A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about war

A Journey to Jersey

Channel Islands - St. Helier

sunny 22 °C
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In this post* Covid world, travel has restarted - but it is not 2019 again. Being the first summer in three years there is pent up demand, but equally the travel sector has not recovered from the massive lay offs. Add to that the Brexit effects and the virus still lingering in the background to make people ill it's still not easy to travel.

After a lot of time spent at home, we wanted to get away somewhere but had a lot of indecision about where to go that suited us - somewhere warm but not too hot, safe and with decent flight times from Luton. Waiting for the airlines to decide which flights they weren't capable of running after the chaos at Easter and Half Term, it meant a lot of the places we had thought about still hadn't returned to the same amount of flights as in the past. With few exciting places to choose from we had to have a wide open search, and that's when we thought about Jersey.

Although still (sort of) in the UK - to get there it was easiest to fly, and being the middle of July the weather would almost certainly be good - a great place for a long weekend.

We left on Thursday lunchtime and headed up to the airport. It was a relatively quick flight across the South Coast and the English Channel before we made it to the Channel Islands. There were some beautiful views of Alderney, Sark and Guernsey before we flew right over Jersey and landed at the airport.

Alderney

Alderney

By now we could already see that surprisingly for a small island like this, it was relatively hilly. The end of the runway sat on an embankment overlooking the beach below, whilst blustering winds hit us. In anticipation of up to 30C by the end of the holiday, right now vests were a bit optimistic.

When landing we noticed a Jet2 airlines plane next to ours... were there some tropical destinations for these islanders or was this the tropical paradise? (turns out it's the latter.... bad luck!) Entering the small terminal building there was lots of bunting, celebrating the recent Platinum Jubilee.

Arriving at the Tropical Paradise

Arriving at the Tropical Paradise

We then took the bus and after around half an hour we arrived at Liberation Square in the centre of town. This square commemorates the liberation of the island after its occupation during WWII - which we'd explore in more detail tomorrow. From here it was just a 10 minute walk to our hotel. After checking in we then headed over to the nearby supermarket to get bits for the stay before grabbing a quick dinner.

Liberation Square

Liberation Square

By now it was already evening and so we settled in for the night before our first full day on the other side of the Channel.

The following morning after eating some breakfast we headed out back to the bus station and boarded a bus to the War Tunnels. After around half an hour passing First Tower, one of the many defensive towers on the island, we arrived at the tunnels.

First Tunnel

First Tunnel

These tunnels were built by the Nazis beginning 1941, firstly as a barrack and ammunitions store, then later as an underground hospital.

War Tunnels

War Tunnels

It was built by slave labour and although never finished, is now open as a museum detailing the occupation period of the islands from 1940 to 1945. This was the only part of the British Isles to have been occupied during the War, and was a fascinating insight into what could have been.

Inside the Tunnels

Inside the Tunnels

After this we headed back into St. Helier. Once here we walked down to the Port. We had decided to visit Sark on the Saturday but were having issues with the ferry tickets. As there was no refund policy if we caught Covid, we didn't book the tickets until just before going. But after keeping an eye on them, when we finally came to book they suddenly all disappeared from the website - every ticket with the company to any port over the next few days was no longer available. I emailed the company to query this, but after not having heard anything in the meantime we figured it might be worth heading down to the port. I had managed to buy the tickets through Condor Ferries, who although not providing the service directly were taking orders on their behalf.

When we got to the port, it as as we feared. Few people around to speak to. No one at the ferry desk for Sark, and at Condor Ferries' desk, only confirming that our tickets were confirmed at their end, and that we should arrive early as the other company "don't know what they're doing". In the meantime we checked the websites - Jersey's Port website said the ferry was still due, and the actual ferry company had now relaunched their tickets. We'd just have to head down in good time to ensure we'd sort it in the morning.

After this, we headed back to the hotel to change. We had worn cooler clothing as the tunnels were a constant 17C. But when we got back to St. Helier it was much warmer.

We then made our way to the Jersey Museum. The museum detailed the history of the island, from it's Norman rule to the present day, and was worth seeing with lots of exhibits.

The closest we got to a Jersey Cow

The closest we got to a Jersey Cow

After this we headed back across St. Helier for a walk across the now dry causeway over to Elizabeth Castle. Although we didn't go in due to the very overpriced tickets, it was still a nice place to see from the outside.

Elizabeth Castle

Elizabeth Castle

By now it was getting on for early evening and so we headed over to one of the only chain restaurants on the island - TGIs.

After a post meal crash at the hotel, we headed back out into town to meet up with one of Chris's friends - Andrew, who now works at Jersey Zoo. We had a few drinks and a catch up before finally heading back to the hotel for the final time today after a busy day exploring.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 19:06 Archived in Jersey Tagged museum island tunnel plane war ferry channelislands Comments (0)

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)

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)

The Seoul of Korea

Cherry Blossom Adventures - Seoul

overcast 18 °C
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After a busy few days in Beijing, we were headed on to our second city on the trip - Seoul, capital of South Korea.

Getting up early in order to make our morning flight, we arrived at Beijing Airport to find Air China had seated us in different sections of the plane. Annoying, but at least it would only be for an hour or so. We then found after boarding, that this had happened to numerous people on the flight and we were both surrounded by other people also separated from travelling companions. Ridiculous! Another tick against Air China.

Winter Olympic Legacy

Winter Olympic Legacy

Nevertheless we arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul by mid-morning, finding it still filled with lots of Winter Olympic merchandise, and enjoyed the free WiFi with our first access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Google Maps in days. After struggling to get cash out from the local ATMs we eventually made it onto the train and headed into the city. Grabbing supermarket supplies we checked into our hotel early, dropped our bits and headed out to explore the first part of the city.

War Memorial of Korea

War Memorial of Korea

Our first sight in the city was the War Memorial of Korea, where military equipment and memorials sit outside the museum. After a wander around the complex, we headed on towards the Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam.

World Peace Gate

World Peace Gate

After a quick walk around the shrines, we headed to the World Peace Gate, at the front of the Olympic Park. Walking past this gate and the eternal flame, we headed to the flagpoles, where the flag of each country that participated in the 1988 Olympic flies. This is particularly interesting as many countries have since changed their flags or disappeared entirely since the end of the Cold War, which are being kept here as a historic record of the event itself, and thus it was possible to walk past flags of the Soviet Union, Zaire and South Yemen.

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

Flags from the 1988 Olympic Games

After a long day, the last place on our list was Dongdaemun, the best preserved of the original city gates into the city. Starting at the modern Cultural Park just to the south, we made the short walk north to the gate itself, where I took a short walk up past the city walls for a vantage point over the area. After a long afternoon we headed back to the city centre, completing our loop of the outer city, and grabbed food before bed.

Dongdaemun

Dongdaemun

Having enjoyed our first lay in in days, we eventually headed out for our full day touring the rest of the city, beginning with the City Hall area. With a train just about to leave I jumped on it, to find Chris had got stuck behind some people and had missed it. Luckily the next train was just a few minutes later, and we eventually reunited not long later.

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Leaving the metro station, which like others in the city also serves as an evacuation shelter - with its own food and medial supplies in the corridors, we arrived just in time to see the changing of guards ceremony outside the Deoksugang.

Ceremony at Deoksugang

Ceremony at Deoksugang

We got to watch most of it take place and even had a photo opportunity with one of the guards at the end, before we entered the complex itself to explore.

At Deoksugang

At Deoksugang


Cheonggyecheon

Cheonggyecheon

After taking a look at the City Hall square, walking north, we viewed the gentrified Cheonggyecheon stream, walking past the US embassy where there were a few protests, before arriving at the Gwanghwamun gate of the Gyeongbokgung royal palace.

Gwanghwamun Gate

Gwanghwamun Gate


Bukchon Hanok

Bukchon Hanok

After having a walk around the entrance to the complex we then headed westwards towards the Bukchon Hanok, a traditional Korean village located in the heart of the city. Spending a bit of time walking around the area, we headed to the Changdeokung palace, resting outside before continuing to the Changgyeonggung palace.

Changgyeonggung

Changgyeonggung

We then started heading back, through some side streets in the jewellery area, making our way down to the Jongmyo shrine, before heading to the Insadong shopping street. After having bought our souvenirs, we then headed via the Jogyesa shrine back to our hotel having now toured the city.

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

Inside the Jogyesa Shrine

The following day was our last in South Korea, and was planned to be spent the DMZ. However a couple of days before we had received an email to inform us that due to the upcoming conference between the leaders of both North and South, in order to prepare, trips to the Joint Security Area were cancelled for the next month or so. A real pity we wouldn't get to see the blue UN huts, but having managed to rebook our tour, we still managed to head to the border zone itself and see some of the other sights.

Heading back to the City Hall area, we checked in for our excursion and boarded the coach. Not long later we headed north, arriving at the first checkpoint around an hour later, and having our passports checked.

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory

We began at the Dora Observatory, for views from a small hill over the border area. From here we could see not only the border, but the first parts of North Korea on the Kaesong area on the other side - including the North Korean Peace Village, with the huge flag pole. We could also hear the propaganda broadcasts from each side - although when asked, our tour guide stated that due to different dialects she couldn't understand what the North was broadcasting anyway!

Views of North Korea

Views of North Korea

After time to take in the views, we then headed towards the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This tunnel is one of the four that have been found, dug by the North Koreans into the south. Due to its location in this area it is now a major tourist site, being included as part of tours to the DMZ. Unfortunately today the monorail had broken and thus we had to walk down the 350 metres to the bottom before walking the length of the tunnel up to the border line, where it had been sealed with concrete barricades. With Koreans generally being smaller than westerners it was a struggle for myself to walk along the tunnel, and many of the taller visitors hit their helmets on the top of the tunnel.

At the visitor centre

At the visitor centre

After a strenuous climb back to the top, we headed across the road to the visitor centre, to watch a video on the history of the tunnel, as well as see models of the DMZ.

Inside Dorasan Station

Inside Dorasan Station

We then boarded the bus again and made our way to the Dorasan Station, a modern station complex built during the last period of cooperation between both sides in the last 00s. The station in the last on the railway line in the south and if peace is achieved it is hoped that the line will be reconnected to the north. However being located within Civilian Control Area, the only visitors are tourists. The station has a gift shop and many plaques, and we also went onto the platform to see the special DMZ train as well as signs indicating the distance to North Korea.

On the platform

On the platform

After visiting most of the sights, we headed to a restaurant outside the immediate border area in Imjingak for Bulgogi, and then taking a look at the immediate area, include the Bridge of Freedom. This whole experience felt very surreal, as the risk of conflict in this area is so high, and yet it was so touristy, with an amusement park and souvenir shops, this could be a theme park!

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Overlooking the Bridge of Freedom

Heading back to the city, we chilled for the rest of our time before our early morning rise and finally heading to Japan the following morning.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:59 Archived in South Korea Tagged temple train memorial city tunnel border shrine war olympic eastasia 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)

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