My parents started their vacation in Liege. Stephen picked them up from the airport and they came back to the house to take naps. I came home and we walked into town to view the city. When Stephen came home from work we decided to have an early dinner so that we could get a good night's sleep before Berlin. We had a great dinner, hilarious conversations and even SNOW!!!
The next morning, despite inclement weather, we headed to Berlin. Once in Germany, the roads were a lot more prepared for snow than in Belgium. We sailed through the 5 and a half hours by playing silly car games and laughing and catching up.
Once in Berlin, we headed to Potsdamer Platz and decided to ride the same ride from last year before having a nice dinner in the Sony Center. If you don't remember, the ride was an inner tube careening down an ice/snow hill...and this year they allowed two people to hold hands on the way down, which meant we would be spinning around the whole way down. It was really fun, and mom and dad loved it. Dinner was fabulous, and we went home to get some sleep in preparation for the next day.
We decided to do a walking tour of Berlin that was fabulous. We walked for about 4 hours, stopping for a little snack halfway. With the tour, we were able to see Hitler's bunker, the Jewish Memorial, the art Museums, the various monuments marking the war and Checkpoint Charlie. We really enjoyed the tour, and afterwards decided to tour the German History museum. It was really nice, and interesting to see a lot of Hitler's things, i.e. his GIGANTIC desk.
While in Germany, we enjoyed quite a few sausages, gluhwein, beers and Christmas Markets. We dined in authentic German restaurants and became acquainted with all forms of Public Transport. It was great!
We left Berlin and began our search for Fredrich Karl Kampen...my father's Great-Great-Grandfather. My dad had done some research on his geneaology and had a relatively good idea where his family originated from. On our way to the village, we decided to stop in Celle for a night (halfway). My dad had visited Celle 10 or 15 years before on a work trip, and remembered it being a very "German" town. We were so impressed! Our hotel was GORGEOUS, and the town was very authentic and unique. We shopped around, had a great time, and then spent the rest of the night in the restaurant at the hotel. It was fabulous...definitely a place to recommend if you are going to Germany!
The next morning we headed out in search of Fredrich! At our first stop, we found a cemetary we thought might have some family headstones. We all split up and searched, but came up with nothing. At the last minute, my dad decided to ask the church staff if they had any information. To our astonishment, the lady working in the church knew our last name already...someone (we don't know the person) had requested information 10 or so years ago, and she had helped her. Strange, huh? She had our family tree, marriage certificates from the 1800's, copies of my dad's great-grandfather's passport, etc. It was incredible. What we learned from the information was that his family had left Germany in the early 1900's for America in search of jobs. They were very poor, and were hoping they could find work and a better life is the USA. We also found a few more possible villages to look for Fredrich...so we left and tried to find them. We ended up looking in four or five possible cemetaries, but didn't have any luck. We're thinking that because he would have died in 1896'ish, his gravestone and those of other family members would have been torn up or destroyed in the wars. It was still a very interesting journey, and I think we'll have to do a little more research and go back!
We came back to Liege for a few days, taking day trips to both Maastricht and Bastogne. Maastricht has great Christmas markets and shopping, and Bastogne (where the "Battle of the Bulge" was located) has a great WWII monument and museum, so my dad was in heaven. We went to Brussels on the weekend as well, and my parents were able to go to church with us and meet our friends we talk about so often. They even woke up earlier and walked the market outside our house...we were busy!!!
While we were in Liege "relaxing" we celebrated Thanksgiving as a family. It was really nice to have my parents here for the holiday...not just for their cooking, although I can't say it wasn't a treat!! We couldn't find a turkey small enough for my oven, so we settled on the breast. We roasted it, had stuffing, yams, salad, pumpkin pie...it was fabulous! We're very lucky, and thankful, to have had family here on the holiday!
The last weekend they were here we visited "Kampen" Germany on our way to Amsterdam. It was quite strange to visit a town in Germany that your family is named after/shares the name of. We took some cute pictures near the signs and the Kampen bus stop! We made our way to Amsterdam around lunchtime, and enjoyed a very "Dutch" lunch...Bacon burgers and Club Sandwiches...ha! We walked around Amsterdam, my parents toured the Anne Frank house and we tried to tour the Red Light District, but never really found the heart of it. Better luck next time I guess. :)
The trip was busy, but we enjoyed it so much! It's not very often, as a child with 3 siblings, to get your parents to yourself (does that sound strange?). It was a really nice treat to have them here, to travel with them and experience Europe together! Of course, it was heartbreaking to tell them goodbye, but I cherish the memories we made and look forward to the next Kampen/Dotson vacation :)
Papa completed his first dialysis yesterday and is feeling better and more comfortable. This is such an answer to prayer, that he will feel well enough to be able to go home. No one knows exactly how long he has left, but we do know that his heart is working at 10% and it's very tired...thank you all for your prayers! It means more than you know!
Yesterday I received news that my Pa Pa is nearing his last days. He's been in the hospital with heart problems, and we were under the assumption he would be coming home today. Unfortunately, the doctors have told him he will not make it. His response to being resuscitated was "No, I'm ready to go to Heaven." They are in talks today to put a port in to give him dialysis, just to make him feel better until his heart gives out on it's own. It's VERY hard for my family right now, and even harder for me being over here and not able to see him one last time. I was able to talk to him in his hospital room yesterday, which was really difficult. I ask that you lift him and my Nani up in prayer, and also my family driving up to see him and give him their last goodbyes...thank you in advance for keeping my family in your thoughts and prayers...it's a very difficult time!
The past two weeks my parents have been in Belgium (and in Germany and Holland, but more on that later) visiting Stephen and I and touring our neck of the woods. We had such a good time. We saw SNOW, our Kampen family starting point in Germany, Berlin, Amsterdam, Maastricht, Brussels, Celle, and a lot of little villages in between.
You all know by now how much I HATE goodbyes, and I'm feeling a little low. For this reason, and the fact that one of my best friends is coming in on Thursday, I will be delaying the Kampen Family in Europe Blog for a few days! Be patient...it's coming!
Until then, I'll leave you with this picture of my sweet father...immersing himself in Liege culture as much as he can :)