Thursday, February 23, 2012

GERMANY: 67th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOMBING OF PFORZHEIM

Sixty-seven years ago today, the Royal Air Force, as part of the Allied offensive against Germany, bombed my mother's home town of Pforzheim.  Just ten weeks later, Germany surrendered.  My brother has written a tender, insightful post about the bombing here.

In December of 2000, we took our chidren to Europe to pick up Rachael from a study abroad in France.  As part of that trip, we met up with Mom in Germany and spent several days together.  She took us to Pforzheim and showed us all her favorite places: the place where her gymnasium once stood, the bridge where she kissed her boyfriend, her favorite shops and parks. 

She took us to Sophienstrasse 34, where the apartment building her family lived in used to stand.  It is just one block from the Enz River, shown below:

These are the steps that Oma and Uncle Heinz ran down to get to the river, where they huddled in terror during the bombing.  

The memorial marker in the Pforzheim Cemetery lists the date of the attack and the number killed:

The stones that mark the mass graves are each inscribed with about twenty names of those who were known to be killed:


In another portion of the cemetery is the grave of my mother's uncle, Gustav Adolf Schmid, who died in 1962.  Look below Gustav's and Anna's names and you will see the name of their son and my mother's cousin, Karl Schmid, who was killed in action during World War II:

Pforzheim has been beautifully rebuilt, as have so many other European cities, with an eye to recreating and restoring the past:

At the time, all we had was a 35 mm camera, and these seven pictures are all that we have of that day in Pforzheim.  If we could go back, we would take ten or twenty times as many pictures.  We also tried to take notes while Mom was talking, but she kept saying, "No, no!  Don't waste time with that!  I'll write it all down for you later!"

Unfortunately, later never came.

READING
No book about World War II has affected me more than The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I first listened to an excellent Audible.com recording of the book, and have since read the print version. Most of my World War II reading has demonized the Germans, and as the daughter of a German immigrant, I appreciated a story that was sympathetic to the average German citizen (although Liesel Meminger, the main character, is anything but average).

Liesel, a Jewish girl, is the equivalent of a foster child in the home of the Hubermanns, a childless German couple. Her love for them, her friendship with a young Jewish man the Hubermanns hide in their basement, and her friendship with Rudy, the boy next door, are at the heart of the story narrated by a mysterious character who seems to know the past, present, and future of each character.

While this is not a book about Pforzheim, in many ways it is a book about my mother's experiences. The descriptions of the air raids and general life during the war match up poignantly with the stories she shared with us. Liesel is within a year or two of my mother's age during the same time period, and the story takes place in a fictional town outside Munich, a city about 160 miles from where my mother lived. It was a profoundly emotional experience to read Zusak's tender telling of a life not so different from my mother's.

In 2013 The Book Thief was made into an excellent movie of the same name.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

TEXAS TEMPLES

Quick, how many LDS Temples are there in Texas?  Which one was the first to be completed?

Come up with an answer before scrolling past this picture of a flower bed at one of the Texas temples.
Flowers at the San Antonio Temple

Here they are, all FOUR of them:
Dallas: Announced April 1981, Dedicated October 1984
Houston: Announced September 1997, Dedicated August 2000
Lubbock: Announced April 2000, Dedicated April 2002
San Antonio: Announced June 2001, Dedicated May 2005

Since we visited both San Antonio and Houston this weekend, we had the opportunity to stop by two of the Texas temples. Both of them were in out-of-the-way locations far from the city center (about 24 miles in the case of the San Antonio Temple and over 30 miles in the case of the Houston Temple), but both of them were worth the detour.

San Antonio is set up on a hill and can be seen on approach.  At 16,800 square feet, it is a small temple not unlike our 17,300 square-foot temple in Redlands:
What I really loved about the San Antonio temple were the gorgeous stained glass windows.  Most of them depicted trees, and all of them were brilliantly colored.  I would love to see these some day from the inside.
 

Today we drove past the Houston Temple.  Unfortunately it was a) already dark, and b) Sunday, so the gates were locked.  There was an explosion of pink and yellow tulips in full bloom inside the gates, but I couldn't get a good picture in the dark.
However, the temple itself is very big, 33,900 square feet, and with very strong vertical lines, it looks pretty massive:
 
 
It would be fun to do a session in each of these temples, but unfortunately luggage space (San Antonio) and itinerary (Houston) made that problematic on this trip.  Maybe next time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TEXAS: SAN ANTONIO

Actually, Dave, we rented our car at Thrifty (and swore to never use them again, but that's another story), but we are impressed that you "Remember the Alamo!" 

Here are a few more shots from our weekend in San Antonio, Texas, where EVERYTHING is big, including this cup of fruit, marinated in lime juice and chile and bought at a somewhat seedy drive-through Mexican joint:
. . . and where everyone is a cowboy, even the kids on the playground, making Bob and me covet the beautifully-tooled, pointy-toed boots we see on everyone's feet.
In Texas, bike riders don't "get off" their bikes, they "dismount":

Apparently, Texans have even created their own system of spelling:
Sign at Texas Pride Barbecue, the restaurant housed in an old gas station and pictured in my last post.
I really wish I could be in Texas at Christmastime.  I'd love to see this sweet ride all lit up and cruising down the highway:

Bob and I had lots of fun on a food tour today, which started out at a restaurant with a very creative way of advertising itself:
This figure foreshadowed our guide-led stop at five different restaurants in a three-hour period.

The first photo on my last post was the famous Alamo in San Antonio, a former Catholic mission and fortress and site of the famous pivotal battle in the 1836 Texas Revolution, the battle in which both Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie were killed by Santa Ana's army.

We've seen four other missions in the last couple of days, and have loved their crumbly architecture and beautiful lines. All of them are operating Catholic churches.  They are like and unlike the California missions: like in their basic form and the layout of the grounds, but unlike in their more advanced state of crumbling disrepair, isolation, and lack of grandiosity:
 
 
 
 
 

San Antonio is one of the prettiest cities at night I've seen, even in the steady drizzle we've tolerated the last two days. The most famous place to stroll at night is The River Walk, where we have walked the last two nights (but neglected to take pictures). However, there are plenty of other beautiful places at night, such as the Alamo itself (see my last post), and these two buildings:
The view from our hotel window
San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest continuously functioning religious community in Texas and the oldest standing church building in Texas

We will spend part of tomorrow in San Antonio, hoping for slightly better weather, and then we are off to . . . ?
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