Category Archives: History

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

Westminster and Leicester

I didn’t walk quite as much today as I did yesterday. 

Mostly, it was because two of the attractions I went to involved standing in line and the third was all sitting. 

With a rather late start to the day, I decided to pick a point and explore around it. I had mentioned in an Instagram post that I was planning on getting closer to Big Ben today and I very well succeeded. 

The clock tower was looming over pedestrians right at the exit of Westminster Underground Station. 

As the Parliament building was right there, I thought I would visit. It wasn’t something I had done before and was hoping maybe to get closer or even inside Big Ben. 

However, admission only allows so many entrants every 20 minutes and since I had come by lunch time, a good portion of the day was already full. The next available entrance time was three hours or so later. 

I took it anyways, figuring I could fill my time with something else nearby. And of course, right next to the Parliament Building is Westminster Abbey. 

I can’t remember whether I went into the Abbey last time I was in London. Since no pictures are allowed inside the space, I have nothing to reference. We must have gone in, but I thought it was worth to go just in case. 


The Abbey is an interesting place. The hall for worship is beautiful and the sections where the choir sings, coronations take place, and the most recent royal wedding happened are exquisite. The rest is an interesting mixture of tombs, memorials, and out of the way rooms for prayer. 

Some of the most interesting for me were G. F. Handel, David Livingstone, Sir Issac Newton, Henry Purcell, Charles Dickens, all three Brontë sisters, Shakespeare, and sister queens Elizabeth and Mary. There were many musicians, literary artists, politicians, and of course, members of the royal family from across (literally) centuries were represented there. 


Westminster is an active church, holding services every Sunday and holding moments of prayer every hour throughout the week. How interesting it must be to attend a church with so much history and that most people view only as a historical symbol. Also, I can’t imagine working at the Abbey. 

Residence in the Abbey of an Abbey staff member. I wonder if all clergy and worship leaders are required to live there.

To be in charge of music (official title being Organist and Master of Choristers) or even to be a member of the Abbey choir must be such an amazing honor and a heavy burden, knowing the great standard of musicianship that is expected.  

In case anyone is interested, there is an annual apprenticeship position in the Abbey to work along the official Organist and Master of Choristers and their two assistants. There are also other vacancies In case anyone is looking for something new and interesting to do. 

Taken with my iPhone 7, thank you very much.

I left the Abbey with just enough time to grab a quick sandwich, crisps (chips), and a Kinder Egg (illegal in the States, so I had to get one) before making my appointed time to the Parliament Building. 


The surprise from my Kinder Egg!

Now this building I know I had never been in before, and I’m so glad I chose to spend the couple of hours walking through and listening to the audio tour to learn more about how the United Kingdom’s government developed and functioned. 

Part of the tour included visiting the rooms where the House of Lords and the House of Commons function and debate. Everything in the hall for the Lords was red and for the Commons green. Made for some interesting items in the shop afterwards. 

There was a story shared about the position known as the Black Rod (House of Lords), which is like the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Commons. Back in 1642, someone from the House of Lords wanted to arrest five members from the House of Commons, but the members of the latter house refused to let it happen. Since then, there has been an annual ceremony of the Black Rod coming to the House of Commons to summon the MP’s to the State Opening Speeh of Parliament, but the door gets slammed in his face. This is supposed to represent the autonomy of power that the House of Commons has from the House of Lords. The Black Rod then has to knock on the door three times with his staff before he is attended to and finally can make the proper summons. 

It’s an interesting display of tradition and ceremony that I would like to discuss further, but not at this time. 

The Parliament Building overall is very grand and majestic. Sadly, we weren’t allowed nearer or inside Big Ben. I also don’t have too many pictures to share because like the Westminster Abbey, photos were allowed throughout most of the building. 

Westminster Hall – at the time it was completed, it was the largest hall of it’s kind in Europe. It’s ceiling/beams are very special and unique.

St. Stephen’s Chapel

Grabbing a hot tea in the cafe before leaving the Parliament Building, I was able to ask one of the staff what I should do with my evening (that didn’t involve drinking – he found that amusing). After thinking a bit, he suggested I go up to Leicester Square where I could find some cinemas that screened a wide variety of blockbuster, independent, and vintage films. 

I made my way to the square and passed by yet another throwback to memories from 2009 – Trafalgar Square, the Lord Nelson column, the National Gallery, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Maybe I’ll be able to go back there tomorrow for a proper visit!

After walking another 10 minutes or so, I finally reached Leicester Square and started looking for the cinemas. Kind of hard when they are not clearly marked on maps and you don’t have cell service… But as I wandered around trying to find them, I noticed posters for different theatre productions. Then I realized the street name on one of the posters was the same as the street I was on and it hit me – I was in the West End!



Forget the cinema, I instantly decided I was going to see a musical. 

I had to make a decision fast – performance started in roughly 45 minutes and there were so many to choose from! I wanted something that wasn’t going to be easy to find in Broadway or the Kennedy Center and that had a distinct British flavor to it. 

All that in more was in the delightful show, “Half a Sixpence.” For £25, I had an amazing seat in the Noël Coward Theater to a show I knew nothing about and ended up thourougly enjoying. Sweet, heartwarming, and filled with fun songs and breataking choreography (especially from the lead actor), I could not have picked a better show to be my first experience on the West End. 


If you are, or will be, in London in the near future, absolutely come see “Half a Sixpence.

I hope in my time here I will be able to see some other performances, including something in the Globe and at the Royal Albert Hall. If I plan things right, I might be able to even meet with some of the administration of these organizations. Making connections is always a good thing. 🙂

A full day is gone and another is just ahead. Keep a look out for tomorrow’s post and don’t forget to check out my Instagram: @wanderingminstrelette

-Wandering Minstrelette

Into the City!

It was a bit hard to get out of bed this morning, the warmth of the electric blanket just kept making me doze off. I should buy one for myself at home. 

But I was excited to spend my first full day in the city, and felt doubly blessed that I was able to spend the day with my friend Brianna, who happened to be in the area visiting family for the holidays.


The day started with one of the things I had been dying to do since I came in 2009 – ride the London Eye. 


Let me tell you, it is so not worth buying a ticket and then waiting in line for a printed version. Being one of the most popular attractions in town, it really makes sense to ask for the ticket to be electronic to just get into the queue for the Eye itself. Thankfully, I thought to take a screen shot, because not having constant service or wifi can make downloading things online rather difficult. 

The view was wonderful. The late morning sun shone a golden touch across the Thames and the buildings, including the iconic Big Ben, stood proudly in its light. 


Thankfully, the wheel turns slow enough that everyone in the glass enclosed pod can walk around and have a 360 degree view of the city with fighting for window space to snap a photo. 




I’m so glad to now be able to tick that off my bucket list. 🙂

Lunch was spent in Box Park at East Croyden where I had the chance to meet with Richard Daly, director of Hope Channel UK. What a pleasant gentleman with a true heart for ministry through media! It a pleasure to hear about his plans for the channel and its programming here in the UK and discuss ideas of how to make it happen. I pray that the Lord will bless his efforts and those of his team as the move forward in this amazing and important project. 

Box Park is like a covered, but open air food court with all sorts of delicious options. They even had heat lamps to keep the cold away! Very cool find!

If you are interested in seeing any of Hope Channel UK’s programming, you can find them on Roku or on Sky 581, Revelation TV.

By the time Brianna and I were back on the train to Central London, the sun was already setting. But 4pm was simply too early to call things a day, so we decided to continue our adventure. 

And what an adventure we had! We passed well known and lesser known landmarks of London. We, of course, had to stop by Buckingham Palace, where I attempted to recreate a photo from when I had come before. 

My friend Michael and I in 2009


Then we came across two war memorials. The first was fairly new, unveiled in 2012 at HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to honor the British and other Allies bombers who served during World War II. The detail in the statues was simply remarkable – they almost looked alive!

This memorial touched me because my uncle served as a tail gunner in a bomber during WWII. I’ll have to be sure to show this picture to him once I return to the States. 

The second was for those who had served and died in World War 1, and had become a place to honor British soldiers across the years who had lost their lives serving their country. It became especially sobering when we came across a wreath laid on the steps of the memorial for a Tom Sawyer. His young face in the photo made it all the more poignant. War is so awful…



Not wanting to end our evening on a sad note, we walked past Wellington Arch to Hyde Park that had been completely bedazzled in order to become: WINTER WONDERLAND!


I truly have never seen a fair of such enormous proportions. There were lights everywhere, with more food and rides than anyone could ever know what to do with. 




There were sections of this pop-up theme park: Santa Land, Bavarian Village, Ice Mountain, etc. Everything was so absolutely extra, it was nearly overwhelming. 

Brianna and I decided simply to walk around and take in the sights (as there were so many to take in), stopping periodically to eat or take a closer look at the craft stands. We got into the park at 5pm and didn’t exit until nearly 8:30pm. And we might still have not seen everything, although I’m pretty sure we saw a good 98 percent or something. 

We would have stayed longer, but by 8:30pm, the cold was starting to settle in, encouraging us to say that now was a good time to call it a night. 

Truly a fun and blessing-filled day. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow!

-Wandering Minstrelette

El Monumento a la Revolución

My time in Mexico City was short and sweet, with the obvious highlight of the wedding for which I came. I was, however, able to get a little bit of sightseeing in the morning following the ceremony.

With only a few hours to spare, a distance restriction due to afternoon plans, and all the museums being closed on Mondays,  Paulo (who had, at this point, been designated my tour guide for the day) decided to take me to a important landmark of Mexico City.

The Monumento a la Revolución is located in the Cuauhtémoc borough of the nation’s capital and is a significant icon of Mexico’s cultural and social history. A French architect named Émile Bernard was selected to design the building, which was originally conceived to be a parliament building. Construction was interrupted in 1912 by a lack of funds, due in part to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, and was not resumed until 1936 when Mexican architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia decided to build over the existing frame in a Art Deco and Mexican socialist realism style and re-purposed the structure as a monument to the Mexican Revolution.

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Sculptor Oliverio Martínez was selected to create sculptures that would embody and symbolize the work of the Revolution and also what Mexico as a new nation held dear. His four sculptures are found at each corner of the monument, each dedicated to a different set of laws that would make Mexico great: “The Independence,” “Reform Laws,” “Agrarian Laws,” and “Labour Laws.” All the figures were completed in 1938 and fit in perfectly with Santacilia’s style for the monument.

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The pillars of the monument also serve as a mausoleum for the heroes of the Mexican Revolution, including Francisco “Pancho” Villa and Lázaro Cárdenas.

As a whole, the monument is striking and impressive, towering over the Plaza de la República – indeed, it is considered the tallest triumphal arch in the world at 67 meters (220 ft). It’s height is one of its main attractions, because visitors can take an elevator to an observation deck that provides a 360 degree view of Mexico City and a close up look at the statues of Martínez. There is the possibility of going higher, up into the dome, and also underneath to a recently added art gallery, but that costs a little more money.

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A view of Mexico City from the Monument, facing north.

The plaza itself is also beautiful, decorated with colorful trees blooming in spring and a fountain that at night is lit with different colors. Sadly, when I was there the fountain had been turned off due to some event taking place at the base of the monument, but it was still a pleasure to be able to enjoy this slice of history for a few hours.

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Soon, Paulo and I were back on the bus for home. It had been a interesting and educational morning and I wish we had had more time to explore other parts of the city but was glad to have been able to do this.

If you are ever in Mexico City and enjoy learning about history and culture – I definitely recommend the MRM, as the locals call it, be on your list. You won’t be disappointed.

DETAILS:

Elevator to Panoramic Observation Deck: 50 MEX, 30 MEX with student ID.

REvoluciónArte (art galleries, wax figures, summit, and observation deck access): 110 MEX, 90 MEX with student ID.

Information Brochure: 20 MEX

Gift Shop and Cafe on premises

 

Happy travels!

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Continue reading El Monumento a la Revolución

Gates of History

From the moment I started announcing to my family and friends that I would be going to Berlin, the single-most popular phrase I heard was, “You MUST got to the Pergamon Museum!” This past Sunday, I finally made the pilgrimage to this exalted space.

The Pergamon Museum, located on the Museum Island near the center of Berlin, specializes in artifacts and original-sized monuments and buildings from the ancient Near East. Some of the most popular items Byzantine mosaics, the Aleppo Room, and the Pergamon Altar. The pieces here are magnificent and truly bring the visitor back in time to ages long past.

My first attempt to visit the museum was in vain – I was rushing to the Island from the DOV office where I am doing my internship (more on that later) and was majorly confused by the distracting signs attempting to redirect the museum traffic due to massive reconstruction efforts. There seems to be construction every where in Berlin right now, but Museum Island was definitely the most concentrated. By the time I found the temporary entrance (around the back and by the Old National Gallery), they had stopped allowing visitors to enter. I also discovered that two-thirds of the museum was also under reconstruction, not just the facade, meaning that several of the exhibits were temporarily closed until 2019.

I was a little wary – the whole reason I truly wanted to visit was to see the Ishtar Gate, which were the beautiful decorative gates and entryway into the city of Babylon. Would they be in the part of the museum that was shut down?

Unsure of whether or not I would get to see the Gate, I decided to go ahead and try again to visit the museum on Sunday. Thankfully, there was no waiting line and I even was able to get a discounted ticket by showing my student ID (Tip: Always bring a student ID when traveling!) and was directed down a hallway into the exhibition hall.

Before I realized where I was, my eyes were filled with a dazzling blue and gold, flecked with green and dotted with white daisy-like flowers. Proud bulls and dragons seemed to strut mightily before me. They climbed ever higher in a towering facade that was obviously meant to intimidate as well as display the wealth and power the king of Babylon.

The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.
The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.

Gazing upon the Ishtar Gate, tears involuntarily welled up in my eyes. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed not only by the beauty and size of this magnificent structure, but by the sheer fact that through this Gate King Nebuchadnezzar had walked, and most likely so had the prophet Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. My eyes were gazing the same facade that people of ancient Babylon and the captives of ancient Israel had looked upon centuries ago. I felt a strong connection with the past at that moment, and suddenly history became very, very real.

Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.
Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.

When I was finally able to pry myself away from the Gate, I wandered around the adjacent halls to see the amazing artifacts from Babylon, Assyria, Asher, Mesopotamia, and Medo-Persia. Truly, I felt as if I was walking through the Old Testament. On the other side of the Gate was the original entryway to a Roman market, with artifacts dating back to the time of Emperor Justinian who ruled several hundred years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Even so, it was like stepping into New Testament times walking around in this “market square.”

What an amazing feeling…

Ishtar Gate Bull
Ishtar Gate Bull

Figures of a passage way Ancient Near East Text

Unicorns? Hmm...
Unicorns? Hmm…
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad - which I guess is also a tablet.
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad – which I guess is also a tablet.

Symmetrical Designs

Roman Market Entryway
Roman Market Entryway

There was also an exquisite exhibit on Islamic Art that did not cease to amaze. The detail, color, and quality of the rugs, paintings, dishware, clothing, architecture, and more was simply astonishing. Wandering the exhibit also helped me realize how much modern society has to thank the ancient Middle East for, because in many ways they were far more advanced than their European counterparts.

Muslim Ivory Carving Details of a Muslim art work Near Eastern Islamic Rugs

Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display India, early 18th century
Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display
India, early 18th century
The Aleppo Room
The Aleppo Room

One quirky example of something unexpected was the combination of blue and white in dishware. The Middle Eastern merchants were seeking to compete in the trade markets with the Chinese, who had created an excellent method of developing porcelain. Middle Eastern merchants decided to take the white porcelain and add designs in the deep, rich blue of cobalt to raise the value of their items. The Chinese were so taken by the simple and elegant beauty of the combination, they ended up copying it, developing what we know today as “china.” The Europeans, in turn, fell in love with the works from the Chinese and would trade and eventually learn how to manufacture their own fine china for a variety of things, not the least of which would be British tea sets.

Near Eastern Porcelain
Near Eastern Porcelain

Don’t you love history?

I’m so thankful to everyone who told me umpteenth times that I had to visit the Pergamon – it truly was not an experience to be missed. In fact, I’m thankful for museums in general because they truly are important institutions that help expose us to the new and the old, the familiar and the foreign, the past and perhaps even insights for the future. I wouldn’t be a true Washingtonian without recognizing this most important fact: Museums are the gates of history.

If you have never been to a museum, or at least haven’t been a while, make a point of checking one out sometime. Especially here in Berlin there seems to be a museum on just about anything, so search for something you’d be interested in and immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll be glad you did.

As for me, I hope to have the chance to visit some of the other museums on Museum Island at some point and will certainly make plans to return after 2019 to have the full Pergamon experience.

Do you have a favorite museum? Let me know about your experience.

Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin – for a year my mind has been imagining what it would be like to roam the streets of a city that, in its current state, is technically only as old as I am. Of course, there are centuries of history all throughout the city but it obvious that the events of the 20th century are the most vivid and discussed. A city once glorious, then divided by the very physical manifestation of the Cold War’s tense relations and separatism in the form of the Berlin Wall, is finally reunited in 1989 when the Wall was torn down and a flood of families spilled over to embrace one another after years of separation. It was something I had often heard in my history classes in secondary school – after all, World War II is kind of a favorite subject for Americans, both for the tragedies and the heroism. Now I have been to where before I had only heard and could imagine. My understanding grew and I received a much fuller, larger picture.

  
Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint “C”), in the American Sector, was the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Here, many East Berliners attempted to escape into the west, at least 100 died doing so. Families were separated, unable to have any form of contact for many years.The Wall was tragic and terrible, “fencing in” the East Berliners with little hope for a brighter future.

Diplomats, journalists, and non-German visitors were allowed to pass on a one-day visa and had to exchange currencies before entering. Just before I left Washington, DC for Berlin, I had a conversation with a fellow church member who is part of my mom’s craft ministry. She told me that she had gone through while the Wall stood, and that it was one of the scariest thing she had ever done in her life. The faces of those who lived in the Soviet Sector were pallid and ashen faced, much like their buildings. It was overwhelming and depressing, and she was glad to soon be able to return to the other side once again.

Yesterday I stood in front of Checkpoint Charlie.

  
There was no sign of where the Wall used to be, the division had clearly been mended (at least in the physical sense). Parts of the Wall had been kept as keepsakes and memorials, the graffiti that originally showed displeasure and hatred for the separation it caused were now hung up as art. Pieces of the wall were for sale in all of the souvenir shops (makes you wonder if they are all real…). Portraits of sullen-faced young soldiers, enlarged by several times, were place before the checkpoint – an American face when walking by from the East and a Soviet face when walking by from the West. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum stood in the corner by the original gate, filled with photographs, video, and most importantly, stories that told of what life was like for the people of Berlin, of both sides, when the Wall stood.

  
  
It took several years for East Berlin to recover from its time under Soviet rule. Even today, there is a rather obvious difference in the style of buildings when one “crosses the border.” However, the stark contrasts of decades past no longer exist – people easily cross from one side to the other. Flourishing business have been placed in both sides and the standards of living have slowly become more equal. This is the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and by all accounts, healing has taken place.

And yet, a part of me wonders… While I understand the importance of remembering history and the events of the past, especially in the hopes of preventing the awful ones from happening again, I feel compelled to ask if true healing can take place when all that is talked about and displayed is the hurt. Rather like a wound that you keep checking on by lifting the band aid – it will take longer to heal this way than if you had just left it alone. While the Wall is physically down, I have to wonder if it still somewhat exists in the minds of some residents. Of course, I cannot give an accurate opinion of the state of affairs or how things have changed and improved over the 25 years of my and the unified city’s life.

What I hope and pray for is that the wonderful people of this city truly do receive healing from all that they and their ancestors suffered. May the lessons learned from this experience be remembered by the world, but not so discussed that we forget the progress that has been made since.

I look forward to more adventures here in Berlin as I learn more about this amazing city with all its history and importance. I hope you will join me as I write about my adventures – and feel free to leave a comment! I’m here for the next month, so I’m sure we’ll be discovering many things together.

Bis später – Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette