untimely topics

Hello everyone!

Well, it has been quite some time since I last posted about life.  I hope you are all up for a little extension of the holiday season… I believe that I left you in Cologne, Germany at the Christmas markets.  The following weekend, we took a fun trip to Berlin with our great friends Todd & Megan to soak in all of the crazy history of the city and also take in a few more Christmas markets.  Seems a little outdated now (the trip was almost 2 months ago!!) and I talked to many of you about it over the holidays, but I wanted to give you highlights and photos anyway.  It was a really great trip!

This is what we arrived to - Beautiful Day.  Our first snow of the year.

This is what we arrived to – Beautiful Day. Our first snow of the year.

Loving the snowy walk to the museum.

Loving the snowy walk to the museum.

Inside the DDR Museum - tons of information about what life was like in East Berlin under DDR rule.

Inside the DDR Museum – tons of information about what life was like in East Berlin under DDR rule.

Berliner Dom - Berlin's main cathedral.  Heavily bombed in WWII, but rebuilt nicely, I think!

Berliner Dom – Berlin’s main cathedral. Heavily bombed in WWII, but rebuilt nicely, I think!

We listened to a band practice inside the cathedral to warm up!

We listened to a band practice inside the cathedral to warm up!

After the museum and touring the cathedral, we headed to see the iconic symbol of Berlin…the Brandenburg Gate, the only remaining 18th century gate to the city.

Side note: this was at 4:00 PM.  Early sunsets, people.

Side note: this was at like 4:00 PM. Early sunsets, people.

The square in front of the gate had a huge Christmas tree and a giant Menorah.

The square in front of the gate had a huge Christmas tree and a giant Menorah.

At this point, we were looking for warmth and food…so we settled in for dinner near Potsdamer Platz, and then headed to the market there.  Unfortunately, a lot of the vendors had closed down shop due to the “storm” (really windy and snowy) and what was left wasn’t amazing.  But they did have an impressive tubing hill (far too cold for us to try it), and this was home to the boys’ first Jagertee.  Yes, hot Jager-Tea.  It was disgusting, but they found it warmed them up quite nicely for some reason.

The Christmas Market at Potsdamer Platz.

The Christmas Market at Potsdamer Platz.

The giant tubing hill and the brave souls going down in this weather!

The giant tubing hill and the brave souls going down in this weather!

The Jager Tea.

The Jagertee.

Group shot!

Group shot!  Just some hot chocolate for Megan & I!

We attempted to stop at two additional Christmas markets, but they turned out to be completely shut down for the “storm”.  So we settled into a nice brewery for a little drink to end the evening.

Sweet hat, Todd!

Looking good after a long day of cold and snow!  PS – Sweet hat, Todd!

Day 2 was dedicated to learning more about the Berlin Wall, the literal wall built to separate West Berlin and communist East Berlin.  The segregation began following WWII when the country and the city of Berlin (which was technically all within one of the sectors, but was also agreed to be split) was divided into four sectors occupied by other governments: the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.  In 1961, the wall was constructed by the DDR (communist government of East Germany) to stop people from fleeing to West Germany through West Berlin, ultimately separating neighborhoods and families in Berlin.  Our first stop was a location where parts of the wall were still standing and there was a tower you could climb to have a better look at how it was set up – intended to stop anyone from getting across.

The wall and the open space in between that was heavily guarded, as you can see by the tower still standing.

The wall and the open space in between that was heavily guarded, as you can see by the tower still standing.

Where the wall once stood.

Where the wall once stood.  There is a brick path symbolizing the wall throughout the city.

To give you a perspective on how high this wall is!

To give you perspective of how high this wall is!  The round top was meant to prevent anyone from hooking something on to the wall.

From there, we headed to the East Side Gallery.  This is the largest part of the wall still in tact today, and it has been transformed into a street art gallery dedicated to honoring the victims of the DDR and as a memorial to freedom.  It was really impressive!  Here are a few photos to give you a taste:

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After taking in the art at the East Side Gallery, we hopped on the public transport and headed over to Checkpoint Charlie.  This was the most famous Allied checkpoint along the wall, and it was located at the border of the American sector of West Berlin and the communist controlled East Berlin.

The view on the Soviet side of the checkpoint.  There is an American soldier posted on the  other side.

The view on the Soviet side of the checkpoint. There is an American soldier posted on the other side.

Sign posted at the checkpoint.

Sign posted at the checkpoint.

We went into the Checkpoint Charlie museum to get out of the cold.  This place was LOADED with information…if you wanted to read it all.  We enjoyed the parts that told stories of the many different escape attempts using crazy ideas, like carrying a woman in two suitcases, hot air balloons and the car with a secret hiding spot.  After reading for an hour or two, we decided that was enough for today!  We headed to our first Christmas market for the evening, the Gendarmenmarkt.  It was really pretty and cozy, my favorite of Berlin, for sure.  There was a light snow falling too – which was actually a welcomed addition at that point…it felt like Christmas!  We had some tasty treats and browsed the goods, even making some purchases.  (Grandma – this is where the snowman came from!)

The entrance to the market.

The entrance to the market.

I think this was a concert hall behind it...lit up for the market.

This was a concert hall behind it…lit up for the market.

Ballerinas for entertainment.  This was followed by a HORRIBLE acapella group that was pretty humorous.

Ballerinas for entertainment. This was followed by a HORRIBLE acapella group that was so bad that it was pretty humorous.

We stopped by one last market at Alexanderplatz on our way back to the hotel.  It was a little disappointing after the Gendarmenmarkt, but still fun to take a look!

The next morning, Todd and Megan had found a super cute breakfast place that wasn’t far away.  It turns out that few places are open on Sunday mornings, so we were happy to find such a nice spot!

The scene at breakfast.

The scene at breakfast.

My breakfast platter or meats, cheeses and fruits.

My breakfast platter or meats, cheeses and fruits.  Delicious!

We had just a little more time to kill before we headed out, so we went back to the Brandenburg Gate to see it in the daylight.  Also, we went to the nearby Holocaust Memorial dedicated in 2005 to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Another shot of the gate, in the rainy daylight.  The size of this structure alone is very impressive.

Another shot of the gate, in the rainy daylight and from the other side where the wall once stood. The size of this structure alone is very impressive.

The memorial.  There are over 2500 of these concrete blocks of various heights along an uneven ground.

The memorial. There are over 2500 of these concrete blocks of various heights along an uneven ground.

Definitely created an uneasy feeling when winding through.

Definitely created an uneasy feeling when winding through.

Wow, what a trip!  Berlin was such a great city, and the relevance of its history is really felt.  I feel like we soaked in a lot of information over the few days there.  It was crazy to think how recent the Berlin wall and Cold War was happening.  It was also a blast traveling with such great people!!  Thanks to Todd & Megan for coming along and helping us celebrate the holidays at the markets.

Well, you may remember that after this trip we took an even bigger trip back to the US of A for Christmas!  I won’t bore you with 3 weeks of detailed descriptions, especially since many of you were involved, but I wanted to share a few highlights via photos:

We spent some time here, unfortunately, due to a broken hip in the Carlson household.  We were happy to be around to help out though!

We spent some time here, unfortunately, due to a broken hip in the Carlson household. We were happy to be around to help out though!

This little lady (our niece Taylor) celebrated her 1st Birthday!

This little lady (our niece Taylor) celebrated her 1st Birthday!

My nephew Owen's holiday music program.  Love being an aunt!

My nephew Owen’s holiday music program. Love being an aunt!

Our newest nephew, Westen!

Our newest nephew, Westen!

So happy to be home to get some baby snuggles with Westen.

So happy to be home to get some baby snuggles with Westen.

We brought back a few treats!  I LOVE wrapping gifts!

We brought back a few treats! I LOVE wrapping gifts!

We got to watch Curtis coaching the freshman basketball team!

We got to watch Curtis coaching the freshman basketball team!

Then we checked out his classroom.  So fun to see him all grown up!

Then we checked out his classroom. So fun to see him all grown up!

Neon cookie decorating at the Rife house!

Neon cookie decorating at the Rife house!

Some heated rounds of dominoes happening here!

Some heated rounds of dominoes happening here!

Westen loved his new blanket that I made him!

Westen loved his new blanket that I made him!

I just love this photo - same hairdo! :)

I just love this photo – same hairdo! 🙂

One of the best things that has ever happened to me - my grandma and BC cutting up a rug to old Christmas music. :)

One of the best things that has ever happened to me – my grandma and BC cutting up a rug to old Christmas music. 🙂

Loved being around my favorite boys. :)

Loved being around my favorite boys. 🙂

Taking selfies with our niece, Alayna!

Taking selfies with our niece, Alayna!

Christmas Eve with this lovely crew.

Christmas Eve with this lovely crew.

Look at that spread of heavy appetizers for Christmas Eve!  YUMMY!

Look at that spread of heavy appetizers for Christmas Eve! YUMMY!

We went ice skating on a BEAUTIFUL 65 degree day in Omaha with Lauren & Curtis.

We went ice skating on a BEAUTIFUL 65 degree day in Omaha with Lauren & Curtis.

BC being passed by a tiny girl.

BC being passed by a tiny girl.

This is my attempt at letting go of the rail.

This is my attempt at letting go of the rail.

I took a few photos of Westen while we were home.

I took a few photos of Westen while we were home.

Isn't he adorable?!  LOVE HIM!

Isn’t he adorable?! LOVE HIM!

A fun NYE celebration with Andrea & Jamie at Alba downtown.

A fun NYE celebration with Andrea & Jamie at Alba downtown.

A fun New Year's Day of watching football with our fellow Bronco's fans.

A fun New Year’s Day of watching football with our fellow Bronco’s fans.

We also got to spend time with many of our wonderful friends!  Thanks to everyone for working with our hectic schedule and going out of their way to see us!  You sure know how to make us feel special. 🙂

Since we have been back in the NL, we  have been laying pretty low.  Highlights include: finally seeing the second Hunger Games movie!, visiting the Coco Chanel exhibit at a nearby museum, touring inside the Peace Palace (including a peak into the International Court of Justice), hosting our friend Jan for dinner at our apartment, and a visit to the Escher Museum with some expat friends.

Chanel and the Little Black Dress.

Chanel and the Little Black Dress.

The Chanel Suit.  A really cool exhibit even for the fashionably challenged. :)

The Chanel Suit. A really cool exhibit even for the fashionably challenged. 🙂

Unfortunately no photos inside...it was really beautiful!

Unfortunately no photos inside…it was really beautiful!

The Escher Museum - inside the old Royal Winter Palace.

The Escher Museum – inside the old Royal Winter Palace.

One of his works you might have seen before.

One of his works you might have seen before.

Another famous one by MC Escher.

Another famous one by MC Escher.  The museum was great and as one of the ladies put it – it’s really easy to appreciate his work.  So impressive.

Also, there was this:

The Broncos are going to the Super Bowl!

The Broncos are going to the Super Bowl!

Yes, we will be watching and celebrating what we are calling “Super Bowl Monday” given that the game will start at 12:30 AM on Monday morning.  GO BRONCOS!  And wish me best of luck staying awake until like 3/4:00 to watch it – oh and BC too – he has a busy day on Monday at work. 🙂

We are really looking forward to the start of the Olympic games here soon and a not so distant visit from some friends!!  And to all of you who are wondering…we are still SNOW FREE in Den Haag! 🙂

Until next time,
-MK-

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