In love with #Berlin

img-212050816-0001img-212051421-0001 img-212050948-0001 img-212051032-0001 img-212051008-0001 img-212051403-0001We begin the day at the Polish flea market in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate where huge pieces of the Wall remain.   For the moment my love of crystal takes over and I’m absorbed looking at the exquisite pieces I find laid out on the peddler’s blanket.  I choose a delicately etched water pitcher after difficult deliberation.  The boys are jazzed with a couple of old Russian watches.  Happy for now with our purchases we hit the street to see old East Berlin.  The Wall has down for only six months.  The mystique of what life was like before the Wall fell hangs thick in the air.  It is an exciting day to be in Berlin.  The Wall panels that have yet to be dismantled fascinate us.  They are covered with years of graffiti from the hands of artists and poets alike.   Only the West side of the Wall was ever painted  by all of the unknown artists over the course of time it stood.  The East side is blank.  As we walk the Wall’s footprint, we are in awe and uplifted by the messages found in the grafitti.  The contrast of the life of East Berliners and their separation from freedom to the the free spirit of West Berliners lives contained in the their writings and paintings is apparent.   Now the barriers that separate us have come down.  On this day in Berlin we feel the sense of victory of the many lives that had cried out for peace and love.   The boys have fun hammering for their own personal pieces of the Wall.   We are joyful as we talk and excitedly share what we see.  The former divisive Wall is now art work that brings our family together.  Our next stop is Checkpoint Charley.  The museum is in a state of flux, attempting to reflect the recent historic event.  East Berlin soldiers in their stovepipe boots march their sentry steps, then hang around smoking and look abit uncertain of their mission.  We have  our passports stamped and look around the museum, reading stories of those who attempted and sometimes succeeded escape to the West.   Many of the shops in old East Berlin are now shuttered.  We find a Russian shop still open, although the shelves are very sparse of merchandise.  What remains is primarily pottery and those ornate Russian dolls.  We buy souvenirs  using a combination of German marks and  East Berlin currency.    The day has its strange yet magical moments.  We stop for dinner at the elegant Oranian Cafe, a famous Jewish eatery which was once frequented by the many local university students.  We feel oh so hip that we are here to frequent it as well.   Oranian’s is now part of the Berlin of bygone days.  I know for us the day will end with memories of a wonderful time together in a magnificent city facing and adapting to rapid change.  Like this great place, my boys and I will all too soon find our lives rapidly changing.  We will take with us the messages of the Wall to light our way.  Peace and Love.

My Guest Post Blog at FrugalFirstClassTravel — Walking The Rhine Vineyards and the Vosges Valleys

Check it out!  Enjoy my new guest post about walking in Germany and France at http://www.frugalfirstclasstravel.com, a wonderful travel blog by my Australian friend, Jo Karnaghan.

August: Osage County — Not Far from Home

Susan Heiligman

When I heard Tracy Letts  was developing his Pulitzer prize-winning  play August: Osage County for the big screen, I was thrilled.  I saw August: Osage County when it played on the LA stage.   “All roads lead to home.”  I could see the country, the sweeping prairie, the old hills encrusted with huge boulders, the gnarled oak trees and the miles and  miles of blue sky with breathtaking sunsets.   I knew the place Letts revealed.  The conflicted characters and how they have endured heartbreak while looking for  happiness seemed like people I knew.

Tracy Letts is the son of Oklahoma writer, Billie Letts, whose works many of us know and love.  Her best-selling novel Where the Heart Is was made into a movie starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd.  Both mother and son write about women, women who stare down fear and bitter disappointment to journey forward and rebuild their lives.  The expectant teen mom abandoned in an…

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On the California Wine Trail

Find my latest publication “On the California Wine Trail” at http//www.neauxmad.com where I write about a recent trip to rediscover 4 historic wineries in Napa Valley that I first visited in the ’70s before the blind tasting in Paris.   Cheers!

In neauxmad.com you will find my travel piece “Finding Zen In Searchlight: A Haibun”…..

Link

Finding Zen in Searchlight: A Haibun

Finding Zen in Searchlight: A Haibun

My Gypsy List — 8 Places I Love

One of my early experiences with travel was written up by my dad and published in a travel magazine.   At the time I was mildly impressed that our family vacation was put to print, but now it’s wonderful to look back on his pieces as I reflect on the magic of travel.  My case of wanderlust, no doubt, is in the genes.  Travel is beyond visiting interesting spots on the globe.  Travel is a way to view life and culture.  It becomes a chance to feed the soul.  As my dad wrote,  travel allows us to experience the vibrant environment of a new destination where we can linger almost too long, drinking in the pleasure of feeling like a roaming gypsy immersed in the vibe and people at hand.   My gypsy “short list” of place I love and a bit why…

  1. Paris, France — Centre Pompidou,  hot chocolate at Angelina’s, walking along Champs Elysees. Pont Neuf,  Rive Gauche and the galleries,  the Grande Arche, the TGV to Nice
  2. Taos, New Mexico — Taos Mountain, a tuna sandwich at Michael’s Kitchen, dancing at the Sagebrush Inn, the turquoise shops, Ghost Ranch, the High Road to Santa Fe
  3. Honolulu, Hawaii —  outrigger canoes rowing the Ala Wai Canal, Tahitian hula dancing, lunch at the Halekulani, North Shore, Haleiwa Bridge, lanais, Hawaiian quilts, puka shells necklaces
  4. Venice, Italy— water taxi across the Grand Canal, Hard Rock Cafe,  Peggy Huggenheim’s Villa, the gondolas,  Prosecco, Piazza San Marco, Carnivale masks, the Rialto, macchiatos
  5. London, U.K. —  the Thames, the pubs, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, the Tube, walking in Richmond Park, Hamm
  6. Newport Beach, California– Crystal Cove, Balboa Island pier,  the bay, surf shops and beach boutiques, the ferry, koi pond at Fashion Island, the Lido, Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna Beach
  7. Prague, Czech Republic — the steeples,  the crystal, walking the Charles Bridge, the jazz bars, hat shopping, the Astronomical Clock
  8. Medicine Park, Oklahoma — the one-way wooden bridge, the bikers, their hogs, burgers at Meers, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, cobble-stone cabins with screened-in porches