Thursday, February 25, 2010

God of gods, Lord of kings, Revealer of mysteries

Last Saturday, Marianna and I went to Museum Island -- a part of Berlin where there are five world-renowned museums along the Spree River. After doing a little shopping at the Antique Market outside the Bode Museum, we decided to go to the Pergamon Museum. Though we will admit that museums are not really "our thing," we were in awe of what we saw there.

Antique Market

The first room you go into shows off the Pergamon Altar containing freezes of Greek gods and goddesses. It was interesting to see this special piece of art, as we are teaching Ancient Greece to our classes. There were also beautiful mosaic floor tiling and spectacular Islamic art -- prayer niches, tapestries, and ceramic pieces of beautiful colors. Amongst all these artworks that represented the worshipping of other faiths, the Lord made His awesome presence very known to me in a particular part of the museum.

When the man in my earphones told me we would be going to see some Babylonian artwork, I didn't really think much of it. But then, as I walked through the massive and exquisite Ishtar Gate and heard about its significance to King Nebuchadnezzar, I was absolutely floored. I'm pretty sure I gaped in awe for a good thirty seconds. You see, Marianna and I have been studying the book of Daniel through a Beth Moore study while we've been here. We are learning how to have integrity in this modern-day Babylon we are living in. We are learning what Daniel went through and his faithfulness to stand for God even when his life was on the line. So, standing in front of the Ishtar Gate was so incredibly surreal. With my own eyes, I was seeing the SAME EXACT structure that Daniel saw! U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E! I am convinced that choosing to go see the Pergamon Museum and deciding to go through the audio tour was not by chance...our AWESOME God orchestrated the whole thing! He continually proves Himself to be so real.

"King Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries...'"
Daniel 2:47

The Ishtar Gate

Processional Way
(These are not my pictures since you aren't allowed to take picture inside the museum. :)

Since Winter Vacation, I have been super busy with school. Every school day is jam packed with planning, teaching, and preparing. I am enjoying it though and beginning to feel a sense of purpose and reward from what I am doing.

On the weekends, Marianna and I have been relaxing and exploring Berlin. We have made it to a few good restaurants, including Henne--a really cute German pub famous for its chicken. JFK loved the establishment, so we thought it would be fitting to go check it out since our school is named for him. The menu had more choices of beer than it had food...literally, the only entree was a whole fried chicken, and they had a couple of sides and desserts on the menu. The chicken was so good and I ventured out to try the potato salad...not too bad! Marianna and I loved Henne because it made us feel like we were really in Germany!

We've also been able to shop along of the main shopping streets in Berlin --- Friedrichstrasse. You know how I love to shop. I saw a precious pink plaid Burberry dress that caught my eye in Lafayette but I don't think I could justify spending 275 euros on it. Darn.

A couple of weekends ago, Marianna and I went to walk on the frozen Schlactensee Lake--since Irmgart was strongly suggesting we go. When we got off the S-Bahn stop, we followed the crowds to the lake. It was an incredible sight! Kids were sledding, people were cross-country skiing, families were making snowmen. There was even a couple of guys selling brats and drinks from a stand right in the center of the lake. It was so awesome! (Be rest was so frozen that snow was still on top of the chance of falling through.)

One of my FAVORITE desserts I have discovered here are Amerikaners. They are German Vanilla Biscuits, and they are phenomenal. They got their name because the GIs after WWII would make them. Marianna and I love them so much, we decided to make them. I found a German recipe and translated it (hoping it was all correct). After about an hour of preparing and baking, we took out the Amerikaners from the oven and they were perfect---almost as good as the bakery's. We were so excited! Plus, they tasted great! Irmgart was really impressed with our baking skills. She kept saying how delicious they were! haha! I'll definitely be bringing home the recipe and making it for y'all sometime. You will LOVE them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Italian Splendor

Since JFKS has a week-long winter break between first and second semester, Marianna and I were fortunate enough to go to beautiful (and much warmer and sunnier) Italy! It was a phenomenal week of sight-seeing, gelato, and shopping!

We flew to Venice on Saturday morning and took a water bus to our hotel. We arrived at our hotel around 2:00 in the afternoon, so we had almost the entire day to explore. We got settled in our room (a water-front view because of a surprise "present" from the owner of the hotel!) and headed out to see Venice! Over the course of the next few days, Marianna and I had a wonderful time seeing Venice! I think my map skills improved by 100%, as we had to figure out how to back to our hotel after roaming the narrow and winding alleyways.

My favorite place in Venice was a book store we came across while walking around the first day. The sign outside read "the most beautiful book shop in the world," so of course I had to check it out to see if this was the case. It was. The small shop was filled with books, books, and more books. Piles and stacks EVERYWHERE. There were boats filled with books and old nautical decor hanging up. When I made it back to the children's books, I was shocked to see a canal right outside the back door! It was unbelievable! I made it out of the store with a couple of children's books and a free bookmark from the shop owner who loved me and Marianna!

We had the chance to take water buses to the islands of Murano and Burano during our time in Venice. Murano is the island where the famous Murano glass is made. You can practically buy it anywhere in Italy. It was a quiet little island because it was a Sunday, but we got to go into a few stores, walk the streets, and purchase a few pieces of jewelry. My FAVORITE of the two was Burano. When I got off the water bus, I was a little skeptical--but when I turned the corner, I could hardly believe my eyes! Every home and store was painted a bright color! It was beautiful! Burano is mostly a residential island, but it is known for its lace. We saw several locals cleaning and hanging laundry. I just could not get over that people actually live there. It is like a fairy tale.

Venice was a great city! It was wonderful to not see a car for three days! What a concept! I loved all the nooks and crannies of the Venetian streets. So magical. I would definitely like to go back someday!

On Tuesday, we said arrivederci to Venice and buongiorno to Rome! I was excited to be back to Rome since our summer trip to Tuscany in 2004. It was weird not to be with Mom, but I was looking forward to seeing Sara Beth at the end of the week.

We arrived at the hotel in late afternoon, so we had some time to get unpacked and see a bit of Rome. Our first day, we were able to hit many of the major landmarks of Rome since our hotel was within walking distance of them all. We headed to the Trevi Fountain, ate some pizza from the Pizzeria Trevi (YUM!), and walked to the Coliseum where we took lots of pictures! It was a beautiful sunny day, so we took definitely took advantage of it! We saw the Pantheon and lots of the major piazzas along the way. It was a great first day in Rome--I couldn't believe all the places we had already made it to!

Of the next two days, we went inside the Coliseum, to the Museo di Roma, the Museo di Roma in Trastevere, and the Vatican City where we went into Saint Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. We also made it to the Spanish Steps on another sunny day and enjoyed people-watching and taking pictures. Just like Venice, we felt like we became really familiar with the city and how to get places (we took the metro several times). We even discovered an AWESOME gelateria with over 40 gelato flavors made right there in the back of the shop. I think everyday we were in Rome, we went there. :) My favorite flavors included: Raspberry and Cherry. Nutella and Stracciatella were definitely runners-up.

On Friday, I got to go to Ariccia and see my sister!!! It was SO wonderful getting to see her and her new "home." Although it was rainy, it was beautiful. Such a quaint and charming Italian town. The old women would wave at Sara Beth and say, "Ciao, Bella!" It was so cute! We had dinner at a local pizzeria, which was also great. We were the only ones in the restaurant at 7:00 at night but that's okay--We had great service!

Then on Saturday, Sara Beth came to Rome for the day! We met at the Spanish Steps and went shopping (of course)! It was a lot of fun to be together! What a blessing that it could work out because I was really needing my sister after a month in Europe! (I can't believe I've been here for over a month now! WOW!)

We got back to Berlin late afternoon on Sunday. We were exhausted from all our adventures but had such a fun time on our winter break! Now, it's back to school with LOTS of planning and teaching to do! Ancient Greece, Geometry, and Literature Circles--here I come!