Tag Archives: Richard Romain

Our visit to Germany and Poland

17 Nov
The remnants of the Berlin Wall

Our four days in Berlin

What a city! Our first time in Berlin and a whole new experience. As we had been born in 1949, we’d been on the sidelines of the aftermath of the second world war. Anything we knew about Berlin had come from the media and from reading Le Carré spy stories. To help us with our visit we had purchased a book in English which described the conditions whilst Berlin was divided between the allies and the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany).

The public transport system is superb. And cheap! You can purchase an all day ticket for €7 which you can use on any buses, trams, underground or Berlin overground train. Perfect for exploring. And when we were too tired to travel by public transport we used Uber to get us around.

We stayed in a small apartment to the north of the city (in the former East German sector). We found this through AirBnB and paid €65 a night. Warm and comfortable and very close to the bus, tram and train lines.

Like in any big city there was a profusion of restaurants catering for any taste. We discovered a small chain of restaurants offering Thai soups and noodles. Excellent for lunchtime, as the weather wasn’t that good – mainly cloudy, rainy and quite cold at times.

We spent a morning at the famous Berlin Zoo – we visited the Panda enclosure but were not able to see the newly-born Pandas. The zoo is impressive and well managed. There were a large number of employees looking after the animals and the grounds. Sadly most of the eating places were closed and only opened at weekends. So we left at lunchtime to keep body and soul together.

In the afternoon we visited the Berlin Technical Museum and had a good mooch round the old trains on display. We didn’t have time to do much else but the museum is well worth a longer visit.

Our first visit to East Germany

Görlitz is as close to Poland as you can get! In fact the town is separated from its Polish counterpart by a river (the Lusatian Neisse). Crossing the border is a matter of walking over a bridge – as simple as that!

The town of Görlitz is superb. It’s known for its well-preserved old town, where buildings of different eras show off a wealth of architectural styles. St. Peter’s is a late-Gothic church, with 2 steeples and the early-18th-century Sun Organ. The early-Renaissance Schönhof and adjacent buildings are home to the Silesian Museum, displaying German, Polish and Czech art and history. Görlitz is one of the few German cities that were spared from destructive allied bombing raids during World War 2. As a result it is much in demand as a film location.

We were amongst a party of 12 people from the Saint Louis choir of Carcassonne. We’d been invited by our counterparts (The Bach Choir of Görlitz) to sing Brahms’s German Requiem at their local church (Kreuzkirche). Both choirs had been rehearsing in their respective towns and the first time we’d sung this piece together was the Friday before the concert on the Saturday.

Our first visit to Poland

En route from Görlitz to Wroclaw

The combined choirs of Görlitz and Choeur Saint Louis Carcassonne traveled by two coaches to Wroclaw (about 165 kms from Zgorzelec (which is the name of the Polish part of Görlitz).

We then performed Brahms’ German Requiem at St Maximilian Kolbe in front of a huge audience (for a church) who seemed very appreciative. The priest gave a long speech in Polish but no one understood what he said! After we were given supper – Polish sausage and sauerkraut plus cakes!

A New Venture

6 Oct

Since we moved to France we have learnt new skills, a new language and a different way of life. Probably one of the biggest and most difficult transitions being learning to be retired. Fortunately we moved to a place which requires a lot of labour, creativity and interpersonal skills while living and working in an international, frequently changing community. Besides learning French (Richard has had a shorter journey than me with this), we’ve also learnt about Nonviolent Communication (NVC). I prefer to call it compassionate communication as this better describes what it is about. This is also a long journey and a transition because it questions our habits and thought processes. I’m not about to go into describing this in any detail as this is not the purpose of this blog but necessary to understand why we are doing what we are doing.

During this journey Richard continued to improve his French by having weekly Skype calls with his teacher Pam Bel. As I started from a much lower level, I used the internet and a program called Memrise. I’m also teaching English to the French in Montolieu and in Carcassonne.  We’ve both attended several workshops in NVC. Recently Pam decided to retire after having written several short books on France and the French and asked Richard if he would like to sell off her stock of books at much reduced prices.

Meanwhile during this year’s European Intensive Course (EIC) in NVC, one of the trainers Liv Larsson brought several of her NVC books with her to sell during the course. These books are written in English and she asked me if I would like to help her to sell them during the 10 day course. I sold most of her stock. The course is in English due to the wide variety of nationalities present and uses interpreters to translate into French.

As many of the NVC trainers have written books it was decided to begin promoting NVC books in French on the NVC Peace Factory website. So we were also given a stock of NVC books in French, quite a few of which we sold during the course.  We live in the village of Montolieu, which is known as the village of books, so can you guess what our new venture might be?

Yes, we are going to sell books through the internet!!  At present we have stocks of very useful English books about living in or visiting France and books in French about NVC. We also have books in German which are currently being translated into English and French.

As this blog is written in English we are promoting the books on France and the French first. We think they will appeal to people who have homes in France or travel to France frequently for holidays or work or for students learning French or even the teachers who teach French to English speakers.

We have read many of them and will finish reading them all during our stay in the UK and have found them to be very readable and interesting even though we live in France and have done so now for five and a half years.

Here is a link to the synopsis of each book.