Archives For Germany

Germany, ink doodles

Bonhoeffer Sites, Berlin: ink doodles

I stood in the street and looked around me. The day was gray and misty, the sidewalks busy, the traffic heavy. A few barricades protected me where I stood, and l spun slowly around, taking in the panorama. I stood on a mismatched stripe of stones, running straight through the city. I murmured the name of the city to myself, “Berlin.” I was standing in Berlin, on the spot where the Berlin Wall once divided the city, and essentially the country.

Growing up in the ’80s, and taking German for four years in high school, Berlin is familiar to me…the one name brings with it trails of information, history and images. And now I stood in the middle of Berlin.

We stood in front of the Reichstag, with the German flags flying. We stood in front of the huge Brandenburg Gate. We visited the Pergamon Museum, eating a sack lunch among the columns riddled with old wounds from bullets and shrapnel. We wandered through the strange, high blocks of the Holocaust Memorial, passed Checkpoint Charlie and sections of the Berlin Wall. We heard a lone musician play guitar in the peeling, echoing space of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s church and walked through lines of birch trees to Bonhoeffer’s memorial in a Berlin cemetery. And we stood in line at a souvenir shop, being bullied back by a gaggle of elderly French women, making us late for the rendezvous at the pink bus (sorry fellow travelers).

The Pergamon Museum was a maze of incredible, ancient treasures.

Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum, marker & ink doodle

Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum, marker & ink doodle


The moment that sticks with me most from Berlin was the surprising emotions and images evoked by the Holocaust Memorial:

June 19, 2014

“At first it just looked like a bunch of stone blocks. It seemed less than impressive. As you begin walking through, the ground dips down in rolling, thin paths, as the cold gray slabs grow taller. Sound is echoing and muffled and you begin to feel small, insignificant, lost, trapped…It’s so quiet. You see people pass in front of you and then disappear, swallowed up. You weave your way back and forth among the tall pillars, and finally begin rising out as the ground steeps and the blocks shrink. A beautiful, surprising monument to a time when so many disappeared, swallowed up, and so many felt lost, cold and afraid. When you emerge, you remember the survivors who found freedom and escape, and rekindle hope that such evil will be prevented as we learn lessons from the past.” 

Reichstag & Holocaust Memorial, ink doodles with colored pencil

Reichstag & Holocaust Memorial, ink doodles with colored pencil


In our big pink bus, we travelled to Wittenberg, famed as the spot where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church, becoming a major turning point in the Protestant Reformation.

Wittenberg, GermanyIn another beautiful, peaceful, medieval German town, we toured Luther’s house, saw Luther chocolate (?), Luther monuments, and even ate a “Luther Meal”:

“We ate some pork, beef and chicken with wine sauce, vegetables from ‘Katie’s Garden’ (carrots, turnips and parsnips), mashed peas, brown bread with mustard, apple dumpling, and of course wine. We ate and drank out of cool ceramic goblets and plates.” -journal excerpt

By the end, we’d had our fill of Martin Luther.

Martin Luther, ink sketch

Martin Luther, ink sketch

Though characterized as “the father of the Reformation,” and without question a highly important figure in church history, Luther was a real jerk sometimes. He said a lot of rotten stuff, and did a lot of rotten stuff. But he also worked hard to affect real change, real reforms that were definitely needed. He stood strong against corruption and didn’t give in to serious opposition. He was a real person, mixed with good and bad, and he made a place in history by working for what he believed was good and right.

As a side note, I have to share that we walked down some stairs and peered through a hole in a stone wall, looking at a mirror to see a reflection of Martin Luther’s toilet. Oh yes. I saw his loo, his WC. He apparently, like so many of us, did a lot of brainstorming in the bathroom. Don’t judge.




Erfurt, GermanyThe city of Erfurt makes me want to move to Germany.

Rich with history and beauty – we passed a house by the river that had a building date of 1328! – but on the cutting edge of modern eco-responsiblity, the place seemed perfectly beautiful, perfectly peaceful, quiet and lovely.

Flowers dripping out of window boxes, cobbled streets brushed clean, running rivers crossing under bridges, bicycles and solar panels…everywhere you look, there was beauty. It felt a bit like IKEA covered in flowers…responsible living, tidy and organized, no space wasted, no space ugly.

As we walked, we came upon a medieval bridge with perfectly crooked houses that people still inhabited. We turned down the street to look between the buildings, and saw rows of colorful umbrellas strung high across the tops, floating down the strip of sky.

We turned out of another pathway of winding streets, surprised to be standing in a huge open square with a gorgeous cathedral planted in its center, shining golden in the evening light.

Magnificent. It makes you feel good to be alive. It encourages me to live more responsibly in my place.

Erfurt & Eisleben, Germany: colored pencil & ink doodles

Erfurt & Eisleben, Germany: colored pencil & ink doodles

Traveling Doodle SuppliesI’ve never been to Germany before. It is one of the most beautiful, peaceful and clean places I’ve ever been. We drove around the country on a big pink tour bus. All of my drawings from the trip were drawn on buses, trains or planes, making for some bumpy doodling. I decided any stray marks or wiggly lines just add character.

For my travel doodles, I carried a sturdy new notebook that would fit in my small bag, a set of 4 Staedtler ink pens, a small set of Faber-Castell PITT artist pens (brush markers), and a small box of Prismacolor Art Stix (woodless colored pencils). Everyday I watched for things to catch my eye, I tried to discover the essence of each place, recording my findings on my blank white pages.

Here are my first impressions of this beautiful country:

June 17, 2014

“In Mainz we walked up quiet streets, passing stacks of bikes, elderly couples holding hands or walking dogs, families with little kids trotting down the cobbled streets. The streets were canopied in beautiful trees with large leaves and smooth bark. Decorative white buildings with red roofs surround our walk. We passed an outdoor market filled with flowers and caught the smell of fresh fish.

At Wartburg Castle, we wound our way up the steep hill past mossy rocks and cheerful daisies to the white-washed walls crossed with thick wooden beams, ancient archways, white doves, cool breezes, and a high view of the German landscape. Sunlight danced on the rolling green fields, the many clusters of villages with their white walls and rust-colored roofs, the dark trees lining and dotting the land, and the huge wind turbines towering over the little towns with their giant, spinning arms.”

"Germany", marker & ink doodle

“Germany”, marker & ink doodle

"In flight", colored pencil & ink doodle

“In flight”, colored pencil & ink doodle

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” -Frances E. Willard

A week out from a transforming experience, I’ve recovered from jet lag, spent time with my kids, sorted out things missed at work, uploaded photos, and let the adventures rest in my mind. Two weeks in Europe, touring, learning and changing, with a group of 30, thanks to the generosity of family, travels never cease to change a life. In order to cement memories, absorb lessons into my life, and recount my journey through words and art, I’m sharing my daily doodles, journal excerpts and reflections in small bites over the next few weeks.

As with all great journeys, mine starts with leaving one place to go to another.

Equipped with lots of hugs and kisses from my kids, a packed bag, and a tidy stack of traveling art supplies, we headed to the airport in Atlanta, headed for Germany. Ready to experience and discover, always growing and seeking to move forward, reforming and becoming better in order to do my part to better the world.

June 16, 2014

“With the roar of the jet engine ringing in my ear, and the bright sun streaming in through the oval window, we zoom above the puffy clouds towards Germany. Sitting by the window, looking down on the patches of trees, snake-like streets and glimmering drops of lakes, our journey begins.

The engine drowns out the sounds of the mother in front of me. It muffles the conversation of the parts seller who builds his own motorcycles. It blankets the woman clutching her rosary in an unknown fear or grief. It lights the spirit of adventure that makes my heart skip, taking us high from the ground and letting us soar through the blue sky to new places, new people, new experiences. 

Below us, a mountain range of clouds, a landscape made of cotton…

A ribbon of rainbow streaked across the sky as the sun begins to set over the wide ocean.

Dozing in and out of a quickly passing night and into morning, I look down to see the sun rising like a jewel on a blanket of ripples like sheep’s wool. Clouds like an ocean of foam blanketing the sea.”

Germany, ink doodles