed. That people who still live in bondage can be free. It made me hopeful that people could be riding safely around with their children in the future, splashing in fountains, buying treats, playing at parks, yet still remembering a past that they hope to never repeat.
I am so grateful for the time we spent in Berlin because it gave us the opportunity to reflect on the past and what brought us to where we are today. It is so important to remember that past, to learn and grow from it, or we are doomed to repeat it.
On a lighter note…Aren’t these crosswalk signals in Berlin the cutest thing!
And for those of you worried Luke was going to starve while we were away because he is such a picky eater, he did have his first incident of not eating for so long that he made himself sick (he puked on the street right by our table at breakfast…very appetizing). It was a good lesson for him though! Now he knows when we say, “You need to eat or you will get sick!”, we know what we are talking about!
As we planned our trip around the world I knew I wanted to visit Prague. I had heard only wonderful things from fellow travelers and have wanted to go here since spending a month backpacking around Europe 18 years ago with my college roommates. It didn’t fit into our itinerary then and I wanted to make sure it did this time. Needless to say, my expectations were high as our flight landed in Prague.
We found a taxi to drive us to our hotel and we were off. Airports are generally not in the best areas so I didn’t expect much at first and was excited to make our way into the historic area. Even though my expectations were set high, nothing could have prepared me for the stunning view over the city we encountered as we drove in at sunset. The sun was shining along the buildings and over the Historic Charles Bridge. Immediately I was in love with this city. It was so beautiful! As we descended into the city we wound through skinny cobblestone streets flanked by people, segways, scooters, and shops on every side. I couldn’t imagine trying to drive myself through this maze of humanity, so I was very thankful it was our taxi driver who had to do his best to avoid hitting pedestrians, and not Jeromy!
We arrived at our wonderful hotel, Hotel Agnes, where they warmly welcomed us in and immediately sat us at tables with peanuts, pretzels, and free drinks to help us settle in. Of course they offered us the local Prague brew (the best in the world they say), but as we are not drinkers, we had to decline. Throughout our stay people were quite disappointed by our simple request for “still” water or maybe the occasional Coke Zero for Jeromy. You can imagine my kid’s excitement at the prospect of free drinks anytime they wanted from the hotel staff, not to mention that the mini bar was all free! No more threatening them to not touch that $8 bottle of soda in the little fridge in the hotel room. FREEDOM! They immediately decided this was the best hotel EVER!
Richard was the staff member who welcomed us as we arrived at Residence Agnes and we had great service from then on. I know this may sound like a TripAdvisor review or something, but it was the best service I have ever had at a hotel. Everything was complimentary: cold drinks every time we arrived back to the hotel…FREE, stamps for Luke’s postcards he sent to the Grandparents at home…FREE, a ride to the Castle at the top of a huge hill or to the train station…FREE, doing all of our laundry…FREE! After the sticker shock of Scandinavia, this was very welcome and it made me fall in love with the Czech Republic even more!
That night we headed out to dinner and to have our first look at The Old Town Square (Stare Mesto). There were so many people out sitting around the square, drinking and eating with friends. It was magical with all of the buildings bathed in light and people everywhere I couldn’t wait to see more the next day!
If you are like me, you don’t know much about the Czech Republic’s history and to understand the sights we feel it is important to know a little history about the area. I am abbreviating the history tremendously and I don’t want to make light of a rich and wartorn past, but if you would like more information, I’m sure you can Google it and find more than enough to keep you busy for days.
A LITTLE HISTORY…
During the 10th-16th centuries the Czechs founded the kingdom of Bohemia. One of the Bohemian Kings, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, made Prague an Imperial Capital and many of the most beautiful buildings were built during this time. In the 1600’s they were defeated in war and became part of the Austrian empire. Their history is full of wars, occupations and more war which brings us to 42 years of communist rule as Czechloslavakia. In 1989 after a nearly bloodless “velvet revolution”the Czech people separated from Slovakia and became the parliamentary democracy it is today.
I was amazed at how in such a short time, it had become such a vibrant, commercial city. There were so many restaurants and shops all eager to please and full of happy people. In talking with one local man he said he was talking to a friend from the US who asked him, “After 25 years of freedom how are the people of the Czech Republic handling freedom?” He said his response was, “Oh, it’s going well but some of the people are just so-so.” His friend, and Jeromy and I, were quick to respond, “After over 225 years, many people in the USA are only so-so as well!” He was eager to talk about how much better it was to have the freedom to do what they wanted and how their future was brighter and more filled with hope. They still had their problems, but don’t we all…
THE NEXT DAY…
In doing the research for our visit, I saw something many people do in Prague is to take a Segway tour, but I figured the kids were too young. I was mistaken. That first morning as we walked through the square, someone rode up on their segway asking if we wanted a tour (we realized throughout our visit that this happened all the time). I pointed to Luke and told the man that he was too little, the salesman did not accept the excuse, “No, no, he will be fine, I will be by him the whole time and help him.” After a little haggling for a lower price, we headed out on our Segways! It was so amazing to effortlessly glide our way through the city more quickly than walking, and it made it way more fun for the boys. Since we have left, we heard they have outlawed the Segways in Prague because they were so annoying to pedestrians, which I can totally understand, but I’m glad we were able to have our tour before the ban because it was such a fun adventure for us. I was nervous about Luke being able to ride safely, but our guide Vlad, was true to his word and kept him safe. In hindsight, I should have been more worried about myself! We were probably only 50 feet from finishing our tour when I was squeezing between a car and a building and clipped the side of the building! The Segway went one way and I went the other! I’m sure it didn’t look pretty, but I escaped the fall with only a few scrapes and some wounded pride.
The Segway tour gave us a good overview of the city and we continued to explore from there. After the Segway tour, it seemed in Prague that we just walked and walked and walked. There was something beautiful around every corner and we didn’t want to miss out. A couple of days while we were there, we came back in the afternoon (to cold drinks) rested and then headed back out in the evening to walk around when it was cooler. A picture can speak 1000 words so I will let them do the talking…with a little commentary.
The Petrin Tower (Prague’s mini Eiffel Tower)
We climbed to the top 299 steps! We know because it was the only thing that kept Luke going…counting the steps!
Near the Petrin Tower there was an observatory and a hall of mirrors. Both were small, but the boys had fun there.
The largest ancient castle in the world. Built in the 9th century and inhabited by Kings, Emperors and Presidents.
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle
Old Town Square (Stare Mesto)
John Lennon Wall
John Lennon never came to Prague but the wall was started as graffiti with a picture of Lennon and Beatles lyrics. In the late 80’s it became a place for the Czech people to write their grievances about communism during “The Velvet Revolution.” It has now become a global symbol of peace, freedom and love.
Voted the most beautiful library in the world and it lives up to it’s name! We were also able to climb a tower to the top of the building and got some amazing views of Prague.
This historic bridge crosses the Vltava River connecting Old Town Prague to the Mala Strana. It was built between 1357 and the beginning of the 15th century. It is so beautiful and full of street vendors, artists, and many tourists! There were a variety of beautiful statues on either side of the bridge each with a rich history and meaning. We found a fun park at the base of the bridge to sit and let the kids play.