nina on the go

Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

the berlin airlift...good vs evil using committment and candy bombers

Years before the Wall divided, and years after Hitler died, there was an event which united...not just the city of Berlin, but many cities, countries and people, with one goal. To fly. To help. To feed. 

2 million women, men and children were stranded., shut off from the rest of the world, for 10 whole months.

A portion of the still-standing wall at the East Side Gallery
This month marks 70 years since the beginning of the Berlin Airlift, when Russian military forces  blocked all land and rail transports into western Berlin. A very complicated and highly exhaustive coordinated response swiftly followed, with pilots from the British, French, American, Australian, and South African Air Forces began flying up to 1500 flights a day.

Templehof Airport

Food, medical supplies, mail, and almost most importantly, coal were flown daily in a round-the-clock series of flights from the Rhein-Main and Hamburg/Hannover regions of West Germany, landing every 90 seconds at 3 airports in the western sector of Berlin.

Photo: Boris Roessler/DPA
One incredibly poignant part of this story is that of Captain Gail Halverson who, as a personal statement against Stalin and the Russian regime, began throwing out parachutes of chocolate bars and candy as he flew over the neighbourhoods of west Berlin. As children and families and began to notice this pattern, Captain Halverson would wiggle his plane's wings as a signal of the sweet treats fallling from the sky. Soon his colleagues joined in and children would swarm in anticipation when seeing 'Uncle Wiggly Wings' flying low overhead. These planes were given the name of 'raisin bombers' (Rosinen Bomber).

Photo: Picture-Alliance/DPA

As the airlift began, the thinking was that it would at most last 4-6 weeks. But soon it became clear that Stalin was going to hold out, in the belief that the Berliners would never put up with the situation and soon force the Allieds out of west Berlin. The mayor of west Berlin, Ernst Reuter, gave a passionate plea to more than 350,000 Berliners gathered in a public standing against Russia, assuring the Allieds that the Berliners would put up with only 1800 calories a day, would walk everywhere (as there was very limited fuel), would put up with candlelight (as electricity had been cut off) as long as the Allieds would not abandon them. As winter loomed, the west Berliners put their heads down and continued to work and live, with limited food and light and heat. And it worked.

Airlift Memorial - Berlin

Over a million tons of coal, 730 000 tons of food, and 100 000 flights had been flown by Christmas, with a record-breaking 13 000 tons being dropped in a single day. Regardless of cost, the Allieds were committed to keeping up this incredible feat, which actually supplied western Berlin better than previously by land and rail, so that Russia finally caved in May of 1949. Stalin realized that he couldn't break the spirit of the people, either economically or politically with the support of a host of countries and individuals from the outside, and the blockade was lifted.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

germany's riesling horse, boat, and cable car

I've had the good fortune to spend two very seperate spring days, with two very different groups of people, on two very beautiful tours of Germany's Rheingau region...both just happened to be bachelorette parties. But, instead of strippers there were cyclists, instead of veils and tiaras there were sunglasses and sunscreen, and in both cases there was a lot of flowing bubbly and so much fun.

The Covered-wagon Tour: through castles and convents

As anyone who rides can tell you, the view from horseback is a special delight. Now, granted I wasn't actually riding these wagon-pulling quadrapeds but it often felt like I was. Meandering the windy and hilly vineyards along the Rhine valley gave me renewed respect for what these workers were doing for us.

The Rheingau is not Germany's largest wine region (that lies on directly on the other side of the river) but it is definitely its largest Riesling producer and one might say, it features Germany's most internationally successful wine producers. Needless to say, there is very good wine here.

Castle Vollrads
And, like everywhere along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, there are a ubiquitous amount of castles. Schloss Vollrads is a hidden gem, small and delightful, nestled amongst glorious hills of hanging grapes. Unfortunately, like every good castle story, this one has plenty of drama. I won't spoil it by telling you'll need to come and visit.

Our tour took us through the dainty wine villages along the Rhine, such as Eltville and Ostrich-Winkel. Dotted with half-timbered houses and painted wine taverns, the clip-clop of the horses hooves and the gorgeous scenery made me just so happy. Well, maybe it was also the sekt! (German sparkling wine...of course)

Which just added to the already very merry time us girls were having.

Kloster Eberbach

The Ring Tour: ferry, chairlift, hike, gondola, ferry...a circle of loveliness and wine

Starting from Rüdesheim or Bingen, you hop on the ferry towards Assmannshausen, passing a few castles perched on the hillside as you float by.

This is the beginning of the Upper Middle Rhein Valley, with steep cliffsides and treacherous hanging vineyards and castles every kilometre. A tour that on its own is worth its weight in gold.

Castle Rheinstein

But on the ring tour, you get out in Assmannshausen, a small town reknowned for its red wine unique event in this area of white wine. The Hotel Krone, built in 1541, is one seriously romantic and very traditional hotel....the hanging wisteria just adds to the sweeping elegance of it all.

Assmannshausen...unfortunate name for a very cute wine town
Up the ancient chairlift, between hills of vineyards and overlooking the town, towards the forest above Rüdesheim.

Chairlift fear and fun
On this particular tour, but quite usual if I think about it, wanderers and/or bachelorettes usually stop and picnic...with sekt or just plain ol' normal wine. When in Rome...

It is approximately thirty minutes of walking through the forest to get to the lookout above Rüdesheim...depending on how many other lookout points you take advantage of.

Coming out of the magic cave...ooh la la
And you have to add in the picnic stops...Germans really do picnic-ing like no others (in my opinion). Sausages, stuffed peppers, cheese and dips, fresh olive bread, grapes, large plump olives, and chocolate. Add to that, sitting on a castle wall for a bite to eat and well, you can't get that in Canada!

Picnic at the castle...of course

Niederwald Memorial

Above Rüdesheim and you have a view of the widest part of the Rhine, right before it gets to be its narrowest. Across the river is Bingen am Rhein, another traditonal wine town, but with a more laissez-faire flair, possibly due to its years of French rule ergo the huge monument facing France after the Napoleon was defeated and driven away.

Rüdesheim am Rhein
And then after gondola-ing down towards town, we meandered towards the ferry, but not before taking in another glass of wine or two.

Evening ferry over the get to the other side (duh)

What's a bachelorette party post without a parting shot after an entire day of bubbly.

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