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Red Square Moscow

Friday, September 17th, 2004


Local police don’t allow anyone in Red Square until 10 in the morning so when Bob got there the Square was jaw-dropping empty…the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb on one side, Gum’s Department Store the other.

Gums, at one time a symbol of Soviet shopping with long queues and shelves empty of all but a few drab goods, now houses over 1000 shops like Timberland and Sony) staring at the Kremlin on the other side. At either end is a church…the glorious colors and shapes of St. Basil’s Cathedral created between 1555 and 1561 to celebrate Ivan the Terrible’s capture of the Tatar stronghold at one and the tiny Kazan Cathedral where we bought a tape of Orthodox music for 20 roubles (about 70 cents) at the other. What stories these old worn cobbles of Red Square whisper to us!

The scene is impressive and enduring. No capital since Ancient Rome was more calculated to project pure power than this square mile of buildings.

Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)

Friday, August 27th, 2004

Ancestral Poland.gif


The Germans changed the name to Auschwitz but the Polish still call it Oswiecim. We hire an English speaking guide to drive us to Auschwitz and Birkenau for the day and are predictably blown away by the scene. Bob remarks that the Poles have maintained the camp in an appropriate-simple yet austere-manner…a glimpse of history and reality without an artificial sentimentality…the scene itself supplies ample information. I find out that the Polish resistance that tried to get information to the outside world were the first to be killed. I find myself scanning the pictures and names on the walls for Mroczynski…my mother’s surname.

The Death Block, a prison within the prison, was where the SS shot thousands of prisoners, mostly Poles at the Wall of Death. The Cellars, the Crematorium and Gas Chambers, the Assembly Square where prisoners were made to wait in the freezing cold while they were counted out…reality setting in by layers….minute by minute…still not into my head. Later more and more camps, Auschwitz II, III, IV were built when the decision was made to exterminate the Jews. Birkenau is the largest…10 to 15 times the size of Auschwitz.

Bob reads the memoirs of Dr. Mengele’s assistant who carried out countless experiments, many of which were cutting edge at the time, but others left many dead and maimed…especially the children-twins and dwarfs.

The curator of the Jewish Museum in Krakow warns that memory is a difficult thing…and many books of recollection are subject to hyperbole…but among the best of the Holocaust writing is surviver Halina Birenbaum’s “Hope Is The Last To Die.” She is a writer, poet and translator, born in Warsaw in 1929 who spent the occupation in the Warsaw Ghetto, and in the concentration camps at Majdanek, Auschwitz, Ravensbruck and Neustad-Glewe from where she was freed in 1945. She emigrated to Israel in 1947 and now lives in Hertzliya with her husband and two sons. Her works are sad but devoid of hated. What emerges from them, according to the book jacket, “are peace, kindness and belief in man.” And if she can achieve this….

Government officials said Wednesday that Poland and “historical truth” both had won a victory after the UN agreed to rename one of its world heritage sites “The Former Nazi German Concentration Camp at Auschwitz.” About 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were put to death at the facility outside Oswiecim, Poland, in World War II. The German and Israeli governments also agreed to the name-change. Poland requested the change on grounds that the previous name, “Auschwitz Concentration Camp,” left a “misconception” that it was Polish-run.

The fortified walls, barbed wire, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens show the conditions within which the Nazi genocide took place in the former concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest in the Third Reich. According to historical investigations, 1.5 million people, among them a great number of Jews, were systematically starved, tortured and murdered in this camp, the symbol of humanity’s cruelty to its fellow human beings in the 20th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Siem Reap

Friday, October 25th, 2002
7VJvlOW1A5Ali2rnovusuM-2006216180228245.gif My original plan was to take a boat up the Mekong River in Cambodia to the Lao border and then on up through Laos but I kept hearing reports about the opening and closing ... [Continue reading this entry]

Facing Cambodia’s Past at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Thursday, October 24th, 2002
7VJvlOW1A5Ali2rnovusuM-2006216180228245.gif We got our second wind and almost reluctantly mounted a motorcycle taxi to do what we (or at least I) came here to do and that is to see, after more than 30 ... [Continue reading this entry]

Pagan’s 2000 Stupas

Thursday, August 22nd, 2002
See Burma Video JTOL4njiflVtj5kLlwVbAM-2006175061519331.gif August 22 2002 (Pagan was previously called Bagan) I really would have preferred the rickety and slow train north so we could see the countryside but to reserve the most time possible ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sleepover In Soweto

Friday, July 12th, 2002
S12J2pKbmw6zVZyRvmb7L0-2006193181305721.gif A Sleepover in Soweto-Africa's largest township On our way to India we stopped in Johannesburg for two days to stay with Lolo Mabitsela in her Bed and Breakfast in Soweto-a township about 30 minutes outside ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nairobi to Cape Town Overland

Monday, May 6th, 2002
HF0m0NezqDnitkljwNP8lg-2006188104829364.gif May 5, 2002 We left for the 4000 mile seven week trip in a Mercedes Benz truck overland from Nairobi to Capetown. As Bob suspected there would be, there are 17 kids all under ... [Continue reading this entry]

Michelangelo’s David

Saturday, April 6th, 2002
Bob is going on a walking tour where he will learn how the Renaissance Medici family ruled and held onto their city as an independent state for three centuries in face of pressure from the Papacy and how they commissioned ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Atlas Mountains

Thursday, March 21st, 2002
pjSwKsKjPzr5gOYYAx9PKM-2006172104421567.gif We took an excursion trip south and east past incredible green terraced fields and old Berber kasbahs (ancient Moroccan self-contained communities made out of the rust colored mud of the countryside)-seemingly idyllic-to the Atlas ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Registan

Saturday, September 30th, 1995
7Z3XBdt3hLmJjqkmk2I6k0-2006190121351559.gif samar6.jpg It is said, the sand was strewn on the ground to soak up the blood from the public executions that were held there until early in the 20th ... [Continue reading this entry]

Rafting The Grand Canyon

Wednesday, September 30th, 1992
After two years on a waiting list my husband and I were finally able to spend 18 days paddle rafting the Grand Canyon...putting in above Flagstaff Arizona. We went with a company called "Azra"...not a cadillac company...but with knowledgeable ... [Continue reading this entry]