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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Honeymoon Odyssey: Dresden

You can’t leave Germany without seeing the East.

Matt 2012
Dawn 2006

I think the best way to see Dresden is to take a day, or even a few hours, and wander around the city and along the peaceful river Elbe.

For me, Dresden is about quiet contemplation of what took place there.  The scars are still on the surface- more so than other popular cities in the West.

Staring at the blackened buildings and monuments you can’t help but think about the World Wars.  Before WWII Dresden was an arts and cultural center, even referred to as ‘the jewel.’  The sad fact is, this place really didn’t need to be bombed, it did have some manufacturing but it was filled with civilians and as a slap in the face, this jewel by the river was destroyed.

In 2006 I spent a few nights in Dresden on a business trip and I remember it being much quieter than it is now- which is a positive sign for it's development.  I remember empty lots of rubble, chain link fences and bulldozers.  Now there are tourist restaurants, shops and a bustling town center.

As Dresden repairs itself it’s aiming to attract young people and students.  It just so happened that my cousin Shane was doing an exchange at one of the Universities.

This meeting was perfectly serendipitous because Shane is the son of my Uncle Charles, who visited me in Munich six years earlier.

My Uncle was doing business in Belgium at the time and went out of his way to come see me.  He took me to dinner and spoke to me as one adult to another.  I felt so grown up and had so many questions.  He was so refreshingly honest with me about how difficult yet rewarding it is to be a parent, and how important it is to travel.

I’ll never forget his advice or how much fun we had that night.  I had to put him in a cab after the trademark Jameson shots came out- what can I say I was in my 20’s?  Still he hung in there like a champ and I was proud to have him as an Uncle and a friend.

So taking Shane to lunch was something I insisted on, even though Matt and I were yet to be alone a week into our Around the World Honeymoon.

I’m a traveler and a gypsy but at heart- I hate to admit it- I’m a home body.  Because family means everything to me, I can still function so far away from them.  The physical distance is enormous but I carry them with me in every waking moment and often in my dreams at night.  They are in me.  In my accent, my style, gestures, attitude and all the experiences that make me the person I am today. 

My biggest wish right now is that my family and friends understand that I haven’t left them behind for another life, but that I’ve just taken all of us into a bigger life than we once imagined. 

Now I have Australian relatives, and so do all of you. 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Honeymoon Odyssey: Berlin

After a whirlwind four days in Buffalo- the flight over to Europe seemed peaceful.  And quick! Compared to the haul from Melbourne to New York.

But first- the only snag of our entire trip: Which seemed like a bad omen at the time, our flight from JFK to Berlin was cancelled.  We were rescheduled on another Swiss air flight which left three hours later and it would mean a stop in Frankfurt before Berlin, after a 9 hour layover in JFK. 

After all the traveling I've done, it still stresses me out when things go wrong. I often need to remind myself that this is all part of the journey.

Hey life and your lemons….How about a massage and pedi in the airport terminal?  Lemonade please for the journey.  I wish every airport had one of those little spas.  It was just what I needed.  They even let me hang out in one of the massage chairs for a while because it was slow.  Plus there was a Duty Free.  A black and brown Longchamp bag ended up coming along on the journey too.

By the time we arrived in Berlin to say we were exhausted would be an understatement.  A fact that was lost on my high school buddy Clark, whom we would be staying with for the next three nights.

He was excited to have visitors and ready to be our “Berlin Genie.”  He asked me what I wanted to see and do but it seemed he already had a plan in mind- luckily it was a good one because he likes to be in charge.  On that first night I had to argue with him to take us home once I hit my final wall of exhaustion before getting seriously ill.  

The following two days we had the perfect strategy to see Berlin.  Clark and his wife belong to a car-share where they are able to book convertible mini-coopers.  The four of us piled in and drove around the city checking out the landscape to get a feel for the layout.

We stopped at the Berliner Dome and claimed to the top. I’m not great with heights but it was a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the city.  The architecture clearly shows where East and West Germany met.  Stark simple buildings on one side and “normal” architecture on the other.

The sense of history in Berlin is unreal.  It’s still being rebuilt brick by brick.  Tower cranes scrape the sky in every corner, constantly changing the skyline of this rapidly growing metropolis.

We parked the car near the Berlin wall and had a little scribble on it.   

Then we took a boat ride at sunset.  I got a little camera happy after a couple Weiss Bier’s and shot a few beauties.

We hung out in a Biergarten that night and the next day rode bikes around the city, taking in the sights, sounds, people and traffic.  It was as if we started out in the sky and zoomed in on bits and pieces that make this city so unique.

Apparently there is a low cost of living so Berlin is attracting lots of up-and-comers.  Clark thinks it has some real  potential for a boom in the next 5-10 years and he's happy and proud to be there to be a part of it.  It's funny how mature he seems now, as I'm sure I do to him. We were both a little wild and left-of center growing up.

Clark and I were reminiscing about our cheeky high school follies while our spouses could only smirk at our idiotic tales.  It was awesome to shoot the shit with a mate like I often see Matt doing.  It makes me homesick sometimes so I didn't mind that he had to sit through a few laughing fits and inside jokes.It’s so strange when all the sudden we are grown-up, married, with adult responsibilities.  I’m proud of myself for getting into trouble, and living such a fast-paced youth.  I ignored warnings to slow down because I was hungry for life.  

Slightly rebellious but still responsible, I would always do my homework before going out to clubs and pubs.  My roommate used to wait for me to get out of class at 10:00PM, where I would jump into the passenger seat of my car while she drove us out.  Sometimes I even painted my nails on the dashboard.

I always wanted and needed to have it all.  This is partly why I’m so ready and excited for a (slightly) quieter life.  It's just a different type of fun this time.  I can enjoy every second because I didn’t miss out on one thing about being young.  I went to parties, made mistakes, kissed the wrong boys, bought clothes on credit, and ran around the globe searching for something.

A weekend night, a bottle of wine and Matt are honestly just as entertaining to me now as going out drinking & dancing was to me then.   Maybe even more so.

This stage in life comforts me in a deeper way than I have ever known.

People ask me what it’s like being married.  My answer is simple.  My husband and I are officially family.   

It’s difficult to explain what that feels like without being cheesy or trite but it really is wonderful.  I’m building my own family and that is more satisfying to me than building a city, skyscraper or business.

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