Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Experiencing Madrid

Yep, it's definitely summer here in Madrid. I'm all for siesta when it gets us out of the heat of the day. We started this part of our adventure making our way from Barajas to La Latina on the metro picking up friends Lynne and Kevin along the way. In all my travels to Spain this is the first time in Madrid that there was public transportation available point to point rather than the bus to Plaza de Colon. Last time we were here Maia was an infant and it was mostly a tour of Madrid's parks to keep her happy.

We got ourselves set up in a GREAT flat. I highly recommend it for anyone traveling in a largish group. We are definitely living like kings and queens in the city of Spanish royalty. In fact today we also took a tour of the Palacio Real. Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside so I just have a few from the outside to share.
More scenes from the day

Palacio Real - Kizoa Video Maker

 Just before hitting the palace we walked around the corner from our flat to check out El Rastro, a well known flea market, where we picked up a couple souvenirs for the kids. If you are a flea market kind of person or you just like people watching, you could easily spend hours here. It is a place where you need to watch your wallet and camera in a crowd, but worth it.

Following the market we headed through the Plaza Mayor to get to the palace. It was definitely full of people and lots of vendors out this morning as well. Frankly, on the walk to the palace I was amazed by the number of stores that were open since it is Sunday. Things have really changed in my 30+ years of traveling to Spain. I'm a bit disturbed by the westernization I'm seeing. There are fruit stores where you pick your own fruit, while wearing a glove and many of the stores are open on Sundays including clothing and grocery stores. We almost got run over by a Burger King delivery motorcycle and of course Starbucks has made it here as well. I'm not sure how they survive since it is so easy to get a much better cup of coffee in any bar on the street. I guess it is name recognition for tourists. Very sad... It will be interesting to see if there is as much western influence in the north as we are seeing here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


So I suspect I'm not alone when it comes to the images that pop into my head when I hear or see the word Dachau. It is synonymous for me with concentration camp, work camp, death, and the horrors of the Holocaust.  This dreadful place lies a short train ride from Munich and is something that I needed to return to and I wanted my girls to experience.

We stepped off the train in the town of Dachau where we then had to wait for a bus to the camp. It was a drizzly sort of day which I guess was fitting for our visit. Across the street was a café, a post office around the corner, and it appeared the same as any other small town. I just couldn't come to terms with how it would be for anyone to say, "I'm from Dachau." The last time, 18 years ago, when Dean and I visited, I don't remember seeing the town but we arrived by car. I'm not sure if the train-bus option existed then or not.

Anyway, we made our way to the camp. There is a new information center there where we picked up the audio tour which helped guide us through the memorial, the museum, and the buildings. The museum was new as well and was quite well done. If you aren't familiar with Dachau, it's history, and what is there, check out this virtual tour. I did read through that the night before going as I knew the kids wouldn't have made it through me reading everything there was to read in the museum.

Suffice it to say it was an extraordinarily moving experience. While I didn't take a ton of pictures, here is some of what we saw.

First you enter through the gates. They are a replica of the original ones as the orignals were stolen. They have written on them "Arbeit Macht Frei", work makes you free, something that was certainly not true for those who were robbed of their individuality, belongings, and dignity upon passing through those gates.

The rest of my photos I posted in a slide show below. You will see parts of the monument erected as a memorial, the Jewish memorial that was built on the grounds, the stones that were placed inside the memorial in memory,  the crematorium, and an area by the crematorium, that is marked with remembrance of the thousands of unknown who died in this area where ashes were buried and shooting squads senselessly terminated lives.

Kizoa slideshow: Dachau - Slideshow

After our three hours at the camp, we returned to our flat to prepare our suitcases for travel to Madrid the following day. There was a lot to process but I'm glad we saw it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Whirlwind Tour

Our time in Munich really flew by and clearly 3 days of touring isn't enough to see and do all we were hoping for. On our second day we tried to get an earlier start but jet lag had other plans for us. We finally got moving and out of the flat by mid-morning and headed to the Marienplatz. For those who want the English version of the Marienplatz page...

We did arrive in time for the clock ringing which was interesting but what is more amazing is the number of people that show up for it. I suspect if it ran ever hour instead of only 3 times a day it would be less of a tourist spectacle.

I did find that I have my own street right off the plaza.
From this point we headed down a pedestrian shopping area. We came, we saw, we bought. Unfortunately since we got our day started so late and the girls found a bit of joy in shopping, we missed out on the historic parts of that plaza and the next one down the road that we never made it to.

Our friends contacted us to meet them for a picnic lunch on the grounds of the 1972 Olympic park. If you are interested in a bit of a history lesson on that, it was the first time Germany had hosted the Olympics since the time when Hitler was in power. Tension was high and things didn't turn out so well. Check out this short piece on the Munich Massacre for details.

Today however you wouldn't know that was the case. The grounds are green and lots of people are wondering around. The swimming pool is open for swimmers to enjoy, there is a lake  where they have big balls you can climb into for running/falling on the water, a trampoline park, and some other sightseeing tourist options. We mostly wandered around as the girls weren't interested in any of the other options except swimming but we hadn't brought our suits.

The weather was beautiful for our walk through the park and we followed that up with a trip back to Patricia and Use's house. While Use, Dean and Maia rested, the rest of us headed out to play a little soccer in the park by their flat. As it turns out it's a huge park so when we got tired of kicking balls around, we took a walk to see some beautiful gardens, a lake and a beer garden. Unfortunately it was getting late and we needed to head back.

Here are a few  of our interesting sightings of the day...
If it fits, park it there whichever direction you want...

The next day was a to be a long day as we were headed to Dachau, then needed to pack and a final dinner with our friends.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Sightings: Munich

We are on another travel adventure. We decided to start this one in Germany. It was an easy direct flight to Munich from Chicago. Upon arrival we were greeted by Nicolle & Patricia, our friends from Spain that have now moved here. If you followed our earlier posts in Spain you will remember them from several of our mini-weekend excursions. It was great to see friendly faces upon our arrival and a sign welcoming us here.

Random Sightings
Their help in figuring out the train/U-bahn/Bus pass was great as there were more options than my jetlagged brain could sort through. In no time it was clear that anything we wanted to do would be completely accessible with their public transit system. This is one of the things we love most about Europe and really miss when we return to Madison. From the airport we made our way to our flat in about 45 minutes. It's cozy and not the cleanest but sufficient for our needs. We won't be spending much time inside other than sleeping.

First stop for me was a shower. The kids flipped on the TV only to find that they seem to have a different word for everything on their favorite shows and their mouths aren't in sync with their voices. That was most annoying for Maia. While the others took naps and showers, I did a bit of wandering to get to know the area we are staying in. It is nicely located and feels very safe.

Once we were settled in Use & Lara, the other half of the family we hadn't seen yet, came to pick us up. We headed to their flat for dinner. It was a lovely evening with them but we were all pretty exhausted by the time we got back to our place.

Swan Family in Palace Garden
After sleeping in, we got Dean's phone set up and found some great berries at a fruit store on the way. At this point it was almost noon since we had slept in a bit. Dean and the girls took in some German pastries and we headed out to the Nymphenburg Palace.

The gardens were impressive, as much or more so than the inside of the Palace. Maia and I especially enjoyed a family of swans. There were several buildings to visit including the stable that had some old carriages and sleighs that really did look like something right out of Disney. Unfortunately my inside pictures didn't fair so well without the flash.

Look Out Tourist!
So far my cultural tidbit was realizing that the bike lanes, which exist throughout the city, are part of the sidewalk rather than the street. Bikers are often like ragging drivers if you accidentally find yourself walking in their lane. That's a lesson you only need to learn once.