March 2008 Germany

woman in long coat at frankfurt train station

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We flew into Frankfurt, and hit the town running! We visited the Dom, the large cathedral that is there, that saw the coronation of ten emperors. We visited the Roemer, which is the town hall, and has portraits of 800 years of German kings and emperors. The Romer and the Dom are at a large town square, a pedestrian area, which is nice to walk around. We went into a bar and had some hefeveizen. Then we stopped at an art museum that had some paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and others. Dinner was a pretzel and then a Freebird burrito that I had brought to Chris, all the way from the USA!

On Sunday, we went back to the Frankfurt airport and picked up our rental car. We drove to Cologne for the sole purpose of seeing the large cathedral (dom) there. The sheer size of the cathedral, begun in 1248, with its twin towers is staggering. When we arrived, a church service was going on, so we couldn’t tour the church yet. Instead we walked up one of the towers- 300 feet (509 steps) and visited the bell tower. You could see a wonderful view of the city and also a nice view of the opposite tower with its gothic ornaments on the outside. It was super cold up there and we were both glad to be dressed warmly. It was amazing, thinking of the building techniques that must have gone into building the church. When we came back down from the tower, we had a few minutes to wait, so we went out to the platz and got a beer (55 cents) and a coffee (3.15)- which seemed pretty bizarre to me but made sense to Chris. We sat outside in the sun and drank our drinks, then walked through the Fusgangerplatz and listened to singers, accordian players, harpists, and other musicians up and down the walking area. We window shopped for a while, then walked back to the church. The service was over so we went inside and looked at the marvelous stained glass windows and the treasures of the church- the main one being the Shrine of the Three Magi, a gold box which purportedly holds the bones of the three magi. The church also had a beautiful crucifixion carving- the Cross of Gero.

After viewing the church, we had seen the one thing we wanted to see in Cologne (Koln), so we got back in the car and drove south to Trier.
We had at least another hour of daylight, so we went to the Aldstadt (old town) area, and walked around their pedestrian area. The main attraction in Trier is a large Roman archway called the Porta Nigra, and it was really cool to see this structure built in the earliest part of this millennium. We also visited the birthplace of Karl Marx- ironically, close to the BMW dealer, but the house itself was closed, being a Sunday evening. In the Aldstadt area there was a small street fair and we stopped at a wine booth and had a white German Reisling, then moved on to a tent that had Glueveis, a hot spiced cider wine. We passed by an Indian guy in a headdress playing the panflutes, and they seemed like the same group we had seen last summer at the Fringe Festival in Scotland, so we bought their cd. By then the street fair was packing it in, so we left the city and found our hotel, called Nell’s Park, which was on a cute little park and orangerie. We ate our second Freebird, drank some beer, and called it a night.

Monday morning we drove to Luxembourg, only 20 km or so from Trier, and visited the main city. We visited the city palace, the town hall, some ruins of an old fortress, and had a donner kebab there. It was quite cold that day so we were bundled up in our scarves and gloves. But the views were spectacular and a lot of really old sights to see.

Luxembourg City was wired for internet, so we used the chance to sit in the parking lot and look up our next hotel room, which we wanted to visit on the Weinstrasse. We booked a room at a b&b and got directions, and headed back to Germany. Along the way, we visited several villages on the weinstrasse, and saw many vineyards. The quaint little German villages are very picturesque. We found our b&b, called Vogelstockerhof, and checked in. We were the only guests. The proprietress directed to a German tavern and we went and sat by the fire and ate jagershnitzel and hefeveizen. Great food and drink and we were ready for bed.
The next morning we drove through a small burg and up a large hill to Burg Trifels, an old german castle that once supposedly housed the holy grail, and was also prison to king Richard the Lionheart of England. We walked up a very large hill to the castle, but once inside it was a very nicely renovated castle that definitely gave a good feel of what it was like to live there once upon a time. Replicas of the crown jewels are kept there, the real ones being in a museum in the capital. The cold winds blew in the many windows and we were once again grateful for our warm coats. After walking back down to our car, we hopped in and got ready to drive to Lake Constance, on the border of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

We arrived in Freiderickshafen just before five, and parked near the walking center. One of their main attractions is the zepellin museum, but they were about to close. We toured the streets of the old town, and then stopped by the train station to get directions to our guesthouse. It was only a km or so away, so we got checked in there and talked to the owner about where to go for dinner. He directed us to a castle not far away, where we parked, and we walked back to the city center, along the promenade around the lake. The sun was setting and across the lake the lights of Switzerland and Austria twinkled. We wound up going to a restaurant called Panorama on the 12th floor of a tower that gave us a beautiful view of the lake and three countries and had wonderful french food for dinner- including a garlic soup that I thought would be totally gross but turned out awesome.
Wednesday morning we woke up, had breakfast, and decided to drive into Liechtenstein. We left Germany, and were in Austria for less than one minute when we were pulled over and given a ticket for not having a pass to drive on the Austrian highways. It definitely seemed like a speed trap type operation. After paying the ticket, we drove through Austria for twenty more minutes and were in Liechtenstein. We drove to Vaduz, their capital city, and stopped by their Postage Museum, and saw the residence of their monarch, Prince Hans Adam II. We visited a winery and tried some reisling and some merlot, bought two bottles, and headed back to Germany via Austria. The amazinlgy beautiful Swiss Alps were our backdrop through this entire day, and the snowcapped peaks made for great photos.

Once back in Germany, we headed to two famous castles, set right beside each other. Neuschwanstein, built in the 1840’s by Bavaria’s mad King Ludwig, and Hohenschwangau, another of Ludwig’s family’s residences, are amazing examples of European castles at their finest. Both are perched atop high crags, and you can take a horse drawn carriage, or tough it out and walk, and see both on an afternoon. Well worth the hike and a nice chance to get some exercise.

We left the castles and continued toward Munich, taking the “Romantisschestrauss” for part of the way. Twisty, turning roads through cute little Alpine villages, high up in the mountains, still with snow on the ground. An excellent chance for a one-sided snowball fight. Eventually we got on the autobahn to Munich and arrived in the city around dusk. We found our hotel, which was very conveniently located right in the middle of the historical district, just one block from the marienplatz and one block from the Hofbrauhaus. We checked in the hotel, and left for the Hofbrahaus, where we proceeded to drink five liters of beer. I guess we had a good time, but I can’t really say for sure, as I don’t remember the second half of the evening or the walk home.

Thursday morning we got up, ate breakfast, and set out to see the historic section of Munich. Very beautiful rathaus (town hall) and church with a facade that includes over 600 statues and gargoyles on the sides of the building, and includes a very comples glockenspiel that chimes twice a day and plays several songs and has marionnettes that act out various events in the city’s history. We grabbed a bratwurst and ate it standing outside the market area, and then went back to Hofbrauhaus for some more beer, oompah band, and servings girls in dirndls. Then we spent the afternoon at the Deutsche Museum, a six-story building that we only had time to explore two floors of before they closed at 5. The Deutsche Museum includes galleries of modern marvels such as marine transportation, aeronautics, physics, chemistry, etc, with lots of interactive displays.

We decided to eat in our room that night, and share a bottle of the wine we had bought in Liechtenstein, so we stopped at a walking district and bought sushi and some German food. it was an interesting mix of cultures, but quite yummy.
Friday morning we left Munich and went to Dauchau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazi’s in 1933. They have an extensive visitor’s center and you can walk around and see the barracks, the crematorium, and watchtowers. The memorials include several chapels and churches built by various faiths and organisations and the museum is quite extensive, a very moving experience.

After leaving Dauchau we headed towards Stuttgart. We drove through the city and looked around, but our hotel was out a little further, in a suburb called Zufenhaussen. There was a nice German restaurant right around the corner from the hotel, so we ate there (schnitzel and spoetzel, of course). The next morning we went a few blocks over to the Porsche factory and museum and looked at their new and old cars.

We left Stuttgart and headed back towards Frankfurt, as we had to leave the next day. But along the way we stopped in Wurzburg, a cute little city with a large UNESCO heritage site called the Residenz. We spent a couple of hours walking around the public gardens, then touring the residenz. The building itself is amazing, very much patterned after Versailles, and extensive renovations are going on inside to save and restore the 18th century wall and ceilings paintings and stucco work. The link to this one is very interesting to read. Outside the residenz, we walked toward the pedestrian area, and traveled over a walking bridge over the Rheine and visited a couple of churches and ate our last lunch meal of donner kabab (for Chris) and bratwurst (for me). Wurzburg turned out to be a real hidden jewel and a great way to spend our last aftgernoon.

At last we were back near the Frankfurt airport, and stayed at the same hotel we had stayed in the previous Saturday night. We found a very random, but quite good, Croatian/Hungarian restaurant and had a fabulous meal. In fact we both ate way too much and felt way too full afterwards! But we both enjoyed the dinner very much. In the morning, we returned the car to the airport, said our goodbyes, hoping to have another fabulous trip soon. In all, I loved Germany and would love to go back and see the northern and eastern part soon.