Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Germany





June 3rd 2002.
 Gene got us to the airport in an hour and forty minutes. We had plenty of time for our flight- Teresa slept a little on the trip, I slept very little. A small child was rather noisy; a trait we learned later came from his mother. We arrived on time, and as Teresa eschews taxis, we took a train into Frankfurt, actually two trains and a subway to a stop near our hotel. A very friendly German man helped us on our transfers and a nice German woman gave directions to our hotel. All the Germans here speak English.
 Although we arrived at our hotel around 8:30 they allowed us to check in. After showering, we headed out and went first to City Hall and its Plaza. We toured the ceremonial room where they now hang portraits of 54 Holy Roman Emperors. We then went to a small church that had served as their chapel. Not far away we went to the large church where they had been crowned.




 After a good sleep we had breakfast in the hotel and went to the museums. First it was the Sculpture Museum and then the Painting Museum. They both had excellent works from a variety of sources. (The art museum had works by Botticelli, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Rembrandt, and Picasso, among others). We then walked through the new part of downtown with the skyscrapers, ate Thai food for lunch, went through an underground mall, saw the outside of the Bourse and finally found, and went in, Our Lady's Church. In the meantime Germany played Ireland in World Cup Soccer which ended in a 1-1 tie, very disappointing for the natives. We then went to the historical museum (which was free on Wed). I had ice cream again, Teresa a pastry.






 We then searched for and eventually found a remnant of the old city walls and a tower that was part of the early fortifications for the city.



  After lunch at Nordsee we saw the outside of the Opera House, then took a subway to the famous Frankfort Zoo. Although it had lions, tigers, and bears (oh my)-, orangutans, chimps, gorillas, zebras, rhinoceros, and hippos; it also had exotic creatures and colorful birds. The weather felt warmer than the low 70-'s it was supposed to be.


We then walked back to the City Center (somewhat errantly) and toured a church we had missed earlier. We each had an ice cream cone. It was advertised as Italian gelato, and although good, was not Italian gelato.
 After going back to the room and cleaning up we went to Adolph Wagner for dinner. I had sausages and Teresa had boiled beef with green herb sauce. We shared "handcase with music" as an appetizer. Although the restaurant was noted for its apple wine, I was not ready to order any.
 The restaurant was informal, outside with large picnic tables and we shared our table with three younger Germans, the fellow was originally from Leipzig, East Germany, one girl was a flight attendant, who now lives in Denmark, and her sister in England. She had an English accent when she spoke English. We had a good time talking with them.They insisted we try their apple wine. I enjoyed it, Teresa thought it tasted like beer. They were very funny and it was an enjoyable meal.





 The next morning after breakfast, we took the subway to the car rental place. We had no trouble leaving Frankfort but I had a little trouble arriving in Binden. We still arrived before 1:00 pm. so we bought tickets for an afternoon cruise on the Rhine. We walked into town looking for lunch, found a doner kebab stand, Teresa raved about hers. Then we saw the town. We walked up to the remains of a castle with a very deep well and made it back to the pier. The cruise was downstream, north, and lasted from 2:30 to 6:30. Lots of stops to drop off and pick up people, and see castles and barges. (See pictures)








  We briskly walked to the train station to catch the train back to Binden to pickup our car. (Steve tripped on a stair in our rush to make a train and hurt his big toe which was to plague him the rest of the trip).



 It had started raining when we reached the station and it continued as we drove to Bacharach where we found a very nice hotel. We ate at the hotel restaurant, Teresa had pork schnitzel but was infatuated with the salad with sauerkraut. I had turkey cordon bleu.

 







 The next morning we toured Bacharach, its church, watch towers, old buildings, and finally hiked up to its castle which was now a youth hostel. We paused for  my morning coke.





We then drove north along the Rhine to St. Gore. We took the "silly" train (as Rick Steves- dubbed it) up to the castle which was the largest on the Rhine. We met a fellow domer, Francis, from St. Louis. He would be starting his residency in microsurgery after his vacation. We toured the castle with him. He spoke German pretty well. The kids visiting the castle wanted to speak English though. After extensive inspection of the castle we took the "silly" train down then saw the church and had pizza for lunch. It was tasty.







We headed tor Cologne traveling through a heavily wooded area. Getting to Cologne was easy, finding parking wasn't. We got to our hotel, The Good Sleep, which wasn't much but was close to the Dom (German for Duomo or Cathedral). We showered before going out and walking around the city, finally deciding on Thai food. We each got different duck dishes that were excellent. On the way home we stopped at an Internet cafe.



The next morning after breakfast we went to the cathedral. It is hard to describe how big it is, and hard to imagine how it stayed intact since 95% of Cologne was destroyed by allied bombers. There was no English guided tour so we took the written one The relics of the three Magi were purported to be in a good sized gilded casket. It held over three football fields worth of stained glass and the oldest Crucifix in Christendom.





 We then went to the Roman-German Museum. It seems when the Germans were digging air-raid shelters when they ran into a Roman mosaic floor, (quite reminiscent of the one in Delos) and later excavations unearthed a wealth of artifacts and sculptures. It was an enjoyable museum with good English texts. Coincidentally we ran into Francis again. Greek gyros for lunch again then off to Aachen.



It took a while to find the Dom.Teresa got directions and a short walk brought us first to the town hall and then the most impressive church treasury we have ever seen. Everything was golden, from the bust of Charlemagne (with his actual cranium inside) to a reliquary with Jesus' belt from his crucifixion days. (need we say purported?) The church itself was not large but richly decorated. The remains of Charlemagne (whom we discovered had been canonized) were in the church.


 




After ice cream cones (a better attempt at gelato) we headed toward Coachem. We arrived around 8:00 and checked into a place Rick Steves suggested and we were told he had actually stayed there the week before. We ate dinner at a very German restaurant. I had Wiener Schnitzel and Teresa had a beef- ham Romanoff. She made the better choice. We then walked through Coachem a quaint resort town on the Mosel River. It still seems odd to see hotels that are from the middle ages with their timber beams running through their exterior wails.
The next morning, after breakfast,we filled up the car and headed to the Mosel to Ertz Castle(Burg) This is Rick Steve's favorite castle in Europe; it isn't mine. It was in a wooded area with a nice drive and a steep walk to the castle. It is intact as it had never been captured but it is not large and the trapping are not military but aristocratic. We took a tour in German, and saw some of the rooms of the castle but I thought it rather bland. It was also quite a walk back to our car.


 We then headed back up the Mosel, passed Coachem again, (took a picture from the car as we passed). At a spot opposite Belstein we took a ferry across and toured the medieval town. We hiked up to the castle for lunch and a great view of the Mosel. Back in town we went to the church which was Catholic. It was not large but beautiful inside. The Black Madonna of Belstein was inside.
 


We took the ferry back across and decided to drive along the Mosel to Trier. It took longer but was more scenic. We made it to a hotel by 5:00 p.m.. (early for us)
 We walked to the market area and then the Dom, the oldest Christian Church in Christendom. We stayed for vespers. It is curious that England, Scotland, Wales,Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden all stole church property, Germany didn't seem to do it. All of the major churches have been Catholic and there is a Catholic presence here.
We walked some more and saw the outside of the basilica, (second to the Pantheon in Rome as the largest standing Roman structure) and then to the Black gate of the city. We took pictures of the market cross, 958, and the St. Peter Fountain(16th century). We then ate at a nice (too fancy for Teresa) restaurant. We both had fish and it was very good. Teresa loved her white wine. We then took a walk to the Mosel, sat on a bench for awhile and then back to our room.


In the morning, after breakfast, we checked out, left our car in the car park and revisited the city. We were able, to go up in the Porta Negra which at one time, had been turned into a  church. We then went back to the Dom and because there were no services in progress we were able to go above the altar to see where they keep the robe of Christ. (purported) Next door was another church, and it too was catholic. It is the oldest Gothic church in Germany. We took pictures of the beautiful stained glass but worried they would not turn out.


Next to the Baths of Caracalla. It would have been a fun place to play hide and seek. We then walked to the amphitheater which we found on the first try despite the bad  directions.







Next it was off to Baden Baden. We arrived in time to check into the hotel R.S. recommended, showered and took a bus into town. We walked around the city center then ate at an Indian restaurant, I had Shrimp a la Bombay and Teresa had a chicken and spinach dish. We both enjoyed our respective meals. We then walked to the Casino and back to our hotel along the promenade, a one and a half mile tree-lined park. On the way we stopped at the famous rose garden.

The next morning after check out we drove into Baden-Baden, parked beneath the baths and went to the Roman-lrish baths. A real deal, for 29 euros you get up to 3 1/2 hours of saunas, showers and pools, plus a short brush massage and relaxation room. Leaves you feeling pampered and wonderful.

We then headed to Triberg. When we arrived we ate a late lunch, had the salad bar to save time and it turned out to be a good choice. We then "climbed the falls" which combined the experience of waterfalls with being in the heart of the Black Forest. We had a black squirrel walk right in front of us, of course the camera was not ready! After, some Black Forest cake.



 Where to next? We knew we needed to head east to get to Munich to return our car. As we finally got on some autobahns(when I was doing 150 km/hr I was passed like I was standing  still) we were making good enough time to go to Lindau, a place we had never heard of before looking at the map. It turned out to be a delightful resort town on the Boddensee (lake), and actually an island. It was tourist friendly, we found a parking space and a nice hotel near it and a Doner Kebab, right next to that. We had time to stroll through the town and along the harbor. Free music played at the harbor.



It was refreshing to see that a lot of the street entertainment in Germany was classical music although we did see the ubiquitous Ramses II and a clever fellow with a suitcase have fun with  the kids, making a funny noise (that was in Cologne) After ice cream it was back to the room.
 Our room came with breakfast at the Helvista one of the harborside fancy hotels. On the way back we took another picture of the town hall from the front side.



We drove east through very scenic country, including ski resorts. We arrived in Fusses about 10:00 and bought tickets for tours of the two castles. Both had connections to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, The older mustard-colored one where he grew up and the newer Disney-like one he built. He also built a couple other castles and had plans for an even more extravagant one. Suffice it to say that it appeared his extravagant spending on castles irked some of his family members. He was accused of being insane, taken from his new castle and found drowned in shallow water with  his personal doctor a few days later (who may have been his expert witness?) No autopsy was performed at the request of the grieving family. Did I mention that he was an expert swimmer?



The castles were far better than Berg Eltz. In between we had a lunch of pigs' knuckles, or knees; or some other joint. Teresa had purple cabbage, I had fries.





After the second castle we walked up (everything is up), to Mary's Bridge (Marian Brucke) and then down the gorge, more waterfalls.






We then drove a short distance to the cable car that took us a mile up a mountain, at least we didn't have to walk. Spectacular views and a never ending procession of hang gliders and parasailers, launching themselves out into thin air over a mile up a steep mountain We only saw two mishaps, everyone survived.





 I thought we were at the top of the world but I was wrong. Teresa espied a path that went up, naturally, so we had to climb further still. We then looked down on the top of the world and watched parasailers step into space.


We took the cable car down then went over to the luge ride. Our observations had been that it didn't look too exciting but that was because everyone else went down using the brake. This was a stainless steel run downhill with probably 20 turns and you could go very, very fast. Teresa had to slow down because the woman in front of her was so slow. (she had a child with her) I had a mishap when my hat blew off. Teresa finally had some excitement on the trip.




 We then went north to a church called Weis Kirche. Rick Steves was-right. It did look like it floated down from heaven. This was apparently the last gothic-rococo church ever built, they did a marvelous job. Yes, it is still Catholic.



We decided on Dresser as a place to spend the night only because we needed to be near Munich to drop off the car the next day. There we met the only German who does not speak a word of English, (although her grandson did). She had a bed and breakfast which had a nice room at a nice price. I don't think Americans had ever been to this town. This was an old woman but she was working late at night cleaning and  had our breakfast for us at 8:00 the next morning. We noted that Germans seem to be very hard workers which explains why their homes and towns look so nice.
We had Italian for dinner. Teresa vegetarian pizza (after her vegetarian salad) and I had tortellini gorgonzola.
 The next morning after breakfast we headed to Munich. We were completely lost when we arrived in the city so we stopped at a service station where a very nice girl who spoke English gave us directions to the car rental agency. From there we called a hotel to get a room. We were successful on the first try and I talked Teresa into taking a cab. The Hotel Adria was very nice.. We went across the street to a grocery, bought bread, cheese, ham, and a coke and walked to the English Gardens which was two blocks away. We picnicked there watching the swans. It was not unusual to see nude sun bathers in the park, all ages and shapes. We wandered around, seeing the Constantine like arch, the Cathedral and other sites before deciding we would take the bike tour. While waiting we had a McDonald's milkshake (Burger King was out).





After walking around Marien Platz we went to the spot for the bike tour and met some recent grads on a European tour. As about 65 showed up for the tour, we split up and ended up with 21 in our group.
 Christine would have loved this tour. Most of our group were guys just out of college. Our guide was a New Zealander named Drew and although he was very humorous he gave us a good history of Bavaria and Munich. He confirmed suspicions Teresa had of Ludwig II and Wagner. We went through the English Garden again and stopped at the second largest beer garden in the world. I felt compelled to have beer, which came in liter mugs, and Teresa was happy to find wine offered. The Gardens are the largest metropolitan park in the world, three  times the size of New York's Central Park. We were all able to maneuver our bikes to the last few stop, the Hall of Generals and the sight of Hitler's first unsuccessful putsch. The tour was very fun. Afterwards we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. (Cheeseburger, Cobb Salad, guess who had what!) We then went across the street to the HaupfBrau House where beer started in Munich and hasn't stopped since. It was quite lively but we didn't stay long.  (smoky)




Next morning Teresa got up early and ran in the park; I didn't. She later wished she hadn't because she got blisters that bothered her the rest of the trip. After breakfast we decided to leisurely see the sights and shop. We visited five churches among other attractions and did get some shopping done.


 We ate lunch at the open air market, brautwurst for the first time, Teresa with  cabbage, mine was with potato salad.
We then went to the Deutches Museum which is like the Smithsonian, sort of a science-technology center. It was well done and put a more universal slant on technological achievements.
We only had a couple of hours before it closed and only saw a small part of it including  a large train  set with cameras on the trains.. Back to the hotel for a rest and to get cleaned up. For dinner we ate at the Ratskeller which is inside the courtyard of the New Town Hall (which is actually the Old one) On the walk back we stopped for a classical concert, five young men who were very good, playing under an arch passage of the Old Town Hall (which is really the new one). Finally we had an apple strudel, with vanilla sauce (it needed more sugar).



The next morning after the first breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, we relaxed and watched the World Cup on TV. We got a taxi, with a friendly driver to take us to the pick up our next car rental.
We got a sportier car so I let Teresa sit in the drivers seat and took her picture. (I didn't let her drive.)
We proceeded to Weltenburg Kloister which had remarkable abbey hard on he Danube by the Asam brothers (Cosmos and Damian). This place was jammed with tourists but I believe we were the only Americans. We took pictures of the cliffs by the Danube and then it was off to-





Wallhalla,a Greek Parthenon copy above the Danube built to honor German heroes.




On to Regensburg, a medieval city on the Danube that is a German tourist attraction, again no Americans. We arrived on the biggest day of the year, when they have an evening of music in the cities' museums. The tourist information center was only able to find one room open in town, a suite of rooms in the St. George. We took it.



 That evening we did the tour of five museums and heard two short concerts for six euros. This city was hopping, not only from the museum tour but the teenagers promenading. In the morning we went to the 11:00am mass at the Cathedral and saw some of the other sights we hadn't seen before.


Then it was off to Rothenberg. This city is known as the best preserved walled medieval city in Europe. We found a very nice hotel and walked around town. I first had a brautwurst sandwich and then a kebab for lunch as Teresa insisted I join her in the latter. We went to St. Jakob's Church. In this part of the country the Lutherans did start taking Catholic churches. We did some shopping and walked the walls. We had dinner at a very nice restaurant nestled under trees with the Cathedral next to us. We both had salad with tuna, and shared an ice cream sundae.



We decided to spend two nights in Rothenburg so the next morning we headed out again  and saw the St. Wolfgang church and the Franciscan church, now Lutheran.

 I should have mentioned that Teresa had become quite enthralled with a woodcarver named Tilman Riemenschnieder. She thought the one we found in St. Jakob's was so wonderful, and then to discover it was considered the best carved altarpiece in. Germany! We then had to see them all.





We went to the Crime and Punishment museum which was very graphic and informative. (English was common here as there were a multitude of Americans as well as other tourists.)





We climbed the Ruthaus Tower, ate peaches then rented bikes and rode into the valley. We went through Davgny where there was another Riemenschneider in a church which we stopped to see.
 We arrived at a village called Steinbach which had a biergarten. Unfortunately the boss was away and the young girl who was cleaning spoke no English and became quite flustered trying to fill our order for a beer and glass of wine. Something stung my hand and she brought a large cut onion to hold on it. It worked very well to stop the stinging.  I splurged on an ice cream sundae and  insisted on a picture with her.



The ride into the valley was  easy, The ride out wasn't. Teresa thought it wasn't too difficult but then she is in good shape.
After cleaning up we went out and ate Chinese.
 In the morning we headed straight for Wurzburg. It had a Versaille-like palace, a couple of churches with Riemenschnieder pieces in them, a castle on a hill with two museums (we saw them both, the second featured lots of Riemenschnieders).









 We then headed  to Bamberg, found a hotel and had salads and pizza for dinner. On the way back, we stopped at an ice cream shop where Teresa had a Bailey's Ice Cream Sundae and I had a banana split for a change.

 Bamberg is considered the Venice of Germany. The Regnitz River runs through it and has created a lot of little islands  Professional kayakers had their own course. Unlike Rothenberg and Wurzburg, Bamberg was spared during the war.



 The next morning we first went to the "Upper" Parish Church to see the famous Assumption of Mary by Tinteretto as well as other great works.
After a stop at a bakery for breakfast and a Coke, we headed for the Dom.


The cathedral was started in the eleventh century and contains the "Horse and Rider" which vies for the title of first Renaissance work and is considered by some as the most beautifu1 sculpture in the world.



 We were surprised to find four different tour groups all English speaking. It seems a cruise ship dropped them off and we had thought we were the only Americans in Bamberg.




We then went by the bridge that had the city hall built on it to avoid taxes.





 It was then off to Berlin, We decided to take a break for lunch at the Wurlitz Gardens which was only a slight detour on the way, quite lovely.




We arrived in Berlin and found a hotel with the help of tourist information,the BerlinerHof. It was a very nice room and centrally located. We strolled around and ate dinner at a sidewalk Italian restaurant. We both had salad and  Spaghetti Bolognese. Teresa had red wine instead of the beer and Sprite I had. After more window shopping, we headed back to the room. The next morning we took the car back to the rental agency. We then took the subway to the train station to meet up with the Berlin walking tour.


The tour started with a train ride to East Berlin as that is where most of the good stuff was. Our guide was very good and gave us a very comprehensive history of Berlin. Teresa shamelessly flirted with him. We saw the Platz of the museums and the Nazi rallies, the cathedral, Humboldt University (where Einstein taught and Marx and Lenin studied, not to mention 12 or so-Nobel laureates) the Nazi book burning site and memorial, the top of the Brandenburg Gate (the rest was covered for restoration), the Reichstag, and various parts of the Berlin Wall that were still intact.\

 






We ended at Checkpoint Charlie which had been restored to its original form.

We decided to go back to our room to change into shorts, it had gone from cool to hot.
We then did some shopping on the main shopping street west of our hotel this time, had some ice cream,  the best so far, and then went back to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum . The museum was large, informative, and not air conditioned. Some rooms were stiffing hot. It did relate many episodes of escapes as well as the political history of Berlin since the end of World War II and the prominence of the wall geo-politically.
After touring the museum we strolled Friedrickstrasse which is making a comeback as a swanky address since reunification. We went into the French department store that had a huge funnel decorating the middle. We decided then to return to our room. We had chicken kabobs for dinner. We tried to call home but got the machine.
The next morning we took the S-Bahn  to the Reichstag. We had to wait some but it was worth it. Up in the Dome you get a view of all Berlin and there was a good pictorial and written history of Germany's parliament.

We then went to the Soviet Memorial which had the first 2 Russian tanks that entered Berlin in World War II.



 Next we went to the Pergamon  museum which was fantastic. The Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate were the main attractions but everything in the museum was wonderful. We spent three and a half hours in the museum without getting bored. It had an excellent audio guide.








 We decided to eat after that, we each had a salad. We went back to the room to rest a little and get ready for the Berlin Symphony.
The symphony was excellent and the violin  soloist was exceptional.
Afterwards we walked through the Platz near our hotel where a free concert was taking place. Again we tried to call Shane but were unsuccessful.  
The next morning we decided to walk through the central park, the Tiergarten (Berlin's green lung). It was neither as big or as pretty as Munich's but it was green, had water and was large enough.


ln the middle is a victory statue celebrating a victory over the French in the late 1800's using French reparation money to construct it and French cannons in its decorations. We could not go inside because of the preparations for a Gay Festival (more on that latter).



 We then walked some more before taking a subway and a bus to the Egyptian Museum. It has the famous bust of Nephrititi and other interesting exhibits, but it had little English and no audio guide (despite R. S. saying there was one).



Across the street was the Picasso museum which had numerous Picassos but no Cezzanes,VanGoghs, or Matisses, as had been advertised. We only went because our museum ticket was good for all museums. 
For that reason too, we headed for the National Art Gallery, when parallel to our subway line (in a portion  that was above ground), we saw a lineup for the gay parade. We decided  to get off and see what one looked like. We grabbed some chicken kabobs and watched the show. It was amazing. Buses made into floats full of gays (both sexes, mostly guys) gays walking jampacked after the floats and also lining the streets. We stayed for awhile then proceeded to the art gallery. The parade was going by there too.




We entered the gallery at 4:00. It had everything from Botaccelli to Rembrandt and even a Reimenschnieder. We got out at 6:00 and the parade was still going on.
We walker through the Sony Center, in Potsdammer Platz, a very modern series of glass buildings. We decided to eat at Tony Roma's. I had ribs, Teresa had a salad.


We took the subway back and arrived at the Euro Center by our hotel and witness a huge Turkish procession of flags and fans driving around and around the streets. Turkey had defeated Senegal 1 to 0 in World Cup Soccer.
 

We got up  at 5a.m. to get to the airport for our return home. We looked forward to a day without much walking,





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