Hello again! I’m back in Freiburg and I have a really amazing week to tell you about. I hope you’ll forgive the fact that this blog is a day late, but I didnt get back into Freiburg until like 9pm last night and the last thing I was about to do was sit down and write a blog. And with that, let’s begin.

Last Saturday I took a train from Freiburg to Munich. It was rather silly though because instead of just going straight east to Munich, I had to go north to Stuttgart and then south east to Munich. All in all, it took about 4 hours. I got into Munich at like 1ish and after checking in to my hostel I just wandered around downtown Munich and tried to find a museum.

I never did find the museum, but I did end up at the university. The reason this is actually worth mentioning is that a brother and sister (as well as a couple others) who went to the university in the 40’s formed a Nazi resistance group called the White Rose. There was a really good film made about their story, if you’re curious and dont mind crying at the end. The University itself was empty while I was there and looked exactly like it did not only in the film, but also in the 40’s. It was like walking right into history.

I had a really good Sunday. My high school German teacher who I still keep in touch with takes a group of Sibley kids to Europe every other year, and it worked out in a way that I got to spend the majority of my Sunday tooling around Munich with them.

That morning I took the subway to their hotel, and went with them on their coach bus to Dachau. Dachau was different from either Auschwitz or Theresienstadt in that while a lot of the barracks in Auschwitz have decayed, their ruins are still standing. Outside of two reconstructed barracks, the Dachau barracks were flattened with only the square foundations of buildings to show the dimensions of the camp. That was one of the things that really struck me about Dachau, the flatness.

Another thing that really made an impression was this path next to the gas chamber and ovens. The path itself is tucked away in the corner of the complex. Its a quick circle through the woods which were green and sunny and yet the plaques along the path told an entirely different story.

65 years ago, this scene would have been completely different. The ditch in the foreground of this picture on the right served one specific function, to let the blood of the prisoners executed against that wall pool in one specific place. Yea.

The Jewish memorial in Dachau impressed me. Each religion had what was part memorial and part a place to pray – the catholic one actually had services going on inside it-  but it was understandably the Jewish one that really got me. If you’ve ever been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem you’ll remember how you go down a slope into the middle of the museum and then back up again when you leave. The Jewish memorial did the same thing and then the very corner of the roof was open to the sky. It was very well done.

After Dachau we went back into Munich and Kienitz, his friend Mark and I went to a Hofbrauhaus-esque place for lunch. Afterwards they were nice enough to invite me along on their bus tour of the city itself. We drove past the Olympic village where the Israeli team was murdered in 72 which was pretty cool to see and then went to the bmw museum.

Seeing Kienitz last Sunday was really great. I just really enjoyed my day with them and it was great to spend time catching up. It was only the second time in more than 6 months that I’ve spent time with people I know from home and I honestly cant think of a better way to have spent my Sunday.

The next day I took a tour of various Nazi sites throughout Munich which was the center of the party before Hitler became chancellor. One of the most interesting places the tour took us to was Odeonsplatz which is a central plaza in Munich where Hitler and his party’s 1923 putsch was defeated by government soldiers. Five policemen and 16 Nazis died in the putsch and Hitler himself was shot as well.

The second place, and what was for me by far the most interesting, was the building in which the 1938 Munich Agreement was signed. The Munich Agreement was made between Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Daladier in which the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia was given to Hitler in an attempt to pacify him. It is important to note that though it concerned Czech territories, none of the representatives at the meeting were from the Czech government. It’s a music school now.

The tour itself kind of sucked because it was supposed to be all day, but they stopped after lunch because not enough people had signed up to do the second “extended” half. Ugh.

After the tour I found some random little chinese restaurant which needs to be in every single university city ever. Their deal was take out only and they made two dishes each day, one veggie and one with meat. Each day the menu changes so you just look in the pan and see what’s in it and hope for the best. The portions are huge and they give you a ton of rice all for only 3 euros. It was amazing.

I found a small book store on one of my wanderings and they had books on Speer. Lets just say that my suitcase was rather heavy after that. I also got Mitch Albom’s new book in London. I might need a special suitcase to bring my books back home. I counted today, I’ve bought 17 books since I got to Germany in September. Oops. I could always ship them back, but if they got lost in the mail I would be so not happy. Is there such a thing as having too many books? I dont think so, but my suitcase might.

Anyways, the next morning I left Munich and flew to London. After getting all set up at my hotel, I wandered around and saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and other big important places. The nice thing about my hotel was even though it was super tiny (I got what I paid for), the street it was just off of was full of stores and restaurants and there was a tube station right there as well. I got a hamburger for dinenr at a restaurant and then went back and watched some TV. I watched with show which was hosted by Caroline Quentin which was weird for me because she was the main character in Jonathan Creek, a BBC show that I loved.

The one thing that sucks about England is its so expensive. British pounds are really strong against the dollar.

The next morning, my Freiburg roommate Sarah, met me in London. We went to the Tower of London and saw the London Bridge. We went to Covent Garden which is a large indoor market place but the subway station there is 15 stories beneath the ground so you either have to take an elevator or walk 190 some steps up to the top. Insane.

If you are ever in London, you need to go to Harrods. I have never been anywhere like it, it was so posh and upscale and amazing. The dresses and suits and hats and shoes were all extremely top of the line and expensive, and completely gorgeous. They sold everything, from clothes, to bikes to furniture to bullet proof clothing. Yea, they even had a department for bullet proof clothing. Harrods is a department store in a league all its own and if I ever get super rich, I would love to go back. Its the kind of place where just carrying around a Harrods bag is enough to say you’re loaded. Love it.

After pining after everything in Harrods for a while, Sarah and I met up with a friend of hers who was living in London. We wandered through Hyde Park and then he took us to this really cool restaurant for dinner. Instead of giving you a menu or having a waiter, the menu is projected onto the table and you scroll through and order from the table. If you find a dish that looks good, it projects a picture of it onto your plate. It was really cool until they practically kicked us out because they had made another reservation at our table. We didnt tip.

Let me tell you a little bit about my hotel in London. The room was so small that when Sarah spent the night on Wednesday, it was impossible to open the door to go to the bathroom. That’s the other thing, for some reason there was a shower in my room but they didnt think of adding a toilet. I mean come on, how hard can it be if you’re already putting the plumbing in anyways. The big thing though was that the walls were paper thin. I mean, if people walked down the hall it sounded like they were right next to the bed. I could hear the hair dryer from three rooms down the hall. It was ridiculous.

The next morning Sarah and I took the train from London to her place near Cambridge. The train we were taking from London left from King’s Cross, so being the nerd that I am, we tried to find the platform 9 3/4. We couldnt find it so we asked some people who worked there and the first thing out of their mouths was “American?” Yup. 

We stopped off at Sarah’s for a little and then drove 30 minutes to Cambridge. First of all, sitting on the left side of the car but not driving took some getting used to. Second of all, Cambridge was like going back in time and into a post card. The different campuses there were gorgeous and even though I could never get accepted there, it was amazing to see.

On the river in Cambridge they do this thing called ‘punting’ which is boating using a long stick to push of the river bottom. If you have a hard time imagining that, just think Venice.

After seeing Cambridge, we went back to Sarah’s where her mom made a traditional English dinner of roast lamb, mashed potatoes and vegetables. It was the first time I’d ever had lamb and it was really good. Whoever said the English cant cook should really go to England.

The next morning I took a train to London and then another train up to Birmingham where I met up with two other friends from Freiburg. The girl I was staying with, Zara, lives in a suburb just outside the city and my other friend, Yi Qing, was staying at her place for a couple days as well. Right from the train station we went to Stratford-upon-Avon which is where Shakespeare lived and wrote and such.

The city itself was really pretty and with the weather so nice, it was just a pleasure to wander around outside and window shop. We spent a while in an old book store, but it was the magic store that really caught our attention.

I dont honestly have answer as to why this store even existed, but they legitimately sold “magic” ingredients for potions and magic wands and they were playing the theme song of Harry Potter over their stereo system. They had a little tea room in the back (stratford was full of tea rooms) and the menu said that they sold Butterbeer. We had to buy it. It honestly tasted rather key lime-y and creamy. I just got a kick out of ordering a butterbeer. I have no idea how a store like that can actually do enough business to continue but hey, it was fun to look at.

After Stratford we went back to Zara’s place and her dad cooked the most amazing dinner ever. I dont know what it’s called, but it was some spicey rice dish and if I could ever find it in a restaurant I would totally order it. It was delicious.

Having two different families let me spend a night or two  just really made me think about how lucky I am to have the friends that I do. Everyone was so nice and welcoming and it was just really great. I dont think I could say thank you enough.

Saturday was my last day in England and because the weather had decided not to be so nice, we stayed in Birmingham and checked out the different sites there. We basically just hung out, went to the local art museum and chilled at a coffee shop all afternoon. I finally got my fish and chips that evening which was so good. Fish and chips from a chip shop is different than what I’ve had before, but still really tasty.

Oh, and we went to the equivalent of a dollar store and got bb guns. Unlike in the states where they would probably shoot suction cups, these actually shot little plastic bbs. They looked like little neon green candies. Can you say choking hazard?

I flew Birmingham to Geneva yesterday morning and from there took a train to Basel where I eventually managed to get a train back to Freiburg. All in all, I spent about 8 hours traveling yesterday because I didnt know flying out of London was so easy to do when I booked the ticket. Instead of 8 hours, it could have been only 3. Ah well.

So that’s it! I’m back in Freiburg for another two weeks and then I head back to Minnesota to visit! I’ve been on 5 airplanes in the last three weeks, been to 5 different countries, and saw countless interesting things. I love traveling in Europe.

I made up my mind while I was in England, my goal is grad school in the UK. I loved it there.

As much as I really liked seeing Kienitz, I’m not so crazy about the city of Munich itself.

Well that’s pretty much it! I hope the length of this blog made up for its lateness as well as the shortness of last week’s. And as always, there are a lot more photos on facebook.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, each bookstore, souvenir and convenience store I saw in England was selling some sort of William and Kate royal wedding stuff.

The one hard thing about blogs of this size is that I have so much to tell you about what I did that I feel like if I go on too long about what I thought about it or what I noticed, the blog would just get too long. I like writing shorter blogs better not just because they take less time and effort, but because they are more what I think and less of what I did. There’s really no point to this paragraph, but whatever.

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The End of Editing

03/18/2011

This week’s blog is not only early, but its also going to be short. As you’re probably aware, I post new blogs on Sunday, but since I leave tomorrow for a week in Munich and England, it was now or never.

I handed in my German term paper on Tuesday! All 20 pages of it. I feel pretty good about it honestly, content wise at least. It was about the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and whether or not the phrase ‘under God’ violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I can safely say that I know far more about the pledge than anyone ever should, but it was an interesting topic nonetheless.

My second term paper which was actually in English (well, he gave us the option to write in English if we wanted and I honestly didnt have time for 2 German ones) was due Today (Friday). I turned it in, returned my books to the library and walked away from first semester. It was about time.

I’m not feeling so confident about this paper. Its about the Six-Day War in Israel and the Jewish return to the Western Wall. The class was about borders so I had to write about how the past of the wall united the present and bridged the gaps between generations and such. I hardly ever like the way my writing sounds, but professors usually do so hopefully he’ll read it and see something far better than I do.

Even though I’d love to get a good grade on these papers, I honestly just need to pass. I really need to pass.

Its weird for me to worry about passing a class. At the U, it’s never an issue of if I’m going to pass, but rather will I pass with an A or an A. I dont like this pass/fail mentality, I just feel like it gives me an excuse to do everything half-assed if I wanted to which I absolutely don’t. The only exception would be if I had to take math again, but I never will so whatever.

Last night was St. Patricks Day so a couple of my friends and I went to one of the Irish pubs here in town. We wanted to go to the second one, but when we got there the line out the door was ridiculous. Aside from the Guinness, we got a shot that they were offering called the ‘Irish flag,’ which was delicious. It was layered with creme de menth(green) on the bottom, then baileys(white) and cognac(yellow) on top, it was super tasty.

I hate to say it, but that’s really all I got to say for this week. I  mean, its really only been a couple days since my last blog and almost all I’ve done this week is edit papers. I’m going over to my friend’s flat tonight for a movie and then tomorrow I’m off on an adventure!

I head to Munich tomorrow morning, fly to London on Tuesday, on Thursday I am going to my roommate from Freiburg’s place near Cambridge (she’s coming down to London to hang out on tues or wed), and then Friday morning I go to stay with a different friend in Birmingham. I fly home Sunday morning.

I am so excited.

I have a lot to tell you guys.

I got back on Wednesday from 11 days in Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow and Prague with my Gramma, Grampa and Aunt Amy. It was an absolutely amazing trip.

Berlin

Lets start from the beginning, shall we? I woke up way too early on Sunday the 27th, caught a bus to Basel, Switzerland and was in Berlin by 11am. It was somewhat of an adventure getting from the airport to the hotel, but I eventually got there and oh, was it ever a nice hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Adlon which, alongside the King David which we stayed at in Jerusalem, is one of those hotels whose history is actually a part of history books. Let’s just say the Adlon has its own bunker dating back to the Second World War. I know, right?

Yes, that is the Brandenburg gate in the distance. The green roofed building on the left is the Adlon. You really couldnt get any closer.

Sunday afternoon we met up with some friends of the family who live in Berlin and they took us around to the Reichstag and Checkpoint Charlie and such. We also went to the Topography of Terror which is a museum on the block where Gestapo headquarters used to be. It was interesting, but mainly photographs.

We went to an italian restaurant for dinner which, because it was turkish owned, was also halal.

Monday morning we got a tour guide who took us around Berlin and showed us places like where they burned books in 1933 and other various memorials. We also went to KaDeWe which stands for Kaufhaus des Westens (or deparment store of the west) which was basically one fancy shopping mall. The best part of Monday however, was after we went back to our hotel in the afternoon.

About two blocks behind my hotel was the street on which Hitler’s New Chancellery built in 1938 by Albert Speer once stood. Though nothing remains of it now, I went on a walk to go see it anyways. That’s the corner, by the way. But the building itself was huge.

From there, I went to where the Führerbunker is. For those of you who dont know what that means, it was the bunker in which Adolf Hitler spent the last weeks of his life and where he later committed suicide. The bunker is still there underground but the public, like me, dont have access to it. I seriously wish I could see it. Imagine the history. But anyways, that apartment block on the right is sitting on top of the bunker.

Tuesday morning we did more touring around Berlin with our guide. We went to a couple different Holocaust memorials, the 1936 Olympic Stadium and a pretty palace of some old royalty. We stopped briefly at the Bendlerblock where von Staufenberg and other plotters of the 20. July 1944 assassination attempt were shot. If that doesnt mean anything to you, they made an awful film about it with Tom Cruise a couple years ago.

In the afternoon we went to the Holocaust museum behind our hotel. The museum is underground, and above it are these large grey blocks of stone or concrete in rows. The museum was really well done and I found a book in the gift shop which is honestly already one of my favorite books I own.

The book is called Adolf H. by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, its in German and I’m completely in love with it. Its fiction, and it starts in 1909 when Hitler applied to art school in Vienna. The reason this book is so amazing is that it tells two stories, the first is based on the truth and Adolf Hitler is rejected from art school. The second story is about Adolf H. who is accepted.

The story switches back and forth every couple pages and the events that happen in the novel are all things that shaped Hitler into who he was. Both Adolf Hitler and Adolf A. go through roughly the same situations (women, WW1, friendship etc.) but they deal with them in different ways. It’s an amazing book.

Wednesday we went to Potsdam. On the way there we went to the Wannsee house which I was personally really excited about. Before I left for Berlin I made a list of places I wanted to see while I was there. I had written the Wannsee house down but because it’s like a half an hour outside the city I didnt really think I’d actually get there. I was thrilled when I found out we were going.

The Wannsee house is so important because in Winter 1942, Reinhard Heydrich Adolf Eichmann and other Nazi officials held a conference here to decide not that the Jewish Question needed to be dealt with, but rather how it should be dealt with. I dont think I need to tell you what that decision meant for 6 million Jews.

Also, if you’ve ever read Robert Harris’ alternate history novel Fatherland, the plot revolves around the fate of those who attended this conference. If you havent read it, you really should. They also made a pretty alright TV movie out of it in the 90’s.

Anyways, from Wannsee we went to Potsdam where we went to the palace where Churchill, Truman and Stalin divided up Germany after the war and from there we went to Sanssouci palace.

That afternoon we went to the German History Museum and it was absolutely amazing. The museum goes chronologically through German history starting roughly 1300. They had so many old books on display, I was in heaven. I’m pretty sure I could spend forever in that museum, there were so many artifacts to see and it was fascinating.

Different exhibits reminded me of different things. One exhibit of knight’s armor reminded me of the last scene from the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks while another made me feel like I had stepped out of Berlin and into Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks. I’m sure youre not surprised however when I say that my favorite part was the exhibit on the Nazis.

There were so many things that fascinated me, they had uniforms and posters and the engine of a V2 rocket. There were badges and pins and even an anti-aircraft gun. But the thing that I could spend forever simply looking at and imagining its history was Hitler’s desk (designed by Speer) from the New Chancellery.

In case you were wondering why I keep mentioning Speer, he’s the man I’m going to write a book about sometime in the next ten years. In fact, all I want to do is research him for the rest of my life. But anyways, back to this desk.

I saw many things during my trip that if they could talk, could tell the most powerful stories. This desk is one of them. Just imagine Hitler standing over it with a map of Europe planning out his next move against France or Russia or England.

That’s pretty much a summary of what we got up to in Berlin. I’ll leave you with this photo of me in front of the Brandenburg Gate and then we’ll move on to Poland!

Poland – Warsaw

Thursday morning we took a train from Berlin to Warsaw. At first it seemed pretty nice, we had our own compartment and there was enough room for our luggage. It was only after a little while that we realized the heat was broken. They fixed it eventually, but I spent a good two hours absolutely freezing.

Once we got everything taken care of at the hotel we went for a walk around the center of Warsaw. There’s a huge square in the center and its really very pretty. We went to a nice restaurant for dinner and let me tell you, the Poles know how to cook.

Maybe its because polish food is, in many ways, Jewish food. Things like stuffed cabbage and dumplings, borscht and kasha were on most menus as well as in Jewish kitchens in the states. It was like eating comfort food at every meal.

I discovered a love for borscht. The poles serve their borscht hot and the best one I had had julienned beets and diced potatoes in it. I could have that every single day.

Moral of the story, I’m not sure whether I loved the food because it was genuinely really good or because it was things that are in my blood as a Jew whose ancestors come from eastern Europe. I think it might be a mix of both.

The next day we had a tour all day. We went to a synagogue that had survived the war, saw the Jewish cemetery which has mass graves from the Warsaw Ghetto. We even saw one of the last remaining remnants of the wall that surrounded the Warsaw Ghetto. But the one thing that made by far the strongest impression on me was seeing Mila Street.

Many of you might recognize the word Mila from Leon Uris’ novel Mila 18 about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Though the role this street played in the uprising was in itself enough to make an impression, it is not what made seeing that street so amazing for me.When my Zadie was a boy, his family moved to Warsaw for a while and out of all the streets in Warsaw, the one they lived on was Mila Street.

My Zadie came to the States in 1926 when he was 8, served in the Second World War as a flight surgeon and he and his wife had five daughters, one of whom is my mother. 15 years after he came to the States the street he once lived on became the center of the most famous Ghetto in Poland. Many Jews in the Warsaw ghetto died there of hunger or sickness or during the uprising. Those who did not die in Warsaw were sent to extermination camps throughout the east, most of them to Treblinka.

Fifteen years. That is why Mila Street made such an impression on me. There but for the grace of God…

We caught a train bright and early the next day (the 5th) to Krakow.

Poland – Krakow

We got picked up from the train station and went straight to the Jewish Quarter. Unlike the Jewish sections in both Berlin and Warsaw, the one in Krakow was still somewhat active. There were Jewish restaurants and the one active synagogue had just finished their Shabbat services so there were Orthodox Jews wandering around.

From there we went to some places where they filmed Schindler’s List. I completely understand why he picked to film there,walking into the courtyard was like walking into the 1930’s. We took a short drive from there to Schindler’s factory which is in the industrial outskirts of Prague. They’ve turned it into somewhat of a memorial but the building looks exactly the same as it did in the movie.

After the end of the tour my Grampa and I went pretty much across the street from our hotel and climbed up to the Wawel Castle. It reminded me a little of the one in Nuremberg.

Our hotel in Krakow was literally right across the street from the house where Pope John Paul II lived before he was a pope. The poles really love their pope!

I’m going to tell you about Sunday in reverse order. Sunday morning we went to Auschwitz, Sunday afternoon we took a tour of the salt mines. Lets start with the afternoon.

The salt mines were started literally hundreds of years ago and reminded me somewhat of the Lord of the Rings’ Mines of Moria. They wound on and on and went hundreds of feet into the earth. I dont have any photos because you had to buy a pass to take them but let me describe to you the main chapel.

The poles are really religious people, I mean like 98% of their population is Catholic and therefore the miners built chapels throughout the mines so that they could pray during the day. The main room is absolutely huge and is carved entirely from salt. The walls, the floors, the altar piece, all of it was salt. It was rather impressive.

Sunday morning we went to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is roughly an hour outside of Krakow. It was separated into three camps, Auschwitz I, Birkenau and Monowitz which does not exist anymore. We went first to Auschwitz I.

As much as I’d like to tell you all about seeing the camp, there’s really no words to describe what it is like to see a room full of shoes which are there only to show a small sample of what they found after the war. How can I possibly describe the way it felt to walk through a gas chamber where thousands of people were murdered and then walk right into the room in which their bodies were burned? All I can show you from Auschwitz is pictures because words cannot describe a death camp.

The entrance to Auschwitz I

A mountain of suitcases, this is only a small section

The wire surrounding the camp

The gas chamber

From Auschwitz I we took a quick drive to Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). Birkenau is the camp you see in films. Its the one with the tracks that go through the front building and straight into the center of the camp. It’s the one with rows after rows of barracks that go on almost as far as the eye can see.

The sheer scale of the camp is overwhelming. If you see the line of trees in the far distance, that’s how far the camp goes. Because the baracks on this side of the camp (the other side is just as large) were made of wood, most of them have collapsed leaving only their brick chimneys behind. Each and every chimney you see was once a shack for prisoners.

That’s the inside of one of the barracks. Everything there was so bare. it was simply impossible to imagine what it was like. It was a powerful thing to see.

It’s one thing to read about Auschwitz, it’s another thing to see it. If you havent read Night by Elie Wiesel, The Sunflower (which takes place in Lemberg, not Auschwitz) or Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, you really should.

The next morning we took a quick flight from Krakow to Prague.

Czech Republic – Prague

We got into Prague at roughly 8:30am, wandered around for a little while and then got picked up for a tour of the city. We went to the Palace and I got to see the changing of the guards and get a really good view of the city.

We basically had a tour of the city itself and drove around and saw the sites. Prague is a really pretty city.

There were two things that I really liked seeing. The first was the church in which the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich hid in after their attack. I would have much rather seen the corner on which it actually happened, but according to our tour guide it doesnt exist anymore. Too bad.

The other thing that I got a kick out of seeing was the building designed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

I dont know if you know, but I’m kind of obsessed with Fred Astaire films. Each and every one of his films makes me smile every time I see them. If you have never seen Top Hat or Daddy Long Legs you really need to because they’re both absolutely amazing.

After that they took us back to the hotel. Let me tell you about this hotel.

It was music themed, and did they ever take the theme seriously. From the tiles to the carpet, the art to the rooms themselves, everything was music themed. They had a music room with cds and dvds we could borrow and it was rather impressive. The nicest thing was our room.

Yea, that is a complimentary bottle of wine on that table there.

I had beef cheeks for dinner that night. The whole time I was eating them all I could picture was the face of a cow. I think I’ll stick with a steak from now on…

The next day we went to Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt or Terezin in Czech was a transit camp during the 2nd World War. Our first stop was at the Gestapo prison just outside the town.

The prison was almost more powerful than Auschwitz because unlike Auschwitz where everything was all cleaned up and organized, the paint was chipping, the sinks (which were just for show, no water pipes ever connected to the faucets) were chipped. It felt a lot more like what I expected Auschwitz to feel like.

The guy who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and kicked off the First World War was imprisoned here for a couple years during WW1.

There was a special section there where they kept Jewish prisoners and in the last days of the war there was a Typhoid epidemic among the prisoners there. The Nazis locked the entrance as a “quarantine” and apparently when they were liberated there were piles of bodies in this open square.

From the prison we went into the town which itself used to be the camp. A transit camp is unlike a concentration camp in that the majority of the people sent there were later sent to extermination camps in Poland or elsewhere. Not all people left Terezin however, some 33,000 died there and were cremated there.

Next to the crematorium is a lawn covered with small stones each marked with a number and each number represents a mass grave. The Jews of the camp were responsible for burning the bodies and therefore they tried to do it with as much respect as possible. Unlike in death camps where the ashes of victims were all mixed together, the Jews of Terezin made urns out of wood and later paper in an effort to maintain each individual’s memory.

After seeing Theresienstadt we drove back to Prague where we took a tour of the Jewish area. Our tour guide went to University with the man who is now in charge of the main Jewish organization in Prague so she called him up and we got to sit down with him and talk about Jewish life in Prague.

It was really interesting to hear what he had to say. It was also good to hear that though their community is quite small, it is active.

We went to a small pizzeria for lunch where I had the spaghetti all spaghetti should try to be. It had roasted garlic and chili peppers and a clear sauce and I honestly had to write about it because it was the closest thing to perfect pasta I’ve ever had. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

After that we went on a tour of the different synagogues. Only one of them is active, the others have been turned into a museum of religious things like torah crowns and seder plates and such. Part of the tour was to see the Jewish cemetery which is unique because due to a lack of space, people are buried there in layers, one on top of the other. You can see that some headstones are really close to each other, that means that in that plot each stone represents someone buried there.

With the tour over, my last day in Prague was almost, but not quite over. Instead of going to dinner and coming back to the hotel, we did something I’ve never done in my life. We went to an opera.

Stepping into the Prague State Opera felt like stepping 100 years into the past. I felt like if I looked closely into some of the boxes I might see Austrian-Hungarian royalty looking back at me.

We saw the opera Madame Butterfly which is a tragedy about a Japanese woman who falls in love with an American sailor. I really liked it.

The next day we took a quick walk around Prague and then it was time to go to the airport and fly back to Basel. It was only an hour flight but it was probably the bumpiest flight I’ve ever been on. I dont like turbulence, it freaks me out.

I’ve been back in Freiburg since Wednesday afternoon and I had intended to write all this about my trip and not really pay any attention to my last couple days here. I assumed that all I’d be doing here was finishing up term papers and while that is mostly true, something that happened on Friday was so remarkable that I just have to tell you about it.

I called the fire department.

Just outside of my window is the roof of the place in which the dumpsters for my building are kept. The roof of this building isnt shingled or anything, but rather covered with grass and weeds and natural stuff.

I was talking to my parents on skype when I looked out the window and noticed a small fire on the edge of the roof. I watched it slowly start spreading, called my friend to get the number for the fire department, called them and then waited until they showed up. By the time they got here it had pretty much burned itself out, but I still got to watch fire fighters hose down the roof which is almost literally right outside my window.

It made my day.

Alright, well I hope this blog makes up for skipping last week. I promised an extra one with lots of photos and I think I did pretty well, dont you?

As always, there are more photos on facebook.