Germany, Part VII: Berlin

Berlin wasn’t what either of us expected. As the capital city, we expected lots of tall buildings and little open space. It’s much more like DC.

No, really. It’s like DC. Berlin is as the official capital, but not the center of everything. It’s where the government is headquartered, but not the finance center (which is Frankfurt). There’s few tall buildings and lots of open areas, with some pavement but lots of green space in those areas. There’s tons of museums, including some of the best in the country. And it’s diverse like DC, in terms of age and cultures and ideas.

Not surprisingly, we went to lots of museums and ate lots of different cuisines while in Berlin. I did lots of knitting in parks. Matt took sunset photos. We learned even more than we already knew about the Berlin Wall and the DDR/GDR. We spent most of our time in former East Berlin because it’s where most of the museums are and home to some very hip neighborhoods, like the one we stayed in. We ate at a Michellin two-star restaurant with an Asian menu and a very well-priced, local Reisling. We toured the Bundestag (German parliament building) at night, which was really interesting (good tour guide) and beautiful (old and new architecture combined)..and I got bit by a spider in my sleep. Don’t worry, I won’t share a photo of that. I recovered through time, ice packs, Advil, and Benedryl.

Even though we spent five nights there, I feel like there’s still tons of the city to see. I’d really like to go back again.

 
[The German version of the Executive Office Building, where the parliament members have their offices.]


[The Chancellary, where Angela Merkel and her staff have their offices.]


[Brandenburg Gate, sort of famous]

[From the various museums]


[Not sure where I took this, but I guess I liked it enough to take a photo.]


[Inside a very modern church]

[Bundestag, during the day]

[During our tour. You go all over the building, even onto the parliament’s viewing galleries. It’s lots of glass and very open, not at all like the US Capital.]

 

[I’ll pause between photos to explain – the original building, used as a palace for Peter the Great, I think it was, has a giant glass dome on top, that you can climb up via a one-way, double-helix ramp.]


[Bundestag, at night]

[It was the first night of Oktoberfest and the Bavarians had set up their own tent outside of the Berlin train station. I convinced Matt to stop by for a few hours after our Bundestag tour.]

[Matt spent about an hour and a half taking photos here, amongst all of the other people doing the same. He was the only Canon guy in a sea of Nikons. I spent most of the time on a bench, knitting and people-watching.]

In Closing

We really had a great time in Germany. The people are lovely, the food good, the beer excellent, and the museums all over.


[Us on the way back home]

Germany, Part V: Wurzberg, Erfurt

We left the car once we got to Nurnberg, so it was really something that we made it to two different places on our trek from Nurnberg to Erfurt. I have photos from Wurzberg but zero photos from Eisenach.

I’ll admit I was grouchy after Wurzberg, because of the Eisenach stop. It’s a bit out of order, but I’ll share the story now. We took a train to town, threw our stuff in a locker, and headed out to see Warzberg Castle, where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. Strike 1: Expensive taxi then VERY steep walk up to the castle and then missed the last bus and had no way to call a taxi (no service) so had to walk all the way back to town. Strike 2: The castle was kinda meh and the room where he did the translation – the sign said something like “Only the whale vertebrae is from Luther’s time.” It had other random things like a writing desk, but apparently they weren’t his, at all. Strike 3: There was some sort of train work so we had to take a Dresden city bus the 90 minutes from Eisenach to Erfurt. See, not a happy camper. But I digress.

Wurzberg

We were going to spend more time but only spent a half a day touring Wurzberg. We toured the palace, enjoyed the mostly quiet town. Lunch was spent at a wine bar with very good, hearty food that overlooked a bridge. A bridge where a very, very bad sister duo was singing as part of an outdoor music festival. But the wine and food were excellent, as I said, and we bonded with a group of Germans who agreed the singers were horrible. We walked back to the train station but stopped to listen to the second half of the set from an excellent quartet that calls themselves Sax Shop (had to type that carefully!).


[From the palace gardens. I too photos of all of the statues like this that surrounded a small open area. The flowers were just gorgeous still.]


[Sax Shop, from Manheim I found out later]


[No clue where we took this. But it was that afternoon of the many stops. Aren’t we cute?]

Erfurt

Erfurt is a large town in what used to be Eastern Germany. It’s famously, for Germans, the home of a much-beloved children’s channel (think PBS Kids or Nick Jr in the US). You can even pose with statues of its most famous characters, which I insisted on doing as we came across them on the Rick Steves walking tour. [Those photos – all on Matt’s camera or cell.]

I took, oh, zero photos and the only other thing I remember about the town was the giant portions at the Schnitzler restaurant. We split and order and it was still huge. So that’s something.

I’d recommend skipping the town altogether. It’s nice and all but, obviously, not memorable.

Next time: quick stop in Leipzig and Dresden

Germany, Part IV: Nurnberg, Bamburg

In case you’re totally confused, it’s either Nurnberg (new spelling) or Nuremburg, the old spelling. Either way, it is the place where the Nazis were tried for their crimes. But, it’s also a really vibrant, larger town/smaller city that I quite enjoyed visiting.

I won’t lie, it was really hot when we were there. Germany was experiencing a very rare September heatwave and we got to enjoy it. It was near 90 most days which was unfun in a city with few air-conditioned buildings. No need to linger on that anymore or I’ll just continue to whine.

Nurnberg

Yet again, we did the walking tour of town. I couldn’t help myself and did a quick stop at the Staedler store right by our hotel (limited myself to a set of pens, a set of their boarder but still fine felt markers, and a special Nurnberg-only journal and pencil set). The tour included three churches and a castle and some more stops for shopping. As a general note, Nurnberg had really good food – excellent Italian whole-in-the-wall place by the castle and some of the best Turkish I’ve ever had.

[The younger man was playing the organ – perhaps tuning it or just practicing – for a good 20 minutes.]

[By the daily pop-up market]

[I took lots of photos at the Museum of the German Speaking Peoples. It’s MASSIVE and quite worth as much time as you can devote to it. There’s art and artifacts and manuscripts and an excellent audioguide, if I remember properly.]

We visited the Nazi Documentation Center. Worth visiting for a look into that time without 100% focus on the Holocost/concetration camps but not at all my cup of tea. Rather boring audioguide¬† is my minor complaint. More so, I found the whole place – the former site of Nazi headquarters and next to the old parade grounds – very deeply disturbing. I almost got physically sick, just hearing about the belief system whose “logical” conclusion was to kill millions of people. Still can’t shake the train track exhibit at the end, which you can look up more about on your own. Sorry to get dark, but, well, it was a dark, dark visit. I can’t pretend otherwise.

Moving on…

Day Trip to Bamburg

We took the train to Bamburg, where we explored the old town, had their famous smoked grains beer, and happened upon a marching band (yeah, really). My notes end there, but I did take a few photos while I was trying not to melt in the heat.


[The brewery with the beer made from smoked grains.]


[See? Marching band.]

Next post: Wurzberg (quick half-day trip for us) and Erfurt

Germany, Part III: Rothenburg

Rothenburg is touristy, I won’t lie. But it’s got a great charm to it. People are very friendly, there’s good food (though a bit hidden) and lots of shopping, and it feels like living back in Medieval days with far better toilets.

There’s no big sites in town, you just sort of wander all over, enjoying yourself. We did the night watchman’s tour which was sort of eh. Fun for people who don’t know about life in the Medieval time period, mildly funny if you do, as the guy who does the tours makes lots of jokes.

I don’t have anything else to say here, really, so here’s my best photos.

Germany, Part II: Bavarian Alps

Welcome to the second installment of my Germany trip in review, Bavarian Alps. We spent two nights but most of two days here, so I’ll split up my rambling as it makes sense.

Leaving Munich, Going up the Zugspitze

We left Munich via rental car, picked up at the main train station. (If you’re ever doing the same, realize the rental car places are up in an upper gallery, sort of by Burger King.) We got something besides a gray or black rental car, a dark brown Opal that served us quite well between its cargo space and amount of power. We drove straight to Garmish, where we were going to get the cable car up to the top of the Zugspitze.

So..yes, I still hate heights, but I went very close to the top of Germany’s tallest peak. You have two options to get up and down: one super long cable car, or a funicular train and short cable car combination. The single cable car is much faster but, for folks like me, more terrifying. I chose to get the long cable car out of the way first.Once at the top, the views are amazing though it is a serious temperature difference from the bottom.¬† There’s little gift shops on both the German and Austrian side plus a few places to eat. We did lots of picture taking – and I did some freaking out about the height, even getting dizzy at one point – and ate a simple lunch of soup and sausages before heading back down.

Photos don’t need captions here, so I’ll just toss them in and then continue blathering in a bit.

Exploring Alpine Towns

We stayed in a little bed and breakfast in Garmish, the largest of the towns in that part of the German Alps. We were the only non-German guests but everyone was very nice and spoke enough English that we didn’t have to rely on Google Translate. It was really relaxing after the hustle-and-bustle of Munich, especially with what turned out to be the coolest weather of the trip and a lovely balcony off our room, overlooking the owner’s gardens.

Having the car, we took the chance to drive all over to nearby towns that Matt had researched. My notes aren’t super clear, but I can tell you we went to the following places/cities from our base in Garmish, in order: Mittenwald (best. ice cream. ever.), Obermmergau (where I bought some sock yarn and needles), Ettal (big abbey, good lunch across the street), Schloss Linderhoff (over-rated former home of “Crazy Ludwig”).

Apparently, I didn’t take any photos worthy of keeping while in Garmish. So, we’ll skip ahead..

…to Ettal

…to Schloos Linderhoff (no photos inside, but it was just all too ornate that I wouldn’t have taken any, anyway)

Germish to Rottenburg

I was going to put this in the Rothenburg post, we really enjoyed our time there so there’s tons of photos to share. Again, few notes from this part of the trip (think I got bored of my note-taking and was working on my socks, at this point). We stopped at lots of different places in a day: Weiskirche (Rococco cathedral), Schloss Harburg (castle which is mostly intact but which we didn’t pay extra to go inside), Nordlingen (where we wandered around quite awhile and I bought more sock yarn, at a place with the awesome name Woll Lust), and Dinkelbuhl (only note is that we ate ice cream).

[No clue where this was. No geotag as that’s actually a camera photo, not an iPhone photo.]

[Harburg Castle from it’s parking lot.]


[Views from the castle courtyard.]

Third post will be all about Rothenburg, which is corny, sure, but in a good way.