Citadel of Bitche, France

At the beginning of the month we went with our friend Larry and his new neighbor Charmaine (very cool chicka) to Bitche. I admit it that I always wanted to live there when we use to be in France (moselle) because of the name. Can you imagine having an address with the city of Bitche?? LOL!!Anyway, I found a website with tones of cool information about Bitche and you can go here to read more: Bitche: French citadel offers visitors unique look at dramatic siege in European history
“On a hill in the middle of the French town of Bitche, a massive, gray fortification looms over the surrounding homes, shops and restaurants. And yet, that very same citadel earned a place in the hearts of French citizens and French history by withstanding assault after assault by Bavarian forces for some 230 days following the collapse of the French army in the war of 1870. …/..

When the French military forces collapsed against the superior might of the Germans in the War of 1870, fleeing Soldiers and citizens sought refuge in the fortress as a last resort, never envisioning that they would remain within the citadel walls for the large part of a year.

Despite smallpox, hunger and other monumental challenges, the vastly outnumbered French soldiers managed to hold off the Bavarian forces, even managing to mount a counterattack during the siege. But in the end France capitulated, and those who had held the citadel for so long were finally permitted to evacuate the fortress without recourse from the victors. “

The Commandant Teyssier (Major) held the citadelle from July 1870 to March 1871 and when he gave the key to the German he left the citadelle (or so they say) with the German soldiers at attention to show their respect.
During the visit of the citadelle, you can view a movie about the battle and I found that kind of funny (not funny ah ah, but you know what I mean) that Teyssier didn’t want to leave the citadelle when the war treaty was signed, he actually left with the express order of the French Government or Paris, and at the end of the movie when he gave the key to the German, he said something like: “Paris fell but Bitche didn’t, so France is still Standing!” AH!! Proud frog that he was! 😉

Of course I couldn’t resist to get my pictures taken under the “Town Sign” So here, now everybody know that I am one of those! LOL!

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La Forest, Locoal Mendon

When I was 8 (I think) my parent decided to move us from Rouen (Normandy) to Locoal Mendon (Brittany), my dad was in one of his dream to farm at my grandfather’s family estate. So we went there. My parents and some friends and family started cleaning up the farm, the land and it surrounding. Remove the dirt from the well to order for it to be “useable”. Plow some part of the lands to order to grow vegetable. Built a chicken coop and surround it with wires to keep the fox to eat the chickens.
Anyway, it was a HUGE plan, and after lots of work, privation, and love. The farm was able to be use as the name was for, not just a family retreat for vacation purposes.
I have fond memory of my childhood year (some not so much) but I remember happy time, and I try to keep it that way. It was the time of carefree climbing, running, listening to my grandfather’s night tales, lifetime friendship and sunny days. Friends visiting during vacations. Memories of sitting at the kitchen table while doing my homework while the window was open, and being surprise by a small blue-tit perching itself on of the back of a chair and inspecting what I was doing.
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The farm is located in La Forest, Locoal-Mendon, in France. It was built in the XVIII century and was rebuilt in 1829 if we believe the stone that we use as settee next to my grandfather’s door. But we do know that the village where the “farm” is was there way before the revolution. The peninsula was a hideaway for the Royalist during the French Revolution. One of its chief was George Cadoudal and had 3 or 4 hideway called the “Cache a Cadoudal” that could hide up to 10 person (or so they say, I doubt it, or they were short and skinny people… oh wait!! They were French, so must have been true) LOL!
Anyway, quick stories about my childhood. We use to climb a tree that had been strike by lightning. And is still standing now, so future generation can still climb it.
Next to the “Cache” is another tree, that we use to call the “Fairy tree”
(I thought it was more of an Ork/Gnome Tree, because of the fact that it looked like it was the profile of a “monster”) mind you I was a child, I still think it look spooky. I remember that for a birthday (I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was mine or my brother) My mother had organized a Treasure Hunt and I got separated from the group that I was with, just not too far from that tree…. I was so scared of it, that I walked (MILES) around a very LONG way to not pass in front of it (Cause it would have kidnap me and probably feed to those darn gnomes) Needless to say that for my young age and very short leg, I walk to the end of the earth to order not to go near that tree.. LOL!
Nathalie took a gorgeous pictures of that tree and made it look like it is like a fairy tree here is her link: On Black: TheMagical-ForestFlickr by nathalie56☆ [Large]
My grandfather use to tell “Tales”, legend of Brittany, but legend and stories that I believe he use to make.
Being in Brittany mean that like our cousin the Celts we have “Leprechauns” the only difference is that we call them “Korrigan” and that they sometime can turn nasty buggers!! 😉Jean-Baptiste Monge – Illustrateur
We grew up thinking they were awesome, because of the fact that they will bring our letter to Santa. In the middle of the forest surrounding the farm is a flat stone called “La Pierre aux Korrigans” (the Leprechaun’s Rock). We were told that if we were going to leave our letter to Santa on that stone, the Korrigans will get it and deliver it before his stop to our house on Christmas Eve. So of course we HAD to do it. We will write our letters, and hand delivers it to the stones after 10pm on Christmas Eve, I remember hearing the bell of the church ringing for the midnight mess. We were each given a little storm lamp and we would leave the warmth off our house to go walk in the dark and cold of the unknown. We will be excited, because once our letter were out of our hand it will mean that most likely, Santa will have getting them and that our toys should be under the tree by the time we came back. It wasn’t far by any mean, but for little legs like ours, it seems the end of the earth. LOL.
We will have to cross a HUGE field, and when we would reach the forest area, we would need to go under or over the barber fence. Then walk in the forest and find the “stone”, luckily our parent’s were with us so they helped us. We would then put our letter on the stone and get them secure with a little rock so that the wind wouldn’t carry them away. And then we would head away and climb the barber wire again, most of the time by the time we would be passing the wire, we would hear sounds of footstep in the fallen leaves. And we would try as fast as we could to climb back in the forest area and get to the stone. By the time we will arrive, the letters were gone and the “Korrigan” messenger of Santa as well. So then, we will start our walk back home talking about what heard what and who saw what! It was very exciting. By the time we will get home, all of our toys will be waiting for us near the Chimney, and we would all scream in delights. This is my favorite Christmas memory of our stay in La Forest.
Last vacation while walking around with my brother and my family, my brother tried to find the Stone again. He wasn’t able. We should try to get a map from my mother, maybe then we will be able to find it.well since I couldn’t find any more information about the “Stone” I will just leave you to this short post (ahah!!)

Keukenhof, Netherland USO Trip

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At the end of the month of April, I was asked to escort a USO trip to the Keukenhof garden and Tulip Parade. When I went to pick up my package, my boss even told me that I could bring a friend!! OH BOY!! Whoohoo!! So I asked my new BFF C. to come along with me. And off we went.
It was (I will tell you the truth) a LONG trip. About 7 hours + bus ride. Welkom Keukenhof is located near the North Sea on the North Western part of the Netherlands.
Keukenhof mean “Kitchen Herb”, in the 15th Century it was part of the Hunting Park of the castle of Jacoba Van Beieren. Then after her death it was acquired by a Baron who hired an Architect to design a huge “English landscape Garden”, it is still the same now. However it was also use for the longest time to show off the bulbs of the Dutch Market and became popular because of that.

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It is now a beautiful garden that opens only for the “bulb/tulip” season and every year the landscape architect design over 100 new designs to plant. The gardeners of the estates will take out all the bulbs that are planted out, and will replant them following the new design. So no matter if you went last year, it will be a new garden next year and the year after.
During the morning we drove to Noordwijk for the “Bloemencorso Bollenstreek” it started in this little town Noordwijk, Netherlands – Google Maps next to the north sea, it was packed. Buses parked everywhere. Just amazing!! Something that we laughed about was the fact that they had lots of people on bicycle, and that you betta watch out, cause they will ring their little bell and ride on you if you are not quick enough to get out of the way. I just love the Dutch language, it is what I will call a mixture of German, English and Flemish (Which I am not sure what mix of language Flemish is) so it is very hard to understand if you never studied it. I mean, I am French and I can understand a few words of Italian or Spanish, but send me to Germany or Netherlands, and I am just LOST! LOL!

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OK back to the topic. If you have the chance to be in Amsterdam during the month of April… Go visit Keukenhof, it was just amazing. I was disappointed of only ONE thing. The fact that my camera couldn’t catch the smell of all those flowers in that garden. just unbelievable.
Here as always, pictures that I took. Hope you enjoy them.

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USO Paris Express

This past weekend was the 8th of May and I had a Paris Express tour with the USO to escort. For the French the 8th of May is a holiday and commemorate the end of World War II. So as we normally do in our guided bus ride in Paris, The Champs Elysees were OFF limits because of preparation for the Parade and passing of our “dear” president Mr. Sarkozy.It was PACKED with Security, Police people all over! I think it was the first time I saw so many policemen/women in Paris. I once went to the 14th of July parade and they had security, but not Police. The CRS were out and military people. So… It was something new… Maybe this is the changes that happen under Sarko. 😉 Paris France – Google Maps

Anywhooo

I was really wanted to go and visit the temporary exhibition on Holy Russia Holy Russia exhibition at the Musée du Louvre and it had been a LONG time that I didn’t visit any museum in Paris, so I thought… why not. We did the Louvre Museum for a bit, so we cruised by the exhibition on Holly Russia (sorry I know, cruising isn’t appropriate for such gorgeous art effect. BUT, the gallery was PACKED and we couldn’t even see any of the information’s panels, we could admire the object/books/icons from 2 yard away, but so many people in between that I got sick of waiting for my turn to read everything and translate for Morgane. So I bought the book on the exhibition instead! LOL! After coming out of the gallery, I asked Morgane if she had ever seen the “Mona Lisa” she told me she saw it on pictures. So we headed toward her.

Now for those of you who are fortunate enough to have gone to the Louvre, you might help me here: “HOW on Earth can you even find your way around?” I had the map, I followed the map, and I totally got lost (not that I have to complain since you discover painting/statues or something else that will just amaze you) BUT my feet hurt, I was already walking for the past 2 hours and then got lost in the galleries! WTH?? LOL. AND I had a daughter who was saying EVERY other minutes how tired she was… Oh I would want to see how she handled being left in the Louvre with my mother. AH!! That would be hilarious!
There was also another temporary exhibition on the teaching of Tao Exhibition “Tao, Another Way of Being” : Galeries nationales, Grand Palais, (en) in Paris [Rmn] that I was wanted to see, but after 2 ½ hours in the Louvre and STARVING, we decided to skip it. (I really wanted to go see it, but with Morgane, I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Beside it is still going to be open until the beginning of July and I will go back twice in Paris in between and hopefully I will have time to go visit it)

We found a little Pizzeria (morgane didn’t like the other choice: “Sushi”) and rested our feet for a short hour. Then, I told her we could go to the “Galleries Lafayette”, she asked what it was and I said, well, I think it is some kind of Mall with tones of different stores. (I will turn 40 soon enough and I (frenchie) don’t even know exactly what is inside the “Galleries Lafayette”. Does it seem WEIRD to you??) Well, when I stepped in the “mall” I understood why I never went there! LOL! OMG!! Are you kidding me?? Who can afford ANYTHING in the Galleries?? I saw the CUTEST rings from a French designer. Over 70000 EURO!! Yes you read it right, 70 THOUSAND! WTH, really if you can afford a ring that cost that much, then I hope that you are giving back to your community or world organization that need help!

Anyway, needless to say that I felt under dress and like I didn’t belong. LOL they do have GORGEOUS thing there though. LOL!! However even if you can or cannot afford to shop in this store, go check it out. The building is just amazing, it has a Art deco décor with stained glass ceiling. (see the picture) AND you can take your McDonald to the Top floor and eat your Hamburger admiring a view of Paris that you can’t see anywhere else. LOL
As usual here are some of my pics, hope you enjoy them.
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Bella Italia Sto Arrivando

43d12-img_9267For those of you who KNOW me! You understand that I have some kind of connection with the Italian culture. I just LOVE Italy, LOVE the culture, the history, the landscape, the food, the weather, the language, the cars and of course going there and being called “Bella” is a Huge bonus! LOL
So when my friend Charmie told me that she was going TDY for 4 days around my Birthday, I jump on the possibility and said: “Can I come with you?”
She said: “OMG!! Sure!! Are you sure??” OF course I am SURE! Are you kidding me?? I am sure about nothing BUT the fact that I can go in Italy and enjoy everything that I can about Italy!! 😉
I am so excited, so we are leaving tomorrow morning… WHOHOO!! And coming back on Thursday (sometime in the afternoon) but there is always the possibility that we will get lost and will HAVE to stay there of course, we will (Obviously) try our best to find our way back, but you know all the road lead to Rome. So I might be able to send a postcard from there too! LOL!

Can you see on the map, Venice, Vincenza, Padova, Rovigo, and Verona. Of course we will be going around Verona, so all those big cities might only be a dream to visit one day. But I sure am going to try to get around as much as I can! I will keep you posted on what, where, how and you know me, my HTF (Happy Trigger Finger) is delighted.

Ciao

O Solé Mio, Venezia Italy

AWWWW, How I LOVE Venice!! When Miss Charm and I realized that we were only over 1 hour driving distance to our hotel we jumped on the possibility to go and see this GORGEOUS town.

So on our last day in Italy and with the opportunity that Miss Charm’s conference was letting people leave early (before Noon), off we went. With all the excitement we did a few turn around with the car, did take the wrong direction on the bus to Venice and finally ARRIVED!! WHOOHOO!!!
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First sight was the water,

the gorgeous blue lagoon color. The Turquoise reflection of the sun on the Terracotta colored wall of the city.

I just continued my love affair with this beautiful city. I still continue loving it!! Oh how I love you Venizia…. You will always be the number 1 for me!
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When I first visited Venice in 2000 with my husband, kids and in laws we didn’t stay long enough for my taste. I only had a short time to have an after taste of not enough. Since that first visit I promised myself to come back! Matt on the other side didn’t find it to his taste (oh well, too bad for him, cause I will go back with or without him (sorry Honey!!) 😉

We took the bus ferry to the “St Marco Plaza” It was super busy, but what to expect in Venice? We asked a few Gondolier how much a ride would be. One of them said 120 euro, we thought: OMG!! And decided to look around. He did chase us and told us that the long ride would be 120 and the short one 80 (just for us) and it was PER PERSON (Just for us as well) AH!! We told him we will keep him in mind but just arrived and wanted to walk around first. I am pretty sure that he was cursing at us as we left him, but oh well! We weren’t ready to pay that much each! 😉
img_9964So off we went to the discovery of Venizia and its gorgeous street and sights! I couldn’t stop taking pictures, I remember of my last visit and I did take tones of pictures and it was on film at the time. (And now that I have a digital)… My “Happy Trigger Finger” was in the “don’t come up again” mode. For those of you who know me and have seen me with my camera, you can picture it right?? LOL!!
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We cruised the little street full of shops and while there Miss Charm saw a beautiful Chandelier with Tulips all over. It was gorgeous! (Of course when I need it, I realized that I didn’t take a picture of it) We did investigate on how much the price was going to be. And after the clerk told us to wait while he was getting the “Artist” we were left for a short time un-attempted in a store full of gorgeous glass art. (Are you asking yourself if I had a moment? Yes I did!! I had a moment of … oh boy, what will I be doing with all those if I could just take and go, but I didn’t do anything, I just asked myself! Oh, and the answer was: Not much honey you don’t have the room in your apartment that the army is giving you! LOL) Anyhow… The Artist came. And Extravagant very short man with a very thick and beautiful singing Italian accent, telling us all about his brother who make the glass, and that each peace is unique… blablabla!! LOL Get to the point dude! Well the “Lampadario” was “For us” only 3000Euro (ONLY) I did ask how much it was for someone else. But he didn’t find it funny! Needless to say that since Miss Charm needed 3 of them; she just didn’t get any at all! img_9885We went to a little “Trattoria” across from the store and admire while eating a little something those gorgeous lamps. Oh well, maybe when we win the lottery! After making sure that we used the “gabinetto” we started walking again. Crusing from Murano glass display to another admiring every single beautiful window… Oh so “Bellissimo” we did learn something about the Murano Glasses. And here it is for those of you who are planning to go and buy “REAL” Murano Glass. First a little history: “Murano is an island in the lagoon of Venice famous for its glass art. The production of Murano glass is related to its history and popularity and its name is associated with the glass, as if they were synonyms. This union is the result of nearly a millennium of history, during which the master artisans of Murano were able to transform simple sand in one of the highest expressions of art. It is believed the origins of Murano Glass dates back to 9th century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port.” The Murano glass are been copied from all over, but specially from China, so beware of copy that are on sale EVERYWHERE in Venice. If you want the real deal, you need to go to store that display a sign that say Consorzio Promovetro Murano That mean the store need to belong to an association of Murano glass and that the items that they sells are made in Murano. So … Watch out for copy that you will pay “molto” money and that aren’t even from Murano! (We didn’t go back to see if the store that we saw the chandelier was on the list of the true Murano Glass, but we don’t recall seeing the sign) OH and if you really want to know where to buy BEFORE getting to Venice. Go to the website: Promovetro – consorzio del vetro artistico di Murano Venezia.img_9791So after our… window shopping time we went to cruise around and asked several Gondolier dude about the Price & Route that they were offering. Until finally we found a guy that was offering it for 140Euro/Long Route (showed us the route) and per Gondola not per person! So we jumped at the opportunity and yes, I know it was expensive, but what a treat! And it was my birthday not so long ago… so…
We boarded our Gondola, and got introduced to our Gondolier “Luca” but we called him “Casanova”img_9948 He told us all about the town, and the history and the beauty and everything. He even sang to us “Oh sole Mio” to the delight of Miss Charm who after a while was singing with him. Him in Italian, her in English. Me… LMAO!

After our ride, we asked him about a place to eat. He recommended the “Trattoria Al Vagon” not too far and so we went. We found it and sat. The owner/chef were so nice, it was a family restaurant. Grandpa and his granddaughter were serving while Grandma was in the kitchen cooking, coming out when not busy. img_0082Then the mother came to pick up her daughter, (did I mention she was only about 6 years old) but what a cutie, and talking about tones of stuff, of course we couldn’t understand anything. But just a pretty little thing!

OH and here is my futur house. I just LOVE it! (of course this is only a dream, or maybe in another life time my husband will be a Venetian Prince!) LOL

We had a great dinner and while the sun was lowering in the horizon we made our way to the “Ponte di Rialto”.img_9960
Have you ever seen a sunset on the Grand Canal? I have and let me tell you, it is just AMAZING! It was just like a dream! The lagoon color change, from a turquoise green to a gold orange pink. It was SO beautiful! But I can let you just see it!!img_9991SEE??? Isn’t it just “Strabiliante! Bellisima, Magnifico” a MUST do on one’s bucket list!

So for me, it is a checkmark next to it. However I will have to go back because I haven’t seen a sunrise yet, and that must be “spettacolare”

Schwetzingen Blossom

The cherry trees are in bloom. It is as usual beautiful. We went several time, had too, it is just so pretty…So here are a few pictures of those times. You can see that the flowers give joy to the people who are admiring! It is so cool!! We came upon a group of girls that were dress up in “Manga” characters and that were taking pictures of themselves! Morgane was so excited!! She loves Manga and that was like heaven for her!!
Love is in the air you can see lover’s enjoying the beauty of spring. On our way out we cruised in Schwetzingen and everyone were enjoying the nice weather. Eating out is starting and it is so neat!!

Czech Republic

In June my mother and father in law rented a house in the Czech Republic. We drove their and meet them at the house. It was great to see them again, and the house was outside of the Prague center but not so far that you couldn’t enjoy it. So we settle in the first day and went on our discovery of Prague. From Up hill next to the castle, to down hill next to the river, Prague is just a beautiful city to visit. This is kind of interesting. This giant Metronome was erected in 1991 on a place that use to have a huge monument of Joseph Stalin (who was destroyed in 1962). If you go all the way to the Metronome, there is a Skateboard meeting place, and lots of young people meet there. Old Town square is a must when you go to Prague. Well it is next to the Astronomical Clock, there is also Tyn Cathedral and St Nicholas Church. This memorial is the statue of Religious reformer Jan hus who was burned at the stake for his belief. (nice he?)

Part of the Charles bridge, this summer wasn’t too great because of the fact that they were repaving the bridge, so it was always busy between construction and tourist. but it is one of the most beautiful bridge that I have ever seen. So many beautiful statues and views from the river.

 One of the Smallest street in Europe (I think), I mean come on , there is even a light to make sure you can pass, because 2 peoples can’t stand next to each other!! How cool is that?

Art made out of metal keys!!

Prague is also knowned for ball the beer that you can enjoy in their different Beer Garden/Restaurant and Cafe. For more information on the beer in the Czech Republic, check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_in_Czech_Republic

Inside of the Train Station in Prague

Old Jewish Cemetary. This community weren’t allowed to buried their love one outside of the Jewish Ghetto. So they had to burried them on top of each other. It isn’t used anymore, but you can see that the tombstone are so close to each other. It is an amazing place to go visit even though it is kind of sad that Jewish had to suffer in that kind of way!

Beautiful Prague Czech Republic

OH, How I love Prague. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to go… GO. Do you planning and GO!!

You won’t be sorry you did.One day I told one of my friend who was not sure where to go between Paris and Prague with a visiting friend, that she should go to Prague.

Reasons were: It is smaller, there is less cars, less expensif, and the architecture is beautiful. Every corner you turn there come another gorgeous building or scenery. Just amazing.

I mean, I am French so maybe the fact that it was only my second time in Prague made it so special, but… I doubt it. In order Prague is before Paris in my viewpoint but… Venice is before Prague!One of the things that I mention earlier is that no matter where you are in Prague you will turn a corner and see something different. The details in the architecture is amazing. I love the colors, the different kind of building. The balcony, the windows, everything is just gorgeous.

Hardware on doors are also amazing
Another part of town that is well known and visited, is the Jewish quarter.
It has a sad history. Apparently the Jewish community were ordered in the 13th Century to leave their home and settle in one area ofd Prague. The area was the only place they were allowed to live. Even thought the area changed under a large redevelopment between 1893-1913 most significant building from previous eras were saved.

There is still 6 synagogues remaining, the town hall and the old jewish cemetary which is an amazing site on its own. The old cemetery is amazing. When you walk in it you will just wonder why it look like that. During our visit, I learned that because the Jewish Community were ordered to live in a small part of town, they didn’t have the luxury of expending their cemetery. So they used their small graveyard to the fullest. And I mean the FULLEST! The result is somehow poetic. If I may say so. A new Jewish cemetery was build later accross town, it is half empty because obviously the generation it was build for all died in Nazi concentration camp.

Terezin Czech Republic

Terezin fortress is located N.W of Prague. I didn’t go to that outing, because I didn’t feel that good that day. So Matt’s parents, the kids and himself went there. I am glad to not have gone, because I have issue with place that saw lots of suffering. Damien took all those pictures, and I believe he did a very good job at it! Don’t you think so.

Well here is what I learn after they came back from their time in Terezin and also by researching the subject.

Terezin was constructed as a Fortress in the 1780/90 time. It was never fully finished, and in 1940 the Gestapo took over and set up a prison for “Priviledge Jews”.
What is being a “Priviledge jews” you may ask, well apparently it was for people who had some kind of education(Artist, Writers, Scientist, Jurists, Diplomats, Musicians…etc…). It was used by the Nazi on their Propaganda and was (probably the only) the camp that was mostly visited by Red Cross. The Barracks of the Fortress were build to house 7000 individual. During the “Working Camp” in 1940-1945 it accomodated over 50000. Some survivors claimed it reached 75000.
Terezin camp was a source of free jewish labor (slave) for the Germans. Prisoners were assigned different tasks: Mining mica, manufaturing boxes or coffins, spraying military uniforms with white dye. According to ex-prisoners, it was also a sorting re-distribution center for clothing items confiscated from Jews. The baggages were taken away and send to Terezin where it would have been sorted out and send out all over Germany for the people who were bombed out.
Married couple were given a single room and were able to stay together in their sleeping quarter. Because Terezin was design to house “Priviledge” Jews, it did have the cultural life that most camp didn’t. Jazz ensembles, Chamber Orchestra Groups, education for children etc…They also overcame a lack of water by building water pipe system and water supply system.