Thursday, August 17, 2017

Days Seven & Eight in Berlin

Written on Monday, July 31 on the Plane to Charlotte.

Our trip has come to an end. Somehow I survived Berlin. Our Airbnb was not that great. Beautiful apartment in a new building. Clean in general but there were some details that were not great. 

Oranienburg Train Station - Outside of Berlin

On Saturday, July 29 we arrived and we went straight to the concentration camp after putting our bags in lockers at the train station.  We had breakfast first when we go there and then we found the lockers to put up our luggage. We also go the train information to go to Oranienburg to  the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

We arrived to the town around 10:30 a.m. and then we took the bus from the train station. We met a nice Portuguese American family from California.

We spent way longer at the camp than we intended. We missed our bus because it was too full. We didn't want to wait more than hour for the next bus so we walked to the train station. We met a nice Canadian family along the way and two Spanish girls.  One of them was wearing a Litchfield Prison t-shirt. 

We then took the train back to Berlin, got our bags and went to the Airbnb. She's a very young Tunisian American girl who rents out her room and sleeps in the living room. She had friends in and out and her boyfriend was there too. It was very weird and uncomfortable. The only cool part was that it was on the east side of Berlin. 

I took a shower and we went to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe to get Rey's shot glass. While we were there Miranda studied the subway map to plot our trip the next day. 

We weren't too crazy about our Airbnb, it was simply a place to stay for the night. So we left on Sunday morning and went to put our bags up at the train station lockers again and we had breakfast there. 

Berlin Wall Memorial- These poles show where the wall stood.

Then we set out to see the Berlin Wall Memorial. That has been one of my favorite parts of the trip. To have stayed on the east side and then to go and read all the stories of the people who escaped through windows and doors of the apartments on the border really left an impression on me. I got chills when I realized the metal plates on the ground showed where people dug tunnels from the east to the west side to escape. Sometimes tunnels came out in basements of businesses on the west side. 

Metal plates that show where one of the tunnels ran under ground. 

After the Berlin Wall Memorial we went to the famous Brandeburg Gate built in the 1791 and the site of many historical moments from Napoleon, the Nazis, on the border of the Berlin Wall, Visits by Kennedy and the fall of the Wall.

Then back to the train station to take the 5 p.m. train back to Frankfurt. It was the shortest train trip ever because we went to the dining cart to eat dinner and we sat with a historian from Frankfurt named Jenni. She was super nice and very interested in the US and Houston.

Sunday night we found our way back to our hotel and the room two floors above our old room. We got ready for the trip back home, showered and re-packed our suitcases before bed.

This morning it didn't look like we were going to get on the flight but a pilot said he'd take the jump seat with the other pilots in the cockpit so we could both get on. There were also several no-shows. I told Miranda there are always people who over-sleep and don't make the early flight. And there are angels like the pilot who gave us his seat. 

So here we are now on our way to Charlotte and then we will fly to Houston, God willing. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

On the Overnight Train to Berlin

So here is what I wrote on the train to Berlin on 7/28/17 when I was exhausted.

On the train to Berlin. End of Day 6. We only have 2 days left now in Berlin, Saturday and Sunday. We get there Saturday morning, so we only have Saturday and part of Sunday to do things.

Miranda sleeping across all 3 seats.

At this point in our trip I'm so exhausted that I would be happy just sitting in a cafe for a whole day or sleeping. But I know I can't. I know I have to have enough energy for both of us to finish this last leg of the trip.

Berlin has the Cold War history. I want to see the Wall memorial and I want to go to the East side. I want to go to the concentration camp there too. So I need to have enough energy for those two things and the Hard Rock Cafe.

I'm so glad I bought a first class compartment with nice seats 
& nobody came to sit with us the whole ride to Berlin!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Days Five & Six in Munich and Dachau

I just realized that by the time I was on the train to Berlin on Friday, 7/28 I was so exhausted that I didn't even record what we did in Munich so I will try to write what I remember and then I'll write what's in my travel journal.

Day Five was 7/27 we arrived in Munich from Heidelberg in the early afternoon. We got to our hotel and it was super nice. It was a traditional hotel room and more modern than our room in Frankfurt. The only down side was the spotty/weak Wi-Fi. Other than that it was lovely and they sold drinks, including wine, at the main desk.

I love the German tradition of leaving a thick quilt at the foot of the bed. 
We checked into our room and we set off to see the sites. I can't remember what we saw in Munich that first day but I can tell you that we walked a lot. I felt like we walked more than we had in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, but maybe I was just getting tired. I don't know why we didn't take the subway there more often but like Miranda said, she preferred to walk the streets and see the city, which is very true.

One thing we noticed both in Frankfurt and in Munich was the very large Arab/Muslim population. In one of the cities we walked down an entire street that was filled with shops with Arabic writing. We saw so many women in hijabs and burkas. It was very interesting.

So we walked around Munich and we saw different interesting sites and then we went to the Hard Rock Cafe to get Rey a shot glass for his collection. I'm not going to lie, even though Hard Rock is originally a British company it's now American, it was nice to have a very American feel for a bit and to see American foods on the menu. The whole vibe inside of there is American. So we ate there and I had buffalo wings since I'd realized by then that I don't really like German food, except for sausage that we also eat a lot in Texas.

Day 6 was the VERY long day! We did the Hitler tour in the morning. OMG, we had the best tour guide, Florian, who obviously has a PhD in Hitler and the Third Reich.

Feldherrnhalle, a monument in Munich where the Nazi's had their first failed coup attempt.

The tour was almost 3 hours long and extremely interesting. We saw the site where Hitler gave his first speech when he came to the attention of his future supporters. History! We saw the site where he had his first failed coup attempt that actually worked in his favor. Even though he went to prison it was more of a writer's retreat where he wrote his book, "My Struggle."

After lunch we set out on a train to Dachau, the first concentration camp in Europe. It was the model for all the other camps. What really got me was how they didn't establish this camp and say, "What the heck are we doing?" Why didn't people stop them there?? No, instead they modeled all the other camps after this one. Unbelievable. The experience was really chilling and I'm glad Miranda got to see it first hand to really understand history and to make it real.


After Dachau we went back to Munich and had dinner. I had some passable German food. Note, German dumplings are nothing like American or even Chinese dumplings.

We went back to our hotel, where they had had graciously been holding our bags for us all day, and set out for the train station. We had reserved a compartment because we were taking the overnight train to Berlin to save time. They didn't have any sleeper cars/cochettes so had a compartment with 6 seats and just prayed nobody wanted to sit with us so we could stretch out across the seats. Yes it was exhausting for me at 47, but I'm glad Miranda got to have that great experience of taking a train over-night. She said it was horrible. Ha ha!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Days Three & Four in Heidelberg & Calw in the Black Forest

Written on Thursday, 7/27/17 on the train to Munich

We just spent two great days in Heidelberg and the Black Forest. Our first day we went to the Castle but we made it up to the top right after the last guided tour that allows you inside of the castle. Everything pretty much closes at 6 but they did the last tour at 4 p.m. Even though we didn't get to see the inside rooms, the castle itself and the grounds are beautiful.  The castle was amazing and very medieval. We also saw the museum of pharmacy and the world's largest wine barrel.

Heidelberg Castle

It was so interesting that the pharmacy museum was there so of course I had to ask why. Like a lot of building and landmarks, the museum was bombed during WWII. It was originally in Munich and after wandering for a while they finally found a permanent home for it there at the castle. Since the pharmaceutical sciences are very medieval in many ways I think it was a very appropriate home. Being the science nerd that she is, Miranda was IN LOVE with it.

Afterwords we walked around the old town of Heidelberg looking at old buildings. The university is spread out around the town so the town exists around the university. We saw so many old buildings and the Church of the Holy Spirit is magnificent.

M was still pretty tired and fell asleep early again. I had to wake her up to take a shower and have a sandwich. We had to go into the kitchen to do this. We had meat and cheese but we didn't have bread. The father of the house gave us some bread, which was really nice of him. This was our first Airbnb experience.  We rented a room from a father and daughter. They were super nice and the room was large and comfortable.

On Wednesday we woke up early and we took the train to Calw, which apparently not too many Germans know about. Both the train station lady and the Airbnb guy thought it was weird that we were going there.

Calw is in the Black Forest so we were able to hike through part of it for at least 45 minutes or an hour. It was breath-taking and a little scary since we were the only ones out there.

Calw, and that's the Black Forest, just up the street

After the forest we had a really nice lunch at a French cafe and from there we went to the Hermann Hesse museum. Calw is all about Hermann Hesse. That is their "claim to fame' and they capitalize on it. The museum was extremely interesting and we learned so much about Hesse. I had read that he was a Nobel Prize winner for literature but I didn't know he was also a talented artist.

A note about German trains. OMG I had forgotten how clean and nice they are. I'm also glad I paid just a little extra for first class for our rail tickets.

When we got back to Heidelberg I told M that she wasn't going to go to sleep early again. We were on Day 4 now. So we walked through Old Town and had dinner at, of all places, a Lowenbrau Beer pub. At first I thought that was just a common German name, but then I realized it was the actual beer company.

After dinner we saw more buildings we hadn't seen before, the Jesuit church and the university library. We didn't get back to the room until 10 p.m. A first! We went to bed around 11:30, halfway through our trip and we were finally on a normal sleep pattern.

Today, on Thursday morning, we're on our way to Munich for more adventures.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

First Two Days of Germany in Frankfurt

Written on Tuesday, 7/25/17

Things don't always go as planned and so far I've had my challenges. I lost my favorite reading glasses on the plane and then my favorite sunglasses with built in readers out in town on our first day.  My phone has no service, but Miranda's does. Of course. I forgot the tip I read before coming, that it was good to take a Pepto pill per day to protect your stomach from food poisoning and I forgot to pack them.

The Eschenheimer Tower- Frankfurt

Frankfurt was a lot of fun but we were jet lagged. We arrived Sunday, the 22nd and we walked around and saw the Old Opera House and the Eschenheimer Tower. I wish I'd remembered that museums are closed on Mondays and we could have gone to at least one on Sunday. Although we were so exhausted on Sunday that we laid down for a short nap at 6 p.m. and woke up and 10 p.m. I woke up, showered and went back to sleep. We still slept late on Monday morning!

Monday we went out and saw a lot. We saw the Romer, the old town and two churches around there. we walked along the river and then went across the Galleria shopping ares to see a few more churches. We went to to the Goethe House museum and learned all about him and the artwork that his family collected. We ate in a really great restaurant that obviously catered to tourists, but that was okay. The decor was magnificent. I found out I'm not that crazy about German food, but the beer was pretty good. The best part was the decor. It was awesome!

Tourist Trap Restaurant in the Romer that we Loved

When we headed back to the hotel we stopped at the grocery store across the street from the hotel and bought ham, cheese and bread, chips, and apples for dinner.

M must have still been very jet lagged recuse she fell fast asleep and only woke up to eat her sandwich and she read for a little while.

I didn't sleep well and woke up a couple of times. We ended up over sleeping in a little again until 9:30. At 12:20 pm on Tuesday, the 25th we were on the train to Heidelberg.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Adventures in Germany

I had all these plans for blogging while in Germany. Besides the spotty Wi-Fi and how hard it was to log on to my blog, I don't think I would have really had time to blog. I wrote in our travel journal when traveling from one city to the next. So the plan is to copy all my journal entries here in time.

Meanwhile here's a picture of us on Monday, August 24 in Frankfurt. We found this restaurant that we realized catered to tourists but they did a really great job of it.