Our first visit to Prague

Just a little note to join with my pictures of Prague, It was amazing.

 

 

 

 

We left Heidelberg on the USO bus at 2.30am (yeah you read it right) then we hit a “Stau” (traffic jam) around 3.30 some dude fell asleep on the wheel and hit a US military convoy. No-one got hurt but we did get stuck (really really STUCK, as of not moving 1 inch) for over 3 hours. We finally started moving around again at 7am. NICE!!
We still had 6 hours bus ride, so we didn’t arrive until 1pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were suppose to have a tour of the city with a guide, well since we lost so much time on the bus, we had a 2 hours tour.

After following for about 30mn, it was clear that the guide was in a hurry to show as many things as possible and that we weren’t going to be able to stop and take pictures. At one point, we were following the group (a little behind, but still seeing them) and suddenly they all disappeared.

 

 

So Matt and I thought, hmmm to we want to run to find them, or just get lost! We chose to get lost, took our time to go around and I took my pictures.

It was a very nice spring day, we did have some cloud and some sun shine and some rain, but… what a gorgeous city to get lost in!

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of Easter Market all over town. So cool!!

 

A MUST see, a MUST come back and we WILL for sure, and hopefully I will be able to give you a little more info, since I didn’t do much research about the place before we went there. 😉

USO Haguenau

 

Last Friday I went on a tour to the Haguenau and Soufflenheim cities. It was my first trip to the area so I did a bit of searching to find some historic information that might be of interest of people. Of course I took TONES of pictures (what else is new) and for those of you who are a little interested about this 2 cities, here are a little of what I found (believe me, I cut it to a little, cause… I guess it was boring, nobody really listens to what I was saying! LOL!)

 

The Alsatian region of France, like neighboring Lorraine changed ownership between German and France. Alsace finally became part of France in 1918 at the end of WWI. The influence of both German and French cultural traditions is evident today. Locals, most of whom address you in French, can also respond in German. The Alsacian German is the second most spoken minority in France.

 

 

Haguenau is at the edge of an immense 14000 hectare forest that was the favored location for middle ages imperial hunts. Founded in the 12th Century around the Hohenstaufen castle built by Duke Frederick the One-Eyed and owed its property in the Middle-Ages to the emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Frederick II who made it one of their residences and who granted the town important rights (Town privileges or city rights were important features of European towns during most of the second millennium. Judicially, a town was distinguished from the surrounding land by means of a charter from the ruling monarch that defined its privileges and laws. Common privileges were related to trading (to have a market, to store goods, etc.) and the establishment of guilds. Some of these privileges were permanent and could imply that the town obtained the right to be called a city, hence the term city rights (stadtrecht in German).

Some degree of self-government, representation in a diet, and tax-relief could also be granted.) Haguenau was the second most important Alsatian city, after Strasbourg. Medieval Haguenau retains three gates from its former fortification, the Tour des Chevaliers (Tower of the knights), the Tour des Pêcheurs (Tower of the fishermen) and the Porte de Wissembourg (Wissembourg gate), two fairly large gothic churches, Saint-Georges and Saint-Nicolas, an ancient water-mill and the old custom-house (Ancienne Douane)

The 17th Century was a dark period for the town, with a number of invasions and occupations, In the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was ceded to France, and in 1673 King Louis XIV had the fortifications razed. Haguenau was captured by imperial troops in 1675, but it was taken by the French two years later, nearly being destroyed by fire in the process 1677. The town was rebuilt in the 18h Century: it is one of the town of Alsace with the greatest number of 18th Century buildings.

Occupied by the Germans in 1940, it was liberated in March 1945 after suffering great destruction.

Jewish History:

Jews settled there soon after it received its charter as a city (1164), and a synagogue was established in 1252. Until the middle of the sixteenth century the Jews lived peaceably among their fellow citizens. The towns-people, impoverished by the protracted civil war, in their turn plundered the Jews, subjected them to every imaginable persecution, and finally banished them (1346). Soon readmitted on condition that they paid the debts of the city.

During the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century the condition of the community remained unchanged. Only six families, which had settled at Hagenau in the twelfth century, were allowed to have a permanent residence there; and it was only on a heavy monetary payment that a newcomer was allowed to take the place of a deceased head of one of these families.

In 1720 it issued the following regulations, which remained in force until the French Revolution: “The Jews who are at present living in the city may remain. Only one married son in each family has the right to settle in the city; the other children, both male and female, must on marriage leave it, except when they live in common households with their parents. Grandsons acquire this right of residence only on the death of their grandfather.” The Jews of Hagenau were, moreover, restricted in their commercial activity to dealing in horses, cattle, and old clothes, and to the lending of money on interest; and they were closely watched by the Christian merchants.

For our little excursion Matt joined me, and we walked around this cute city. We went to the church and visited, then to the Market square (Les Halles) where people sell their fairs, lots of shopping was done and I found a cute little display of Handmade Soap and lots of nice spices. We hate a “Spring Roll” from a Chinese vendor (which is my favorite thing to eat when I am at a French market) and after a failed attempt to eat at a local restaurant (cause we didn’t have time, or the patience with the French waiter, who was very “Frenchly” rude) I had a sandwich and went to get a dessert at the chocolaterie yummy!!!

Notre Dame de Paris, USO Trip

During my last trip in Paris with the USO, I went to cruise around the Notre Dame Cathedral. Every time that I enter a church/Cathedral/Synagogue/Temple/Mosque, it amazes me what people can make for the glory of their faith, and every time I step in the Notre Dame Cathedral it is the same. I wonder how many years it took them to complete the work, how many men worked on the stone and the carving of such magnificent building. How many human being it helped with their faith and their everyday life!

I am not a very religious person, but I do believe that for some people religion and attending church can be very helpful. I know sometime I wish it could help me, but… I never found the help that I have been searching. So I search elsewhere! I was raised in France and most of my education’s years were in Catholic school. My family is Catholic, but I never was interested to follow what I call: “Organized Religion”, I know that it is for some and I respect the need for some to go to Church to pray, on the other side, I don’t feel that need. I’d rather go and take a walk in the wood, Sit on the beach and admire what God made and thanks Him for this precious gift while admiring it.

My grand Uncle was a Catholic Priest who was in charge of the Christian art in his region. He use to be the “publisher” of the series called: “Les Nouvelles de l’Eure” and whenever we will go visit him, we always ended up going visiting some little village and therefore stopped at the church to see the art. So I grew up having to visit the church and not for mess! And now, I can’t stop myself but go into the church of the town that I am visiting, It make me think of my grand uncle who isn’t here with us anymore, and of the good time that we had with him. He was a great person and was always making sure that we will follow what we thought was right! I hope that I give my kids the patience, love and understanding that he did with all of his nieces and nephews.

So to come back to Notre Dame (Sorry, I got carried away for a short while) 😉

Here is a little something about the Cathedral that you might not know: “Notre Dame de Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction spanned the Gothic period. Construction began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, The cathedral was effectively complete by around 1345…/… The organ has 7,800 pipes, with 900 classified as historical…/… In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France) were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Musée de Cluny.

For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars…/… The cathedral’s great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food. In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, it was feared that German bombers could destroy the windows; as a result, on 11 September 1939, they were removed, and then restored at the end of the war. There are five bells at Notre Dame. The great bourdon bell, Emmanuel, is located in the South Tower, weighs just over 13 tons, and is tolled to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. There are four additional bells on wheels in the North Tower, which are swing chimed. These bells are rung for various services and festivals.” (Notre Dame de Paris – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

You can also find lots of information about the Cathedral here: Notre-Dame de Paris

Paris USO March 2010

Went to Paris with the USO. Had a lovely time in the Père Lachaise Cemetery. I love this place. Some people might find it creepy to go into cemetery for just walking. I find cemeteries one of the best place to reflect on your own life!
Beside, this one has so many famous people, if you ever go to Paris and have some time to just cruise. Don’t skip it, it is a marvel of architecture beauty, history and just peace!
You never know, you might enjoy the cruising in cemeteries too!

I am a volunteer with the USO in Heidelberg/Mannheim, and as such I “escort” tour to go different places. In the past last week I went to Paris. This time after we got our 2 hours guided tour with the bus, I send my group on their exploring time and since no-one ask to come along with me, I just took out on my own. I took the Boat shuttle from the Eiffel Tower to the Notre Dame stop. I was wanted to go to the top of the Notre Dame tower, but the waiting line was SO long, I just decided against it! I walk to the “Hotel de Ville” (City Hall) and took a few pics (you know me) and took the subway to the Père Lachaise Cemeteries. Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise Visite virtuelle Cemetery’s virtual tour Jim Morrison Edith Piaf

For those of you who don’t know this cemetery here is a little info about it: “Père Lachaise is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. Located in the 20th arrondissement, it is reputed to be the world’s most-visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually to the graves of those who have enhanced French life over the past 200 years…/.. The cemetery was established by Napoleon I in 1804. Cemeteries had been banned inside Paris in 1786, after the closure of the Saints Innocents Cemetery (Cimetière des Innocents) on the fringe of Les Halles food market, on the grounds that it presented a health hazard. (This same health hazard also led to the creation of the famous Parisian catacombs in the south of the city.)”

(Père Lachaise Cemetery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

My little walk in the cemetery was as always (since it was not the first time I went there) peaceful. I love walking in this particular cemetery. First you need a map (I got one at the entrance from an old guy that sold them and bad postcard of tombstone) and even with the map, you just get lost searching for whomever you want to see the grave of! I went up the hill and help a lady and her mother who, funny thing, were from the same area as my mother is: Brittany! So we talked a bit about it. We talked about why they were there, and not like I was they were there to visit a family member’s grave. You could see that it was hard for the older woman. It must have been one of the first visit to her sister’s grave, because she was so emotional and the sister passed away only a few month back!

Isn’t it amazing how one cemetery can be a “tourist attraction” and yet still be where people mourn their love one? It did reminded me that those grave weren’t just name, they were family member, lover, spouse, parent, child to someone else. It is something that one tends to forget walking in the Père Lachaise. Most of the people cruising along the graves are mostly interested to see the resting place of someone famous. But some other comes here out of respect.

I saw one gentleman who was taking care of Chopin’s grave, taking all the dead flower away and making the grave more “presentable”. He did a great job as you can see in the pictures, and just think. He was a fellow polish. So I don’t know if he came ALL the way from Poland to pay his respect, or if he lives in town, but either way, it was nice to see that 161 years after his death there is still someone who come take care of his gravesite.

I did found one grave that I thought was just funny. You can see that on the grave with this gorgeous sculpture, it say “Enfin Seul” (Finally Alone!) wonder how popular that guy was! 😉 and why he loved the fact to be alone at last. 🙂

In the slideshow link you will find some of the picture of the Père Lachaise, but also many of Paris as I took a long walk around. Enjoy!

Slideshow of Paris March 2010

Ladenburg

Last week I went to a “training” to Ladenburg for one of my coming assignment with the USO. I had NEVER been there and I will tell you that I found that little town just BEAUTIFUL and full of history.

I learn that Ladenburg was the second oldest city on this side of the Rhine River. The town started as a Celts settlement around 3000BC. The Name was LOKWODUNOM (meaning “Castle on the water”) it changes with the different area in history. Around 200BC the Celts left the region chased by the Suebs, who came from the North of Germany. When the Romans invaded the country, they accepted the Suebs as settles and made them their auxiliaries (militia). From 70AD the Romans started construction of a “Castellum” and chose to make town a “military base”. The town became soon after the “Capital” of the region. A little like in the states where DC is the Capital of the USA, each states has a capital, and in this time Rome was the Country capital and naming little town as their “regional/states” capital.

 

The Jupiter Column: Maybe the most remarkable ancient Roman piece that was found in Ladenburg is the Jupiter Column and Four Gods Stone.
The Bishop’s Palace: The painted architecture of the facades is a reconstruction. In 1960 remains of the original paintings were found underneath younger plaster and paint and the renaissance decoration repainted according to the finds.

St Sebastian Chapel: it belongs to the Bishop’s palace. Its origins date back to the 7th or 8th century. The oldest visible parts are the Romanesque walls of the northern transept and the steeple.

Witches Tower: Walking along the old wall you come to another old watch tower, It was built around 1200 as a watch tower, but was later used as a prison for “witches”, women who were thought to be witches.

 

 

 

Tagelohnerhaus: Daily wagers. People who didn’t have a “full time” job. In the morning they will go to the market place and look for work, and they will come and sleep in this house.

 

St Gallus : Middle of the 13th century was begun with the construction of the Gallus Church, z.T. on foundations of a Roman basilica market. The colored glass windows created 1966/67 “Valentin Feuerstein”. Represent Ladenburg as a Roman city, a Bishopric
and finally what is it today!

 

 

Key symbol on the wall: Signified that it was a bishopric town and that we were coming close to the bishop house.

 

 

 

The 30 years war (1618-1648) was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was fought primarily in what is now Germany and at various point involved most of the countries of Europe. The origin was initially because of a religious conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. Gradually it developed into a more general conflict involving most of the European powers. The war became more a continuation of the “Bourbon-Habsburg” rivalry for political power and then less specifically about religion.

Martin’s Gate: You can still see the holes made by cannon balls in the year 1622, when the town was besieged in the 30 years’ war.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Carl Benz moves to Ladenburg. In 1888 while her husband was away, Bertha decided to take the car on a long distance trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim where her mother lived. She took her 2 sons (13 and 15 years old) and left a note to her husband. So Bertha Benz and her sons drove by ear. If a chain had extended and now quite audibly missed individual teeth of the gears, they had to go to the blacksmith’s in Bruchsal who fixed the chain. However, two bad troubles happened in the middle of the road, so that “on-board” tools had to be used for the repair. These two pretty dramatic situations were described later as follows, rather coolly, by Bertha Benz, “The first time, the fuel line was clogged – my hairpin turned out to be helpful there. The second time the ignition was broken. I used my garter to fix it.” You can find the first garage in Germany in Ladenburg.

The Stumble Stones: Many places in Germany have started to put down some “Stumble Stones” – “Stolpersteine”. You’re supposed to stumble, not literally of course, but in your thoughts. These golden bricks are put down on the pavement in front of a building in which a victim of the Nazis used to live.