Wednesday, December 18, 2013

1992 continued European Choir tour and Christmas Letter

Continued from the earlier post 

 We had dinner and then got drinks at Burger King and it was time to meet the bus for the trip to the ferry boat which we'd be on overnight as it went to Poland.

A Polish ferry is anything but a luxury ship.  It may be big enough to drive a train onto but the narrow cots aren't even long enough to straighten your legs and it was noisy all night long.  Of course we stayed up until 11 PM to watch the departure.  Breakfast was included but the cold, jellied hogshead cheese, and  hardboiled eggs complete with embryo's didn't do much for us.  Fortunately there was always bread, cheese and coffee.

We docked in Swinoujscie and went through customs.  Outside the door we were met by beggars who knew where the ferry was from, "Helpa you luggage.  Good job Danmark football.  Helpa you?" Then changed their tune slightly when we said we were from America, "Oh.  Helpa you luggage?  ten Centimos."

We drove immediately to a Cathedral in the old town of Kamien Pomorski.  Rehearsal was delayed by school tours of the Cathedral.  This town which had been 95% destroyed in WWII was now a thriving city famous for its organ festivals.  We went to out hotel in Kolobrzeg for dinner.  No, we never learned most Polish pronunciation rules but Kolobrzeg sounded like "Cow Object."  I stayed there and did laundry and walked to the beach and at raspberries while Greg had a concert at 7 PM.  Here we saw the first of the amber and lead crystal from Poland.  It would be at every place we went in Poland, beautiful and inexpensive.

(Remember this was before Jurassic Park came out so we really hadn't heard much about Amber, we didn't know that it washed ashore on the Baltic beaches as a fossil of forests long submerged.  It came in whir with lots of air bubbles, amber like waves of sun ripened grain of course, even black from the sap of trees in a forest fire.  The coolest piece I saw was a good yard across, a viking ship with even tiny chains carved link by link from one stone.
The Polish Zloty had been devalued so prices sounded extreme. I bought a large necklace and bracelet set with a price of over one million, two hundred thousand)

Friday, July tenth was spent mostly in the bus.  We drove through Koszalin and stopped for lunch at the ancient Slavic fortified city of Slupsk. We drove on through Kartuzy and checked into our hotel in Gdansk. Traveling through Poland was interesting.  We'd heard about the poverty and the pollution so much that the green field and forests and flowing rivers took us by surprise. Pollution is a big problem as evidenced by the thick, black coal smoke from every chimney and things like the fuel which washed over the deck on our ferry and out to sea.  Our hotel in Gdnsk was the state owned Orbis Marina Hotel, right on the Baltic shore.  CRC had a rehearsal this evening at the cathedral in Oliwa.  You'd think that one cathedral would look like any other but each one was spectacular in its own right.  The organ was always the highlight but even they were unique.  The one in Oliwa had carved wooden angels with real trumpets that moved when the organ played. Stars spun, Trumpets waved and music filled the church.


CRC rehearses in Dokkum in the Netherlands

Saturday, July 11th we had two local guides to take us around Gdansk.  We started at the Solidarity Memorial where the dockyard workers died in 1970.  It was more than history as out guide talked about the solidarity struggle with the passion of someone who lived it. Then we went to the historical quarter where renovated Gothic and Renaissance Burgher houses hark back to the day when Gdansk was the wealthy ruler of the Baltic.  We ran to a little Italian restaurant once the tour broke up.  Then we shopped in some of the amber shops and took a cab back to the motel just as the skies turned liquid and poured down on the town.  After dinner, it was back to Oliwa for the concert there.  A wedding was in progress as we arrived.  It was so far from the organ to the front of the church that the Chorale had to sing from the back of the church.

Sunday the 12th we loaded up the buses for he drive to Malbork, a castle of the
Malbork after reconstruction
Tuetonic Order.  This triple castle covers 50 acres.  This fortification had been rebuilt after being nearly destroyed in WWII.  This is not the first war for Malbork.  It's been involved in wars between Poland and Germany, Prussia (Not Germany), Lithuanians, Samogitians (real word, a region of Lithuania), Czech, Swedish, French and Russian Forces.  The immensity of this place makes it just as amazing that it was rebuilt as that it was created in the first place.

By Three PM we had to be at the Gdansk Cathedral for a rehearsal and we were dropped off jut as it began pouring again, so Greg and I decided to ignore the rain and while everyone huddled in doorways we walked several blocks to the Italian place where we'd eaten the day before. There we arrived as if we'd been swimming with our clothes on, but we got some wonderful coffee before the rehearsal.  After a trip to the hotel we came back to the concert that evening.  Here the people were very casual.  Walking through the church, listening quietly.  Children sat in the aisles. The people were very impressed and friendly to our choir.

Monday we drove to Inowroclaw for lunch.  Then we traveled to the first Polish Capitol City of Gniezno.  Here we saw the Gniezno Cathedral and a statue of Poland's first king.  Finally we arrived at our hotel in Poznan.  After a bus tour of Poznan we were allowed the evening at leisure.  As we were hanging out down in the lobby, a prostitute approached one of our singers and when he said, "No" her Mother came to try to convince him!

We spent the morning of the 14th on our own.  We walked around through Poznan's park and bought raspberries at the stand on a street corner.  We saw a Lego toy exhibit and went to some jewelry shops. At noon we boarded the buses back at the hotel and our Polish guide came on briefly to say good-by.

We drove west to the German borderland then entered former East Germany.  Here the roads were rough and the country was as poor as Poland, but actually neither one was as bad as we had been suspecting due to various rumors (beggars everywhere, Don't drink the water etc.)

We arrived in Berlin in the evening and went to our Hotel, the Hotelschiffe Victoria which was docked in East Berlin beside a tree filled park.  Sleeping was much better than sleeping on the ferry.  The cabins were small but they had a bathroom and shower.  Our window was at water level but the river was calm and we barely ever felt the boat move.

Wednesday the 15th we met the most interesting, rascal of a woman.  Tillie had bee hired to take our bus on a drive through tour of Berlin.  She would have been at home on the Johnny Carson show.  It soon became apparent that her rapid fire sense of humor ha been developed to help her survive a life that was fascinating but never easy.  She told of being sent to the store as a small girl in Berlin.  "Guten Morgen" (Good Morning) she told the shop's mistress.  "What!  What does a good German girl say to the shopkeeper?"  She replied, "My mother told me to say, 'good morning.'"  "Well you go home and tell your mother a good German girl would say, 'Heil Hitler!'"

Tillie told us, "I ran home and my Mother slapped me from the left, she slapped me from the right and told me, 'go back to that store. Say "Heil Hitler" and get me bread!'"  She also told of being kept, for safety, along with other Berlin children, in an underground bunker for four years during the war and meeting Hitler twice on inspections.

The later she told us of Kennedy telling the Russian leader, "You can do what you want in East Germany, just stay out of the West."  "My God!" Tillie Said, "what a this to tell him.  One night we have one city, but we wake up and the living wall is already there.  You know what I mean, the living wall?  Soldiers, barbed wire, guns and dogs.  My family is in the east, me in the west.  Six million workers suddenly can't make it to their jobs.  What can we do?  We have to invite in workers and the Turkish people pack up and come.  Now, we've got the Turks!"

a postcard we bought there
"The awl, other people can show you where it stood.  I know every brick.  I lived it for 28 years."  For ten years she couldn't see, or write to pr call her family.  Then for the next 18, calls were monitored, letters opened but allowed, and she could visit them for 30 days per year.  So many people were killed trying to get past the wall.  "My God!" she said, with awe, "We're just driving through Checkpoint Charley.  It was easier for me to go to the moon than to go through Checkpoint Charley, and when I did go through I always had to declare I was bringing in Toilet paper.  My family wanted toilet paper.  Our toilet paper was worth more than their shit East German Money."  And one dy she took a tour past the wall like any other day.  An hour later the wall was open and in another hour, "My family just walked up to my house, all 18 of them.  I don't know why they had so many brats."  That family had seen TV and knew what they wanted, Chanel # 5 and Levi's, so Tillie went to Woolworth's and hen got Levi Labels and an empty Chanel bottle from some friends.  "I just hope they never learn what the shit Chanel smells like!"

With the wall down, life changed again for Tillie.  "I was a tour guide for 30 years but I tell them, I don't care. I quit.  I can't learn the streets in East Berlin and now they changed all the names again.  I can guide you to the moon but it takes more than a wall coming down after 28 years to make this one city and I can't find the streets in East Berlin."  Lucky for us, she didn't quit.  As well as sharing her story with us, she gave us a wonderful tour.  We saw the wall and the ruins of Potsdamer Platz where only a hill remains of the bunker where Hitler died.  We saw the Reichstag and the nearby Brandenburg gate.  We saw the Pergamon Museum with its Babylonian ruins.  We traveled under the lime trees on "Unter den Linden"  We saw the impressive remains of the Romanesque Church, built in memory of Kaiser Wilhelm I and kept as a reminder of the destruction of war.

After Lunch on the ship we went to St. Marienkirche for a rehearsal and a 4:30 concert.  Somehow, no one knew we were coming so there was only time for a 1/2 hour concert attended only by people walking through the area.  The evening we spent down by the zoo.  We ate at a Chinese Restaurant where the waiter didn't speak English, and our German isn't great, but we did OK talking with him in Chinese. ( Proof of the value of being immersed in a culture, because I studied German for 4 years in High School and College but only lived in Beijing for 4 months.)

Thursday morning Greg and I took off on our own and went back to Potsdamer Plaza, Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg gate.  We also did some shopping and then took a city bus over to the memorial church.  We walked from there to the zoo where we met our group.  Then it was back on the autobahn, past the abandoned East German Border with its threatening, "shooting Towers" and defunct electric wire.  After an hour lunch at a rest stop,, we drove on to Wolfsburg (Volkswagons home) where we stayed in a Holiday Inn.  We had an end of the tour party but Greg and I only stayed an hour before ducking out to the motel pool.  We swam and sat in the sauna and then got to bed around 11 PM

On the afternoon of the 17th we crossed the border back into the Netherlands.  At 5 we climbed out into the rainy brick streets of Doetinchem for a rehearsal at Catharina Kerk.  Our hosts there served us soup and sandwiches and then we had time for a walk before the 8:30 concert.  The last concert was beautiful but everyone was tired.  The concert ended at 10:30 but we had to drive until midnight to reach the hotel.  It was the most luxurious we'd stayed in but after arriving at midnight and preparing our luggage for the next day's flight, we had a 4 AM wake up call.  The hotel gave us boxes of fruit and sandwiches and we had to be on the bus at 4;30 to drive to the airport.  Check in went smoothly and by 8:30 Saturday Morning we were taking off for the home trip.  Ten hours later, dehydrated, swollen, and exhausted, we landed in Oakland at 10:30 AM and had to stand in line for hours, clearing customs and waiting for the Day's Inn Shuttle van.  Back at the hotel it wad 1:30 in the afternoon and we decided to lay down for a nap.  At 6:30 the next morning we woke up.  We didn't feel like driving so we spent the day touring the Winchester Mystery House and Finally drove home on Monday, July 20th to be greeted by 7 happy birds.  Two days later our friend Brenda Boyd and her friend and their three kids came and we relaxed with them by walking the redwoods and swimming in the rivers.  Other news is my back has been declared fit enough for me to return to teaching this fall.

I may never type again ! ! !  Bye Bye, D & G

So The Christmas Letter for 1992 was handwritten and only one page but marked a big change in our lives

Hello Everybody,

Yes, it's that time of the year gain when I force a few moments out of our hectic schedule to remind everyone that we are still alive here in California.  1992 has been a very strange year for us.  As most of you know, I was out of work with a back injury, and I'm finally back teaching.  Greg and I traveled to Europe this summer (Poland, Holland, Germany, Denmark) with a singing group that Greg sings with.  The cathedrals alone were wonderful enough to justify the trip.

Then in August we bought a Dodge Grand Caravan, and two days later got our first foster child, while waiting for a child to adopt we are doing foster care.  It was supposed to be a short term but we have had the same, eleven year old girl since August and it looks as if we may have her for a long time to come.  That's her in the pictures and her name is Cassie and we couldn't have found a nicer girl anywhere so we won't mind keeping her as long as it takes to get her problem at home straightened out.  Parenthood has complicated our life but Cassie is so much fun it is usually worth it.  All those things my parents did that I swore I'd never do!  I've already done most of them in only 3 months.  Life goes on but it seems our life is a crazy mystery.  But Somehow the three of us seem to have at least as many good timed as we have problems.  I hope your holidays prove to be the good timed.  Merry Christmas with Love,

Dixie, Greg and Cassie

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