Rome. Day 1 revisited.

Thanks to excellent wifi in our hotel lobby I was able to update my post for Day 1, righting the pictures and adding the captions. So…if you’re interested in the stories behind the photos, I’d recommend you revisit the post 🙂

Rome. Day 4.

Another day has passed. Well, almost. It’s actually only 3 PM; but it seems we’ve gotten pretty good at fitting in a whole day’s fun by noon. Today we hit the streets by 8:30. As this is our last full day of site-seeing, we decided to fit in the remainder of our list. So we headed straight for Piazza de Spagna, directly north of our hotel. It was a nice walk along Via del Corso and then a right turn on Via dei Condotti, a very nice street with expensive shops (jewelry, watches, clothes, etc.), which led us directly to the Spanish steps. [N.B. in my blog post for Day 2 I posted a photo of Schylie with a caption which stated that we were at the Spanish Steps. I was mistaken… That was a very long staircase leading to Santa Maria, but it was not the Spanish Steps.] Continue reading “Rome. Day 4.”

Rome. Day 2.

I’m sorry this post is delayed and out of order. I was up late last night trying to put it together and was having so a lot of trouble with the wifi. I wrote a short summary of the day and intended to write longer captions on each photo. After fiddling with it for over 2 hours, I lost my summary paragraphs and couldn’t orient the photos. So I put it away and went to bed.

Only after publishing Rome Day 3 did I recall that I never finished Rome Day 2! So here’s my attempt–with better wifi–to recreate a measure of what I intended to send. I’ll attach the photos with brief captions.

Basically, we visited two very significant Jesuit Counter Reformation churches, St Ignatius of Loyola, and Gesu. Then we visited Santa Maria at Aracoeli along with the Piazza di Campidoglio, which boasts a statue of Marcus Aurelius, and the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument. Then we went on a guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum.

Continue reading “Rome. Day 2.”

Rome. Day 3.

We’ve had another wonderful day here in Rome. After a nice breakfast on the roof-top terrace of our hotel––in which we finally figured out where to sit so you can be served all the espresso and cappuccino you like (which is to say, yesterday we sat in what was clearly a self-serve area)––we hit the streets at 9:00. The plan for the day was to head for Tiberina Island, tour Trastevere on the other side of the Tiber River, have lunch in Trastevere, cross back over the river for a walk along Via Giulia, and play the rest by ear.  Continue reading “Rome. Day 3.”

Rome. Day 1.

It’s hard to believe we’re actually in Rome. The city of so much history, of so many martyrs for Christ, of the church to which Paul wrote Romans. It’s surreal to be walking the streets, taking in the sites, and seeing with my own eyes things I’ve only read about. As they say, ‘If these walls could talk.’

We’re conveniently staying at the Colonna Palace Hotel in the heart of old Rome. Our room is on the 3d floor (385) and our window overlooks the Piazza di Montecitorio below and gives us a view of Parliament across the piazza. We’re within walking distance of dozens of historical sites, ancient ruins, churches, and the Vatican itself. 

We arrived at our hotel at 10:30 by taxi from the airport, dropped our luggage, connected to wifi, and immediately began exploring the city. Our time here is limited so we want to make the most of it. KT and Ann (from church) have visited this part of town several times and have helpfully suggested the best places to see and eat. Thank you! 

Continue reading “Rome. Day 1.”

Saying goodbye to Berlin

Today we visited the last few things on our list. Whatever we missed will have to wait until a future visit 🙂

We got an early start and set out at about 7:30 to walk to the Eastside Gallery. On the way we were looking for a coffee shop to get a cup ‘o wake-me-up and some breakfast. We found the Kaffeebar and each ordered a coffee and spinach-gorgonzola quiche. It was very tasty!

The Eastside Gallery is a long section of the Berlin Wall preserved–graffiti and all–as a monument to the city’s divided history. We started at the beginning and walked the entire length of it, taking in all the art and trying our best to interpret the messages behind it all. While I’m sure none was without meaning, most of the images spoke of suffering and pain while others expressed the happiness of liberation. At one point there was an opening in the wall and we walked to the other side of it. It was sobering to think of a city, of families, divided by that wall and of how many were killed in attempting to cross over it.

More sobering by far was our next stop, the Memorial to the (6 million) Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s an extremely large area of concrete blocks (called stiles), raised to varying heights, with rows between them in which one may walk back and forth, from one side to the other. At first, the blocks are short, 12-24″ tall; but then, as you walk on, they get taller and taller, as your path declines lower and lower into the ground until suddenly you’re surrounded by towering concrete blocks. Everywhere you look in this direction or that the rows go on and on and you feel the overwhelming presence of these silent, cold, nameless, unmarked blocks. We walked silently through it, around to the side, and through it again, trying to take in and experience the deep and sobering impression it was meant do effect. Like the literature says, it’s impossible to get one’s mind around “6 million Jews;” but the memorial definitely helped you get a sense of the great loss which it represented. Though we can be sure that great persecution yet stands in the church’s future as Paul’s man of lawlessness is set loose (Rev 20), it made me wish that such a thing would never happen again. I long for the peace and reign of our Lord on the earth when His glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

After taking in the memorial, we entered the Information Center underneath it. Here, with the help of an audio guide and pictures and text on display, we spent an hour and a half learning of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, when it began, how it increased, how and where it was carried out, and even some personal stories of several families who suffered in the various concentration camps. It was so overwhelming and sad that I couldn’t listen to all the audio and had to turn it off. I walked through the remainder of the rooms and waited for the girls. I comfort myself that God will soon right all wrongs and make clear the perfection of all His works in the inexplicable twists and turns of His providence.

We stopped for lunch at the Bella Italia near the Memorial and Schylie and I ordered curry wurst while Christie ordered risotto con pollo. Both dishes were a nice treat. With lunch finished, we walked over to the long promenade which led us to the Brandenburg Gate. It was an impressive sight. Once again I thought of how terrible it was that a gate which connected two sides of the city was cut off during the war and what a joy it must have been when it was opened up again. Several pictures and captions on display boards nearby helped us grasp what we were seeing and what it was like when it was different.

From there we walked to the nearby Reichstag, the headquarters for the Third Reich. It was a beautiful building with a glass dome protruding up from the center of it. One can ascend the steps in the dome and get an impressive view of the city. We opted not to do so and instead walked around in the Tiergarten and then to a store where Christie could grab a gift for someone back home. At the store we were able to catch the M147 bus to the S5 train and to the U240 bus, which brought us back to our apartment around 4PM.

Having put another 6 miles on our pedometer today–in 95 degree weather, Christie immediately passed out! Meanwhile, Schylie’s catching up on emails and I’m blogging. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our time in Germany and Holland. It’s been great to see friends (and family) and it’s been a real blessing to visit some of the historical sites here in Berlin. There is so much more we didn’t see, but we’re thankful for the time we had together and for all that we did enjoy here.

Please keep us in prayer as we’re all catching a taxi to the airport at 4:30 AM. Christie’s initial flight to London-Boston was cancelled but they’ve successfully rerouted her through Madrid with no delays. My and Schylie’s flight seems to be on schedule, leaving for Rome at 7:30. We should arrive in Rome at 9:40. I’ll attach some pictures below.

We’re heading out for dinner tonight. Not sure what’s on the menu except that we’re on the lookout for apple strudel and ice cream 🙂

Every blessing,

James, Schylie, and Christie

Our sitting room–and my bed.
Schylie and Christie’s bed–advertised as a ‘Groovybed’
Waiting outside for the coffee shop to open. Most every coffee house opens at 9–or even 10!–so it was nice to find one that opened at 8. 
Waiting for my coffee


Quiche for breakfast!


The Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe


Lunch at Bella Italia
At the Brandenburg Gate
The Reichstag
Goodbye Berlin 🙂


Drive-ways & Walk-ways

Well let me catch you up on our latest drives and walks… It’s Monday morning and Schylie and I are sitting at Starbucks across from the Train Station in Zwolle, Netherlands, she with a caramel cheesecake frappucino and I with a grande Pike roast with 3 pumps of white mocha syrup. We’re waiting on Christie to arrive on the train with her aunt. Once she arrives we’ll be back on the road again for a 6 hour drive back to Berlin. So how did we get here? Let’s bring you up to speed…

We checked out of our place Saturday AM and headed to the coffee shop on the corner to start the day. After waiting past the 8:00 hour in vain, I learned from the lady setting up chairs that since it was Saturday, they wouldn’t open until 9:00. Looks like coffee and breakfast will  have to wait. We took the next bus to Alexanderplatz and walked over to Europcar. 350 euros later we were driving away in a 2018 VW Golf wagon.

It was a kind mercy of the Lord to ordain this rental for a Saturday morning in August, giving me plenty of open road, with a lower volume of traffic, to orient myself to the German–and Dutch–road signs and roadways. I only turned onto a one-way the wrong-way once and––with the help of a honk from the car behind me and the sudden appearance of 3 arrows on the road in front of me pointing directly at me––I made a quick U-ee and was back on track. I took a right on red once, hoping it was okay, but learning later (after I did the same thing in the Netherlands) that it’s a big no-no. The rest of the drive to The Hague (or Den Haag) was fairly uneventful. We chatted, rested, and relaxed in the car, while I did my best to stay alert, learn the signs, and follow the cars in front of me.

We finally arrived at Christie’s aunt’s house around 5:00, and after a quick hello and goodbye, we left her to enjoy a nice weekend with her relatives while Schylie and I drove off to make our way to Zwolle in north Holland. The plan was to stop somewhere special for dinner and then pick up our friend Nico at his fiancé’s house in Haarlem, near Amsterdam. First we drove to the beach of the North Sea at Zandvoort-just to say we were there–and took a short walk along the beach–long enough for a kodak moment, short enough to get back in the car before getting caught without a parking ticket. People were flying kites everywhere on the beach and it was beautiful to see.

Upon leaving the beach we drove a mile or two before finding a quaint restaurant with outdoor tables that looked inviting. I ordered a juicy steak with garlic butter and gravy–likely the best tenderloins I’ve ever had. It was simply scrumpdillyicous. Schylie had an angus burger with a thick slice of blue cheese and–believe it or not–a half an apple filled with cranberry sauce skewered into it! Yep! You read that right. The apple was atop the cheese between the buns! After a gnarly battle with the local bees during our meal, we licked our plates clean and drove to the address in Haarlem. We arrived at Nico’s girlfriend’s house to meet Mary Ann and pick up Nico. She was absolutely delightful and greeted us with a warm and happy smile. We then drove about an hour and a half to his house. It was fun to catch up in the car and hear how he’s been doing, as well as share what we’ve been up to. As it turns out, Nico has sold his house (it was almost completely empty) and is taking a sabbatical from his work to do a 3 month term of volunteer service with Mercy Ships in Africa. He’s super excited about it! Indeed, it was a real joy to hear how excited he was to go on the mission field and serve the Lord. Furthermore, once he returns from Africa, he’s going to live with his parents until he gets married to Mary Ann in May! We are so happy for Nico!

Sunday morning, we had a relaxing morning and late breakfast before heading off to church. We left Nico’s house at 10:15 for a 12:-00 service at an international church in Amstelveen called Crossroads. Nico had attended that church once before but Mary Ann had been there many times. It was a very contemporary style service and the message was a practical and encouraging challenge to be a witness for Christ. We were encouraged to be open about our faith and engage in dialogue with the intent to bear witness to the gospel. The pastor used several Bible passages to support his points and clearly loved the Lord. We enjoyed the fellowship and were given time during the service to pray for missions with those sitting next to us.

After the service, Nico and Mary Ann left to spend the day together while Schylie and I went to have enjoy the afternoon by ourselves. After a bit of chit-chat, we decided to check out a park Nico recommended called Posbank near Arnhem It was about an hour’s drive. Normally, the hills would be covered in pretty purple heather, surrounded by oaks and pines, and rolling hills. But, unfortunately, this year The Netherlands has had a 14 week drought–completely unheard of–so everything is brown and dry. Nevertheless, it was a nice walk, beautiful landscape, and delightful weather. We then hung out at a restaurant nearby for some drinks and a small bite to eat before jumping in the car and heading back to Nico’s place for dinner.

Nico had planned to make us a nice dinner, but his neighbor spontaneously brought over some food from a birthday party earlier that morning. So we enjoyed fresh tomato soup, bread, and cheese. Nico wanted to take us on a walk around his neighborhood, so we finished up and left. We walked about 2 miles, down a few streets, across a river, checked out a few old locks on the River IJssel from the 1800s, and enjoyed the beautiful, old houses. Back at the house, I relaxed in the hammock for a bit before we all hit the sack.

This morning, we had breakfast with Nico and Ernst. Ernst was traveling with Nico 3 years ago when they visited the Cape and stayed with us over the weekend. Nico left for work around 8:30. We conversed with Ernst for about a half hour more before we wrapped up breakfast and prepared to hit the road. It was so nice to catch up with him and chat even for a short time. We said goodbye, loaded our things into the car, and made our way to the Zwolle train station.

This is where we had planned to pick up Christie. Unfortunately, we miscommunicated with Rachel, so Christie was actually at the train station in Almere–about an hour away. Long story short, Rachel and Christie rode the train a little further to Lelystad and we picked her up there.

Leaving the station, we made out for Berlin–a 6 hour drive. Christie and Schylie chatted part of the way, and then napped for a good bit while I enjoyed my Spotify music and sweet ride home. The traffic was minimal and it was a blast riding on the open road of the autobahn for hours. There were a few areas of construction, but they were short sections with a lot of miles in between. Most of the autobahn is marked with a speed limit of 130 kph (80 mph) but in the stretches through rural country, there is no marked speed limit and the left lane is always left open for those who have the pedal to the medal. They usually fly by at 180-200 kph. ––We arrived in Berlin around 6PM and drove directly to our apartment in Friedrichshain.

We had neglected to inform our Airbnb host when we’d be arriving, and did not receive the check-in information he had sent us, so we arrived at the house and were unsure what to do. His place ended up being on the 4th floor of an apartment. So, we had to lug our suitcases up all the stairs, then back down when we realized we weren’t able to get in. Oh well. We called him, left a message, and then drove around the block to find somewhere to eat dinner. We chose the right place. Delicious food and wonderful service. While we were enjoying our meal, we got a call from our host, who explained how to check-in. We finished up and then drove back to the apartment. This time we were able to get in without a problem–besides the huffing and puffing up the several flights of stairs. The rooms are very clean and comfortable.

I left the girls at the apartment and went to Alexanderplatz to drop off the car–without a hitch–and then took the train back.

Tomorrow we plan to make a day of it, visiting the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Museum, Checkpoint Charlie, and a few other sites nearby.

Thanks for praying for us! We bless God for His care and provision all along the way.

Until next time,

Daddy, Schylie, and Christie

A beautiful day at Posbank.
On the walk at Posbank.
Schylie with Nico in his backyard.
I was curious if a smart car was as long as I am tall… 
Dinner in Berlin at Havana Bar


On the beach in Zandvoort, Netherlands.

Day 2: Walking a few miles in their shoes.

We woke up this morning ready to spend the day out and about. Our first stop was the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. We picked up a coffee and some muffins from the tiny cafe across the street, along with some sandwiches for lunch. The bus took us from our lodging at Potsdamer Strasse to Alexanderplatz from where we could walk to the meeting spot for the tour to the concentration camp. Arriving a bit early, we stepped into the Europcar shop nearby to ask about renting a car for our drive to Amsterdam tomorrow. Before long, we were in a group of people and listening to our tour guide, Michael, explain the logistics of the tour.

The walking tour started at 10:00 and was scheduled to last until 4:30. We began by walking to the nearby Underground Train station, Alexanderplatz, and catching the train to Gesundbrunnen and then switched to another train to take us to Oranienburg. Once we exited, Michael led us on a walk from the train station to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the same walk which the prisoners would take. The guards would lead them through town in a humiliating and scorn-filled walk as the townspeople cursed them and threw things at them. Once at the camp, they would be registered and enter through the gate, on which was cynically written, “By work comes freedom.” At that gate they lost their identity, their freedom, their life, their dignity, their all. Sachsenhausen was the very first concentration camp built, the closest to the Reich Capital in Berlin, and therefore the model camp, both architecturally, experimentally, and judicially. It soon became the administration headquarters for all the concentration camps in the entire occupied territory.

Needless to say, the camp was very sobering and emotional. You can hardly believe all the stories of what went on in those camps until you see something of it for yourself. The buildings, the pictures, the faces, the artifacts on display, the walls, the death row, the firing range, the gas chambers, the mortuary, the memorials, and all the propaganda used to cover up and “put a pretty face” on what was really going on. Our tour guide was very honest about the wrongs done by Hitler and his regime. He told the history as it was, didn’t sugarcoat what had happened, and challenged us to take it seriously and to move forward in respecting and accepting all people, regardless of nationality, race, or handicap. It was a memorable tour.

After the tour ended we walked over half of “the beer mile” on Strazbergerplatz for the 22d Annual International Beer Festival and enjoyed a cold craft brew from Republic Brewery. From there we walked to a restaurant, Alpenstuck, for German cuisine and ordered wiener schnitzel for dinner. Then we walked to the Princess Cheesecake for dessert and caught the underground train to Potsdamer Platz, followed by a short bus ride and a 3 block walk to our room, which we reached before 9:00.

It was a long day and we walked a total of 8.6 miles along the streets of Brandenberg and Berlin in over 90 degree weather. Needless to say, we’re headed to bed. Tomorrow we’ll retrace our steps to Alexanderplatz and rent a car. Please keep us in your prayers as I’ll be driving almost 550 miles from here to The Hague, Netherlands and then north of there to Zwolle.

Until next time,

Daddy, Schylie, and Christie

Breakfast with a morning coffee
Catching the next train.
Michael, our tour guide, at Oranienburg Station.
The original Sachsenhausen Camp, circa 1936.
The gate at Tower A into the camp. The words were chosen by Heinrich Himler. They cynically say, work brings freedom.
A propaganda photo of “roll call” at the camp, in which the inmates are dressed warmly with overcoats, earmuffs, hats, et. This is the image the Reich wanted the world to see.
The firing line on death row, which also served as a gallows.
What’s left of the cremating ovens.
A cold brew after a long day :’D
On our walk to the restaurant for dinner.

Day 1: In the air. On the road.

What time is it!? It’s barely 8 PM and I feel like it’s 2 AM! I hardly slept on the plane last night and we’ve been busy ever since we hit the ground. Both flights were really nice and the entire trip was without hiccup.

We landed in Berlin on time and were connected with Schylie immediately after Christie got her suitcase from baggage claim. Words would fail me to describe the great joy I felt to be reunited with Schylie after all these months. I’ve missed her very much and am glad to have this time with her.

Getting from the airport to our lodging was quite the do! I don’t read German very well and most of the people I asked for help were simply unhelpful. Should we take the bus or call a taxi? The bus would be cheaper. Which bus? I ask the man and he speaks to me condescendingly, as if I’m a child who should know better, and tells me to go outside and take the bus to Ferkensherflugenstrassedameplatz…. Ok. It wasn’t quite that long of a name, but it sure sounded like it. And every time I asked him to repeat it, it just got longer–and more difficult for me to try to repeat. I gave up on him–with a smile and a danke schoen–and decided to head out side and have Schylie look up the email from our airbnb host to see if he gave any directions. He did. So I took the laptop to a terminal man standing by a ticket machine and pointed to the name of the place to which we needed to get. He kindly directed me to the machine and told me what tickets to buy, and where to catch Bus 109. Within a few minutes we were loading on the bus. I told the driver where we needed to go, thinking I had the pronunciation close enough–but no cigar–not by a long shot. He asked if I meant Archdinstramdans… whatever it was!… and I kindly replied, “No.” Then I pointed to the place on his screen of stops and he said, “Oh,” as he likely thought to himself, “Why didn’t you just say so!?”

Like a hawk, I watched the names of the upcoming stops as they filled the screen. There was no way I was going to miss our stop! After about 20 mins we were off the bus and standing foreignly in front of another bus stop sign wondering, “What do we do now?” We looked at our hosts instructions: “Take the U 1 to Kerflurstr… and then walk on Polters… to 103.” Ok, so I’m thinking “the U” means an underground line. No it wasn’t an intuitive insight. I just looked over Schylie’s shoulder and saw a big blue U on a sign at the top of a set of stairs leading down under. “Just like the Tube in London,” I thought.  “Do you speak English?” I asked a lady standing at the stop with us. “Yes I do, but I’m catching this bus coming now, so I only have a second.” “Can you tell us how to get to (pointing at the computer screen again. I found it worked much better to just let them read it than to try and say it).” “Oh yes, you need to that that Underground line there (blah, blah, blah).” Okay, so at least we were on the right track.

We went down under. Uh, which side of the tracks? The place names weren’t helpful. I found a map and realized that we were at the end of the line. Seems simple enough. The next train that comes by, just get on it. It did come. And as soon as everyone was off, we loaded. Whew! That was easy! I heard a man yelling over the speakers but naturally I ignored him. He was speaking German–which means he certainly wasn’t speaking to me. Suddenly a kind young man grabbed Schylie’s arm and gestured for us to get off the train, pointing to the train on the other side of the tracks. Guess it wasn’t so easy after all.

Well, at least now we were on the right train. Next mission: figure out where to get off. We were looking for Kerflurstr… You know the place, right? So we just kept riding until we saw that word on a sign outside on the wall. When we did, we got off. What a comfort it was to look up to the signs and see the name of the street our lodging was on, Potsdamerstrasse. So we followed the arrow to the Augsang (exit), ascended the steps to the street level and found ourselves on Potsdamerstrasse. I looked under the street name to see the numbers of the block addresses listed and deciphered that our place was a half-block’s walk away.

At the airport I screenshot the “let yourself in” directions from our host. It was 5 pages long with pictures and descriptions because it included a lock box, with 3 keys in it, 4 doors, and 3 flights of stairs. So I went to photos and followed the labyrinthine instructions to let ourselves at 4PM. Thank God!

It was immediately obvious that we didn’t get the room that was in the picture online. Our host rents 2 rooms and we got the “B” graded room while (as we learned after dinner) 2 other ladies got the “A” graded room. Our room is a bit shabby and dusty, as if it hasn’t been used in a long while. But… no matter. We’re so thankful to be here and with the windows wide-open now, it’s starting to cool down a bit. I pray we can can all sleep well tonight.

After cleaning up, we headed out for dinner, determined to stay on our street. We walked up and down it a few times, narrowing the options between the restaurants in which we sorta knew what we were getting (we could make some sense of the menu) and those which we had no idea what they were serving. We opted for Lulu Guldsmeden (which was also a hotel), a Nordic cuisine, with a waiter from New York. Schylie ordered one of the vegetarian options: onions with pickled seaweed and buckwheat. Christie ordered the fish entree: plaice with cucumbers and rhubarb. I ordered beef cheeks with slaw and greens. An interesting cuisine to be sure, but we each enjoyed our meal and cleaned our plate.

More than that, we greatly enjoyed the waiter and he offered for us to use the hotel’s taxi service to get to the airport next Wednesday. Thank you Lord! I didn’t want to attempt the train and bus routine, especially in reverse at 4:30 in the morning.

After dinner we made our way back underground to buy the bus tickets for tomorrow. We’re heading to Alexanderplatz for a concentration camp tour. And now we’re back at the hotel and settling down for the night. Thank you for your prayers. We’ll keep you posted as we’re able (we’re limited by wifi, of course).

God bless you!

Daddy, Schylie, & Christie

Finally in our room! 
We ate dinner here at the Lulu Guldsmenden
Our very simple, albeit mysterious, dinner menu. 
Guten Appetit!
Beef cheeks…
Onions with seaweed and buckwheat.
Plaice with cucumber and rhubarb. 
Our room is on the floor (and to the left) of the 2d angled window. Actually, the two windows coming out of the top left hand corner of the photo are to our room.