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Germany

On The Runway

Berlin - Oranienburg & Berlin

semi-overcast 27 °C
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Our final full day in Berlin began with another visit outside the city to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Oranienburg. Annoyingly on weekends the bus between the station in Oranienburg and the camp runs only every two hours, and so we ended up walking for twenty minutes rather than waiting 25 for the bus to turn up. But the walk went by quite quickly and before we knew it we had turned up at the camp.

Entry to the camp

Entry to the camp

The camp is located on the edge of the town, surrounded by nice family homes - in what appears completely out of place. The camp was free to enter and had remains and reconstructed sites - execution trenches, huts and gas chambers as well as a memorial.

Inside Sachsenhausen

Inside Sachsenhausen

After a walk around the eery site, we headed back to the station and back into the city. We spent the afternoon with a visit to Berlin Zoo, taking a look around at the range of animals, before eating and chilling back at the hotel.

At the Zoo

At the Zoo

Our flight home the following day was in the late afternoon, and so after enjoying breakfast and packing, we left the hotel with baggage in tow and headed via a few sights en route to the airport.

Our first was the former airport of Tempelhof, where it is now possible to walk amongst the former runway.

Not this runway

Not this runway

Hoping locals wouldn't tell us that the airport is actually closed (as we were clearly tourists on our way to the airport), we made our way out and stopped off at Treptower Park, for a view of the Soviet War Memorial, reminiscent of those in CIS countries - such as Mother Motherland in Kyiv and The Motherland Calls in Volgograd

Treptower Park

Treptower Park

And that was it for our trip, a long weekend in Berlin was over already, with us back at Schönefeld Airport ready for our flight home.
The city is always fun to visit, much to see and do and never quite enough time to see it all without being super busy!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:44 Archived in Germany Tagged animals park airport memorial zoo city berlin war macabre Comments (0)

The Palaces of Potsdam

Berlin - Potsdam

semi-overcast 27 °C
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After a busy day in the centre of Berlin, today we were going outside the city to Potsdam, home of the Prussian Kings, and capital of the German province of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. Unlike the rest of the trip, which was mostly to places I had seen on previous trips to Berlin, the journey to Potsdam was a new experience for me.

Glienicke Bridge

Glienicke Bridge

We began by heading down to the Glienicke Bridge on the border of Berlin and Brandenburg. This bridge was closed during the Cold War, and used for the transfer of spies. Now reopened, we were able to walk into the former East Germany.

Potsdam High Street

Potsdam High Street

We then got on a tram and arrived in the centre of Potsdam, walking down the main shopping street, stopping for ice cream, before making our way into the Sanssouci Park, where the palaces of the city are located.

Sanssouci Palace

Sanssouci Palace

We began by walking firstly towards the impressive Sanssouci Palace, overlooking the park above terraces and a water fountain, before continuing along the central path towards the New Palace

Orangery Palace

Orangery Palace

This park was huge, but also cool and shady, and whilst walking through every few minutes the view of another palace came into view.

New Palace

New Palace

After reaching the New Palace we headed north to the bus stop to make our way back to Berlin. Annoyingly there were construction works on the train line, and so we had to get a replacement bus from Potsdam to Wannsee, which was a bit of a nightmare to find, but eventually we were on our way back to the city.

With it being mid-afternoon, we decided to make our way back to the hotel via the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1936 Olympics. We had originally planned to go inside, but as our feet were aching, and only guided tours permitted (due to the imminent hosting of the European Athletics Championships) we decided to head back to the hotel instead after viewing from outside.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

By now we were very tired, but with another full day yet to come we spent the rest of the evening chilling in the hotel and claiming another free drink from the bar!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 04:25 Archived in Germany Tagged park palace bridge city berlin border royal olympic Comments (0)

Buzzing Around Berlin

Berlin

sunny 32 °C
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After many short city breaks, our Berlin trip was going to be slightly longer - four nights in total. However even that did not seem enough!

We started the first day with a delay on our early afternoon flight, meaning we didn't manage to arrive in Berlin until early evening. We stopped off en route at the East Side Gallery, where the longest stretch of remaining Berlin Wall was turned into an art gallery, with many different murals by various artists.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

We then continued on to grab some dinner before heading to the hotel via the supermarket. By now it was already getting late, so we decided to stay put and carry out the rest of our sightseeing in the following days. Although upon arrival we did find an interesting policy by the hotel - in return for not having our room cleaned the following day, we would get a free drink at the bar. As we'd just arrived we decided the free drink was a better idea, so we headed down to claim it.

Upon ordering, I decided to have a wine spritzer, however the German barmaid had never heard of this! (despite being in the limited menu) and asked what this was in German - "Schorle". A little surprising, I thought, as spritzer is clearly a German word - although evidently not used in these parts! After a good night's sleep, we awoke the next morning and ate breakfast before heading out for our first day of sightseeing.

Today we would be seeing the sights in the city centre. We had prebooked entry to the Reichstag Dome, and so had to keep to schedule. We started by heading round the corner from our hotel, to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Much like that of Coventry, it was an old cathedral almost destroyed during the Second World War, with the ruins kept as a memorial and a modern church built next door.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church


Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Next, we headed out to the city centre, and to Checkpoint Charlie - the only foreign public crossing point during the days of the Berlin Wall. We then continued along the line of the wall towards the Topography of Terror, on the site of the Gestapo Headquarters, which detailed the history of the rise of the Nazis, and their rule, all in this geographical area of the city.

Our journey then took us to Potsdammer Platz, a modern business district built upon the old Berlin Wall site, before heading north past Tierpark and arriving at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. This memorial is made up of rows of concrete pillars across a sloping field, which reach up to 5 metres tall and can be walked between.

Inside the memorial to the Jews

Inside the memorial to the Jews


Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

After taking a walk around this memorial, we then stopped by the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic German landmark, separated on the line of the Berlin Wall, where we took lots of photos, before continuing on to the Reichstag - Parliament Building.

Reichstag

Reichstag

We first viewed the building from the outside, before entering through the security check and up onto the roof itself. The building is from 1894, but has been unused for most of the time since, with the inside being completely new, from the 1990s. The dome was a modern replacement for the original cupola and is open to the public as a viewing platform, and views of the surrounding area and inside the centre of the Bundestag (Parliament) can be seen.

Inside the Reichstag Dome

Inside the Reichstag Dome

After touring the roof, we headed back down and walked past the new government buildings to the north, towards the Friedrichstraße station. The station was unique as it was located within East Berlin, and yet functioned as a border post. The reason why, was that the city was divided after the existence of the underground transport network, which cut across lines in the city. Remarkably, it was agreed that lines that crossed the border would not necessarily have to close. Those that ran West to West, via the East were allowed to stay open, but with the stations in East Berlin closed and functioning as ghost stations.

Even more remarkable, was that there was one station in the east - Friedrichstraße, that intersected with both sides. Being a major transport hub, the East decided to fence off the station, with some platforms serving interchanges between lines solely for West Berliners, as well as interchanges for East Berlin lines. There was also a border post within the station that enabled those few who were able to cross sides a point in which to do so. easily.

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

To the north of the station, an entrance was built that would serve as the non-transport-connection border post for Easterners heading to the West. It was called the Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears) as for many crossing here it would be a sad event, leaving behind friends and family. It is now used as an exhibition for the story of this time, and even had a border checkpoint from the time for visitors to experience.

After taking a look at this exhibition, we got on a tram and headed towards Museum Island. Stopping first off at Bebelplatz where there is a monument to the burning of books during the rise of the Nazis, before continuing past the Cathedral and the Old Museum.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Stopping off for some refreshment, we then went inside the DDR Museum - a museum dedicated to the life inside East Germany, which included a recreated East German flat.

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

After looking around the museum, we then made our way over to Alexanderplatz, the heart of East Berlin, where after a bit of shopping, I went inside the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel, which has a balcony on the 40th floor open to the public, with views over the city, including the nearby TV Tower.

View over Alexanderplatz

View over Alexanderplatz

Our final place for today was further north, at Bernauer Straße, where part of the Berlin Wall has been recreated, with a viewing platform across the road. After taking a look at how life would have been just thirty years ago, we travelled back to our hotel via the underground station, which had information about the ghost stations on the network.

Bernauer Straße

Bernauer Straße

After stopping off at the supermarket we then went out for a German dinner in the restaurant around the corner. After surviving being hounded by wasps, we then went back to the hotel for an evening chill after the busy day before we would continue our adventures tomorrow.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:48 Archived in Germany Tagged church city museum berlin cathedral parliament wall border war Comments (0)

Manic Munich

Bavaria - Munich

sunny 26 °C
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After two busy excursion days, our final day in Bavaria was to fill in the rest of the gaps in Munich before flying home late in the evening.

We began once again with an earlyish start, grabbing breakfast, before dropping off our bags and checking out of the hotel. We then headed out to the central station, grabbing the S-Bahn train to Dachau. After half an hour we arrived in the suburban city, and changed to a bus full of other tourists all headed to the Concentration Camp Museum.

Entrance to Dachau

Entrance to Dachau

The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first opened by the Nazis, and is now open as a free museum almost every day of the year. We began walking the short path from the bus stop to the entrance gate, with the typical "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes [you] free) sign, before entering the vast site, and heading towards the main building.

Arbeit Macht Frei

Arbeit Macht Frei

Inside the building, which was formally the administration, were many placards detailing the rise of the Nazi regime, many of which are still sadly present today, before going on to explain the history of Dachau more specifically.

Walking back across the roll call area, we entered one of the reconstructed huts, with different sections showing how over the course of time, the camp got more populated, and thus density of beds was increased.

Early Layout of Beds

Early Layout of Beds


Former Hut Sites

Former Hut Sites

We then headed up the tree lined centre, past the site of former huts, to the chapels built within the site, before heading west to the crematoriums. These were built within an extension of the camp site, and were relatively underused for the extermination of prisoners, although still included the gas chamber labelled as "wash room".

Crematoriums

Crematoriums


Stove

Stove

After a depressing morning we headed back to the city centre for some other sights.

Unfortunately Munich wasn't the easiest city to get across, as most of the metro system runs off the backbone of the central corridor, meaning seeing the football stadium from Dachau took an hour and a half by public transport, but just 18 minutes if we decided to drive...

Allianz Arena

Allianz Arena

We therefore decided to make the most of the inevitable trip back to the centre to get some souvenirs, before heading back out to the Allianz Arena. Whilst neither of us are particularly bothered about football, it is an icon of the city, and after having to transfer to a different train en route (and given gummy bears for the inconvenience), we could see the stadium from the station itself. As our legs were aching like mad by now we therefore had a quick look and headed towards the Olympic Park.

BMW Headquarters

BMW Headquarters

Upon arriving, we took a short walk across a bridge, overlooked by the BMW headquarters, and entered the landscaped park seeing the stadium and arenas from the 1972 Olympic Games. Again, as our feet ached we didn't explore too much, and we also knew that if we made it to our last site, the Zoo, before 3pm we could be in time for the Polar Bear talk.

Olympiapark

Olympiapark

Hurrying through the underground system across the city, we eventually arrived at the zoo with ten minutes to spare. I explained to the cashier in German which tickets we needed, but forgetting the word "auch" and using "as well" instead, she had me sussed... no matter how much more German I could use she would always talk back in English. Far too inefficient for her to be wasting time when she was better in English than I was in German.

After hurrying through I then noticed on the map that we had been wrong all day.... the talk was at 3:30pm! We therefore had 40 minutes to get to the other end of the park, and so didn't need to rush. Therefore we started to look at the animals en route, guessing what their German names were before arriving.

Red Panda or 'Kleiner Panda'

Red Panda or 'Kleiner Panda'

Getting towards the Rhinos I wondered what they could be called, as Rhino sounded like a Romance/Greek word not a Germanic one. However walking past the Café Rhino sign, I thought I must have been wrong. Then wondering how a German would say it in my mind, I said it to myself in a German accent just as a German lady behind said the same thing in the same accent... ?

One of the Rhinos

One of the Rhinos

However after going into the Rhino house, where a little child was shouting "Nashörner" at the animal I soon realised I was right at the start - Rhino was not the German word at all!

Polar Bear Cub

Polar Bear Cub

Carrying on the path, it was not long before we arrived at the Polar Bear enclosure. We had aimed to arrive for the polar bear talk for the simple reason that it would therefore be more likely that the 9 month old cub would be on show, and luckily he was. Jumping around copying his mother, watching the cub was a real experience. And then he ran to the side for a swim in the window-side pool. We therefore got to be less than a metre away from the animal, as he swam and used the glass to push himself down with his paw.

Polar Bear swimming

Polar Bear swimming

After sitting around for twenty or so minutes, we continued around the zoo with such diverse animals as baby orangutans, Steffi the elephant and cows... Yes, despite Bavaria being full of cows, they were inside a zoo enclosure - surrounded by a moat so they didn't escape....

Baby Orangutan

Baby Orangutan

After a while at the zoo we then headed back to the city centre having seen almost everything. It was thus time for dinner, bag collection, and the airport.

Grabbing food, I confused the lady with my English so much that she then proceeded to talk the wrong language and to the customer for the next five minutes. Sitting down was well needed, but when it came to getting back up this was such a struggle. Having walked 40 miles in the last three days, I literally had to struggle down the stairs as my legs had seized up!

Making it back to the hotel, we changed, repacked and set off with our bags towards the airport. Getting on the S-Bahn, we headed out of the city when our train developed a fault. The announcement told us to wait on the adjacent platform for a train to change to, yet despite the fault having only just occurred, as we stood at the platform we could already see our replacement train coming to collect us...

Making it to the airport in plenty of time, we headed to border control. However once there, we got stuck behind an Asian family who had no idea what they were doing, with their friend standing in the way in order to wave a goodbye. We got into the EU queue (whilst we still could), but as it was much shorter, the Asian family's friend told them to use that queue instead - despite them not being European Citizens. Luckily we had got ahead of them, and after easing through, it was their turn. Bad luck for anyone behind as they had a tonne of questions and needed a full on visa check...

Security was also pretty slow - lots of random checks as well as an incompetence to actually ease the now developing queue. Having been held back from going through security itself because of a slow family ahead, I took as much time as I fancied repacking my bits at the other end.

After a busy trip we were tired and ready to go home, and luckily with no delay it wasn't long before we boarded and eventually landed back in Luton.

The trip was incredibly busy, and could have done with an extra day, but nevertheless was great. The trip to the Neuschwanstein castle being a particular highlight, and I would highly recommend it if in the area.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:08 Archived in Germany Tagged animals walking history airport zoo city war bavaria olympic macabre Comments (0)

Castles & Alpine Bavaria

Bavaria - Hohenschwangau

sunny 23 °C
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As like yesterday, the plan for today was to take an excursion on the train, before filling what remained of the day with some sightseeing in Munich.

Waking up at the disgusting time of 6:30am, we headed down for breakfast, before making our way to catch the 8:40 train to Füssen, not far from the Austrian border.

The German Alps

The German Alps

The border area is full of mountain backdrops, which although most of the peaks are in Austria, there are also some German mountains, and thus after yesterday's mild disappointment, we were about to embark on an Alpine experience.

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Neuschwanstein overlooking the village

Getting off the train with tonnes of East Asians, we raced to make sure we could get a place on the bus to the next village. Luckily two bendy buses turned up, and so there was plenty of room! 10 minutes later we were in the village of Hohenschwangau, home to the Neuschwanstein Castle.

The Marienbrücke

The Marienbrücke

After a bit of confusion, we took the bus up to the Marienbrücke - a bridge over a gorge with fantastic views of the castle, before we crossed over and walked up a bit of the hill opposite, where views above the castle could be seen.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

The views were very good, but as it was quite steep we headed back towards the castle itself, past the bridge. Not long later we were at the castle itself.

Views over the castle

Views over the castle

We had decided not to go inside as the queues were very long and it didn't seem worth the wait, but we managed to get inside the courtyard itself anyway, and thus we still saw a fair bit.

Inside the Courtyard

Inside the Courtyard

Heading back down the hillside, we eventually ended back in the village, where we then headed towards the lake at the bottom of the road.

Alpensee

Alpensee

Surrounded by mountains with clear water, it was particularly beautiful, and after taking many pictures, we headed back into the pretty village and towards the bus stop to head back to the station.

Alpine Buildings

Alpine Buildings

Whilst Salzburg had felt very generic and city-like, this village on the other hand gave us that Alpine experience we were craving. After a two hour journey back through the countryside, we arrived back in Munich and headed back to the hotel.

Glockenspiel

Glockenspiel

Having a quick rest, we then headed back to the city centre, in time for the Glockenspiel performance at the clock tower, where at 5pm an old story about the city is told through figurines.

Munich buildings

Munich buildings

After grabbing dinner, we then headed for a walk around the city centre sights, heading towards the Englischer Garten - a large landscaped park along the riverside.

Englischer Garten

Englischer Garten


Chinese Tower

Chinese Tower

After walking as far as the Chinese Tower, we headed back towards the city past the university before our last stop, at the Theresienwiese, site of the Oktoberfest, where tents for this year's event were already being assembled.

Oktoberfest site

Oktoberfest site

After a long day of walking and exploring, we headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest, before our final day in the city.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:09 Archived in Germany Tagged hills park walking mountain city castle alps bavaria Comments (0)

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