I am innocent…


Last weekend was my daughter’s 21st birthday trip. I had offered to take her on a trip somewhere fun…you know, like Vegas, New York, or New Orleans. Nope. Not my kid. She wanted to go to Salem (Massachusetts, outside of Boston). Even the customs official on the way home thought that was weird.

She wanted to go because I’ve been there a few times before, as has my best friend. My daughter is also the one who goes to all those scary Halloween Haunt things, so it kinda makes sense. Fun girls road trip!

Birthday trips aren’t supposed to be educational, but I think she learned some things while we were there. Between psychic readings, souvenir shopping at the “Harry Potter” stores (Remembering Salem and Wynott’s), and the pirate museum.

I think it’s a fascinating period in Puritan history, but my daughter didn’t know why Salem is filled with all kinds of witchy stuff. It’s where the Witch Trials of 1692-93 took place.

witch dungeon salem

It’s great when places bring history alive, and at the Witch Dungeon we heard the story about two young sisters who were messing around with a fortune telling game. You can imagine that this would be bad for the girls if they were caught. The younger of the two saw something completely terrifying, and immediately went into a state of shock. She couldn’t move. Their parents called the doctor, who couldn’t explain her condition, except to say she must have been bewitched.

witch dungeon salem

The little girl was sent away, and later came out of it. It was Puritan Massachusetts, with a lot of rules, and very little excitement. Mass hysteria ensued. The rest of the girls in Salem wanted the same kind of fuss made over them, and mimicked the same “symptoms”. Things like this don’t just happen. Someone had to be responsible. Picture a Jamaican immigrant named Tituba, a healer who also practised voodoo, working in one of the girls’ homes. Her husband made “witch cakes” for the girls. Four years earlier a woman named Goody Glover had admitted to afflicting children. Maybe it was still fresh in their minds as a valid explanation.

Over the 18 months the witch trials took place, 150 people were imprisoned (until the prison was at capacity),  19 were hanged on Gallows Hill, and one man was pressed to death.

Why some were accused:

  • Pipe-smoking beggar woman
  • Being an aged cripple
  • The neighbour got sick and died
  • Selling to the natives
  • Stepping in a mud puddle, without getting wet
  • A child said so

We had an evening tour on the anniversary of Bridget Bishop’s hanging. Sure, it’s a little creepy standing at the witch memorial on that exact day. Because they were prosecuted and executed as witches, no one knows exactly where these people were actually buried. There are stones like this to remember each of them outside of Burying Point, Salem’s oldest cemetery.

bridget bishop salem

When you know the history of the trials, the memorial is a quiet place of community and reflection. It always makes me sad.

Maybe it’s because of recent events.

Maybe it’s because they didn’t have to die.

Maybe it’s because had my daughter, my friend and I lived during that time, we would have been accused too.

…or maybe it’s because, ultimately… we are scared of the things we don’t understand.



Ein Bier Bitte…


I had every intention of writing every day that my son and I were in Germany, but there was so much to do and see! If you have a look at the tourist sites you can get a clear idea of the overload of options we had.

Instead of writing about all the things to do, I thought I’d share all the things to EAT!

My son was super excited about having his first legal beer (legal age is 16 in Germany), and his first authentic schnitzel and strudel. There was a little bakery near our rental in Berlin. The server there was only too happy to sell him the last ones in his shop. The beer was from the Imbiss right next door.


I was looking forward to having a currywurst again. It’s usually a bratwurst with a curry ketchup-type sauce. It’s to die for! Especially when you find it served with bratkartoffeln at a patio restaurant on Cora-Berliner Straße.


On one of our days out we went over to Alexanderplatz, the Rotes Rathaus and the Berliner Dom. We needed sustenance during all of our walking around. My son’s response to what he wanted to eat was either schnitzel, or pasta.

The Piazza Rossa (piazza-rossa.com) accommodated.


We were spoiled for choice, but decided to save the Alt Berliner Wirtshaus (www.altberliner-wirtshaus.de) for our last night. It’s a good thing we did, because we could hardly walk the 50 steps to the apartment.

I opted for the Alt Berliner “Kaiser Wilhelm” Grill Plate which had a slice of beef, pork, a sausage, giant meatball and bacon on a bed of bratkartoffeln and mushroom cream sauce.


Of course, Germany isn’t just known for schnitzel and beer. It’s also about the sweets. There are three places I seem to always go back to, because they’re worth the trip.

The one place is a cafe on a boat at Övelgönne Museumshafen (Klein Huis Gastronomie). It’s a demand stop when you have a look at all the old museum ships in Hamburg.


Then there’s the Bardowick Windmill Cafe (Meyers Windmill Bardowick). I’m pretty sure that next time they’ll know to just slice a huge piece of marzipan torte for me. I’d say, “make it two”, but the portions are enormous. That’s one of those coffee cups that holds two cups at once. You get the idea.


My favorite place though, and I’m pretty sure they know it, is the Nemitzer Heidehaus (www.nemitzer-heidehaus.de). This place is owned and operated by Heike and Dirk Mandel in Trebel. Dirk roasts their own coffee, and Heike bakes the most delicious creations in the kitchen. I gave them the heads up we’d be visiting, and I’d be having the Mandel torte. Mandel because of the almonds, not because of the last name!


All this really makes me hungry….

Ich bin ein Berliner…

Well, actually no I’m not from Berlin. But I am going there, again. This will be my third time there. Vacation is booked for April. Yes, prepare yourselves for future touristy photos!

It will be my son’s 18th birthday, so we’re going on a mother/son trip. He’s never been to Germany, so I get to play tour guide. I’m so excited!! Flights, hotel and even the local transit cards are booked.

Berlin Wall 1987
The last time I was in Berlin was in 1990. It was also the year the wall came down. I had been working in Flensburg that summer, visiting family on weekends. When the work contract was done my aunt and uncle asked me where I would like to go. There were only two places were on my list, Lübeck (home of Niederegger marzipan, which is AMAZING!), and Berlin. I wanted to see the difference from when I was there three years before.

Berlin Wall 1987
We went for a walkabout, and I still remember my uncle saying, “stop, stop!” and how much it confused me. “Look down,” he said. I happened to be standing exactly where the wall had once been. Goosebumps!

(not the happiest of faces, probably because of the bad hair)
After the wall came down there were, of course, the usual complaints about how the governments of both halves of the country managed the reintegration of citizens. Families were reunited after decades of separation.

Berlin Wall 1990
I didn’t find out until years later that our family roots (on my mother’s side) were from an area that became East Germany.

Berlin is a city that is absolutely rich in history. Founded in 1237, it became the capital of Prussia in 1701, the German Empire in 1871, then the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. The city was divided by the Allies (USA, UK and France) and the Soviet Union under the London Protocol of 1944. East Berlin belonged entirely to the Soviets. It was too difficult to maintain West Berlin as the capital under a rotating Allied government and surrounded by Soviet territory, so West Germany’s capital was moved to Bonn in 1949. The nation’s capital unified again in Berlin in 1990.

In 1963 Kennedy gave a speech on a platform in front of 450,000 people:

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

jfk berlin
Source: findingdulcinea.com
I want to give that sense of deep culture to my son. He’s been to Montreal and parts of the U.K. Now it’s time for Germany.

Maybe he’ll become a Berliner too.