Germany: Berlin

Germany: Berlin

After arriving from Leipzig by a fast InterCity Express (ICE) train, our nephew picked us up at the Südkreuz train station near his southwest Berlin home in Zehlendorf. We stayed four nights and had a wonderful visit with him and his family while getting to see so much of Berlin and Potsdam with our own personal tour guide. We also had great weather for sightseeing – sunny and low 70’s.

On the first day, we visited Potsdam which borders Berlin on the west. We saw the Sanssouci Palace that was the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, and walked around its landscaped gardens where we noticed this gilded gazebo.

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We explored the surrounding Sanssouci Park where there was also this New Palace. Later we went to Cecilienhof Palace northeast of Sanssouci that was the location of the Potsdam Conference in 1945 where the heads of the Soviet Union (Stalin), United Kingdom (Churchill), and United States (Truman) made important decisions affecting post-war Europe and Asia including  partitioning of Germany and Berlin.

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We enjoyed a nice dinner at a cafe on the Lake Wannsee near my nephew’s house. Its at the western-most part of Berlin before crossing the bridge to Potsdam. His teenage children attend the John F.Kennedy international bilingual school nearby since he’s American and his wife is German; they both speak their native language at home with them, which was interesting. We took the family out to dinner twice, and they made special German meals for us the other nights.

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The second day we walked all around Berlin. We visited the Brandenburg Gate, which is an 18th-century triumphal arch that was a former city gate where the Berlin Wall had divided the city from 1961 to 1989 when it was opened and Germany was reunified. Also there are various monuments nearby like this equestrian statue of Frederick the Great, honoring King Frederick II of Prussia.

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The third day we rode around Berlin some more and visited the Charlottenburg Palace and gardens, just west of the large Tiergarten park in center city not far from the Brandenburg Gate. There were other interesting sites like silver people that look like statues and come alive when you give them some money.

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There is an interesting mix of old and new buildings throughout Berlin, which we saw on a boat cruise on the Spree River which goes through the city, looking at all the massive federal buildings, churches, and museums.

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On our last day we went to the American Checkpoint Charlie on the former east-west border before the Berlin Wall came down. It’s now been 25 years since the reunification of Germany. Also we visited the Wall Museum next to the checkpoint with lots of information, pictures, and exhibits about the reality of that time.

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The joys of travel … Our 7am flight from Berlin Tegl Airport to Austin via London Heathrow was grounded after we left the gate because it “lost control of steering”. First they went over to the maintenance facility to see if they could repair it, but that was not successful. So they unloaded all our luggage and took us back to the terminal by bus to rebook flights after going through customs and picking up our luggage.

Then we had to wait in line at British Airways for about 4 hours after the initial 2-hour grounding delay to see what we could arrange as alternate flights. Finally we managed to get re-routed from Berlin to Austin via Amsterdam and Atlanta on KLM/Delta so we thought at least we might get home late that same day.

We made the KLM connection in Amsterdam. However, in Atlanta after customs, baggage claim, security checkpoint, bag drop-off, train to another terminal, and long walk to a gate, we just missed our very tight connection to Austin. At least Delta gave us a Marriott hotel voucher, an overnight amenity kit with toothbrush/paste, razor/shave cream, deodorant, etc. and meal vouchers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So finally we got home to Texas about mid-day the next day. It was a fantastic 3-week trip, although it was probably too long, even though we saw a lot.

Click on the following photo to view the Berlin photo gallery (about 148 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Berlin

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Germany: Leipzig

Germany: Leipzig

After visiting Rothenberg on the Romantic Road, we continued driving north toward our next destination at Leipzig. Along the way, we visited several places where my wife’s relatives were born or lived – maternal grandmother at Lindenau in west Leipzig, and great-grandparents at Ohrdruf and Wechmar near Gotha. Also we visited the Wartburg Castle from the Middle Ages near Eisenach because she has a photo of her grandmother’s cousins taken there; it was interesting and we took a picture of her at the same spot.

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We arrived in Leipzig in the evening so we only had time for dinner and a brief walk around center city near the hotel where we stayed. Apparently that weekend was the 24th International Wave Gothic Festival (Wave-Gotik-Treffe) which they have in Leipzig every year with about 20,000 gothic people from all over the world celebrating “dark” music and arts (world’s largest). It was rather strange to see all these weird black outfits everywhere, including in our hotel and everyday you go outside.

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We really didn’t have much time there since we just stayed overnight in Leipzig. It was hard to judge how long our drive might take, especially since we took many back roads, and we thought that we might get there earlier than we did. We had a very nice hotel in the main square, and our view from the bathroom on the 6th floor had an interesting view of the old city hall out the window, which is where we ate dinner in the larger photo below.

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We turned in our rental car in the morning and took a train north for Berlin, where we stayed 4 nights with my nephew and family who live there. Originally we planned to stay in Leipzig two nights but we needed to shorten that to accommodate a schedule conflict he had on the following day, but at least we got to spend more time in Berlin which was better anyway.

Click on the following photo from Leipzig to view the Leipzig photo gallery (about 53 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site. These also include photos from Eisenach, Ohrdruf, and Wechmar.

Germany Trip: Leipzig

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Germany: Romantic Road

Germany: Romantic Road

After catching a train back to Munich from Salzburg, we visited medieval walled villages from the Middle Ages driving our rental car north along the Romantic Road through Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber (where we stayed overnight). These were great, especially the last one – probably our favorite of the entire trip.

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Click on the following photo from Rothenberg ob der Tauber to view the Romantic Road photo gallery (about 149 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Romantic Road

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Germany: Salzburg

Germany: Salzburg

From Munich Germany we took an 1 1/2 hour train ride to Salzburg Austria. It was cold (43) and rainy all day. Although the German national rail system went on strike the night before, we were still able to take our train from Munich to Salzburg on-time with no problems. We wondered what would happen to our return train reservations in two days, but that turned out not to be a problem because the strike was settled by then.

We went on a city sightseeing tour and then walked the old town with rain jacket and umbrella. There was an interesting fortress high on a hill overlooking the city, and there was a big emphasis on Mozart. We had the famous Sacher-Torte chocolate cake with whipped cream at the Sacher Hotel cafe.

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We spent another day in Salzburg and went on the 4-hour Sound of Music tour, which was actually pretty interesting since you visit all the places from the movie. Also we walked the old town some more, and visited the fortress high on the hill over the city. It was slightly warmer (48) and light rain most of the day.

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Click on the following photo to view the Salzburg photo gallery (about 236 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Salzburg

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Germany: Munich

Germany: Munich

After our week on the Rhine Cruise with two additional days in Amsterdam, we flew to Munich for two days on the rest of our extended Germany trip.

We visited the Hofbraühaus for lunch and listened to oompah music. Of course, we had bratwurst, potatoes, and sauerkraut with Hofbraü Dunkel (dark) beer.

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We took a short sightseeing tour around the city and walked around center city for a while.

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Then we had dinner (and more beer) at a sidewalk cafe.

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The next day we toured the Royal Castles and visited the village of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps southwest of Munich. Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland  that was built by King Ludwig II in the 19th century along with his elaborate Linderhof family castle. It was overcast with rain in lower 50’s, but still a good tour.

Click on the following Neuschwanstein Castle photo to view the Munich photo gallery (about 194 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Germany Trip: Munich

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Rhine Cruise: Cologne

Rhine Cruise: Cologne

Today on our Viking cruise we visited the city and cathedral in Cologne (Köln), Germany. We had a walking tour of the Old Town, enjoyed the local Kölsch beer in an outdoor cafe, and explored the city and cathedral. It was a holiday so everyone was off work celebrating so it was quite busy, especially since it was a lovely day.

The Cologne Cathedral dominates the city and is a favorite tourist destination. Its architecture is very detailed and intricate, and really quite impressive. There are several areas where they are doing some repairs and reconstruction so scaffolding is visible in places.

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Inside it’s very high with columns and many intersecting arches which provides interesting perspective looking down the aisles. The cathedral is filled with magnificent stained glass windows everywhere like this one, as well as many statues throughout.

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Click on the following Cologne Cathedral photo to view the Cologne photo gallery (about 66 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Cologne

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Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

After scenic cruising the Middle Rhine viewing castles all morning, we arrived at Koblenz, Germany. After lunch we toured Marksburg Castle, and then had a walking tour of the old town before dinner.

Click on the following Marksburg Castle photo to view the Koblenz photo gallery (about 42 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Koblenz

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Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine – Castles

Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine – Castles

We spent Day 4 scenic cruising from Heidelberg and Rüdesheim to Koblenz in perfect weather with sunny skies in the low 70’s. We saw castles, castles, and more castles on both sides of the middle Rhine in Germany. I think there were about 23 castles in this area. It was really amazing to see them all, one after another.

 

Click on the following Castle photo to view the Middle Rhine photo gallery (about 89 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site.

Rhine Cruise: Middle Rhine

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Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

On Day 3 of our Viking cruise we visited Heidelberg, Germany. It was a very interesting medieval town with scenic river, castle ruins, old town, cathedral, shops, cafes, and alleys.

Heidelberg has lots to see and we had extra time there. This is a view of the Heidelberg Castle ruins on the hill overlooking the old town. It was very interesting to tour, and I have quite a few photos of it.

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The Neckar river flows right through the city, so there are several bridges crossing over it. Here is the Bridge Gate on the old bridge at the main north entrance to the city. There were lots of interesting buildings and alleys throughout the city, and you can see the Bridge Gate beyond this one.

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This photo from the Heidelberg Castle highlights the Old Bridge across the Neckar river with the Bridge Gate and all the interesting houses on the other side. Apparently, they ceased building over there to preserve the views so they are just along the banks and all the green trees on the hillside remain which makes it quite scenic. The other photo emphasizes the Church of the Holy Spirit with its steeple in the center, which is located in the main market square of the city. The colorful rooftops and Neckar river offer a nice view of the old town from the castle.

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The exterior views of the castle wall are impressive. They show side castle walls left standing.

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These are some of the remaining side walls of the Heidelberg Castle ruins taken from inside the courtyard.

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And here’s another photo of the side of the castle, where you can see statues at different levels, arranged according to their rank with the highest toward the top. The facade view from inside the castle courtyard reveals lots of interesting statues of various important counts and dukes of the time.

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This photo of the corner from the courtyard shows a sundial on the wall, along with a closeup view. It still works and tells the time, although it doesn’t account for daylight savings time (summer time in Central Europe).

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There are several towers at the castle, and here you see one of them that had its side blown away (from lightning, I think, rather than attack). There are several gigantic wine vats located in the Heidelberg Castle cellar. This shows the Heidelberg Tun, which is the world’s largest wine barrel. A tun is an extremely large wine cask, typically around 240 gallons, about 8 times larger than a normal wine barrel. This was so large they built a dance floor on top, and constructed stairs on the side to get up there. It was a status symbol to have the biggest wine barrel.

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Here is the Viking longship Idi docked on the Rhine at Heidelberg, as well as a swan swimming near our ship along the shore. Because of the high waters on the Rhine, which prevented us from boarding our original ship in Basel, Viking decided to switch us back to our original ship Kvasir so they would be able to return to their normal river schedule. We packed our luggage so they could take it by bus to Rüdesheim while we spent a few extra hours than planned in Heidelberg including extra money credit for us to enjoy lunch in town. The other ship’s passengers did something similar coming from the other direction.

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In the afternoon they took us by motor coach through the Riesling wine country about 1 1/2 hours to Rüdesheim where we boarded our ship Kvasir with our luggage waiting for us in our stateroom. All the staff appeared overhead with a “Welcome Home” sign, clapping and cheering as we boarded. It was a slight unplanned inconvenience, and some passengers were annoyed by this change, but it went very smoothly and was probably necessary considering the river conditions, and we got to see more of Heidelberg.

And then we walked around Rüdesheim in the evening as planned, and strolled the Drosselgasse lane in the heart of the old town full of beautifully decorated restaurants. Live band entertainment, brass instruments and dance music play all day and all night during the summer in the many wine taverns and open-air garden taverns along the narrow cobblestone pedestrian street built in the 15th century.

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Click on the following Heidelberg Castle photo to view the Heidelberg photo gallery (about 93 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site, which also includes my Rüdesheim photos.

Rhine Cruise: Heidelberg

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Rhine Cruise: Breisach

Rhine Cruise: Breisach

We visited Breisach, Germany for Day 1 of our cruise. After getting settled in our veranda stateroom and having dinner, we spent the evening and following morning walking around the city, located right next to where our ship was docked. Here are a few photos with brief commentary.

11063812_966094056745454_1573301792583333471_nThere were lots of swans near the riverbank (we counted over 30). Later we saw one fairly large swan really struggling as it managed to paddle upstream because the current was so strong because of the high water in the river.

10583871_966094036745456_213639558791523439_n This is a view of St. Stephens Church up on a hill overlooking the town, which you can see from almost every direction. We hiked up to visit the church, but it was not open that day so we weren’t able to see inside.

 

11150909_966094016745458_5973204803429883584_nThere were lots of narrow hilly streets and alleys between buildings, especially going up the hill toward the church. Some had cars on them, and others were just for walking.

 

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Here’s a rooftop view of the town from up on the highest hill near St. Stephen’s Church which offers nice panoramic views of distant Black Forest mountains which we visited later in the afternoon.

During the afternoon of Day 1 from Breisach, we went on a tour of the Black Forest. That was more interesting than I thought it would be. There were stories about the location of Hansel and Gretel.

Apparently, stork nests are quite popular in several towns in this area. There is a Stork Camera webcam on the Gottenheim steeple where you can see what’s going on in the nest. You might need to translate the German page).

There was lovely scenery during our ride through the countryside with  interesting houses, pretty fields, and wild flowers. We enjoyed a nice hike on a Black Forest trail along a stream flowing down the mountain as we crossed little bridges and zigzagged up the path.

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Here’s a place where they make cuckoo clocks that has dancers appear every hour. The Black Forest Cake was pretty good too. Here are some cakes on display, and we had it for desert on the cruise that evening.

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There was a cute little outdoor cafe restaurant at the main intersection in town after we walked up the hill from where the ship was docked. It looked interesting, but we didn’t eat there since we had lunch and dinner on the ship that day. Also, there was a popular ice cream place across the street that seemed to attract a lot of people since it was such a lovely sunny day in the low 70’s.

Click on the following photo to view the Breisach photo gallery (about 15 photos) at my SmugMug photo web site, which also includes my Black Forest photos.

Rhine Cruise: Breisach

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