Click here for the GERMANY
- DRIVING ITINERARY
MAY 10 – JUNE 6, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
We are off to a splendid start. The British Airways flight was comfy;
new pod seats, somewhat like a Victorian loveseat with heads facing
each other. Seats went flat into beds and service was impeccable.
The best part was flying Business Class on frequent flyer miles
which gives new meaning to the phrase "The Price is Right".
We are waiting for our flight to Frankfurt which leaves in less
than an hour. Then we will rent our car and drive to the small village
of Beilstein where we have reservations at a small hotel on the
to all of you. We will check in frequently.
MAY 9 and WEDNESDAY MAY 10, 2006
CLYDE HILL USA to LONDON TO FRANKFURT, GERMANY
alarm rang promptly at 4:15 a.m. Karen picked us up promptly,
at 4:40 a.m. She is an angel to us: she took Ty last night, kennel
and all, came back this morning and drove us straight to the Alaska
terminal at SeaTac. What a delight to have real airline reservations.
First class to LAX, than a long but comfortable "layover"
in the British Airways Club lounge. Prompt departures on both
flights were greatly appreciated. We actually had six and a half
hours uninterrupted sleep on the flight to London. The subsequent
flight to Frankfurt on an Airbus was not as appealing as the Boeing
747-400 but it was on time! Miracle of miracles, the bags we checked
in at SeaTac appeared in Frankfurt almost immediately. Frankfurt
Airport is an efficient place to rent a car. The elevator to the
garage is right in the terminal, the parking spot clearly marked,
exits to freeways similarly user-friendly. We're on our way to
Beilstein in less than an our after arrival. You may be wondering
why we did not fly directly from Sea-Tac to Frankfurt. The lure
of free tickets from our frequent flyer miles made the extra legs
more than acceptable to us.
fortune for us. The rains seem to have departed the area, and
we are blessed with sunshine and clear skies. The highways here
follow the familiar European system: Autobahns with no speed limit
and the endless supply of would-be race car drivers in the left
lane; Motorways, efficient but not as fast, and then the "B"
roads, more rural and scenic. Our itinerary combines some of each,
the latter being our preferred way to go in order to get more
of a flavor of the real way of life here.
from airport: 3:16 p.m.
Arrival in Beilstein: 5:20 p.m.
Beginning odometer: 3468 km.
WEDNESDAY MAY 10, 2006
FRANKFURT - WEISBADEN - BEILSTEIN
peaceful drive through picturesque rural villages. This is the
section of the "Castles of the Rhine and Mosel" itinerary
suggested by our travel guru Karen Brown, without whose Guidebook
we never travel. Her suggested routes, hotels, highlights, etc.
are always nearly perfect for our tastes. In addition, for this
journey, we found on the internet, thanks to Google, the Michelin
site for Driving Directions in Europe. We have twenty maps which
we have printed out from that site. There is a tiny colored map
on the front page of each with a flag for the departure point
and a flag for the destination. Suggested highways, interval distances,
and total distances are included, as well as a predicted time
the trip will take. We had no idea if the maps would be useful
when we printed them, but today's was perfect. Some of the small
rural roads into Beilstein would have been difficult to find,
so we are pleased!
Brown, Rick Steves, and Fodor all use the same term for Beilstein:
"Romantic". We agree. Located right on the lazy Mosel
River, the village seems to be centuries from the pace of modern
life. Our hotel has just five guest rooms. The Lippman family
owns five hotels here; the Haus Lippman, our choice, is just above
the popular terrace restaurant where both locals and tourists
mingle among flowering trees and cobblestone streets just opposite
the river where the old flat ferries take passengers and cars
to the village on the other side. In addition, the flat river
barges laden with the peaches which grow profusely in the area,
pass by constantly, as do the river barges which tourists take
for both day trips and multi-day adventures.
arrival here attracted some attention. The narrow, curving, cobblestone
streets down from the top of the hill by the castle to the hotel
and river below, were barely wide enough for our car, the four
door Opel Automatic which is fairly large, especially for these
roads! We found ourselves among many pedestrians, including what
appeared to be a fairly large tourist group. We had to fold in
our rear view mirrors at one point, and paid careful attention
to the hand gestures from helpful people in the street as we crept
slowly down the last curve to the large square which we assumed
would be the public parking lot next to our hotel. We could clearly
see the "Hotel Haus Lippman" sign above the entrance.
Imagine our surprise and apprehension when we found a series of
narrow bollards preventing exit from the square in any direction!
Fortunately, a helpful hotel employee said there was no problem,
went out with us, took a key which opened one of the bollards,
unlocked it, and Ed was able to drive over the bollard (thank
goodness for enough clearance underneath the car) and found a
perfect parking on the street just below our room.
love our room 8 here in the hotel. The house itself, now the hotel,
was the home of the original Duke who ruled Beilstein, and it
dates back to 1725. Our room is light, high ceilinged, with a
big bed with soft down pillows and comforters. We have had an
excellent dinner on the outside terrace and a perfect start to
our German adventure.
end of day: 3605
Total distance: 137 km.
arrived 5:30 p.m.
MAY 11, 2006
BEILSTEIN - COCHEM, GERMANZ TO CITY OF LUXEMBOURG IN LUXEMBOURG
- BADEN BADEN;GERMANY
became like a rally minus the time controls! We wandered around
Beilstein after a quick breakfast. We slept until 10 a.m., unheard
of for us, checked out at 11 and were on our way along the road
right next to the Mosel River. What a lovely river! Narrower and
slower than the Rhine, it meanders slowly along the steep cliffs
of vineyards which line both sides of the river. Famous wines
from the region carry the name of the individual vineyard and
some are world famous. This stretch from Beilstein to Cochem is
considered the prettiest of the entire route of the "Castles
of the Rhine and Mosel". We drove it along both sides of
the river, and we agree. The scenery is so spectacular that even
the photographs will be unable to capture the full beauty. We
drove Highway 49 all the way to Trier. Perfect choice, small villages,
orderly, tranquil, less gingerbread than Switzerland but similar
architecture. Many Anhalt touches along the way.
first venture into Luxembourg was today. Another "notch"
in our belt of countries we have visited. No border guards, empty
border stations. The EEU has simplified travel enormously. We
were totally unprepared for the size and traffic of Luxembourg
after the peaceful rural villages we had passed all morning long.
Avenue John Fitzgerald Kennedy was four lanes in each direction,
each lane packed with cars. Tall buildings, huge modern city with
many French- inspired older buildings co-existing with the new
glass skyscrapers. Not at all what we expected, and we probably
could have found the inner city quite charming had we been willing
to investigate, but we are not in a city mood, especially after
the charm and tranquility of Beilstein. We looked at the lighted
electronic signs of the major parking garages, each blinking how
many spaces were remaining; On both sides of the boulevard, some
of the signs were blinking "Full" while others specified
the exact number remaining, some in three figures, others less.We
looked at the masses of drivers and pedestrians and hotels and
made the quick and easy decision to leave Luxembourg and head
back to Germany and the resort and spa atmosphere of Baden Baden,
another two and a half hours of driving, but far away from the
maddening crowd. Luxembourg is decidedly more French than German,
but the green hills, etc. are similar to the farms we have seen
all over Europe. We missed the hostorz of the old quarter and
we are sure manz have found good times there, but we look forward
to the famous spas and healing waters of Baden Baden.
are on Map 4 and Day 4 of our planned itinerary on Day 2, but
we are happy! German roads are excellent, well maintained, well
signed, and other than the usual Mercedes and BMW's going 120
mph and pushing everyone in the left lane out of the way, drivers
are good and the driving straightforward. There is more road construction
than we expected, but the delays have been minimal. Highway signage
takes practice - as many as six names of towns will appear on
an exit sign, then disappear mysteriously, onto reappear after
several miles, usually just about the time we wonder if we could
have made an error. Many of the rural roads are marked only on
small, short wooden posts on the left side of the road and only
intermittently. We are concentrating today!
a small portion of France is on our route, all of it the
Lorraine area, part of the Alsace Lorraine which Germany and France
and others have battled over for centuries. Familiar names on
one of our exit signs in particular: Verdun
Metz - est
Try reading them all at once at 120 kph!
was more of a sign-reading lesson than a leisurely country drive,
but the sun is shining, we haven't been lost yet, and we are safely
arrived in Baden Baden in a truly beautiful atmosphere. The long
drive is worth it!
arrived through a long tunnel; the first exit out "Congress"
; as usual, Karen Brown directions have saved frustrations. We
easily found what we thought would be our first choice of hotel,
the "Romantik Hotel de Kleine Prince", noted for its
decor and illustrations of Saint Extupery's "Little Prince".
The hotel is luxurious and filled with priceless antiques and
is quite formal; in addition, it is out of the main old town.
The manager showed us an elegant room which he agreed to keep
for us for an hour or so, but we were hoping to stay within walking
distance of the considerably interesting attractions of the famous
drove down the hill to the Sophienstrasse, the upscale shopping
boulevard, found a parking spot right by the Volksbank and Godiva
shop and went looking for Karen Brown's other suggested hotel,
the Am Markt. All we knew was that it was behind the famous Friedrichsbad
( the no-clothing allowed historical spa). A nice young man on
the street, pushing his small child in a stroller, offered to
show us the hotel. Six blocks of speedwalking later, up a narrow,
steep, winding, cobblestone street, we found our charming hotel.
He was as surprised as we were of its hidden location. Armed with
our copy of the new 2006 Karen Brown Guidebook, we asked for Room
2, her favorite, and were rewarded with a spacious, light filled,
high-ceilinged sitting room and bedroom with a big bed. The bathroom
was just as luxurious as she said it would be, much nicer than
most luxury hotels. The nearness to all of the town highlights
and the charm of the hotel and room made our decision to stay
there an easy one, especially since the rate was 77 Euros, including
breakfast, instead of the 295 euros at the first hotel.
We went back
down to get our car, this time taking the steep stairway of 87
stairs from the hotel, and found a lovely courtyard restaurant
in a setting of large flowering trees and spring flowers, with
the tables each under large blue Lowenbrau umbrellas and the employees
in traditional Bavarian dress. Again, excellent food and service
and GARGANTUAN portions of food. The waiter said that is traditional
and typical Bavarian hospitality. They have not heard of nouvelle
We drove up
the steep hill which we had walked before dinner and were fortunate
to have parking right in front of our hotel. Even though the streets
looked to narrow to drive, we made it and were happy to park the
car for the final time today.
We went over
to the old church next to the hotel which is being restored. When
we walked in, Ed thought music was being piped in and played,
but my childhood Thursday nights' experiences made me recognize
immediately that it was weekly choir practice, with live chamber
music accompaniment. I could practically hear my parents and aunts
and uncles from so long ago.
has a rich history as the 18th and 19th century playground of
Europe's royal families. The town still today has the largest
number of millionaires in Germany. The mansions and the parks
are splendid, and so are the many fountains. Baden Baden is more
formal than our resort "get-a-ways", more of a symbol
of days gone by, but still upscale today. The shops rival those
of big cities and of Rodeo Drive. The casino requires coat and
tie for men, but they now allow jeans with the jacket and tie.
Romans discovered the healing waters of the baths centuries ago.
The Freidrichstad is the older of the two existing spas. They
are both open to the public for a fee. The Freidrichstad offers
a "brush scrub massage" which the locals assured us
is fabulous, but no clothing is allowed in the coed baths and
there is a twenty minute hot steam bath included which we decided
would not be in our best interest healthwise. The idea of being
naked in front of strangers is really off our "radar screen".
park along the river was supposedly Queen Victoria's favorite
part of the resort on her many visits here. Soooo much history
surrounds us wherever we go on this trip. We feel that everything
seems to be going so smoothly!
of day: 4019
Total distance for the day: 137 km
Arrived 5:15 p.m.
5 hrs. 30 minutes
MAY 12, 2006
BADEN BADEN - FREUDENSTADT - FREIBURG; GERMANY TO SUHR, SWITZERLAND
thought fleetingly of staying another day in Baden Baden but we
are well rested and are eager to see what is next in store for
us. We felt the distinct need to "behave" in the dining
room of our hotel. The service and food for breakfast were excellent,
but the efficiency and speed of the hostess and waitress were
indeed stereotypical German behavior. They were polite and nice
We opt for
the high road through the Black Forest, the SCHWARZWALD HOCHSTRASSE
via Freudenstadt and Freiberg, through a series of small tourist
towns with lovely hotels which indicate that these are crowded
areas during the summers.
TOMORROW. It is late now.
MAY 12, 2006
BADEN BADEN - FREUDENSTADT-FREIBURG (GERMANY) to BASEL AND SUHR
the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, the Black Forest High Road, was one
of our good decisions. The extreme color differences between the
pale green of the younger deciduous trees against the dark, nearly
black of the evergreens was startling and lovely. The old forests
are nearly gone, much of what we see is forty or fifty years old
village today has a charm of its own. There is a similarity in
roof lines and architectural details which gives each village
its own separate identity. Each has at least one fine hotel and
surrounding Biergarten and restaurant. The origin of the cuckoo
clock is here, even though Switzerland most often tries to take
is too busy for us. A huge medical student march in protest of
something; all the student marchers are dressed in white, several
hundreds marching along the boulevard at the University. We found
the correct route out of town purely by accident.
lunch at Kolliken at a freeway fuel and restaurant right off the
autobahn, as close as our rest stops. Food quality is excellent
here and reasonable. A cut above MacDonalds, for sure.
is similar in landscape to Germany, so much so that one would
not know about the border unless it were marked. SUHR is much
different from the quaint village which both of us had pictured.
There are a huge number of workers in several large businesses
and factories. The Phister Shopping Center near the railroad station
at the Zentrum (Center ) of town has a multi-storied parking garage
which was apparently full.
Baren at first glance was not impressive except for the white
lace curtains hanging perfectly in each window. We decided to
stay because we were too tired to go on - good decision a nice
room with a separate sitting room is ours. The young woman at
the desk said it would be noisy because it was on the streetside
and that we should perhaps drive on to their other hotel 8kms
away but we thought it would be quiet enough right here and we
dining room is excellent. Rich burnished walnut with freshly painted
walls and old, weathered floors with fine carpets on top. Again,
white linen service! The watercolor of tulips next to our table
was painted by an artist named Bos. Ed's maternal grandmother
was Jennie Bos of The Netherlands. The lines between Germany and
the Netherlands and other surrounding countries have changed often
throughout the centuries and the similarities in people and cultures
Bleu and french fries are on every menu. Tonight in addition there
is pork tenderloin with apricot stuffing and blue cheese sauce.
A new recipe to do at home. A "gift from the kitchen",
a shrimp appetizer, was an added treat.
find any Suhrbiers in the phone book here, and of course we had
hoped to find a SUHRCO, but we have many more sources to try.
is another day of new adventures.
SUHR TO ZURICH SWITZERLAND TO LIECHTENSTEIN TO FELDKIRK THROUGH
THE TUNNELS TO INNSBRUCK AUSTRIA AND TO THE SMALL VILLAGES OF
NUTTERS AND MUTTERS
Today was the day we again altered our itinerary. We continue
to do best when we are flexible, and today we were amply rewarded.
a leisurely morning breakfast and departure from Suhr and after
no luck in finding any more Suhrbier roots, we decided that with
only one Suhr and one Surber in the phone book, our detective
skills would be limited. there was no local knowledge of how the
town was named except for the Suhrren, "Suhr - Little River".
One waitress pronounced it Zoohr but the young man at the desk
called it Soor, with a soft s. We enjoyed speaking with the nice
young woman named van Geldeer, married to a Dutchman (her term).
She has traveled extensively in Australia. Everyone so far is
extremely open and friendly and eager to make sure that "Everything
took the slow road to Zurich, winding up hills and curves. Much
road construction in the "Zentrum" center of Zurich.
wanting a photograph along the "see" led us into an
area "verboten" to cars but our speaking only English
spared us reprimand from the local security police. Again, we
leave the city as quickly as possible. Zurich at first glance
has none of the spellbinding charm of Lucerne. We are both definitely
in a quaint, rural, tranquil mode.
have definitely"deviated" from our original route, but
there are no penalty points this trip. We drove east on the north
side of Zurich via St. Galllen, then south to Buchs because we
decided we wanted to "Lunch in Liechtenstein". A nice
young man on the street in Buchs told us we were just a few kilometers
from Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein,
so we headed there and found a perfect outdoor cafe in the heart
of the city below the enormous castle at the top of the hill.
The shops here are amazingly upscale, the facilities excellent,
and an eclectic combination of traveling students, formally dressed
locals "lunching", and expensive automobiles. The scenery
here is much the same as Switzerland but L. is out of another
era, truly fairy´tale, picture postcard beautiful. The Alps
are extremely steep here, heavily blanketed in snow and seemingly
close enough to touch.
people had told us the only safe travel right now was to be along
the A12 E60 through the long tunnels into Austria. We were not
prepared for the number of tunnels or for their length. Just one
went for over ten kilometers and we didn't even count the total
number of tunnels. The engineering skills here are awe-inspiring.
Just after the longest tunnel, we came to another where all traffic
was stopped completely; no sign why, no police or officials to
say why the tunnel was closed or when it might open. For the first
time on the trip, there are no villages around, just tunnels and
steep cliffs and mountains. Suddenly, a steady stream of cars
behind us moved rapidly out of the closed lane, turned 180 degrees
and headed up a narrow road along the cliff adjacent to the highway.
We were reluctant to do the same but quickly asked the car behind
us (with the navigator hopping out of the car to ask the surprised
driver of the latter) just as he was pulling out to make the u
turn if the road he was approaching would lead to Innsbruck. Fortunately,
he spoke English; he said quickly "I don't know but I am
going to find out if it is open". He pulled out as I ran
back to our car. Suddenly he was gesturing to us wildly, motioning
us upward and onward. Ed assumed correctly that he meant the road
was open, that it would lead us to Innsbruck, and that we should
follow him. He waved goodbye to us less than a kilometer later.
More tunnels, narrow lanes and roads, few signs, but we entered
Innsbruck successfully less than two hours later, relieved that
we would not be sleeping in the car at the entrance to a tunnel
in the Alps.
is far larger than we expected. The Austrian ski "village"
which we had pictured is now a big city with tons of people and
cars. The hotels were not appealing, even those indicated by the
"Hotel Zone" arrows along the road which are found in
nearly every city here. We headed across the bridge out of town
toward the final arrow. Nothing! Tired, we almost gave up, but
a bartender at a local Gashaus who did not speak good English
wrote down on a small piece of paper the word Nutters and, below
that, the word Mutters. I kept trying to ask him if those were
hotels, but he didn't understand, so we took the paper and went
outside. the gestures of three lefts in a circle made no sense
to us. A young customer in the courtyard spoke enough English
to tell us Nutter and Mutters are towns just a few kilometers
away and they would have hotels.
PAYS! We found a quiet, beautiful hotel on the steep hill in Mutters
and we must have been given the best room here. On a corner with
a view of the whole town and valley with the Alps as the background,
we have a large balcony, the sun is shining and will be setting
soon. The memory of this setting and serenity and perfection of
the view will be with us always. The ski lifts from the 68 and
74 Olympics are right in front of us, and we can see the huge
ski jump as well.
Our room is
in what is termed the Private Boarding House of the Hotel Amselrain.
Dinner was served in what is termed the main hotel in the adjoining
building. Again, perfect service and excellent food served in
a lovely atmosphere. Huge difference from being "on the road"
in the USA.
leads to short but interesting conversations with fellow diners.
The Austrian next to us had been in Seattle and Victoria. He liked
everything but the rain.
sunset, peaceful, contented evening.
THIS MORNING. 9:45 a.m.
ARRIVAL IN INNSBRUCK. 5;15 p.m.
ODOMETER AT END OF DAY. 4692
MAY 14, 2006
INNSBRUCK AUSTRIA TO BERCHTESGADEN AND EAGLE'S NEST TO MUNICH,
BEGINNING ODOMETER. 4738
DEPARTURE: 8:00 a.m.
was served promptly at 7:30 as we had requested. We were the only
guests in the dining room. We are quite sure that we might have
been the only guests in the hotel. Yesterday the sunshine and
snow-covered Alps provided an unexcelled view. We awakened this
morning to clouds, rain, and fog. The mountains have disappeared.
Now we know how Seattle tourists feel when they fail to even see
arrived at a guard station on the Australian motorway about an
hour and a half after we left our hotel, just a few kilometers
before we were to arrive back into Germany. We were stopped, asked
for our passports, told to park our car and enter guardhouse.
We couldn't imagine why but the armed guards left us little choice.
Nearly every place we have been, we easily meet people who speak
excellent English. Not these Austrian guards. They must have watched
too many World War Two movies because they walked, gestured, and
spoke much more like Nazis than like Baron Von Trapp. Once we
followed them into the Guardhouse, they handed us a printed card
which we could read because it was in English. It stated that
we could avoid "Punishment" for the violation of not
having a sticker to allow us to drive on Austrian Motorways if
we would pay immediately a fine of One Hundred and Twenty Euros.
No one at the Austrian border had mentioned the need for such
a sticker when we entered the country. None of the guidebooks
or Michelin directions included the information. 'We had already
traveled several hundred miles on Austrian motorways without being
asked for one. When I began to to object to what I considered
a true injustice, the guards were clearly unimpressed. It was
Ed who immediately and calmly offered to pay the fine and kept
telling them "It's fine, it' okay, we will pay". they
took our Visa card. It is obvious to me that they enjoy adding
to their Austrian treasury. Adding insult to injury, we had fewer
than ten kilometers left in Austria before we again entered Germany.
today we were again on Austrian motorways. No guards, no signs
about stickers, no nothing. Ed says I should let it go and I will,
but I was temporarily infuriated.
arrived in Berchesgaden after a gray and rainy drive. Much cooler
temperatures today. We have been spoiled with perfect spring weather
up to now. Young forests all the way, most trees only thirty to
fifty years old.
Much of the
Bavarian architecture along the way is so much like Leavenworth
and our Edelweiss Apartments in North Bend. Our beloved bright
green shutters still abound! Straightforward houses and public
buildings, orderly, perfectly maintained, little gingerbread ornamentation.
The villages, each one a separate ski area in most cases, are
similar but each has a roof line similarity that gives each village
its own unique identity. Some familiar names from the Winter Olympic
skiers' hometowns, those such as Kitzebuehl and others.
The rain in
Berchtesgaden made touring the medieval buildings and marketplace
unappealing, so we headed to the Eagle's Nest "Documentation"
(museum). We knew about Hitler's visits to Eagle's nest with its
hilltop fortress. The pictures of him with Eva Braun on the concrete
terrace are clear in our minds. We were not, however, prepared
for the emotional tour of the Documentation. We had earphones
in English and we able to listen to each individual station which
was numbered at the top. We could have just looked at the pictures,
but to hear the exact details of Hitler's rise to power from 1924
until his defeat in 1945 and to look at copies of actual newspapers
and magazine articles of the times made for history coming to
life instantly. Neither of us knew anything about the vast bunker
system which had been built just below Eagle's Nest. Suddenly
we found that we were actually going down into them. Our pictures
will document the extent to which thousands of prisoners, slave
laborers, built a complete city underground in the mountain rock.
There were kitchens, private quarters, a small hospital, on and
on the tunnels go. More about this after the trip. We came away
with a combination of disbelief and a certain ironic realization
that the golf course, Intercontinental Hotel, and other facilities
nearby are a strange juxtaposition of items. The entire museum
and Eagle's Nest facilities now belong to the Republic of Bavaria,
part of Germany. Until 1997, the facilities were operated and
used by the U.S. Army, in part for R§R for the troops after
The rain made
staying in Berchtesgaden less than appealing and we were somewhat
stunned by the museum experience, so we opted to drive on to Munich.
drive into Munich; we called ahead for reservations at the Torbrau
Hotel and had good directions to take the Aldstadt Ring (Old City)
to the Isator Gate, the oldest of the gates guarding Munich. The
hotel should have been right on the corner. It was not. Again,
luck was with us. As I got out of the car to find someone who
spoke English, a well dressed man came across the street, smiled,
and spoke English. He advised me that the Torbaur was at another
gate and that the drive to it would be "tricky". As
he tried to explain where we should go, he asked where our car
was. I pointed to Ed just five feet away, still in the driver's
seat. The German man said to please wait, that he would get his
BMW 3 and would drive us there if we would follow him. We had
a personal escort through a tunnel, around several one way streets;
Ed began to doubt that the fellow knew where he was going; just
then we saw the hotel, the man got out of his car, pointed us
to the front door, and went on his way.
right next to the hotel, checked in to yet another elegant room
where the price is right, and congratulated each other on another
day of adventure successfully completed. We plan to stay two nights
here because Munich has many attractions, and we have done many
IN MUNICH 5074
Day's Total: 336 kilometers
MAY 15, 2006
MUNCHEN (MUNICH, GERMANY)
We are comfortable
here in this much more beautiful than expected city. We have heard
for years of the famous Oktoberfest. Craig was here years ago,
and now it is our turn. Our hotel is adjacent to the Isotar gate,
the oldest of the gates which guarded the city. We are just a
block and a half from the Marienplatz, the center of town in front
of the old and new city halls and the site of the old clock which
attracts thousands of tourists each day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
when the music plays and the figures dance. The scene is similar
to that in Prague, but the show is not as dramatic or intricate.
is perfect, sunshine and clear blue skies. Munich is the proud
capital of Bavaria, the proud republic which has always been and
remains fiercely independent. The 1946 Bavarian Constitution gives
it a separate place in the first line.
We are told
that it is just a few blocks to the tourist bus station and a
short walk. We are learning that what Germans consider a short
walk is one which is under a half hour. Ones longer than that
are considered a fair walk. Anyway, after some escalators up and
down through the train station just to cross the major streets,
we arrive just in time for the city tour which both of us believe
is the best way to begin one's visit to any major city. Most cities
use Gray Line or similarly well organized tours, and at least
in Europe, allow a whole tour and then use of the ticket for the
rest of the day with as many stops as one wishes. Great way to
return to attractive museums, etc.
so green! Trees, flowers, parks, beautiful! The architecture depends
upon one's personal taste. The Baroque influence is everywhere.
Mad King Ludwig had a lot of influence here. The buildings on
Ludwigstrasse are more formal, massive, with ornamentations everywhere.
The transition to Leopolstrasse is immediate. The buildings are
more Parisian, softer, more welcoming.
Strasse is the high end shopping district, full of all of the
well known designers, each with a huge shop of its own. Hertie's
is the famous local department store. Along with nearly every
other sports shop in town, the upcoming World Soccer matches are
causing excitement and every trinket and tee shirt imaginable.
Munich is especially feverish because Bayern Munchen is the top
team in Germany. I thought the clerk would have a nervous breakdown
when I asked quite innocently if she might have a player's jersey
in something other than red. Evidently that is exactly the same
as asking for a Husky jersey in something other than purple and
One of the
loveliest symbols in this town is the gold Angel of Peace which
is evident from her perch high above a monument as from many points
in the city. The main rings and boulevards of the city make getting
around a pleasure.
the famous Hofbrauhaus which is the beer hall famous for its Oktoberfest
celebrations as well as live music each night of the year. Wooden
benches and long tables, people from all over the world sharing
in the famous Munich hospitality. A new addition to German pubs:
Bier Alkoholfrei, just as in the U.S. Brands vary from region
to region. Clausthaler and Beck's seem popular. The rule seems
to be here that one never orders a beer; it must be an order for
a specified brand. The mugs (steins?) are so gigantic that we
cannot believe people finish them, but they do and then most often
are on our way tomorrow with fond memories of Munich. Our Torbrau
Hotel provided a computer in a small business office on the same
floor as our room, which was convenient. Would have been able
to catch up with these, but their mouse had an internal problem
which made it difficult to use. Comfortable way to do these; better
than an internet cafe. I had the room to myself.
MAY 16, 2006
MUNICH TO DACHAU TO NURENBURG TO DRESDEN, GERMANY
Departure: 8 a.m.
BEGINNING ODOMETER. 5074
gold Angel of Peace was our visible guardian to the right ring
road out of the city. Without her we might well have gone into
the Zentrum and become part of the morning business traffic jam.
Fortunately, we could see her from far enough away to make all
the right turns. By the time we reached the outer ring road of
the city, we reached the 1000 "mile marker" of our trip
luck continues to hold. We basked in sunshine all day yesterday,
but this morning is cool and rainy. We head to Dachau, the first
of the concentration camps and the model for the others in WWII.
The pictures we saw at Eagle's Nest Documentation and those we
have seen in years past make us painfully aware that this morning
will not be fun and games. Dachau is only 21kms from Munich but
45 minutes of driving time.
may be a pleasant town, but it is tainted for eternity. There
are several tourist attractions in guidebooks of all kinds, but
we had no stomach to go to them. The ghosts of what we saw in
the remains of the camp and what we read on the excellent boards
as we went through the museum at Dachau which has been placed
there as a memorial to those imprisoned there were so overpowering
that we were both emotionally drained, even though most of the
information was not new to us. Man's inhumanity to man was here!
theme of the camp is the famous phrase "NEVER AGAIN".
We were impressed to see the large number of busses filled with
high school students which arrived to tour Dachau at about the
same time we did. The teachers were speaking to them seriously.
We were totally impressed with the discipline and the good manners
of the students. There were no "goof-offs", no smart
remarks, just hundreds of young people who could scarcely believe
their eyes except for the photographs, articles, and personal
letters and memoirs of former prisoners.
we had seen evidence of the White Rose, the German group of resistance
fighters of which Sophie Scholl was a member. The film about her
was one of the hits of last year's Palm Springs International
Film Festival, and deservedly so. Today we learned about more
heroes who tried to stand up to Hitler's evil. Fourteen Luxembourg
prisoners were impressive, as well as many others.
iron sculpture at the entrance to the museum has a beautiful inscription
in four languages. The tangled skeletal bodies which form the
sculpture are bound by barbed wire. They extend perhaps fifty
feet horizontally and are at least twelve high. The inscription
is dedicated to the men who stood up against the terror and the
monument is in the hope that those who look at it today will forever
treasure freedom, justice, and in respect of their fellow man.
Nearly everyone standing in front of it was visibly moved.
first used in 1933 and was still in use when the Allies freed
the prisoners in 1945. It began as a camp for all those considered
politically dangerous by the Nazis. The list of prisoners grew
to include gypsies, Jews, and any other groups the Nazis decided
they did not like. A particularly chilling memo that we read was
written by the Mayor of Dachau in which he praised the economic
benefits to the town of having the camp in Dachau. I am particularly
grateful that he was not one of my antecedents. Enough details.
Dachau has taken away our holiday spirit temporarily, but we felt
it absolutely necessary to visit and silently pay our respects
to those who suffered there and to the many who perished there.
The rain suited our mood as we said farewell.
on the highway. We have noticed all day in this region names familiar
from home, but different sounds. We were first informed that Dackhau
is improper pronunciation. It is Dah-haw. Rohrbach is Rohrbaugh
(Dave and Joann's dad's family may have changed the spelling to
make life easier). Bach is Bauhh, and so on. Our German is limited,
but we find we can understand quite a bit and can read even more.
We find at least one person who speaks excellent English wherever
we go, and the young students all seem to be fluent in English.
we drive toward Nurnberg, we pass Ingolstedt. Many signs point
to the huge Audi factory and museum. Germans are loyal to their
cars. Flat farms and rape seed fields give way to steep, tree
lined hills along the highway. Sleepy villages are tucked in flat
areas below the highway. Steep red roofs abound. Some of the names
of the villages must present a real spelling challenge to the
elementary school teachers here.
We opt for
a short tour into Nurnberg mostly because of its historical significance
as the site of the war crimes trials after WWII. There is a wall
around the old town. Everything here seems slightly worn and the
old buildings need maintenance. We take many pictures from the
car but decide not to do more touring. We are still somewhat emotionally
drained by Dachau. We do notice a new style in this town. Nearly
every middle aged and young woman has her hair dyed brilliant
red henna. The use of the word brilliant here is not in the British
sense of magnificent. We mean the shockingly intense "brilliance"
of something too bright. None of them will go unnoticed!
New and old
combine here but not always comfortably. The Grundig factory seems
to be a big employer.
our way to Dresden. We are happy we stopped in Nurnberg because
it was here that nearly every single Nazi accused of war crimes
was convicted! As we drive on, we are again amazed by the biggest
surprise of our trip, the vast expanses of undeveloped land all
over Germany. Today we can literally see all the way to the Czech
border across rolling hills of green and of the bright yellow
rape seed fields near Erzgebirge.
There is an
overpowering sense of order to the picturesque farms we see all
along our way. Neat, tidy, no farm equipment in sight, nothing
out of order at all. Our pictures will describe everything so
approach Dresden ready for a room to relax. Our cell phone is
proving invaluable. Instead of driving to our chosen hotel only
to find it is fully booked, we are able to call ahead an hour
before we arrive in a certain town. Phone coverage is excellent
and Karen Brown is careful to include phone numbers in her hotel
reviews. The pen and ink drawings of each hotel help and so do
the one page reviews, the words of which we have learned to decipher
pretty well. Today our first choice and second choice are fully
booked but the latter gives us the name of the Bayerrischer Hof
Dresden. The desk clerk who answered the phone spoke limited English
but we were quickly transferred to a young woman who not only
spoke perfect English but gave perfect directions for our entry
into Dreseden and to the hotel. Dresden is known for its difficult
driving, so we were fortunate to come here "straightaway".
Our "room" is a suite with two TV's, a separate large
living room with fine furniture, separate big bedroom, and huge
bathroom. German hotels are consistently excellent so far and
more reasonable by far than we had expected.
watched CNN tonight. The good news of the day is that the American
dollar is showing its greatest strength against the Euro in more
than a month!!
Long day for
Ed. He is doing a remarkably great job driving. We are sparing
you descriptions of the extent of the roadworks and disappearing
lanes on the highways to avoid repetition!
DAY'S TOTAL: 542 km (!!!)
MAY 17, 2006
What an amazing city. 2006 marks Dresden's 800th anniversary as
a city. The February 1945 bombing of the city by the Allies dominates
everything one sees. Evidence of the bombings still exists after
all these years, but the painstaking reconstruction is celebrated
by locals and visitors as well.
Today is one
of the days when everything went well at exactly the right moment.
breakfast in our hotel, included in the room rate as nearly every
German hotel does. Linens, porcelain, crystal and a wide choice
from the buffet. We repeat ourselves, but the dining rooms and
service in these small hotels are remarkable.
Opel gets a well deserved rest today and so does the driver. Yesterday
tested all his many skills and experience. The "roadworks"
are proceeding all over Germany. The resulting narrow and often
closed lanes, temporary striping, barricades, etc. leave no margin
for error with the huge trucks which dominate the Autobahns. The
ever-present 140kph crowd enjoys living on the edge. The weather
required further concentration and the more than 500 kms. of the
day would have exhausted anyone.
day" today is typically our style. Cab into town, past the
"Westin Bellevue Hotel". We did not realize last night
how close we are to the Alstadt, Old City.
We then opted
for a double decker bus tour (headphones for the English narration).
In an hour and a half we saw and learned more than we ever could
have on our own. The Allied bombings destroyed architectural treasures,
but nearly everything is now completely rebuilt to its original
interior and exterior and the city has vast treasures to inspect.
brief digression. The tour bus ticket sellers in this city have
a new technique. Ours approached us with a sales pitch, took our
money, then told us to walk three hundred meters to the bus. 300
meters sounds just around the corner; the bus was three or four
blocks away. She was hilarious, buxom blond married to a German,
she came from St. Petersburg, Russia. She has visited the United
States, going from New Jersey to Florida. She immediately informed
us that Florida is s---.
There are more immigrants here than we had expected.
in 1945 were on practically the last day of the war. Fires burned
for five days. Reconstruction has continued ever since. Jewish
synagogues near the river replace those burned in the terrible
"Crystal Night" destruction in 1938. The new starkly
modern square buildings have no outward embellishments at all.
The corner stones all face Jerusalem. Inside the square exteriors
are tent shaped buildings like those of the Old Testament.
is the Old Market Square. It was the beginning of our tour. Just
adjacent to the Elbe River in front of the Katholische Hoffirche
(Catholic Church), throngs of people congregate all day long.
The Augustus Bridge spans the river. It is a reproduction of the
17th century Baroque bridge which was blown up by the SS shortly
before the end of WWII. in their attempt to stop the Soviets.
the castle and residential areas and out to the White Stag Resort
area where the royals used to hunt. All of the history makes more
sense when looking at the actual places read about and studied
in classrooms. The Blue Bridge was one of our favorite spots.
It is one of the few things that survived the bombings. In addition,
it survived a planned bombing when two Dresdeners climbed under
the bridge and removed the explosives.
the bus tour, we had a short lunch stop on a terrace above the
river where the ferries take tourists along, Then on to the Zwinger,
the most famous of the Dresden attractions. A huge crown dominates
the entrance gate. A large square contains several museums. We
went to the Semper Gallery to see Raphaels's Sistine Madonna and
actually managed to navigate the hundreds of stairs required to
view it. Breathtaking Mary and Santa Barbara on one side of her.
wanted back out into the sunshine. Met a lovely widow traveling
by herself who had ties to both western Germany and the Netherlands.
She gave us the name of the Gold Train, part of the trans-Siberian
Railway. Perhaps that will be an adventure of ours one day.
Semper Opera House tour in English was too good to pass up, Quite
a large group waited for five minutes past the appointed starting
time, shocked that anything in Germany could be late. It simply
does not happen here. The guide came, apologized profusely, and
we were on our way with a lovely, refined, articulate and knowledgeable
young woman well versed in history, literature, and especially
opera. As with the other Dresden treasures, this too was destroyed.
The newest version of the Semper Opera House is larger than the
original. The outer walls were taken down, moved out two meters
(six feet) all around, and reconstructed. The columns in the interior
are faux marble, patterned after an old method which required
four hundred man hours of labor for each of the columns, and cost
far more than real marble. The interior of the opera house is
such a surprise. Four levels of white, pale blue, and gold. Light
and airy. The flat boxes where only those in the front row could
see the stage have been replaced with comfortable seats, each
with an air conditioning vent in front of it and great visibility
premiere performances of Der Rosenkavalier and three of Wagner's
operas were here. When the new opera house recently reopened,
it was expected that the former would be the best choice, but
the local political leader thought the four and a half hours was
too long, so he chose a two and a half hour performance for the
opening instead. The stairs for this tour were unreal. At the
top of the first steep flight, the guide said "Good - I didn't
lose any of you". We are pretty sure she meant to heart attacks
rather than anything else. We have nicknamed Dresden the "Stair
on the cake for me was Ed's offer to take the ferry along the
river which I was so eager to do. We literally ran down the street
when we saw the 3:00 about to leave. They waved us on to the boat
without tickets and told us to pay on board. We made it and off
we went. Seeing the three castles along the steep banks of the
Elbe was magnificent. The first was built outside the Dresden
gates because the young prince had married a Dutch girl who was
not royal and so he was banished. He built his palace looking
directly back at his relatives across the river. The second palace
was built for his servants. The third is now the Bulow Hotel,
Dresdenäs luxury hotel and one of the finest in Germany.
Each of the adjacent castles has its own vineyard. There are still
some intriguing empty mansions along the river, decaying and vacant.
Many of the large mansions reminded us of some of those in Washington
another lovely woman and her granddaughter on the ferry. She interpreted
the narration which was only in German. She had toured the United
States only in California and Las Vegas. She loved Santa Barbara,
but said that in Las Vegas, they were told to leave their luggage
inside rather than outside as they had done in every other place.
She could not believe that one had to pass slot machines to reach
the reception desk. It is fascinating to get others' impressions
of our cities.
more short tour today to Frauenkirche, the large church still
under restoration in the square just opposite the end of our ferry
tour and also on the plaza where we began hours ago. Outside the
church was a St. Petersburg brass quartet playing the familiar
music that accompanied our 2000 departure from Tower Bridge. It
still sounds somewhat like the Lone Ranger theme but it was as
if they were playing it just for us as we entered the church where
we gave thanks not only for a special day today but for our many
a great carryout deli right on the square by the cab stand. Dinner
was incredible to us. The beautiful young woman who had checked
us in and was so good to us went beyond being helpful. She allowed
me to use her own computer to do some updates. That is beyond
what anyone could imagine.
and the people deserve more respect from the world in general.
MAY 18, 2006
DRESDEN - LEIPZIG - WITTENBERG - POTSDAM
BEGINNING ODOMETER 5616
On our way on schedule. Sometimes I look for the time control
table New itinerary for today. We will skip Meissen and the porcelain
factory in favor of Leipzig and Wittenberg on our way to Potsdam.
We have learned a new term for German navigation. The word Crossing
is used whenever a German is giving directions. It is where major
highways intersect, not always in a typical cross but often with
two or three overpasses above the main autostrada. Very useful
tidbit of information if you ever drive here.
and miles of yellow rape seed fields this morning on the way to
Leipzig. Huge windmills, new and modern, similar to those near
Palm Springs, are everywhere in Germany.
is the old city where Bach was organist and choir director for
years. His family home is here, called the Bosehaus. Could it
be that the Bose music system is named for great music rather
than by a man named Bose?????????? Will check that out after our
trip. Leipzig is also the birthplace of Richard Wagner. Bach is
finally buried in the church here most associated with his life.
see both the BMW factory and the Porsche factory, which explains
the 500,000 population in this location. More "roadworks".
fuel near Dessau, an important city to those interested in architecture.
This is the home of Gropius, founder of the Bauhas movement.
at the exit to Wittenberg, somewhat resembles what is worst about
the economic problems of what was East Germany. an old Lucky Strike
sign on a dilapidated building, vacant old houses, this is a depressed
town right on the Elbe River, Again, much undeveloped land, but
this is a sad town. The GDR becomes even more highly offensive
when one sees the ugliness of the plastics factory nearby. No
maintenance, ugly and dreadful. This would not happen in most
parts of Germany.
in Wittenberg before the opening of Castle Church and museums.
This is often called Lutherstadt, Luther's City. We photographed
the place where he first hung his 95 theses protesting the indulgences
of the Catholic Church. As we entered the church, Ed suddenly
grinned and said "For a Lutheran, this is like going to Mecca.".
His humor contained a lot of truth. The town was filled with Lutherans
on tour. We were invited to join a Minnesota pastor and his group
but it was a three hour tour. Ed did enjoy telling him about Mount
Olivet and his confirmation by Pastor Youngdahl and Ed's subsequent
return forty years later to find Pastor Youngdahl had not aged
a bit. It was his son, however, who was now Pastor of Mt. Olivet,
still the largest Lutheran church in the U.S.
his 95 Theses in Latin. After he hung them up, someone took them
down, translated them into German, distributed them, and led to
the reformation. Today, the results are evident in Germany. Saw
all of the sites in Wittenberg, then on our way to Potsdam. Weather
We will skip
the details of our arrival at the Schloss Cecileienthal Palace
Hotel in Potsdam, but we are staying in the palace built for the
wife of the son of the last Kaiser. They and their six children
lived here in the rambling and appealing English styled palace
until the fall of the dynasty at the end of World War I. when
is the exact place where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met
in 1945 after the end of World War II to determine the political
and economic future of Germany. If Stalin had had his way, Germany
would be paying reparations until the year 2088. As it was, Potsdam
was not highly successful. Roosevelt died, Churchill was defeated
in his bid for re-election, so Stalin was the only one of the
three original participants at Potsdam who was there when the
Agreement was finally negotiated and signed.
museum is run by a different company than the hotel even though
they are in the same palace. This leads to some confusion and
lack of continuity, but the ability to stand where the famous
photographs were taken, to stroll the grounds, to see the actual
room with the big red round table that is twenty-five feet in
diameter where the negotiations took place and to see the small
studies where Truman, Stalin, and Churchill retired to work with
their aides, all of these are worth the small frustrations of
coping with the disorganization of the management here.
rain and wind gave way to sunshine later in the day and we were
more able to appreciate the grounds. The palace itself is best
seen in pictures. We bought a good book to bring home.
MAY 19, 2006
POTSDAM - BERLIN
BEGINNING ODOMETER: 5915
Pouring rain and cold winds left us little choice this morning
but to limit our visit to the castles of San Souci even though
the park and treasures of Frederick the Great's palaces warrant
hours of wandering. We checked out of the Cecilenhof Hotel pleased
that we had seen the historical places there but it was far from
our favorite hotel so far.
has a lovely residential area; many are unrestored and would make
lovely homes but the reconstruction costs appear prohibitive.
The school in the town, with many bicycles, looks far better to
us than U.S. high schools with concrete parking lots filled students'
cars. Even in the rain, the pace of Potsdam makes it appear highly
livable. The maintenance of buildings, yards, etc. is not as good
as that of southern and central Germany. The years of dictatorship
under the Soviet puppet government of the GDR has had some lasting
and troublesome effects, but even here the feeling is one of progress,
of hope and confidence. As we said before, we believe that as
Berlin grows even beyond its present numbers of nearly four million,
Potsdam will become more of a bedroom community.
had intended to walk on the famous bridge this morning that has
been the scene of so many spy exchanges, in life as in novels.
This bridge was the exchange of Gary Powers for Rudolph Abel and
then the group of Israelis for another important spy. Of course,
the Third Man Theme is in our ears wherever we go in this area.
The road works
we keep mentioning are irritating, but the condition of both the
Autostradas and the minor roads make us wish their highway departments
were running ours! We are on our way to Berlin, choosing the Autostrada
for the short 24 km drive into Berlin, mainly because the highway
signage out of the Zentrum of Potsdam is much better. First decision
of the morning is whether to take the first exit we see to Berlin
Zentrum. Another sigh of relief; this will be a great way to approach
the famous city. Tree lined and many years old, it is the old
Berlinstrasse, the old main highway into town. No signs of Aurora
Avenue here. Miles and miles of trees and open space punctuated
by occasional houses but absolutely no subdivisions.
a stroke of good luck. The instructions to our hotel have told
us to take the Ring Road to the Kurfurstendamm, the main boulevard
in Western Berlin commonly known by the locals as the Kudamm.
It is difficult to ask directions unless one knows the nickname.
Anyway, the first main street we hit is the Kudamm. A short hop
into a pharmacy where English is spoken fluently confirms our
hotel is only a few blocks straight ahead and to the right. Off
we go, nearly gloating at our good fortune. Then the first real
blip of the trip. We are in our lane, proceeding straight ahead,
when suddenly a bus is just inches away from the passenger side
of our car just as a large truck appears so close to the driver's
side that we have no way to breathe. There is a loud noise as
the truck sideswipes us and races away up the boulevard. Fortunately,
he hit only the large rear view mirror that Ed uses constantly.
Ed managed to repair it enough to fold it back out from its squished
position, but we have not adjusted it since. We will leave well
enough alone. Again, we have been fortunate.
we keep repeating, our cell phone is invaluable on this trip.
We have been hoping to stay at the Hotel Residenz here in Berlin
because Karen Brown says that it is the best location of any hotel
in Berlin at any price. We had therefore been disappointed to
find that they were fully booked. I asked the reservations clerk
to please call me back if they happened to have cancellations,
but we did not expect her to be able to find us anything. The
International Air Show is in Berlin now. So I called the Westin.
Their price was more than $ 400 per night in Euros which meant
over $ 500 U.S.
I told the man on the phone I thought he should find me something
more reasonable because I was from the city where his hotels were
born, and that the Boeing people were probably staying in their
hotel for the air show. He laughed and said that Airbus was actually
all in their hotel. No price break. While I was one the phone,
I missed a call. She called back, and it was the Residenz. Hooray
- they had the needed cancellation, and, without even asking,
we have Room 317, Karen Brown's mentioned favorite. Using her
name seems to work magic in some hotels.
hotel is on Meinekestrasse, just off the Kudamm a short distance
down from the old Kaiser Church and designer boutiques. Surrounded
by a few other hotels and many cafes and restaurants, it is charming.
The parking garage is across the street so Ed parks while I check
in and find that the long bus tour of Berlin which we are hoping
to take is leaving in just ten minutes. The desk clerk makes a
quick call, the bus agrees to wait for us. German hospitality
is much greater than its reputation. In fact, we both believe
that nearly everything about Germany is seriously underrated.
The Hitler era erased so much good from people's memories.
Just as I
am about to worry that Ed has been delayed in the parking garage,
I see him half way up the street in front of a flower shop. This
is the only exit from the parking garage and it is on the way
to our bus. They have indeed waited for us and we embark upon
a three and a half hour tour that is just the tip of the iceberg
of what our day will become.
because the minute details of our trip to Berlin may bore you
but we want to have a record for ourselves to read when we are
ninety. There is a surreal atmosphere this morning. Neither of
us had ever expected to see Berlin, symbol not only of the WWII,
which dominated the first few years of our lives, but symbol of
the Cold War, spies, threat of WW III., and so much else. Here
we are, driving the wide boulevards of upscale and magnificent
landmarks, listening to details of each one as we sit wide-eyed
and totally fascinated.
"Berliner Stadtrunafart" is our bus. We are lucky to
be on the top level and each of us has a window seat which allows
good photographs. No headphones this morning. The woman guide
speaks fluent English and is highly knowledgeable. We notice the
more we travel in the eastern parts of Germany that no one uses
the GDR, nickname for the German Democratic Republic which ruled
East Germany, without a definite scorn in their voices. A bitterness
of the long division of the City is evident. The "Wessies"
and the "Ossies" are still divided in many ways even
after unification of the City and the country. Just a couple of
years ago, there were under 200 marriages of West Berlin women
to East German men, and about the same for East German women to
West Berlin men. This out of more than fifty thousand marriages
in Berlin in two years.
We see all
of the major sights of the City, starting first in Charlottenburg,
the "borough" where we are staying and the heart of
West Berlin. The palace built for her is large and rambling, the
gardens lovely. Again, the amount of green in the heart of the
City adds to the beauty. The Linden trees line the boulevards.
One can hear Marlene Deitrich singing of them. Trees are labeled
here in Berlin. There are over a million trees. According to our
bus guide, that approximates one tree for roughly four and a half
dogs. There are some absolutely gorgeous dogs here, but no Yellow
Labs to make us miss Ty even more. Note: We also miss you, Craig
and Karen, Liz and Dale, Kate, Tess, and Michael, Kota, Annie,
Zoey, and Kotee. No discrimination here. The dog park in West
Berlin is surrounded by a beautiful wrought iron ornamental fence
and benches are scattered around so that the dog owners can sit
while their dogs run. Windermere and Medina should take note.
becomes more appealing with each passing mile. New and old exist
in a startling but interesting ways. The architecture is similar
to that found all over Europe but with some major differences.
The three years of Allied bombing of Berlin during WWII. left
over 80% of the City in ruins, including most of the significant
historical structures. As in Dresden, many have been and are still
being painstakingly restored to their original basis both inside
and out. The strange thing we see is that the statues for the
most part are still original. They survived the bombings when
the buildings did not. The new buildings do not have the patina
that the originals would, but there is quite an interesting response
to the skill and care that have gone into restoring Berlin to
its great glory.
Stadium built for the 1936 Olympics still stands. One can see
both Jesse Owens and Hitler and what were then huge crowds. The
stadium appears small to us now.
we enter East Berlin. This is the hardest for us to believe. We
stop at Checkpoint Charlie to have our photos taken with the "guard"
who makes his living posing for photos with tourists. The huge
pictures of an American soldier and a Soviet soldier hang back
to back. They look so much alike that they could be twins. We
listen to the description of the American general who was on his
way to the opera in East Berlin in 1961 when diplomats were allowed
to pass freely from West to East Berlin. He was stopped by Soviet
guards. Despite his objections, they refused to allow him to pass.
He returned to West headquarters in the American sector and returned
followed by U.S. tanks. He was still refused entry, and soon the
Soviet tanks approached Checkpoint Charlie. The tanks stood face
to face there and the world feared WWIII. until Kennedy called
Kruschev and persuaded him to take the tanks away. The Soviet
tanks backed up, then the American tanks backed up, and the threat
of war was averted.
Lucius Clay of the U.S. is a revered figure among West Berliners.
He is the only American honored by a street in his name while
still alive. He refused to allow the city to be sealed off by
the Soviets when they tried to tear up the Potsdam agreement.
next stop was to be the Reichstag, the symbol of German government.
The guide became very flustered because the streets to it were
blocked off. The demonstrators were marching in the thousands
in the plaza of the People. Quiet and well behaved, surgeons,
doctors, nurses, students, etc. were marching to protest their
long hours and poor pay. This whole area has been the scene of
huge people gatherings and marches for centuries. Now preparations
are underway for Berlin's biggest party ever, the three week long
party for the World Cup. Outside biergartens are being built;
large corporate soccer balls adorn various buildings. Coke must
have beaten Pepsi for the rights to sponsor; huge red soccer balls
with Coke on them are visible all around.
in East Berlin dazzles the senses. Almost too much to comprehend
in one visit. When we reach the Reichstag, huge lines run down
the stairs and around the plaza in front of it. The huge crystal
dome of 1999 replaces the original dome from the 1894 building
which still stands. We are so mesmerized by what we are seeing
that we decide to stay here instead of returning for the final
short portion of the bus tour.
is the source of knowledge about all these places. He correctly
identified the name of Checkpoint Charlie as the third letter
of the alphabet in military terms. Checkpoint Charlie was the
third but most famous of the divisions between East and West Berlin.
(Alpha, Beta, Charlie). The picture of the American soldier was
not a picture of a Charlie.
of the day was his reminder of the first American tank that entered
Berlin. He has often seen the film clip of the tank in front of
the Reichstag, taking dead aim at the Swastika on the peak of
the facade above the main entrance and blasting it off. It remains
off to this day. Standing in front looking at the bullet holes
which remain in the columns and on the building are more reminders
of an era which cannot and should not be forgotten. The lines
are so long today to tour the Reichstag that the wait will be
more than three hours. A girl tells us that if we can get reservations
to the cafe inside, we will not have to wait so we will try for
that tomorrow. Advance reservations just to tour the crystal dome
must be made six to eight weeks in advance.
Adlon is the oldest hotel in Germany, famous not only for the
royalty, world leaders and celebrities who continue to stay there
to this day, but famous also as the site of the infamous photo
of Michael Jackson dangling his young son over the balcony. What
a disgrace. He once filled the entire huge plaza for his famous
concert in Berlin in 1988.
chose lunch at the most popular and crowded cafe in the area at
the north corner of the huge plaza at Starbuck's. They do get
the best locations. Just as we finish lunch, we spy a handsome
young man in a bright red shirt surrounded by about fifteen people,
touting a FREE walking tour of East Berlin, starting in just five
minutes. It is hard to describe Mike accurately. He became our
tour guide quite by accident. We have a tough time explaining
to each other how we just joined in without even discussing it.
Something like our purchase of the Graves white heron. Mike is,
to put it mildly, passionate about the city of Berlin and about
European history. From Wellington, New Zealand, this Kiwi came
to Berlin to tour, stayed, and now gives tours. There is an attraction
and an almost intoxicating atmosphere here. We feel it and can
hardly explain it.
on our tour this afternoon is totally dominated by Hitler and
the destruction he brought, the division of the City, the Wall,
the recent reunification, economic and social problems, but there
is also a sense of confidence and determination among the Berliners
to go forward and to restore Berlin's former glory that one must
be impressed. Somehow the feeling is so different from London
and Paris which both seem rooted in their past glories and not
quite sure where they are going in the future.
continues its advances in significant architecture. The American
architect Peter Eisenman was given the task of designing a tribute
to the victims of the Holocaust. The first idea had been to have
a bus station erected to take visitors out to the prison camp
at Spanshausen to view the horrors. Clearer heads prevailed and
we believe Eisenman has created a masterpiece, subtle, haunting,
meaningful. Open just since May 2005, the monument covers what
appears to be more than a whole city block square. There are a
huge series of concrete blocks which appear to be coffins or headstones
or whatever one imagines them to be. They appear in almost mazelike
combination of different heights, widths, asymmetrical but visually
cohesive to a staggering degree. They are graphite color, and
there is absolutely no graffiti at all. Guards are there 24 hours
a day, but the lack of graffiti is the result of a special paint
which repels attempts to write on it. The company awarded the
large contract for the painting was found to have had Nazi ties.
The resulting outcry was so loud and intense that the controversy
was finally ended when the firm volunteered to donate the paint
job as a part of the memorial.
through the memorial one finds that the apparently level ground
on which the paths proceed is actually sloping as much as six
to eight feet below grade. We are surrounded by silence. There
is an underground information center which contains the names
of each of the known Holocaust victims. On the surface street
level, though, there is no sign, no identification at all of what
is there. The brilliance of Eisenham's design in our minds is
that he forces visitors to wonder and to inspect further to see
what this huge memorial is. Its memory will remain with us always.
known names in architecture have added their talents to the rebuilding
of East Berlin. Frank Gehry won the commission for the new DeutschBanke
which is severe and cold from the outside. Local building restrictions
kept him from putting his proposed gigantic fish sculpture on
the exterior of the building, so he put it with its wild tail
into the interior of the building. It is somewhat controversial
among locals and visitors alike. I.M. Pei also designed a new
addition to one of the old museums.
first look at the Brandenburg gate made us feel very small. Topped
by the Quadriga, the sculpture of the Goddess of Peace or the
Goddess of Victory depending upon which century you refer to,
this four horse chariot driven by the Goddess is of course the
most recognizable icon of the City of Berlin. It is difficult
to include all the details of its history here or I will never
be able to complete today's entry, but as we stand in awe in front
of it, we are standing in "No Man's Land" where no one
was able to set foot during the 28 years of a divided Berlin.
At one point in the past, after the "little man with his
hand in his pocket", as Mike describes him, defeated Prussia,
he dismantled the quadriga and took it back to Paris with him.
After Napoleon's own defeat, it was returned to its original place
at the top of the Brandenburg Gate. It was destroyed again in
World War II., but the original molds were discovered in West
Berlin and a new copper sculpture was made and presented as a
gift to East Berlin from the City of West Berlin.
By now on
our walking tour in which we may appear as chaperones to the rest
of the young 20 somethings who are with us, we are somehow keeping
up with our guide Mike no matter what because he is mesmerizing.
He has a definite flair for the dramatic, his arms waving wildly,
his voice loud and excited. To those passing by, he may appear
a little crazy, but he is extremely well informed and passionate.
By now we
gave been on both sides of the Brandenburg gate, and I have realized
an error earlier in this entry. The huge rally of medical students
was taking place here and the traffic here was cut off. I think
I said it was by the Reichstag earlier, but it was definitely
here that the huge rallies have always taken and continue to take
place in Berlin.
are in for a huge surprise on the tour. We are standing on a simple
sidewalk in front of a large and luxurious (by East German standards)
apartment complex which while the GDR ruled had been only for
the Stassi, the Secret Police,, their friends, and Olympic Gold
Medal champions such as Katarina Witt , "Heroes of the Republic".
She lived there for some time. Mike asks if anyone knows where
we are standing. No one does. There are no signs, no identification,
no bronze, no arrows, not anything any of us can see. We are in
disbelief at first; we stand on top of what was the underground
bunker where Hitler spent the last six to eight weeks of his life
in a delusional state that his soldiers were yet to be victorious.
The bunker no longer exists. Made of nine foot thick German concrete,
it was impervious to explosives. Attempts to blow it up failed,
so finally, holes were drilled into the roof of the bunker and
finally the roof was made to cave in on the bunker and it was
buried in gravel. Part of the reason no signs identify the location
is to prevent any possibility of neo-Nazi gatherings. There is
a justice in the worn, poorly maintained grass at the site. Dog
owners seem not to bother to use poop scoops here. There is a
definite message to Hitler on a continuing basis.
chills as we stand in front of the dreaded SS headquarters. We
did not go inside, but Mike says the terror continues today as
the german version of the IRS tax men inhabit the building now!
One of the
only major buildings of East Berlin to survive the three years
of Allied Bombings is the Air Force Ministry. Surprisingly, the
RAF headquarters in London also survived all the Nazi bombings.
Germans continue to ponder if that could be a matter of professional
courtesy, a tribute to the belief among airmen that a pilot should
die only in the air. A mystery.
surprising statistic. as we view the river and the bridges on
our tour, we learned that Berlin has more bridges than Venice
and Amsterdam, more bridges in fact than any city in Europe except
for one, Hamburg.
Island is just that. It was founded near 1200 as Colnn a separate
village from the fishing village of Berlin. So Berlin has been
divided and united twice in its history. Too many museums to detail
here, but they are massive and nearly overwhelming to view. We
grow in admiration for Frederick the Great who attempted to make
Berlin a welcoming beacon of tolerance for a wide variety of beliefs.
He built matching churches for the Lutherans and for the French
Huguenots when the latter were expelled by Louis XIV. Then the
Catholics said, Hey, how about us, so he built Hedwig's to encourage
Poles and others to come to Berlin.
short note about the origin of the word Berlin. Pronounced Bearlin
here, many think the number of bears around the town, sculpture
bears, that is, are the origin of the first syllable of the city
name. Not so, says Mike. The Slavic word for bog is "ber",
and that is the origin because Berlin is indeed built on a bog.
Credence to this theory is lent by the installation of huge blue
pipes above current construction sites which are put up by the
contractors to take away the surface water from the construction
sites. The new American embassy now under construction is heavily
barricaded and the street to the current embassy closed to traffic.
Sad comparison to the barricades around our White House.
Back to Museum
Island. Albert Einstein was the head of the Physics Department
at Humboldt University here, before he was forced to flee the
increasing persecution by the Nazis. His E equals M squared is
memorialized in a huge stainless steel sculpture visible from
several blocks away. It must be at least eight feet high and thirty
feet long. The University continues to be prestigious today.
in the square where the burning of the books by the Nazis is another
emotional experience. The simple glass rectangle in the center
of the square looks down upon empty bookshelves, signifying the
burning of more than 20,000 books in one night of horror, books
stripped from the adjoining library by frenzied nazi troopers.
origin of the ugliest building in the entire city will not surprise
you. It is the government building built by the Soviet puppet
government, the GDR, after WWII. and used by them while they were
in power. Slated for demolition, there were those who wanted to
keep it for historical purposes. The people were given the vote.
98% voted to tear it down. It is being demolished at this time.
It is hard for us to believe that in spite of Berlin's current
catastrophic financial condition and near bankruptcy, and in spite
of all of Germany's considerable financial struggles, the government
plans to spend more than seven hundred fifty million Euros ( over
a billion US dollars) to build on the site a brand new, you guessed
it, authentic reproduction of the royal palace of the Hollenzerron
(sp?) dynasty which ruled Germany for more than five hundred years
before Kaiser Wilhelm was forced to flee into exile at the end
of WW I. Before the war, the Kaiser built himself a huge church
on Museum Island which was to be his final resting place as well
as that of all of his family. During the war and after, he vowed
not to be buried there until a new Kaiser had resumed the throne.
He did not care for the idea of sharing power. The Reichstag was
built outside the City gates for that reason. Anyway, the irony
is that the Kaiser is the only member of his family NOT buried
in his own church. There are those who might fear that if his
palace is rebuilt, some remaining member of his family or someone
else might seek to take the "Throne". The funds could
be put to far better use!
about the time on the tour our knees were suggesting "No
Mas", we sped up the pace for a short but welcome visit to
Schatzky's Deli. Justin, a young man from Kamloops is about to
take a job at Microsoft in Redmond so we were discussing the Eastside
at length. Also at our table was a young woman who is in property
management in Portland. Truly a small world. We asked Mike how
much longer the tour would be. Another hour. We have unwittingly
but fortunately joined a three and one half hour walking trip.
Every minute has been worth it.
climb to the top of the stairs of the Egyptian museum and it is
there we say goodbye to Mike after the best story of the day.
We have left the Berlin Wall for the end of the day because to
describe it here would take too long. Its fall, however, was due
to the most unprepared speech ever given at a press conference
in Berlin. The minister was given a typed press release which
he was supposed to read to the journalists gathered from all over
the world. At this point, nearly three million had escaped to
the West from East Berlin, but by now there were white crosses
between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate which were in memory
of those shot in No-man's land while trying to escape. At the
time of the press conference, Hungary had opened its border to
Austria and East Germans were going there to escape. Suddenly,
there were tentative plans to ease the restrictions at the Wall.
During the press conference, however, the minister unwittingly
said the restrictions were over right away. It was then the people
began tearing down the wall.
Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down the wall" and Gorby's
own call for perestroika had helped, but it was the people of
Berlin who marched and finally tore down the wall.
end the tour exhausted but invigorated by what we have experienced.
The bus home in the Friday rush hour traffic was something else.
standing room only, twice the people on board as should have been,
and still more kept coming. Heavy traffic. breathing limited.
Back to the comfort of our hotel, trying hard to comprehend and
analyze our feelings.
as our knees said NO MAS, we must say no mas to more entries for
Berlin right now. We must check out of our Rostock hotel now.
More of our second day in Berlin and our great stop in Rostock
whenever we find the next computer. Bye for now.
MAY 20, 2006
you come to Berline, give the Hotel Residenz a try. We love it.
Small, boutique, gracious. comfortable, perfectly located to everything.
Our room has the usual high European ceilings; a big bay window
lets in lots of light and we have windows which actually open!!
Breakfast in yet another well appointed, intimate dining room.
Smart people run this hotel; coffee is one the tables in carages,
ready and waiting. Coffee is usually served by waitresses who
disapprove of refills.
We are on
our way by 7 am this morning. We tried to get reservations for
the Reichstage Cafe because we didn't want to wait in line for
hours and we didn't have the six to eight weeks in advance which
are necessary to reserve for a tour without waiting. Just the
waiting list for the Cafe was 65 people for today when we called
for reservations early yesterday. Popular place. We hope that
by being at the Reichstag forty minutes before it opens, we may
find the line not quite so long. When we arrive about 7:20, the
line is already 80 to 100 people.
outside the Reichstag is surreal. As we already said yesterday,
the Swastika on the cornice facade over the entrance was blasted
off by an American tank in 1945 when we entered Berlin. We can
still see bullet holes all over the columns and the building.
The Reichstag has an interesting history. When it was built in
1894, it was outside the gates of the main city of Berline. Kaiser
Wilhelm I liked it that way. Both he and his son Kaiser Wilhelm
!!. considered the Parliament which met there little more than
a nuisance. The Kaiser maintained veto power. After WWI., the
Weimar Republic used the Reichstag, but in 1933 it was burned
down. Hitler blamed the Communists for the fire and used the fire
as an excuse to assume "emergency powers" with Von Hindenburg's
approval. The supposed arsonist was found beheaded several days
later. To this day, the belief is that Hitler and his Nazis arranged
for the convenient fire which allowed them to consolidate power
and continue their march to complete power.
Hitler was defeated in 1945 and Berlin was divided among the Allies
into four sectors, the capital of West Germany was moved to Bonn.
It was just since the reunification of Germany in 1999 that the
capital of the country was moved back to Berlin. In 1999, the
crystal dome was added to the 1894 building, and the parliament
today works in the building below the dome. The architect who
designed the dome in glass did so as a symbol of open government;
he believes that people should be able to view their government
making its laws, and so in Berlin it does. We are today for some
reason comforted by the fact that Hitler himself never set foot
in the Reichstag. He and his Nazi henchmen met nearby but not
in this building.
Only small groups are allowed in at a time. Security is tight,
metal detectors and all, but as usual, the German well organized
efficiency is admirable. Swift elevator take us up the beginning
of the Crystal Dome. The wait in line is worth it. As you walk
up the gentle circular ramp of the dome, all of Berlin's glorious
sights are clearly visible and are well identified on signs all
along the way. We were able to see again all the landmarks which
we saw yesterday from our tour bus and on our walk with Mike.
We are overwhelmed with our sense of history and of actually looking
at what we had only expected ever to see in photographs or old
mention yesterday one of Berlin's newest areas, the gigantic modern
buildings by the Deutsche Bank, Sony, Grand Hyatt, all of which
as skyscrapers worth of New York City. A large cinema complex
shows first run movies in English in that area.
the entrance to the Cafe which is "fully booked" for
several days, we see some empty tables and asked if we may just
have coffee. We are seated immediately, and marvel at our good
fortune. Goodbye, Reichstag, Hello Pergamon Museum. We must make
choices here in Berline or we will never see the rest of Germany.
Our choice is to see the enormous Gate which was the entrance
gate to the ancient city of Pergamon, was dissembled there, brought
to Berlin and reconstructed inside the museum, although it was
too large to reconstruct the entire gate. There are about forty
marble stairs, at least fifty feet across, leading up to the top
where there are some other ancient art objects from Pergamon.
Hard to believe what people considered they could just take back
to their countries with them. Also in this museum is the famous
Ishtar gate from ancient Babylonia. The rich royal blue of the
glazed tiles of the arched gate and along the walls leading to
it are magnificent. Surprising to find these in a museum in Berline.
Ancient Pergamon was in what is now Turkey; Babylonia in present-day
day. On to Berlin's biggest and most famous flea market, the one
in the Tiergarten on the Boulevard 17th of June. Antiques, food,
art, junk, and some good antiques, all interesting. Huge crowds
of people, both tourists and residents. Lots of food booths, everything
from the proverbial frankfurters to French Crepes. Perhaps the
Fisher Scone people are missing a bet. We found and purchased
some colored pen and ink drawings which we believe are of extremely
good quality. They will remind us of one of the great cities of
the world and one of our best trips. They were done by a local
Berlin artist in the 60's and earlier. They depict the old Berlin
around the area we are staying, and one of them depicts the canals
and river which we have come to appreciate since we have been
here and didn't even know about before our arrival. We could have
chosen many more, but we felt we should limit ourselves to those
scenes most meaningful to us from this visit. The Tiergarten in
which the flea market is located is in the heart of the city.
Walking paths, bicycle, paths, everything city dwellers need.
The Tiergarten is more than 600 acres and has 600 acres of park
One of the
most unique things we have found here are the small, 250 to 350
s.f. little cottages which Germans can rent for the year as summer
or weekend getaways and in particular, as places to have a small
garden. They are inexpensive, attractive, massed together in a
rather nice way, lots of plants and greenery and unique to Berlin.
We love the unexpected places we are finding.
night we discovered "Otto Suhr Allee" on our tourist
map. Ed did checking, and it turns out that Otto Suhr was the
second mayor of Berlin and the lovely wide boulevard is named
after him. After our trip, we will continue our search of the
ties of Ed's family to the Suhr name. For now, a picture of Ed
under the boulevard sign will have to do. We choose a corner cafe
on Otto Suhr Allee purely because it is close and attractive.
It turns out to be one of Berline's oldest and most popular cafes,
the Luisen Cafe. It has the patina that only good aging can bring.
Old beer-making machines, large copper overhead pipes to deliver
the beer to the bar, a small but well stocked cafeteria line for
lunch, packed with traditional German dishes in the usual huge
rest of the afternoon is devoted to KaDaWe, the seven-story department
store which rivals Harrod's for choice of merchandise and in size.
Sixty thousand square feet of retail space, it is the biggest
department store on the European continent. There are nearly 1500
employees. There are six escalators as well as elevators. The
book department has three newspapers in English and a wide choice
of magazines. The entire seventh floor is a Gourmet eatery, different
Ethnic bars and restaurants with cooks and chefs in full vision,
wine bars, cheeses, chocolatiers dipping candies and serving free
to customers, absolutely fascinating and all of this within walking
distance of our hotel!
leave Berlin satisfied in every way. We are impressed with the
degree of sophistication and the high degree of cordial welcome
we received from everyone, both in hotels and shops and all along
the way. There is a certain tendency of people to dismiss German
culture in comparison to some others. We find this unfair in many
ways. The people here seem absolutely determined to overcome the
ghastly legacy of Hitler. Everything is geared to erase him but
to warn the young of the danger his ideals represent. Any attempted
rise of Neo-Nazism will not be easy. The education of the young
includes all those bus tours of students at Dacha and in the museums
of Berlin and the almost universal literacy rate here, 99%, is
admirable. Economic woes continue in the city; everything since
reunification is not perfect. The "Wessies" are considered
arrogant by the "Essies", and the "Wessies"
think too many of their tax dollars go to the"Essies".
of freedom is everywhere. The fact that nearly three million Germans
fled from the East to the West during the days of division and
the Berlin Wall are testament to the drive for freedom and the
key to the fall of Communism in East Germany.
final statistic (which we have not verified). We read here that
Berlin is four times bigger than Paris. It is not as purely beautiful
because of different building restrictions, but Berlin holds its
own to so many great cities we have seen. It is unique of course;
one cannot compare it to the ancient buildings of Athens or Rome
or Istanbul because many of the really historical buildings here
are actually reproductions of those bombed in the war, and those
reproductions are in an already young European city.
leave Berlin without writing down adequate descriptions of the
book burning at Bebelplatz and the landmarks of Gendarmenmarket,
but the internet can remedy that with just a few flicks of the
MAY 21, 2006
BERLIN TO ROSTOCK, GERMANY
this morning. Black skies, heavy clouds, total bleak Sunday morning.
We would have been cheated out of so much if the past two days
had been like this. Can you imagine Ed Suhrbier walking for three
and one half hours straight with rain pouring down on him? That
would not be a good thing' it would not be a happen thing. We
leave Berlin by way of the same highway that we entered. We are
surprised at the emotional response this city has triggered in
both of us. Perhaps we may even return someday.
enjoy the same green trees and scenery along the way this morning,
but there are more painful reminders of the past in the directional
arrows: Spandau, the prison to which Albert Speer was sent after
Nurnburg; a Luftwaffe museum; a WWII. memorial cemetery, which
we assume would be for German civilians who perished. Did we mention
in yesterday's entry anything about the group of small white crosses
between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg gage? The white crosses
there are memorials to those who were killed in that area while
trying to escape. The escape attempts to rescue people trying
to escape before the wall was torn down are too numerous to detail
here, but some of them even included West Berline firemen holding
huge trampoline style nets to allow people to jump from fourth
Back to the
present. The morning drive is uneventful except for the lovely
farms. The most important spring crop here is white asparagus.
This "spargel" seems almost an addiction to the Germans.
Blue trucks with big white letters saying "Spargel"
are speeding to markets and restaurants all over the country.
Menus in some restaurants list ten or twelve different asparagus
The new, modern
windmills are everywhere. Huge, they must provide a gigantic addition
to the local power grids.
10 a.m. the clouds part and the sunshine returns, not a moment
too soon. "Sunday drivers" are different here from the
slow, tentative soul the term usually connotes. Here we use the
term to define the left lane speedsters who prefer the 160 to
180 kph adrenaline shot they seek.
We head into
the state of Mecklenberg in which Rostock is located. Fritz Reuter,
a German writer, said that when the Lord made the earth, he started
with Mecklenburg. The number of stylish resorts we see along the
highway this morning are on small lakes which are on both sides
of the highway. Adjacent fields of bright yellow rapeseed which
will become canola oil are offset by dark green fields adjacent.
More RHS colors today.
the birthplace of Ed's grandfather and probably his great grandfather
and generations before them, is the departure point for ferries
to Malmo, Sweden, St. Petersberg, Russia, and other destinations
which offer us kinds of temptations which we must resist today.
We head for the city itself, only to find all the major street
to the hotels and other portions of the city are blocked off due
to a charity "marathon" for hundreds of local residents.
After a great deal of effort, two nice policemen allow us to drive
halfway down a blocked street after we have PROMISED not to go
all the way to the hotel. Thank goodness we keep our promise.
By the time
we parked the car where we had said we would, we walked the final
block to the hotel. Hundreds of runners were passing at that exact
moment and we would have been in deep trouble if we had not kept
our promise to the police--I imagine they would have had some
explaining to do as well.
of hotels. The Marriott was right on the main square of town in
an old, beautiful building with modern, comfortable rooms in the
interior. Best of all, there was a computer in the lobby for guest
use. That is where I spent most of the rest of the evening and
the following morning.
in the hotel gave us a perfect view of the runners as they crossed
the finish line. There was a blend of fine runners, a few obviously
in training for high level track events, the rest ranging from
some grandparents with white hair to small children; a few of
the children running appeared to be no more than six or seven.
Lots of family groups, and it was touching to see the fathers
and mothers, breathing hard, reaching down to encourage the kids
to stick with it for just a few more yards. We realized the length
of the race was quite different for some participants; some of
the great runners came round five or six times before we finished
Sunday was a great gathering place for people of all ages. There
is a huge fountain in the middle of the town square with outdoor
cafes, ice cream shops, and pubs. Great place for people-watching.
We were on
a mission here. Ed's roots are deep in this town on the Suhrbier
side. We found twelve listings in the current phonebook and decided
to call them all. Each answered the telephone in exactly the same
way: "Zuurbeer". Our first question was if they spoke
English. Most did not, and even those who did were hesitant to
speak with strangers; they probably fear solicitors here, too.
In addition, the long days under the GDR when this was East Germany
have added to their reticence. All were unfailingly polite but
the "Neins" as to English fluency were a little disappointing
at first. Then we began to find more success as we went down the
list. The most friendly one had limited English, but when we suggested
that perhaps we could call back and ask one of the hotel employees
to interpret, we received an enthusiastic response and that is
precisely what we did.
was another gem of an employee who went out of her way for us.
She had already managed to fix the computer I was using when the
main router had gone down. Now she enthusiastically asked the
questions of Klaus Suhrbier and his wife. He is 62. His grandfather
was born just outside Rostock in 1888. Ed's grandfather Richard
Suhrbier was born in 1879. Klaus said that his grandfather had
been killed in World War I. and Klaus knew he had two brothers.
After we get home, we plan to pursue possible ties to his family,
but we all agreed it was pleasant to talk to Klaus. He is an engineer
and was eager to learn about us, our age, etc. We will pursue
more records in the office at St. Mary's church tomorrow morning.
find a slight French influence in this town. There is a softness
in the speech of the young women, a sense of style and bearing
that is highly attractive. The long winters and rain and lack
of hot sun do have a big benefit to complexions. The young girls
have absolutely perfect skin, almost like porcelain. Nearly everyone
here is Protestant. The people here say that Protestantism is
stronger in northern Germany and Catholicism in southern Germany
where the Hapsburg were of greatest importance and influence.
MAY 22, 2006
ROSTOCK - BAD DOBERAN - MUNCHKEN - A 20 - LUBECK
DEPARTURE TIME: 12:30 P.M
We have our latest departure this morning because we wanted to
complete as many website entries as possible before checkout time.
decision to take the small highway to Lubeck because it is a short
distance and there are many historical sites on the way turns
out to make a longer day than we had planned. It could have been
worse; fortunately, Ed saw a huge orange X on the Lubeck on the
sign at the side of the highway near Munchken. We turned around
and his guess was correct. The road was closed because of roadworks.
that word will be rooted in our minds for a long time.
we head back toward Rostock to pick up the autobahn, we cannot
help going over the history of the town we just visited where
Ed's paternal family roots are deep. Located on the Warnow River
and founded in the 11th century, Roztok means "broadening
of the river". Its strategic location has influenced its
importance ever sine.
the centuries, it has been invaded many times. The Danish King
Valdemar I. burned it down in the 13th century. Then the Germans
settled the town. Napoleon's French soldiers were there until
1813. We discovered this fact AFTER our observations of an apparent
French influence on the women here.
glory days were in the early 14th and 15th centuries. Rostock
and Lubeck formed the Hanseatic League to combat Baltic pirates.
The League would become the dominant political and economic force
of northern Europe for hundreds of years. It would expand to include
Hamburg, Danzig, Bremen,and Groningen (latter in Netherlands)
and would by the 15th century have a monopoly on the trade in
northern Europe. Ed had already noted that his maternal and paternal
forebears had lived only 180 miles apart but we thought there
would not have been a chance their paths would have crossed so
long ago. Since learning more about the Hanseatic League, we think
perhaps their paths did cross somehow.
legacy of the days of wealth from those early centuries show up
in the old mansions which managed to survive bombings by the Allies
in 1942 and again in 1945. Rostock had been a city of shipyards
in the early part of the 19th century. The first propeller-driven
steamers in Germany were built there. Then came the airplane factories.
The Heinkel Works built the world's first jet plane and did the
first test flights near here. After the WWII. bombings, the city
was rebuilt and became the most important seaport in East Germany
under the GDR. Following the reunification of Germany, however,
it has lost importance. Once 260,000, it is now just about 200,000;
the people left for West Germany. We hope that Rostock can solve
its economic problems soon. The positive energy we see here gives
us great hope.
to the present. Rape seed fields all along the way today. The
Canola oil production here must be extensive. Again, we are impressed
with the vast amounts of open space, green and bright yellow fields
for as far as the eye can see.
have looked forward to staying at the Jensen Hotel in Lubeck.
Our reservation has been made, it is right on the river, and we
look forward to seeing the largest group of original 14th and
15th century mansions in Germany is this UNESCO protected medieval
town. Then we arrive in front of the hotel. The roadworks are
at their worst at this very corner, and the reconstruction of
the fabled gates at the entrance to the old city are covered with
plastic and the dust of construction work at the gates combines
with the highway work to produce sounds and sights that we know
will be "not a good thing" even if the hotel is perfect.
The manager understands and nicely cancels our reservation. So
we go to the Kaiserhof, a lovely hotel where two 19th century
mansions have been connected by a lovely hallway into a really
elegant hotel. We are served snacks and coffee on the patio facing
a beautiful garden. Even the chilly and strong wind cannot ruin
the beauty, but we do drink the coffee fairly quickly. In the
hallway lounge near the antique bar, there is a priceless white
porcelain Meissen fireplace.
are impressed with the hotel, but the formality of the dining
room seems too much for tonight. My walk to the bank in the old
town to the cash machine reveals a number of interesting cafes,
etc. so we choose a Greek Tavern. After dinner ice cream cones
at a sidewalk cafe provide great people-watching. The mansions
of this ancient city are truly grand; the small boat trips give
a picture into a past we know little about, but the grandeur of
the Hanseatic League continues to impress us. Lubeck was perhaps
the grandest of all of the city members.
our way to Sylt tomorrow.
MAY 23, 2006
LUBECK - NIEBUNN - TO THE ISLAND OF SYLT &ITS VILLAGES OF
WESTERLAND, KEITEN, KAMPEN,
DEPARTURE TIME: 7:30 A.M.
to our early morning departures. We would have liked to see the
home of Thomas Mann here in Lubeck and also that of Gunter Grass,
Germany's most famous writer who is the only Nobel Prize winner
for literature in Germany who has won during his lifetime. It
was 1999 or thereabouts. His name was at the top of the stack
of books on the sculpture in Bebelplatz in Berlin. That sculpture
is a memorial to the book-burning, but it is a new sculpture;
many of the authors whose names appear on the Berlin sculpture
were not authors of books that were burned. Gunter Grass is a
big tourist draw in Lubeck.
We thought fleetingly of changing our itinerary this morning.
We have rain and black clouds and the pea soup fog which we fear
will ruin our island adventure, but we really want to see what
brings so many thousands of tourists to the "Hamptons of
Germany" so off we go.
is Western Mecklenberg as we leave Lubeck. Lakes, more endless
fields of rapeseed, familiar landscapes to us now. Today we will
be at the northernmost tip of Germany. We were almost in the southeast
corner of the country when we visited Berchtesgarten, so we are
morning we could have been in Denmark if we had stayed on the
Autobahn just a few more kilometers., but we are eager to get
the car-train which is the only way one can get to the island
of Sylt. There is no need for reservations for the open double-decker
train. They run back and forth all day and are more like getting
on a ferry than a train. We arrive and are able to purchase tickets
and leave with just enough time to buy coffee in the immaculate,
well appointed cafe just next to the aisles where we wait to drive
onto the train.
hope to be guided to the top deck but are pointed onto the lower
one, so we do as we are told.
train ride is fifty minutes long. The tracks are so low to the
water on both sides that surely they must flood during the winters.
The sandy bogs along the way are occupied by both sheep and cows.
This is quite the most unique train ride of our lives. The architecture
as we get closer to Sylt is an artist's delight. Thatched roofs,
white stucco, the English influence is astounding.
the time we drive off the train near Westlerland, we are delighted
with what we have seen so far. Then we arrive in Westerland. The
old, wonderful small houses and hotels have been obliterated by
new, ugly highrise structures which obstruct light and really
provide visual blight. Totally appalled, we call the hotel which
has been described as absolutely one of the best in Germany. There
may be room for one night but when we arrive in front, it is on
a crowded corner next to the ugly tall buildings, and we know
this again is "not a good thing".
do remember meeting a German man in line at the buffet in Luisenhaus,
the Berlin restaurant on Otto Suhr. When we said we were going
to Sylt and wondered if we should stay in Westerland or Keitum,
he said "OOOOHHH. if you have a chance to stay in Keitum,
do so." Somehow we believe this perfect stranger will turn
out to be a good guide.
is probably one of the loveliest villages on any island in any
country. The subtle signage and placement of buildings on narrow
curving streets, many of them cobblestone, gives an overall tranquility
and visual perfection that is breathtaking. Now we know we did
right to come here. The signage is almost too subtle. Finding
our recommended Karen Brown hotel is hard, but at last we do.
There is only one room available and it is not ready and compact
does not describe it; we decide to have lunch before we make a
decision. We fear we may not have many choices. There are people
everywhere, walking the streets looking at these wonderful cottages
and mansions, surrounded on one side by the North Sea and on the
other by the inner bay which faces the mainland.
find the most attractive restaurant we have yet seen in Germany.
Huge outdoor patio with white umbrellas; inside the white stucco
building with a brown thatched roof are a series of intimate dining
rooms. We are given a table in a small and cozy, wall tiled dining
room that has a patina of age that is wonderful. We have found
by accident the "Fisch Fiete", obviously a restaurant
of distinction in this upscale town. It is pricey but delicious;
fresh halibut and fresh turbot, served with salad, roasted potatoes,
and potato salad. Calories here are uncountable. Ed asks the waiter
if he knows of a hotel we might find.
now familiar response from our waiter is "Just a moment.
I will ask my colleague".. His colleague comes to our table,
obviously the owner of this establishment. He has the polished
manners of a true gentleman; his bearing and his cordiality give
us hope that he will help us. His first words are an apology;
usually he could give us quarters above the restaurant but at
the moment, they are filled with his relatives. However, his 85
year old mother owns the Anne Hotel nearby. He will check with
her. He returns with the happy news that we will have an apartment
in her hotel just a block away from the center of the village.
Of course, it will include breakfast. Would it be too much trouble
to ask if if we could please pick up the key before 4 p.m.????
We really are blessed with good fortune on this trip. Our host
takes excellent care of us during lunch, personally escorts us
outside to point the way to the hotel, gives us his business card,
and sends us on our way marveling at what he has done for us.
find the hotel easily and park in the tiny parking lot behind.
There are only five or six guest rooms in this hotel which is
an authentic 17t century hotel. Our room is an upstairs apartment
with a sitting room, bedroom, and large, beautiful bath. Each
room faces a garden. We are not on the water but just a half block
away, and we are thrilled. Our dinner tonight will be in our little
living room on a tiled table of glazed blue and white traditional
tiles so common to this area.
is to us a blend of Carmel and of the Cotswolds. We cannot believe
that this isolated island can be so popular, but the sand beaches
and large natural bird preserve as well as the architecture bring
visitors from all over the world. Kampen supposedly has more millionaires
than Keitum, but we somewhat doubt that. The mansions all have
lightning rods on top with horizontal wires running the length
of each roof. The buildings must be of high quality construction
because the storms here in winter must be fierce. The spring winds
today must be nearly 40 knots.
we have said, the signs in Keitel are so subtle that even the
grocery store appears to be just another good looking piece of
architecture. The clothing stores are unreal. Bogner, Ralph Lauren,
who is big here, many outdoor sports shops, because this is a
surfer's paradise. The weather here must be cold for a good part
of the year. Parkas, windbreakers, quilted vests abound.
are so happy to stay in Keitum. Our host at lunch referred to
Westerland as an "awful town" and we agree.
stood on the North Sea today for a photo. The only rain shower
of the afternoon was while we walked along the large dunes, but
we kept on going. Behind us was the portion of the north sea where
our Indian Wells friend Paul crashed in his B-17 during WWII.
but managed to survive. History everywhere we go.
"pension" this evening has a sign it it that says something
about King Frederick VI of Denmark. We will research this later.
MAY 24, 2006
SYLT TO TONDERN, DENMARK - HAMBURG, GERMANY
DEPARTURE TIME: 6:00 A.M.
awake early and are eager to be on our way. We have no way to
pay anyone here, so we leave the cash and a note in the desk in
the living room. A small piece of paper on the fold-down lid will
alert someone to look inside. Just as we are leaving, the "chambermaid",
an older lady arrives with fresh flowers and apologies that we
are leaving without coffee. We assure her this is all right; we
simply wish to be on the first train.
we are third in line; hundreds of other cars will line up behind
us before we depart. Today we will be on the upper deck and will
have one last glimpse of our magical village of Keitum. By 8 a.m.,
we are "dining in Denmark". Just twenty kilometers out
of the way, but we have added another country to our journey.
Impeccably clean and attractive, the hotel cafe is just right
for us. The large blue ad white tile fireplace in the lobby has
a map of all of Denmark and it includes our island of Sylt, so
of course Ed points to it during his photo op.
modern windmills up here in Denmark, too. They seem an indispensable
addition to the power needs of much of rural Europe. The ones
near Palm Springs back home supposedly can take care of 250,000
people. Here the windmills take care of far more than that.
the fresh asparagus fields have a new way to attract attention.
Every few miles there is a twelve or fifteen foot inflatable cartoon
character named "Mr. Fresh Asparagus" to attract buyers.
It is difficult to explain the apparent addiction to spring white
asparagus that exists here.
seventy kilometers from Hamburg, we are stopped for roadworks.
This time the delay is for more than an hour. By the time we are
moving again, the signs to Hamburg disappear. We decide to use
the main secondary road toward Lubeck, but fortunately we stop
at a gas station at the turn. A particularly helpful cashier says
that road too is closed, that we must take the old road straight
ahead as it is the only one open. It is a short distance; she
emphatically tells us to go straight to Elmenthal no matter how
many autobahn entrances we see. We trust her, and sure enough,
we are able to enter our highway just where she said we would.
are disappointed to find our chosen hotel right on Alster Lake
in the heart of Hamburg will not be our home tonight. The owner
has gone bankrupt and the hotel is closed permanently. The brand
new Meridien down the street probably sealed his doom. We decide
to splurge on the famous Kempinski Atlantic, old, baronial, right
on the Lake. The room we are given, however, is full of stale
smoke smell and al of the non-smoking rooms are taken. We leave,
try the Ibis Hotel across the street but WARNING, do not go to
Ibis hotels. They are the same all over Europe and they are "not
a good thing". However, our "dependence upon the kindness
of strangers" continues. The young desk clerk quickly makes
a phone call and tells us with delight in her voice that we have
a "romantic" room in the Galerie Hotel just two blocks
away. Just five or six rooms in the hotel, but she assures us
we will love it. She is right!
are greeted by Sarah Petersen, owner and artist whose paintings
line all of the walls. Two steep and curving staircases later,
through a series of doors which each require a separate key, we
find our "garret", filled with light from from the french
doors onto a small terrace with flowerpots, spring flowers in
bloom, and from the skylight in the angled ceiling of the sitting
room. Large old beams, king sized bed, old plank floors which
Sarah tells us are from the USA, it is artistic, and we feel as
if we are on the left bank of Paris. Sounds strange, but I felt
I was in my 20"s again, and that is no easy deal.
colors and fabrics and design have put a tiny modern apartment
into what is essentially an attic in an antique building. Large,
beautifully tiled bath, stove with coffee maker, if we could stand
up straight in the tub without bumping our heads, we could stay
here for along time. We cannot believe this room. We use a push
button device which looks like our car door opener to open the
door from the street, then another door to the bottom of the staircase,
and finally, one to our room.
find parking in a garage up the street which is open 24 hours
so that we can leave early tomorrow.
race to the tourist bus because we know there will be one on the
hour. Sure enough, we are on the double decker bus touring the
inner and outer lakes in the heart of the City, filled with small
sailboats racing, small tour boats, etc. The mansions and gardens
in Hamburg deserve a whole chapter, but we will wait until later.
The prices are astounding" sixty million for one of the ones
for sale. We are told that one needs an income of one million
euros per year to be able to afford to live in this neighborhood.
bus tour is fascinating, but we find ourselves ready to back to
our apartment instead of touring the interiors of any of the major
museums, etc. We shop as if we are locals, and take dinner back
and share the left bank atmosphere.
wish we could have gotten to know Sarah. Interesting person who
was an artist in Santa Monica all during the sixties. Her portrait
of Barbra Streisand hangs above our bed. There are mirrored closet
doors to the side of the bed and another mirror in front of us.
Those remind me instantly that after all, I am definitely not
in my twenties!
Galerie Hotel has a website which we will give you the address
of later because we cannot wait to see it ourselves.
MAY 25, 2006
HAMBURG, GERMANY TO WILHELMSHAVEN TO GRONINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS
DEPARTURE: 7 A.M.
to be able to make our own coffee and be on our way. We were careful
to make sure all of the doors were open and held open before we
returned the keys. We could picture one of us on the street and
the other unable to get out.
may notice if you look at a map of Germany that we appear to have
taken an unnecessarily long road to reach Groningen. Perhaps we
were gloating about our successes on this trip. Amidst microbursts
of rain and slick highways this morning we are on schedule to
reach Groningen be 10:00 at the latest. That will give us at least
two full days to look for Bos names and for Buisman names, both
of which are Ed's mother's relatives.
best laid plans......Just forty minutes before arrival, we find
the entire autobahn is closed ahead of us, just three miles before
our last exit! This time the detours are marked by orange arrows,
but we know we cannot depend upon them entirely. A well dressed,
well educated man at a gas station stands by his Harley (or equivalent)
and tells us we must go all the way up towards Wilhelmshaven toward
the north end of the peninsula or we will face other detours and
closures. This is getting tiresome. Anyway, we still arrive in
Groningen in plenty of time for lunch.
opt for the modern, well appointed NH Hotel by the hospital in
the center of town. Our corner room has a superb view of the entire
city. Here for two days, we are thrilled to find a top floor office
which is actually a large lounge with comfy modern chairs that
is often used by airline crews who make this hotel their home.
computer and internet are here.
internet access here is done by purchase of cards which have codes
to enter for access. We did a few pages yesterday before dinner
and all went well. Since it was pouring down rain,the view of
the city from here was better than touring.
a good dinner in the hotel restaurant, I spent more than two and
a half hours so that we would be completely caught up. You cannot
imagine the frustration to find, after midnight, that three days
disappeared because the entire system was down. Nothing was saved,
not even the folder and none of the e-mails reached Rita, our
web-site "mistress" or our own e-mail which is one of
our other emergency backups. The entire service which provides
access to the hotel is gone for the weekend; none of the hotel
employees could figure out the problem, but the entire hotel was
without internet access and because I was on the public computer,
all of my data disappeared forever. Today we have a new system.
The hotel feels that this access service has a cutoff every ten
minutes or so which cannot be overcome, so we are sending each
portion is segments. If the past few days sound more disjointed
than ever, please bear with us.
of the first things we did after we checked in yesterday was to
check the phone book. You will not be surprised to know that the
Bos family seems to include a good number of entrepreneurs. There
are 57 Bos listings here and there must be at least twenty different
businesses with the name Bos at the beginning. We have not found
any Buismans. They may be the branch from Rotterdam.
will pursue more family leads tomorrow.
news we saw live on CNN this afternoon here. The guilty verdict
for Lay and Skilling. Coverage went on for hours. We have seen
very little TV. This was intense coverage. Also saw the speech
by Israel's prime minister to the US Congress. We were both highly
is a University Town. By the way, so was Rostock. It was the site
of the first University founded in Northern Europe. Groningen
has a large Musik school, a Medical School, another major University,
and enormous numbers of young people and bicycles. The number
of bicycles for hire in front of the train station is the largest
we have ever seen.
stay tomorrow too so we will take our boat tour then. This is
a city of canals and bridges which go up and down all day long.
Portions of the inner city remind us of the Montlake cut by the
MAY 26, 2006
GRONINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS
is something of a small miracle. We write this on the date noted
above. This has not happened before. We are determined to begin
the next phase of our journey with everything current. This would
have been easy were it not for the computer glitches.
are truly in the land of the lowland Dutch, not the Rotterdam
Dutch. Everything is flat, just as it was when we drove into the
had our boat trip through the canals this morning. It was fascinating
to see all the old origin
city too was a part of the Hanseatic League. It had 71 breweries
at one point in history, but none now. There are sixteen bridges
over the canals. Our boat trip was made even more interesting
because we joined a group of students who had chartered the boat
for the morning. They were late teens, enrolled in the Musik School
here. An absolutely unbelievable thing occurred. One of their
instructors asked for their attention. IMMEDIATELY, every single
one the sixty or so aboard was absolutely quiet and listening
to what he had to say. That would never happen at home.
Groningen Museum must be related to the EMP building in Seattle.
A Belgian architect tried to develop the theme of a tall ship.
The grotesque lines and angles, bright colors, use of multiple
materials, may be avant garde to some viewers; to us, it is simply
awful. The contemporary art exhibit of sculpture inside was the
work of an obviously talented artist who seems to be a seriously
disturbed human being. His sculptures of thalidomide babies, a
bronze nude woman with the bronze rubbed with dried animal blook,
a full skeleton of a fetus so detailed that it appeared to be
real. All of these were too much for us. We went on to the teaport
exhibit which was even better than Bellevue"s. Some of the
porcelains were among the best we have ever seen. We both came
away feeling that the sculptor's work would have been better off
in a museum other than the major Groningen building. More about
the staircases and curtained tents of part of the exhibits. Claustrophobia
could set in on anyone here.
newspapers today from the train station!!!! And a whole day in
one modern hotel. We say goodnight now. Our last card has only
OUR WAY TO THE BARN, WE ARE TURNING THE CORNER TOWARD OUR A-2
ADVENTURE WHICH WAS THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF THE TRIP. ALONG THE
WAY, WE WILL SEE SOME OF BAVARIA'S GREATEST TREASURES. BYE FOR
MAY 27, 2006
GRONINGEN TO RHEINE TO BAD OEYNHAUSEN THEN VIA THE A-2 AUTOBAHN
TO HANNOVER TO BRAUNSCHWEIG TO MAGDEBURG TO QUEDLINBURG
BEGINNING ODOMETER: 7297
DEPARTURE TIME: 7:25 a.m.
leave the parking garage shared by the hotel with the teaching
hospital directly across the street. This is a first class operation!
The curving concrete ramps in the garage are fairly wide and there
is original artwork on the concrete walls which resembles old
pictographs. Nice touch.
fog, gray, rainy, yuk! Fuel outside Groningen at a local mom and
pop operation. They call the bleifrei (unleaded) petrol benzene
around here. we just read in the Herald Tribune that Safeway has
been told to lower the level of benzene in its soft drinks in
cans. Wonderful thing to put in my tummy.
seem to be the only car on the road this morning. Everyone else
is wisely staying under the covers. One observation - we have
not seen one state trooper on the whole trip - no cars giving
tickets. In fact, we have seen no fender-benders other than the
one we described in the heavy rain storm. Indeed, we rarely see
any police officers. The occasional green and white local police
cars may be seen in small villages but highway harassment is not
here. It really adds to the enjoyment of driving not be watching
for "gendarmes" all the time.
revised our route this morning to avoid the highway closures we
encountered on the way into the Netherlands. We have found a benefit
to this. We will be able to get to the A-2 which is the main purpose
of this trip, and we will reach it sooner than we would have with
the original route. You see, even highway closures can be overcome
music this morning should be Frank Sinatra singing "A Foggy
Day in London Town". The fog is getting thicker, lower, and
grayer. In addition, the scenery if the most colorless of our
trip so far. There is a seemingly endless series of farms. There
is one new sight, a Roadside MOTEL. That is the first time in
Germany we have seen the word "motel". Another unusual
sight this morning: a HILL. The teachers in Germany near the town
of Kirchlengern must have to show pictures and hope that can described
a hill to the children, because there are none in most of this
THE AUTOBAHN A-2. We have decided to devote a separate section
to describe it since we chose to come to Germany to drive the
A-2. We will save the details for that section, but our first
real drive on it today is dazzling. The surrounding scenery is
rolling hills, gone is the gray of the morning. We are finding
heavier traffic but we speed along our way and know the day will
be shorter because of this amazing highway. We go as far east
as Magdeborg because we have already been to Potsdam and Berlin.
Therefore, we head south via Halberstadt to Quedlinburg where
we will stay the night.
the way we see one of the many giant IKEA stores which are all
over Germany. Then more of the giant windmills. There are at least
sixty of them in one small valley near Magdeburg. This must be
a big wide valley with constant winds to justify such a big investment.
the risk of sounding too enthusiastic, Quedlinburg is an architectural
dream. The narrow, curving cobble stoned streets, the authenticity
of the buildings, the absolute beauty will remain with us always.
Our hotel, the Hotel Am Bruh, is in a lovely residential area
of the town. The library, fireplace, comfy chairs, etc. are comfortable
and welcoming. There is a cozy office with complimentary internet
availability. The owners have two buildings, one a Romanesque
with more formal rooms, and then the half-timbered farmhouse style
with large, more casual but comfortable rooms in which we stay.
The owners were able to reclaim the property from the East Germans
and have created an extremely successful venture with their adjoining
restaurant, the Weinstube.
has more than 1500 half-timbered houses. Many are unrestored and
the town thus looks much the same as it did in the Middle Ages.
There is a nice pace here.
MAY 28, 2006
QUEDLINBURG TO WERNIGERODE TO BRAUNLAGE TO ILFED TO WEIMAR
DEPARTURE TIME. 8:30 a.m.
is the day we will travel 241 kilometers and have 14 U-turns.
We plan to take the narrow gauge steam train in Wernigerode but
the shortest one of the day is four hours. We drive on, as the
scenery is wonderful all the way along here in the Harz Mountains.
We learn this morning what "waves of grain" really look
like. The strong wind makes the wheat fields truly look as if
a tide is coming in rapidly. The waves are unlike any we have
ever seen in a wheat field. The soft green of the wheat at this
time of year is not amber, but who cares, the song still comes
U-turns continue today. The curvy small country roads seem to
lack continuity in signage, but at least we are going in the right
direction most of the time.
morning is an excellent example of how to stay married for a long
time. After writing down my own five favorite places so far on
this trip, I ask the driver for his five favorites. They are identical!!
Berlin, Quedlinburg, Sylt, Dresden, and Beilstein.
drive through the small village of Eland, translated as "misery",
on April 30 cackling witches invade the small town according to
local legend. Everything here has a story.
drive to Braunlage, a small town where we have read that the boundary
between what was East Germany and West Germany lies just a kilometer
from town. We are determined to find it and ask several locals.
The last one looks exactly like our friend Phil Sweigert. He enthusiastically
tells us it is just two kilometers along the road we are going
and that there will be a sign. Encouraged, we do a few more U-turns
but finally give up. Later tonight it will dawn upon us that he
was speaking of the town border. It is marked by the usual town
name with a line through it which is the signage as you drive
out of every town in Germany. Oh, well.
stop for a while in Erfurt. The gigantic concrete apartment buildings
built by the GDR are crammed together here with few green areas
and just miles and miles of concrete. the people seem to be still
suffering from those days. The two small grocery stores in the
local strip mall have unappealing food. Choices are limited and
unattractive. Here, when we ask if someone speaks English, the
answer is a quick "Nein" and a quick departure. The
results of the Communist regime remain.
to Weimar. We are fortunate to get a room and at the historic
Hotel Elephant which has been a hotel since 1696. Fortunately,
there have been refurbishments since then. Famous guests include
Goethe, Schiller, Franz Lizst, and, horribly, Hitler. We will
return to our room after our visit to our destination of the afternoon,
the infamous Buchenwald. Just 12 kilometers from Weimar, it will
prove to be one of the most emotional of our trips. There are
two separate memorials. Our reactions to the first are surprise
and then anger. The exhibits and sculptures extol the Communist
Soviets who think the memorial should be to their fallen. No mention
is made of the Jewish holocaust in this area. Evidently the controversy
was such that a second memorial has been made to memorialize the
real Holocaust victims.
enter the old camp through the original gate above which the SS
officers had their office overlooking the prisoners. We join a
small group which has an English-speaking guide. The details of
this place are appalling. As we enter a small room, there is a
long white porcelain table with a sink at the end. This is the
room where the grisly post-mortem's were performed on the corpses
of those who had been gassed in the adjoining ovens. Looking at
the back-to-back ovens, we realized that 24 could be burned at
once. During the post-mortem's, the gold teeth were removed as
well as portions of skin which would be made into souvenirs for
the SS officers. Downstairs we see the hooks hanging on the walls
where prisoners were tortured and strangled. By now, we think
nothing can shock us any more here. We are wrong. We ask what
the concrete work a few yards away could possibly be. The guide
replies that this was the bear "cave" for the SS zoo
here. The SS officers would take their children to the zoo just
yards away from where prisoners were tortured and executed. Man's
inhumanity to man is exhibited here!
monument in a forested area of the camp is the most impressive
of what we see at Buchenwald.
Jacobs, a New York architect of note, designed and built a tower
to the memory of the 58,000 documented persons who lost their
lives at Buchenwald. There were probably many more, and this was
not even a death camp. The tower is a fitting and impressive monument.
Made of concrete, there is an apparent urn in the place where
ordinarily a bell would be. Frosted stained glass on the lower
portion of the capital adds a classic touch, and the upper wrought
iron railing is of iron spears. The overall effect is of substance,
the tower is slightly tapered, less so than the Washington monument,
but visually effective.
arrive back at the hotel exhausted emotionally by what we have
seen this afternoon. We watch CNN live as the Pope is at Auschwitz
for a memorial. What a coincidence. It is a moving ceremony; in
addition to the Pope and a Cardinal, there are three Jewish representatives
who give speeches, plus an Eastern Orthodox priest. There are
striped hats on some of the spectators, scarves on others. These
seem to be symbols of camp survivors.
has such a cultural and political history of importance to Germany
that the first democratic German government was named the Weimar
Republic. Goethe, Schiller, So many famous names here. A quick
visit to the other historic hotel in town, the grand Hotel Russischer
Hof, gives us a glimpse of huge chandeliers, and above the lobby,
a wall of photos of famous Russians, Tolstoy, Anna Pavlova, Rachmaninoff,
Tschaikovsky, and so many more. Elegance and grace, but we like
our Elephant and its clean modern interior inside the historic
exterior. Surprising, black and wood, but sleek and sophisticated.
has been long and emotional. We are loving our trip but we have
miles to go before we sleep......
MAY 29, 2006
WEIMAR TO EISENACH TO MEININGEN TO ROTHENBURG o.b.t.
DEPARTURE TIME: 8:54 P.M.
have a mission this morning. Eisenach, just 72 km. away, was to
be our destination last night. We are so pleased we stayed in
Weimar instead. The people on the square at sunset (yes, the rain
stopped for two hours) were happy and clearly they enjoy their
town of Weimar. The Bauhaus architectural museum was a highlight;
there was a Lionel Feininger exhibit there, and once again our
first purchase of a print on University Way so many years ago
turns out to have been by one of Germany's most respected and
to Eisenach. We hope to see Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther
was hidden by his protector for more than a year and also the
birthplace of Bach. There is also a huge statue of Martin Luther
in the city center which was donated to the city in 1985.
review statistics today. Germany has one third the population
of the U.S. in an area just the size of the State of Washington
or Montana. The trucks on the highways are just like ours. The
roads and autobahns are better maintained than ours. In fact,
Germany is much like the United States as we drive along, with
the notable exception that every few kilometers here there is
another castle on a hill.
from citizens are much the same as at home. There is a huge outcry
now that the 16% sales tax has been raised to 19%. Everyone is
concerned as to whether we are finding "Everything is Goot?"
They really seem to care.
narrow roads today, more trucks than ever before. The driver's
patience is running thin for the first time on the trip. Just
in time, we enter a new autobahn by Meiningen A 71 - wide, fabulous,
good scenery. Ed says the 100 mph registering on the Opel is "just
for the hell of it" and it is just for a minute or two. The
cars want to fly on these roads. The roads are a triumph of German
and wind again. Another historic hotel, the Eisenhut. Done in
three old mansions in which actual families lived for centuries,
this hotel is just a real German castle, with priceless art works
throughout. Right on the square, this may be one of the best.
Cafe lunch in the hotel, chili con carne on the menu in English,
but here it is served over pasta.
drove through an arched gate to enter the old city here. Hardly
wide enough for new cars, looks more like a pedestrian walkway.
Christmas shops everywhere here. the River Tauber gives new meaning
to the word meander, because it does meander a lot.
entries here are getting less detailed and more hurried for a
reason. A quick phone call to British Airways and to Alaska has
made us happy indeed. If we are willing to leave on Thursday,
June 1, we will be able to fly directly to Seattle instead of
a layover in LA. Hooray. Rothenburg was the last must see on our
list and so we head to Frankfurt.
details of the costumed locals, the bugles, the play, the cannons,
the magic here will be entered after we return.
Today is the most steady stream of trucks that we have seen.
MAY 30, 2006
ROTHENBERG TO FRANKFURT
DEPARTURE TIME: 8:30 a.m.
will be the briefest of entries, temporarily! We confirmed our
reservations this morning and everything is in order. Great start
to the day.
172 km to drive to Frankfurt, we plan to have a whole day to shop.
All but the last 82 km of the trip have been perfect. Now as the
Opel horse heads to the barn, the driving in circles to find the
Sheraton at the airport may one day be humorous, but not yet.
Frankfurt traffic was awful. There are several international conventions
here at the moment, and hotels are fully booked.
detailed directions today. Missed exit to A 5 hotel lady was telling
us to take A-5 just as we passed the exit. The next one led to
66, still okay. Man gave us directions to Exit Messe just 12 km
straight ahead, then would be right by Beethoven Hotel. Back in
the car, we decided instead to just go right to the Airport Sheraton,
drop our bags, turn in the car and be footloose and fancy free.
WRONG! One hour and a half later, we had turned the car in at
a satellite office a few miles away, taken a cab to the Sheraton,
and found a stylish, comfy, but exorbitantly overpriced because
of the conventions. Oh, well, everything else has been perfect.
Rest of day in the hotel. Tomorrow we tour.
STATISTIC OF THIS OR ANY DAY: ODOMETER AT END OF TRIP: 8664
beginning odometer having been 3468, Ed has driven, masterfully,
I believe, a total of 5,196 kilometers, or 3, 221 miles. We are
safe and happy!
MAY 31 2006
ODOMETER: CAB DRIVER FROM MODENA ITALY HOORAY
today more like a blustery winter day in Seattle. No one can believe
that it is the end of May.
Sheraton was the right decision. It is an oasis in the rest of
the furor of the City. Our cab driver's eyes lit up and his English
improved dramatically once he heard we had done the Mille Miglia.
He dropped us at the old Opera House and we started our walking
tour of the famous Zeil , famous for its "shop till you drop".
However, all the big stores seem to be full of US brands and we
decide a cold walk along stores is not in our scheme of things
for our last day in Germany.
boat ride along the Main River is more to our liking. The startling
blend of old and new in Frankfurt cannot be overemphasized. Tall
skyscrapers include many banks. Frankfurt is the banking and stock
exchange center not only for Germany but for the EEU as well.
More than 200,000 people are employed in the banking business.
The population of the city is only 650,000.
is somewhat of a strange city. Streets seem jumbled and traffic
is outrageous. Thirty per cent of the residents are immigrants.
Our favorite of the new buildings is by Sir Norman Fraser, an
architect to remember. he also did the Dome at Berlin's Reichstag.
His glass tower here is a "green" building. He calls
it a wintergarden, no air conditioning, but fresh air for the
workers and natural light into the interiors. 2400 people work
in his one building. would love to see the interiors.
our usual bus tour. Details after we get home.
Holy Roman Emperors for centuries were elected and crowned here.
Roman bath ruins remain. The history is interesting, but Frankfurt
itself is quite strange; it seems to lack soul. Economically powerful
but not our favorite. It produces 9% of the GNP of Germany. Again,
a city of contrasts.
JOVE, WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The A-2 deserves
its own section here. We have already told you that the wide six
lanes of highway are virtually undisturbed. Exits have their own
lanes. The scenery along the way is not obliterated by blight
along the way. Road vistas, high banks and trees abound. Even
near Hannover where it is less scenic, it is always interesting.
Speeds are astounding. At 160kph, Ed is still being passed. Young
forests line the highway from Hannover to Braunschweig.
One of the
only real tourist attractions along the western portion of the
A-2 is Celle, a small village where horses are bred and in which
orchids flourish, more cobblestone streets and bright colored
of A-2 add to its greatness, each of the minor highways leading
to quaint villages of historical interest or to cities of great
importance. The link to Belgium and the netherlands should also
The real significance
of the A-2 lies in its importance to FREEDOM, which we all too
often take for granted. We get in our cars, we go where and when
we want to go. Such has not been the case for those who drove
the A-2 during the days of divided Germany.
many years, this autobahn was the symbol of the most oppressive
of regimes. Built by the Nazis in the mid 1930's it led from Berlin
all the way across north central Germany. Then, during the days
when Berlin was still divided, the former Communist checkpoint
was placed on the A-2. Because the A-2 was the main surface connection
between West Berlin and West Germany, it was of utmost importance.
At the repressive checkpoint, a thorough inspection and a time-stamped
"Pass" would be granted to those fortunate enough to
be allowed to drive the A-2. They could then drive only between
the "free" borders. They could not deviate onto any
small road; they could not let anyone into or out of the car during
the trip. They had to check in again at the checkpoint at the
exact appointed time.
on the other hand were able to drive the A-s in segments, taking
different routes along it whenever the mood struck us. we had
total freedom on our entire trip and the meaning of that freedom
has never seemed more important to us than it is now that we have
seen first hand such things as the Berlin Wall, the camps at Dachau
and Buchenwald, and now that we have heard stories such as the
one today on the tour boat in Frankfurt of from a 74 year old
man. now from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but who was born in Germany,
lived in Munich throughout WW II. experienced the bombings, and
who told us today of his early years, the destruction, the hunger,
all the details of one who experienced them first hand. That is
why the A-2 and its symbol of freedom will be the message we carry
home with us as well as the usual tourist memories. We will never
take freedom for granted for even one second again.
And so tonight,
from the Sheraton lobby in Frankfurt, we say Auf Widersehen!!!!!!