Christmastime in Hawaii

If you’ve read any of my recent posts on the different characters of the various Hawaiian islands, you’ll know that’s where I spent the run up to Christmas last year. Yet of all the strange and wonderful things I saw while in Hawaii, some of the oddest were things that should have been completely familiar.

I mean, what’s more normal at Christmastime than snowmen, or Santa or Christmas trees?

But snowmen under palm trees decorated with Christmas lights can take a little getting used to. Especially when everyone around you is wearing shorts!

So here are a few shots of how Hawaiians get into the Christmas spirit.

Rich & Sue with the Christmas tree in the lobby of our hotel on Kauai

Rich & Sue with the Christmas tree in the lobby of our hotel on Kauai

Santa & Mrs Claus cooling off outside Honolulu City Hall

Santa & Mrs Claus cooling off outside Honolulu City Hall

Christmas trees and palm trees outside Honolulu City Hall - it's a strange combination!

Christmas trees and palm trees outside Honolulu City Hall – it’s a strange combination!

Inside Honolulu City Hall

Inside Honolulu City Hall

Inside Honolulu City Hall - can you spot me?

Inside Honolulu City Hall – can you spot me?

Christmas wishes on a tree inside Honolulu City Hall

Christmas wishes on a tree inside Honolulu City Hall

'Mele Kalikimaka' means 'Merry Christmas' in Hawaiian

‘Mele Kalikimaka’ means ‘Merry Christmas’ in Hawaiian

Honolulu Elf Train

Honolulu Elf Train

Snowmen in the tropics!

Snowmen in the tropics!

Mele Kalikimaka!

Mele Kalikimaka!

Park near City Hall in Downtown Honolulu

Park near City Hall in downtown Honolulu

Christmas tree decoration on a building in downtown Honolulu

Christmas tree decoration on a building in downtown Honolulu

Christmas tree aboard the USS Bowfin, Pearl Harbor

Christmas tree aboard the USS Bowfin, Pearl Harbor

Flawed sign near Lahaina, Maui - those aren't Christmas trees!

Flawed sign near Lahaina, Maui – those aren’t Christmas trees!

Christmas coconuts we posted (with no packaging) to Rich & Sue's nephews from Hoolehua, Molokai

Christmas coconuts we posted (with no packaging) to Rich & Sue’s nephews from Hoolehua, Molokai

Even Santa likes to check out Waikiki Beach when he's on Oahu!

Even Santa likes to check out Waikiki Beach when he’s on Oahu!

If you’re longing to spend Christmas on a tropical Hawaiian beach, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

 

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Chicago Skyscrapers

I’ve been to Chicago twice, and it remains one of my top North American cities. There’s so much to see and do there: Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo, go see the Cubs or the White Sox, the Field Museum, the Shed Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium… I could go on.

Panorama of the Chicago skyline from the Shed Aquarium (left) to Navy Pier (right)

Panorama of the Chicago skyline from the Shed Aquarium (left) to Navy Pier (right)

But my favourite thing about Chicago has to be its skyscrapers. To start with, their sheer massiveness amazes me. And they’re such a diverse range of shapes and sizes.

The Chicago skyline reflected in Cloud Gate - aka The Bean (August 2009)

The Chicago skyline reflected in Cloud Gate – aka The Bean (August 2009)

Skyscrapers from the Chicago River

Skyscrapers from the Chicago River, including the Trump tower (tall silver building left of centre), the Wrigley Building (clock tower right of centre) and the Tribune Tower (June 2003)

IMG_2692Perhaps predictably, my favourite of all Chicago’s skyscrapers is the Willis Tower. When I first saw it in 2003, it was still known as the Sears Tower, and to be honest that’s still how I think of it. Completed in 1974, the Sears/Willis Tower remained the tallest building in the world, until it was succeeded by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in 2010.

The Sears Tower (June 2003)

The Sears Tower (June 2003)

On my first visit, I don’t know what impressed me most. Standing on the sidewalk, staring up at the black monolith soaring 1451 feet into the air above me? Or looking down on all the other Chicago skyscrapers from the Skydeck on its 103rd floor (out of 108)?

Looking north-east from the Sears Tower Skydeck (June 2003)

Looking north-east from the Sears Tower Skydeck (June 2003)

Looking down from the Skydeck (June 2003) - Does anyone know the name of this building?

Looking down from the Skydeck (June 2003) – Does anyone know the name of this building?

As is always the case with observation platforms, the only problem with the view from the Skydeck is that a crucial part of the Chicago skyline is missing… the Sears/Willis Tower itself! We solved that particular issue by also ascending to the observation deck of the John Hancock Center (now known as 360 Chicago, but previously simply called the Observatory), which itself is over 1000 feet above the ground.

The black building with the double antennas is the John Hancock Center (June 2003)

The black building with the double antennas is the John Hancock Center (June 2003)

Looking south from the John Hancock Center's Observatory (now 360 Chicago)  - the Sears Tower is in the distance on the right (June 2003)

Looking south from the John Hancock Center’s Observatory (now 360 Chicago)
- the Sears Tower is in the distance on the right (June 2003)

I returned to Chicago in August 2009, coincidentally less than a month after the Sears Tower was renamed the Willis Tower. Yet for me, a far more exciting change to the building since my last visit was the addition of three glass boxes that jut out from the Skydeck.

The Willis Tower (August 2009) - look carefully and you can see the glass boxes of the Ledge near the top on the left

The Willis Tower (August 2009) – look carefully and you can see the glass boxes of the Ledge near the top on the left

There they are...

There they are…

I can tell you, stepping out onto the glass floors of these boxes (unofficially known as the Ledge), 1353 feet above the sidewalk, gave me a severe case of the heebeegeebees. But boy, what a view!

Me and Sue in one of the Ledge boxes, taken by Rich in one of the others (August 2009)

Me and Sue in one of the Ledge boxes, taken by Rich in one of the others (August 2009)

It's a long way down - 1353 feet, to be precise (August 2009)

It’s a long way down – 1353 feet, to be precise (August 2009)

This post was inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which this week is City Structures.

(Apologies for the fact the 2003 photos are scans.)

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Oahu, Hawaii’s Gathering Place

Each of the Hawaiian islands has its own distinct character, I was told. And this time last year, I discovered for myself that this is indeed true. I began my Hawaiian adventure on Kauai, the Garden Island, before continuing on to Molokai, the Friendly Island, then Maui, the Valley Island, and the Big Island of Hawaii itself. My fabulous time in the Pacific culminated with three days on Oahu, the Gathering Place.

When we were initially planning our trip, we were advised that the island we needed the least time on was Oahu. We were basically told there was Pearl Harbor and downtown Honolulu, and that was about it. Sadly, we followed this advice, and ended up wishing we’d had more time on this beautiful island.

IMG_8735Oahu comes by its nickname of the Gathering Place honestly. It’s certainly the most urbanised of the Hawaiian Islands. In many ways, the greater Honolulu area is similar to other American cities, although it still maintains a uniquely Hawaiian character. That said, far more of Oahu retains an idyllic tropical island feel than I’d expected.

We were excited to discover the International Marketplace, one of Oahu’s most notable gathering places, was right beside our hotel in Waikiki. Rich’s dad had been there almost fifty years earlier and had encouraged us to see it for ourselves. Imagine our shock when we learned that we’d only just made it in time, and that we would be among the last to visit it, as this historic location was to be demolished only days after we were there.

Gone but not forgotten, Waikiki's International Market Place

Gone but not forgotten, Waikiki’s International Market Place

IMG_8363

Local craftsman at the International Market Place

Local craftsman at the International Market Place

I’m not one for lying about on beaches. This planet has way too many other interesting and exciting distractions to offer. Even so, how could you stay in Waikiki and not go to the beach? Especially to watch the sunset.

IMG_8847

Waikiki at sunset

Waikiki at sunset

Waikiki Beach parking lot

Waikiki Beach parking lot

Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki Beach

Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki Beach

With limited time available, on our first full day we naturally made a beeline for the item at the top of our Oahu Bucket List: Pearl Harbor. Again following others’ advice, which this time was sound, we arrived early to pick up our pre-booked tickets out to the USS Arizona Memorial and were rewarded by getting on an earlier boat. As it turned out, this was a huge stroke of luck, since lightening storms and torrential downpours caused transfers out to the memorial to be cancelled for the rest of day, long before the time of our original shuttle.

Soggy Shaka on the USS Bowfin submarine, Pearl Harbor

Soggy Shaka on the USS Bowfin submarine, Pearl Harbor

Our time at the Arizona Memorial was an incredibly moving experience. It was heartbreaking to see the ship just below the surface, the grave of so many young sailors, still bleeding oil after all these years.

Inside the USS Arizona Memorial

Inside the USS Arizona Memorial

The USS Arizona from inside the Memorial

The USS Arizona from inside the Memorial

Arizona Bleeding

Arizona Bleeding

The Arizona Memorial

The Arizona Memorial

Despite visiting the Arizona first thing in the morning, we were still hard-pressed to explore all the exhibits that make up the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites. I could have spent a whole day aboard the USS Missouri alone.

Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor

Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor

Aboard the USS Missouri

Aboard the USS Missouri

As it turned out, our visit to the Missouri coincided with the TV screening of an episode of Hawaii Five-0 that had been partially filmed aboard this historic battleship. And this wasn’t the only filming location came across on Oahu. In Honolulu we saw the building that doubles as the Five-0 headquarters, while on the North Shore we visited two of the major locations from the TV show Lost.

Ali'iolani Hale (aka home of Hawaii Five-O!) and King Kamehameha statue, Honolulu

Ali’iolani Hale (aka home of Hawaii Five-O!) and King Kamehameha statue, Honolulu

Oahu North Shore: view towards Ka'ena Point from the Lost crash site

Oahu North Shore: view towards Ka’ena Point from the Lost crash site

Oahu North Shore: "Othersville" from the TV show Lost

Oahu North Shore: “Othersville” from the TV show Lost

We only had one evening in downtown Honolulu, which meant that sadly, most of the attractions were closed. I would have particularly loved to see inside the ʻIolani Palace, the only royal palace in the USA. Next door stands the Hawaiian Capitol Building, which I have since realised was only my fourth US Capitol, despite Hawaii being my 50th state.

ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu

ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu

Hawaiian Capitol Building

Hawaiian Capitol Building

It was strange to see Honolulu all dressed up in Christmas decorations, but I’ll save going into that for my Christmas Day post.

Sneak peek: Hawaiian Christmas - come back next week for a full post!

Sneak peek: Hawaiian Christmas – come back next week for a full post!

Of the things I definitely wanted to do while on Oahu, hiking Diamond Head was second only to visiting Pearl Harbor. And I wasn’t disappointed. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always been fascinated with volcanoes, so the chance to trek up the rim of this famous crater was not to be missed.

Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater

Waikiki and Honolulu from Diamond Head

Waikiki and Honolulu from Diamond Head

The Punchbowl is another volcanic crater on the outskirts of Honolulu. It houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. We took a short walk around this solemn place and saw moving memorials to people, many of whom lost their lives before their time.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, inside Punchbowl crater

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, inside Punchbowl crater

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: Lt Col Onizuka, one of the Challenger astronauts

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: Lt Col Onizuka, one of the Challenger astronauts

You don’t have to visit a cemetery to get away from the bustle of Honolulu. A drive around the coast will take you past secluded bays and isolated headlands.

Portlock Spitting Cave

Portlock Spitting Cave

Makapu'u Point

Makapu’u Point

While Oahu might be a gathering place for people, the whole of Hawaii attracts humpback whales during the breeding season, which begins in late December. Unfortunately, we were there a little too early, and the only whale of our trip was seen from at a distance one of Oahu’s headlands.

A Humpback whale off Makapu'u Point

A Humpback whale off Makapu’u Point

We found more peace and quiet at the Boyodo-In Temple on the west side of the island. This beautiful Buddhist Temple is so authentically Japanese it has been used as a backdrop to movies supposedly set in Japan itself, including the latest Wolverine installment.

Boyodo-In Temple

Boyodo-In Temple

What trip to Hawaii would be complete without catching some waves? Or at least watching other people catching waves. The North Shore of Oahu is a world class gathering place for surfers. It was amazing to watch them conquer the daunting rollers armed only with a fibreglass plank.

Oahu North Shore: surfers at Banzai pipeline

Oahu North Shore: surfers at Banzai pipeline

IMG_9000It’s kind of fitting that the last thing we did on our final evening on Oahu is find the oldest Hawaiian geocache. Finding the cache was great, but the view we got looking down on Pearl Harbour on the way back to the car was even better.

Looking down on Pearl Harbor from near Hawaii's oldest geocache

Looking down on Pearl Harbor from near Hawaii’s oldest geocache

Turns out there’s so much more to Oahu than just Pearl Harbor and downtown Honolulu. In the end, I was disappointed to have had such a short time there. We rushed around and saw a lot, but I could have easily spent another week. Hopefully this means that Hawaii, like so many other places I visit, won’t be a once in a lifetime destination after all.

While you’re dreaming of gathering together with friends on Oahu, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Las Vegas at Night

I don’t do gambling. I just don’t get it. But Las Vegas is a pretty spectacular place, as long as you don’t look too deeply. Especially at night, when the yellow and gold lights of the Strip shine out across the desert.

IMG_4849 FIMG_4867 FIMG_4876 FIMG_4868IMG_4871 FIMG_4861 FIMG_4887 FIMG_4845IMG_4901 FIMG_4900This post was inspired by the themes Golden from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Yellow from Krista (of The Daily Post).

While you’re longing for the golden glitz of the Las Vegas strip, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

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Badlands National Park, South Dakota

After driving endless miles across the plains of South Dakota, the ground suddenly drops away. Seconds ago the grassland landscape rolled gently…

Buffalo Gap, South Dakota

Buffalo Gap, South Dakota

The stuff that looks like ice and snow is in fact... ice and snow - we were there in February!

The stuff that looks like ice and snow is in fact… ice and snow – we were there in February!

…Now the ground on either side of the road is carved away in an continuous series of deep, steep-sided gullies. You’ve just entered the Badlands.

Welcome to the Badlands

Welcome to the Badlands

Grasslands give way to Badlands

Grasslands give way to Badlands

One of the first things you notice about the Badlands, is how the sides of the gullies are made up of horizontal bands: cemented sediments that accumulated over millions of years. The varying colours and thickness of these sediments represent different periods of geological history.

My first view out across the Badlands

My first view out across the Badlands

The red and yellow colours result from the presence of oxidized iron

The red and yellow colours result from the presence of oxidized iron

For over half a billion years, what are today the Great Plains and Prairies of Central North America were at the bottom of a shallow inland sea. Over that entire time, sediments gradually collected on the sea’s bed, resulting in layered deposits thousands of feet thick. Around 69 million years ago, the sea drained and its former floor became vast, flat plains.

IMG_1381IMG_1383But that wasn’t the end of the story. Other geological agents – such as rivers, the wind and glaciers – took over the depositional duties, and the plains continued to accumulate sediments. Then, around 5 to 10 million years ago, erosional forces started to replace depositional ones.

Can you tell it was cold and windy during our visit?

Can you tell it was cold and windy during our visit?

IMG_1387Even so, the Badlands of South Dakota didn’t truly begin forming until about half a million years ago. The blink of an eye in geological terms. At that time, streams and rivers from Black Hills were captured by the Cheyenne River, and started cutting away at the sediments their predecessors had deposited in this area.

The trees down in the gully give a sense of scale

The trees down in the gully give a sense of scale

IMG_1391The sediments visible in the Badlands of South Dakota represent roughly the last 75 million years of these processes, right the way back to the final days of the inland sea.

Standing on a former seabed - at the base of the Badlands escarpment

Standing on a former seabed – at the base of the Badlands escarpment

Some layers are harder than others, and so erode at different rates, producing features such as this toadstool

Some layers are harder than others, and so erode at different rates, producing features such as this toadstool

Today the Dakota Badlands are eroding at an average rate of one inch per year. Which means that in another half a million years or so, they will have eroded themselves into extinction. So go see them while you still can!

IMG_1410IMG_1412Originally established as a National Monument in 1939, it’s unsurprising the Badlands were promoted to National Park status in 1978. Once seen, the Badlands of South Dakota truly are an unforgettable landscape.

IMG_1418

Stitched panorama

Stitched panorama

This post was inspired by this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which is Landscapes and Seascapes.

Another Badlands landscape - a prairie dog town

Another Badlands landscape – a prairie dog town

Ooops! I think we've been spotted!

Ooops! I think we’ve been spotted!

While you’re still mesmerized by the dramatic landscapes of Dakota’s Badlands, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Hawaii’s Big Island

Welcome to the penultimate part in my series about the differing characters of the five Hawaiian islands I was lucky enough to visit this time last year. So far I’ve dealt with the tropical lushness of Kauai, the Garden Island, the rural peacefulness of Molokai, the Friendly Island, and the diversity of Maui, the Valley Island.

Today it’s the turn of Hawai’i itself, the Big Island. From the moment you land at Kona Airport, with its runway carved from a black lava flow, everything about Hawai’i screams VOLCANO!

Landing at Kona airport

Landing at Kona airport

In the centre of the Big Island are the twin monsters of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which both rise to over 13,600 feet above sea level. In fact, by mass and volume Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth. And if you were to measure Mauna Kea from its base on the ocean floor, it would be more than twice as tall as Mount Everest.

Mauna Kea poking above the clouds

Mauna Kea poking above the clouds

Rainbow over Mauna Kea

Rainbow over Mauna Kea

Between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea runs the scenic Saddle Road. Many guide books and websites still describe this as a partially unpaved and potentially hazardous route. But take it from me, nothing could be further from the truth these days, and the Saddle Road is worth the drive for its own sake.

Early morning mist streams over one of the volcanic cones along the Saddle Road

Early morning mist streams over one of the volcanic cones along the Saddle Road

During our week on the Big Island, we quite literally explored it from its northernmost tip to its southernmost point. And still left behind so many things to do on our next visit. :-)

Looking down on the Wiapi'o Valley near the northern end of the Big Island

Looking down on the Wiapi’o Valley near the northern end of the Big Island

Staring south from the Southernmost Point on Hawaii, and in the USA as a whole

Staring south from the Southernmost Point on Hawaii, and in the USA as a whole

Hawai’i is rich in cultural history. The island is dotted with ancient heiaus (native Hawaiian temples). And during our time there, we got to see no fewer than three different sets of petroglyphs.

Heiau at Koloko-Honakohau Historical Park

Heiau at Koloko-Honakohau Historical Park

Puako Petroglyphs

Puako Petroglyphs

Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, off Chain of Craters Road

Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, off Chain of Craters Road

I’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins, but I decided several years ago that I didn’t want to do it in a glorified swimming pool. On the Big Island my dream came true, when I got to swim with completely wild Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins in Kailua Bay.

Wild dolphins everywhere!

Wild dolphins everywhere!

Sue making friends

Sue making friends

To make the occasion even more special, later that day, when darkness fell, I had the opportunity to also swim with wild manta rays, my favourite fish ever!

A manta ray appears out of the darkness

A manta ray appears out of the darkness

A close fly-by!

A close fly-by!

My experiences with the dolphins and manta rays alone would have made the trip to Hawai’i worthwhile. But like I already said, the island itself is all about the volcanoes, something I’m luckily utterly fascinated with. You can’t move on the Big Island without encountering a lava flow. Many of them looked like they formed just yesterday. Some of them really did form yesterday!

Out hiking (and geocaching) a lava flow near our hotel

Out hiking (and geocaching) a lava flow near our hotel

Sunset over a lava flow (this photo reminds me of my home in the Serengeti)

Sunset over a lava flow (this photo reminds me of my home in the Serengeti)

And I still can’t believe I got the chance to see a lava flow forming before my very eyes… from a helicopter… with no doors! We got so close I could feel the heat from the molten rock and smell the burning trees. (Read more in my post, Hot Helicopters Over Hawai’i.) And although our visit frustratingly coincided with a brief lull in volcanic activity (there was no lava flowing into the sea when we were there), it was still totally incredible.

Lava devouring trees

Lava devouring trees

Oozing lava

Oozing lava

Red hot shakka!

Red hot shakka!

I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but my personal impression was that the further south you go on the Big Island, the bleaker it gets, as you get closer to one of the most volcanically active areas on the entire planet. At the heart of Volcanoes National Park is the immense caldera of Kilauea, which reminded me of a crater on the Moon (even though they result from very different processes).

Kilauea caldera

Kilauea caldera

Halema’uma’u crater within Kilauea caldera

Halema’uma’u Crater within Kilauea Caldera

Following Chain of Craters Road down the flanks of Kilauea, past one volcanic vent after another, across any number of lava flows that formed within living memory, was indescribable.

The Devil's Throat pit crater, along Chain of Craters Road

The Devil’s Throat pit crater, along Chain of Craters Road

Lava flows seen from Chain of Craters Road

Lava flows seen from Chain of Craters Road

And witnessing lava sitting atop asphalt at the truncated End of the Road was simply surreal.

Lava on asphalt

Lava on asphalt

No kidding?! (this sign was actually placed here before lava engulfed it)

No kidding?! (this sign was actually placed here before lava engulfed it)

Although seeing the Halema’uma’u Crater, in the centre of Kilauea’s caldera, glowing orange at sunset from the magma within was even more mind-blowing!

Sunset over Halema’uma’u Crater

Sunset over Halema’uma’u Crater

A peek into the Underworld!

A peek into the Underworld!

While you’re wide-eyed about the fiery wonders of the Big Island of Hawai’i, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

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Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

The Berlin Wall was once one of the world’s foremost representations of oppression and segregation. From the moment construction began in 1961, it embodied the division of Germany, Europe and the world, literally and symbolically.

The final version of the Wall, with which we are all familiar, was completed in 1980, encircling West Berlin in a 12-foot-high concrete ring. It stood within a no-man’s-land, roughly 100 yards wide, cheerfully known as the Death Strip.

At the Berlin Wall (December, 2011)

At the Berlin Wall (December, 2011)

One point along the Berlin Wall’s 87 miles stood out as a particular icon of the struggle between East and West: Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing point between the two halves of the city.

Yet in November 1989, history did an about-face, and literally overnight the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie became symbols of reconciliation and freedom.

As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, I actually lived in Germany for a year, between 2002 and 2003. Bizarrely, however, I never made it to Berlin, despite living less than 180 miles away, in the former Eastern part of the country. (I can’t imaging making the same mistake nowadays!) Thankfully, during Christmastime 2011, I corrected my oversight.

Berlin is a wonderful city and I really enjoyed my time there. As usual, we raced around, cramming in as many of the sights as possible. Yet one of my strongest memories of Germany’s capital is of the wonderful Christmas Tree at Checkpoint Charlie. Each of its cheerful, twinkling lights was like a tiny beacon of hope and unity, on a spot once synonymous with partition and mistrust.

Checkpoint Charlie: where there was once a fence is now a Christmas Tree

Checkpoint Charlie: where there was once a fence is now a Christmas Tree

At Checkpoint Charlie (December, 2011)

At Checkpoint Charlie (December, 2011)

My friend Penny (who lived through World War II and all that followed) visits Checkpoint Charlie for the first time (New Year's Day, 2012)

My friend Penny (who lived through World War II and all that followed) visits Checkpoint Charlie for the first time (New Year’s Day, 2012)

This post was inspired by the themes Freedom from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Twinkle from Jen (of The Daily Post).

While you’re considering all that Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall have symbolised over the years, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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