Saturday, May 22, 2010

Warsaw Poland


I apologize for not posting the last couple of days, but the internet costs here at the hotel which it did not in Germany so I'm being conservative on spending. With that stated, this blog will be for our entire time in Warsaw, Poland because we depart in a few short hours for Krakow, Poland.

On Friday (May 21st) we departed Berlin by train for Warsaw for a six hour ride through the countryside of Germany and Poland. The two countries away from their cities was absolutely beautiful. The small villages seemed to have been stuck in time . . . time of the 1940s.

Arrived in Warsaw, Poland around 1230 hours. After placing all our bags on the bus we went and visited The Emanual Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute. During the Nazis occupation, the building was within the walls of the Jewish Warsaw ghetto. The building became a vibrant center of clandestine work, of social and cultural activities.

Following our visit to the Institute, we were taken to the heart of Warsaw--the City Center. An absolutely breath-taking site, which includes along its main boulevard all the historical and architectural structures . . . churches, the University of Warsaw (1810-2010), and Presidential Palace where the tributes are still seen from the recent airplane crash that killed most of the Polish governmental leaders.

Once we had made our initial walk through this section, the Park University group remained in the City Center and visited the historical sites in the Old Town and then spent a couple of hours sitting in an open air court yard at an outside cafe enjoying a refreshment, people watching, and listening to a Polish band. The picture of European life!

Yesterday, Saturday (May 22nd) was an interesting day . . . I had an opportunity to come into contact with the Polish medical system when I had to engage it with one of our students. I know we have been debating for some time at home the plus and minuses of socialized medicine, but I found yesterday the Polish system very good; for example, the three prescriptions the student received yesterday cost $26.00 in American money . . . back home just one of those same prescriptions would have cost $90.00. The student is doing extremely well after some bed rest yesterday, so I missed the driving tour of Warsaw. But the other students saw the Jewish sites with a Polish guide.

In the afternoon we visited the Museum of the Warsaw uprising . . . outstanding. This museum represented the local citizens uprising, in which Dr. Jerzy Hauptmann would have been represented.

In the evening we spent our last night in Warsaw back now at the City Center where we did some shopping for friends and family, while again enjoying the century-old European market scene of dinner under the stars. There is just something about sitting under the open sky and stars, among the narrow cobblestone streets, enjoying the time with good friends.

We will spend today and tomorrow in Krakow before departing for Prague, Czech. I will probably post again tomorrow before we depart Krakow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Berlin - Last Day


I am posting this earlier than the last two days; those have been posted at 4 AM, but we have an early departure for Warsaw, Poland, in the morning, so I thought of catching up now.

Our day began with a short presentation and Q and A session from two former East Berlin and one West Berlin faculty members from an area Berlin university. Both East Berliners were born, raised and educated in East Berlin. One former East Berliner and the West Berliner taught literature, actually Russian literature, while the other East Berliner taught philosophy. What a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone today to have a presentation that dealt with all the Cold War and post-Cold War issues.

Following this session, the Park University group broke from the other group and visited area museums: The first museum was the Neues (New) Museum which houses the Egyptian Museum and Payrus Collection; the Museum of Prehistory and Early History; and the collection of Classical Antiquities. The museum was absolutely wondeful and the artifacts were some of the world's oldest.

The second museum visited by all of us was the Pergamonmuseum which also holds collections from Classical Anitquities and the Ancient Near East Museum of Islamic Art. Again, an absolutely wonderful museum. They hold segments of the wall from Bably. and other rare artifacts from the Islamic world.

Mr. Brady Hanssen and I then visited a third museum which was the German Museum of History. This ONE museum and under ONE roof would match all of the Smithsonian Museums', the National Archives and the Library of Congress for artifacts. One of the best museums I have seen in my world travels. We saw the actual military uniforms of Kaiser's Wilhelm I and II, and Otto von Bismarck, and the cover and sword of Napoleon! The armour displays were outstanding as were the portraits of Europe's kings and queens. The World War II/Nazis exhibit was very professional, but did not avoid the German history of that period. We also visited Humbolt University (where they are very proud of "uniting teaching and research for the undergraduate") and the Brandenburg Gate again.

My next posting will be from Poland! We have a six hour train ride through Germany and then into Poland. We all hope the weather will be clear so we can observe and enjoy the countryside.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Berlin Day 2


Yesterday was our first full day here in Berlin. We had an opportunity to partake in a three hour bus tour in the morning which included numerous sites. The first part of the tour was via East Berlin and the remaining segments of the Berlin Wall. It was unique to actually visit a site students and faculty have learned about or taught. In celebration of the 20th anniversary a couple of years ago, the individual artists that had originally painted a segment of the wall were invited back to refresh their art work, so the wall was vivid in color, impressions, and uniqueness.

Following our stop at the Berlin Wall, we traveled over to the Jewish outdoor museum that represented a tribute to Holocaust survivors. There are 271 marble stones of various sizes and shapes outside in a park setting. The park is directly across the street from the brand new U.S. Embassy here in Germany. The park is also directly down the street from the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Our next stop was at Checkpoint Charlie and its related museum. We had a couple of hours to visit this site and then have lunch in this neighborhood. Following this location, we walked (which I literally believe we accomplished 10 miles in the entire day) to the Jewish Holocaust Museum. A beautiful architural building, which included some unique and interesting artifacts. The Park University group then departed from the other group and enjoyed dinner in a restaurant dating back to 1621 that we passed on our first day. What a wonderful and filling German dinner.

See everyone back here tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Berlin Arrival

Greetings from Berlin, Germany (Wednesday, May 19, 2010)

We arrived yesterday (May 18th) safe after about 10 hours of flight time. Currently have one student ill and so he spent yesterday evening in his hotel room attempting to recover.

Our hotel is actually in the former communist sector of East Berlin. The images that a westerner has seen or been impressed with via U.S. propaganda are some what true, although since 1988/1989 more of the former images are changing. The buildings are very stark.

We had dinner at a local establishment and then our tour guide for the entire trip, Thomas, took us on a walking tour of old East Berlin. We observed segments of the original 1600 outer wall of Berlin, numerous beautiful churches, canals, and the older section of town dating back to 1621. Naturally, a lot of photographs were taken and in particular items related to the former communist regime, i.e., Marx-Engel Park.

The weather here is cold and damp. We can only hope that over the next couple of days it improves. A lot of individuals here remain riding bicycles and walk. Berlin definitely is a city in which an individual can do both with ease.

Today is our first real full day . . . tune in tomorrow for all our exciting espiodes from today.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Trip to Eastern Europe (Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic)

Dear Friends,

In about one week, I will be departing for Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic for a Holocaust tour. I will attempt to post some blogs about the trip if internet service is available.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Passing of Historian Howard Zinn

One of America's greatest social historians passed away today at the age of 87. As a young high school teacher in the late 1980s, the work of social historians, in particular Howard Zinn, opened the mind of this "wet behind the ears" teacher. As I included a number of Zinn's articles in my classes, the young minds that sat, blankly, in front of me began to enjoy the narratives of the "little people" and the "forgotten people" that created, fought, and dreamed . . . history and the telling of their stories formed an appreciation and connection to the past. I still remember, these twenty-plus years later, that the narrative discussing Columbus and his engagement with peoples of the First Nation's captured the best spirit of his writing.

The writings of Zinn captivated the spirit and mind of thousands of students and non-students of history. His style and connection to all audiences will be missed. America has lost a great historian and national story-teller. Dr. Zinn . . . rest in peace.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

San Diego Conferences

One week ago ten current history majors and one 2009 alumnus from Park University's Program of History attended the 2010 Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Conference and American Historical Association Annual Meeting in San Diego, California. The recent trip represented the Program's fifth American Historical Association meeting and our third Phi Alpha Theta conference since 2006.

Six current majors presented conference papers at the Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Conference. Paper topics included: "The Rise of the Intellectuals against Censorship and Disillusionment: The Origins of the Prague Spring", "Human Right Infringements in the Balkans: Post World War II", "A Portrayal of Warfare: World War I in the Journals and Novels of Soldiers", "The Impact of Transcendentalist Thought on the Movement to Abolish Slavery", "The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Twentieth Century Point v. Counterpoint" and "The Einsatzgruppen Reports as Proof of Intentionalism."

Engaging undergraduate students in the historical profession is a highlight of the Program of History, but also my personal professional career. The opportunity to have students partake in these conferences represents the strength of our curriculum and professionalism.