Trip Of A Lifetime

Monday, April 17, 2006

Deutchland #1

Our holiday started in Germany with an overnight stay with Tante Namesake before we headed for Frankfurt to meet our tour. Tante is doing well and it was really good to catch up with her. A little difficult for Adie because he speaks no German and she speaks no English, but I was fine sitting in the middle. I'm hoping to get back there in September/October when we're not in such a rush.

We met up with our tour group the next day and that was odd... sitting in a room full of strangers hoping that you wouldn't find any of them too offensive. It turned out that we weer really lucky with our group. Everyone was friendly, punctual and no-one was particularly over-bearing, and with a group of 41 that's not bad. There were people from Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, South Africa and one lady from Japan.

Nothing really happened in Frankfurt except a quick breakfast before getting on the bus to Berlin. We stopped at Eisenach, which used to be an old border crossing in to East Germany. They have kept all of the original guard towers and buildings and have converted them into a pertrol station with public toilets and a restaurant. Eisenach has a reputation as being one of the worst places to cross over and we could still see how people would feel intimidated here.

Our next stop was for lunch in the town of Weimar. This is also where we started our sausage tour of Europe. Here it was the Thurlinger bratwurst and we had two from different shops. Both were delicious! Weimar is a pretty little town with cobbled streets and lots of statues. We went into the Stadtkirche and saw an original bell from the 1500s. Here's a photo of us in the town square.

After a few more hours of driving we landed in Berlin. After freshening up we headed out to dinner in a traditional Berlin restaurant. The food was fabulous. Three courses including a main of, you guessed it, sausages... with sauerkraut. I was in heaven.

After dinner we went on a tour of the city and were able to stop at places like Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, all it up to look spectacular in the dark. They have ripped most of the wall down and only small sections remain as a reminder and, let's face it, as a tourist attraction. In it's place they've put a line of bricks into the road so that you can still see where it was. It's subtle, but effective.

Once we'd checked everything out, we headed back to the hotel. The following day we had a lot of free time so we got a real feel for the place. We both really liked Berlin. We had the chance to see a piece of the wall that still stands, but it's all behind a chainlink fence. I guess too many people were chipping off souvenirs.

Berlin has this major street called Kurfurstendam Strasse... or something like that... that goes on for a couple of kilometres and has a lot of shops. Adie bought shoes, as you do when travelling in Europe, and we wandered up and down this street checking everything out. There were decorated bears everywhere and lots of statues, monuments and churches. We also took a train ride to Grunewald Station to see the memorial they have there for all of the Jewish people who were sent from that particular station to various camps. It was quite eerie being there. It's still a part of the regular train station, although it's tracks are no longer used, and the numbers of people that were moved out from here is staggering at times.
Berlin was a fascinating and beautiful place that I would recommend to all travellers. The history just grips you and there is so much to see. More than we could manage in a mere 24 hours! I have to run now but remind me to tell you about the controversy that surrounded one of the memorials they built in the city.


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