A Travellerspoint blog

DAY 128 - Saturday 5th September - Berlin

'Fly Like A Butterfly, Stung By A Wasp - Round One (Onion wins)'

What's great about waking up of the morning is not the great nights sleep i had in a real bed, not having to put the van into day mode, knowing where the toilet is should i need it, not the joy of having a shower of a morning to feel human once more but of the fact that i'm not needing to think of where i'm laying my head this evening as I'm staying in Berlin once more! The van is set to stay where it is and parked up for another day, ain't leaving til tomorrow! Then i'll need to think where i'm a) heading to and b) where my head will laid to rest too of a night!

Mum is up first, as usual even at home and at her normal time just after 7am whether its a weekday or a weekend (!), and into the shower. Next goes in Dad as they are heading down to breakfast whilst they'll steal a croissant and Nutella for me as it wouldn't be worth the extra money for me to eat too...not really a breakfast person. On todays agenda is a walking tour that starts at 10am, then see what happens in the afternoon before watching England play at 6pm. Well we did have to watch a Scotland game yesterday so its only fair! It is great seeing the parents, lovely way to wake up knowing that we're going to spend the day together in the city of Berlin. As they went for breakfast i ventured to get up and headed into the shower, another long one, and then we were ready for the off.

At 9.15am we are out of the door and route number 1 that Dad wanted to take to get us, to the where the tour started at the Brandenburg Gate, was closed for works. So we go round the building and head down the street that took us past the Oscar Wilde Pub once more but too early for a drink! As me and Mum were chatting i could see that Dad was in the zone, bit like me when i'm trying to get somewhere, and on time and as you're the one taking charge then you feel the responsibility of getting you all there. Dad asks for help in the directions with a local, that he differs from me as i'll find it myself as it becomes a challenge that i do! The locals face of whom he asks gives the impression that we've got a long walk ahead of us and so we do a double quick march to find the meeting point, and making it in time.

This is a popular tour it seems and they split us into 2 groups of which we have a lady called Stefanie from New Zealand who's lived in Berlin for nearly 10 years and is writing a book about Berlin's history from 1910 to 2010 as quite a lot has happened during those 100 years. So this one really knows her history. First she points to the buildings around the square we stood of which we see the French Embassy that looks like its a bunker in the trenches, so not popular here, the hotel where Michael Jackson thought it appropriate to dangle his baby from the balcony and the Gate itself. The Gate was modelled on the Acropolis in Athens, built for King Frederick William II in 1791 a horse chariot perched on top with a lady riding. It was also part of the Berlin Wall and is the only surviving city gate of Berlin.

Before we headed to the Jewish Memorial for all those that were murdered in WWII (their description of how they were killed) she gave us a history breakdown, about a 700 year history as it turns out in about 10 minutes. As mum will say also, she gave us the 'Guide for Dummies' version which really made sense of the politics and the way in which people lived and thought here. Now to the 'Jewish Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe' which is also knows as the Holocaust Memorial. It's a huge near 5 acre site with 2711 concrete slabs (vary in sizes from a millimetre from the ground to near on 5m in height) arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The architect Peter Eisenman said that 'it means what you want it to mean' which i think is a little bit of a cope out! But he did draw inspiration from the Jewish cemetery in Prague as the Jews were too poor to have each their own grave so they stacked them upon each other. Mum felt like she was in a concentration camp when she walked through it and when people walked past of which you could see through the other aisles, that they were the guards. Others feel like its the marching of the Nazi Army, graves on top of each other, blocks represent families in height of how many were lost in each etc. Very powerful even when you see its greyness and simplicity.

Next onto to the place where Hitler died committing suicide in the bunker with his wife Eva of 24 hours and asking the soldiers with him to burn both their bodies so that the Russians couldn't get his to put for some kind of show. What went wrong is that they didn't realise how much fuel they needed to burn a body so there were still teeth and bones left! In the end, after the Russians hid the fact to the rest of the world they had his remains, he was cremated and thrown down the river. They are not giving him any kind of recognition at all as they want his being to have only one thing, his name as he's not worth anything. That's why where he died in the bunker its now a car park...quite fitting!

We then saw the Berlin Wall where stories of attempted escape, the secret police and the waking up one morning in 1961 to barbed wire separating the two were told. Yes barb wire and then the wall came and didn't matter if your son went over to the other side to see a friend for the night, they weren't allow back. What was amazing is if you think about it that Germany is only 26 years old really after the West and the East were bought together. And so after all the wars they went through for power they've really got that now through politics with the EU, not a blood dropped, well that we know of. One interesting fact is that when the wall came down in 1989 to David Hasselhoff singing (still don't get that!) that 90% of the loaned out library books were returned after 28 years...i'd be afraid to what fine i would get!! Think they forgave them in this matter.

Other two sights of interest were Checkpoint Charlie and the Bebelplatz. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of East and West. Soviet and American tanks briefly faced each other at the location during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. Luckily a gun didn't accidentally go off as if anyone moved to any form of attack then we really would have had WWIII on our hands, a truce was called instead. Nothing about it today is real, its all fake that's on show, even the photo of the Russian solider to represent the country hung up above on their side of the road is fake as they weren't allowed a picture of a real solider (USA is real, picked at random), it is an actor with a costume on! So we moved on and the other interesting site for me was the Bebelplatz were the burning of the books took place in 1933, the books targeted for burning were those viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to Nazism. These included books written by Jewish, pacifist, classical liberal, anarchist,socialist, and communist authors, among others. Those these were Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl MarxVictor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway, DH Lawrence, HG Wells. Some of the books in the Humboldt University were 1st editions, one offs, a lot of history just gone. What's astonishing about this university is that its educated 29 Nobel Prize Peace winners. In recognition for those books lost is a hole in which through the glass you can see below a bookcase, a bookcase that can hold 20,000 books as that's the number of those burnt.

Tour done we head back to the Gate to take some more photos as at the beginning it was too crowded to do so and also i needed to get around the pole vault and long jump championships that was going on with staging around to see it...for free mind you! We went past the British Embassy of which has a purple structure on the front of the building in which the designer said it was the colour if you put the blue, red and white together of the Union Jack. The Queen wasn't quite amused and Prince Phillip did one of his gaffs, 'It's a vast waste of space', that's £18 million worth of a waste of space then!

With all that walking a pit stop was required and we found a cafe nearby so i had some goulash with chocolate milkshake whilst the parents had a drink and shared a dessert. Just as we were about to settle in i could see mum trying to flat away something on her eye and as she did she got a sting as it was only a wasp that she was trying to get rid off. Unfortunately with the flap she squashed it against her face and so it stung her! So what to do, pharmacy, cold water...trying to think of first aid! We went inside to find the toilets to put water on but mum wasn't paying the 50c to use it, got same philosophy as me in not paying for these things (!) so next stop was the till man who gave her some ice. He then pointed to the lady behind the counter saying 'onion'. Think onion means the same in German than it does in English and she did, the lady gave my mum a sliced end of an onion with some cream.

Came up a whopper, red and swollen bless my mum. Only been stung once a couple of years ago by a bee and not two! With onion on it stung and i could see my mum's eyes watering but i couldn't figure out if that was because of the onion! Great tip, use an onion on the sting as it draws it out and then ice to sooth it as it does. Mum thought that her cheek was affected too as it started to go numb but that could have been the cream that she accidentally had on there whilst trying to put it on her eye from the tissue. Been in the wars this one today!

We head back to the Gate as we're looking for a pharmacy just to make sure all is okay and we find Stefanie again who points us to 2 pharmacies each 10 minutes away...luckily its not more urgent. Pharmacy is found at the train station and i had my own tour guides of the parents as they told me things that they had learnt from their others tour that they did of places we didn't see today. Got a 2 for 1 this day and it was all really interesting! Back to the Berlin Wall and as we crossed the bridges on route did you know that this place has more bridges than Venice?! Reason for the trip back was that they have a timeline to see all of the documents, propaganda, newspapers, of how this dictatorship was formed and also Dad wanted to see the Topography of Terror museum. Its classed as being one of the best in the world with Germany being open and dynamic today is a consequence of taking responsibility for its history. In a courageous, humane and moving manner, the country is subjecting itself to a national psychoanalysis, the Freudian idea that the repressed (or at least unspoken) will fester unless its bought to light, and that can be seen in at the Memorial we went to and the Topography of Terror. Its not for the faint hearted and stands on the former headquarters of the SS.

Before we headed off to the pub to watch the game there was something we saw whilst on the walking tour that wan't bought up but duly noted for a visit. This was the famous Fassbender & Rausch Chocolate shop, cafe and restaurant (obviously with chocolate theme)!! This place was huge and filled with chocolate fountains, chocolate bars, cakes...well everything chocolate really!! They are made fresh from the 25 employees daily and been open since 1863 where its been classed as the biggest chocolate house in the world. The two families actually only joined forces in 1999 with Fassbender starting on his own in 1863 and Rausch 7 years later.

We finally got to the Oscar Wilde pub and even though they were showing the game we felt like the owner wasn't expressing his wish to us to stay as the place was manic because of the Gaelic game and some other Irish thing going on, and with me having Ellie it was too much for her he says. So we tried another irish pub but that was packed too and Dad said he saw the hotel had the football game on yesterday so maybe they do today. We needed dinner anyway so we headed on back but they couldn't get the game on Sky so we just had dinner instead and this time i'm going for the German special, the currywurst. Even though it comes out stinking of curry its actually quite mild...coming from someone who couldn't eat curries 5 years ago! Whilst Dad's talking about his European Football tour days he mentions something about my blogs and the word in which i keep writing incorrectly. Boarder is different to borders!! You know in my head all i could see was the name of the book place, Boarders when i was writing the word. No Dad you are totally right and i'll do my lines:

Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border
Border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border, border

Hopefully that'll get into my head now...although with cutting and pasting the words it didn't take too long to type up! So meal done and its time for bed, been a busy day and we've been very lucky with the weather as it wanted to rain more but it held off. Rained once but only for a few minutes, so lets see what tomorrow brings.

Wish List - see Berlin: tick

Posted by emmabrown1014 23:36 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 127 - Friday 4th September - Potsdam to Berlin

'The Browns and Scotland in Berlin'

Today is the day i'm going to see the parents, hurrah!!!!! It seems like such a long time ago that Dad was asking if this weekend, of which he could see on my itinerary before i left, was the definitive date that'll i'll be here so they could book a flight and a hotel to come and see me...and i've made it on time! How i've managed to stay close to the itinerary i do not know as i've been to nearly triple to the places that i originally put down to see.

The parents actually arrived on the Wednesday and did their own tours before i descended upon their doorstep with 3 bags of washing to be done! Before i left my Mum told me Dad to tell me what kind of hotel room they had as he thought it was a great booking much to my mum's bewilderment. It turns out that it wasn't just a hotel room but more of an apartment as it had its own little kitchen area and a washing machine and dryer. Mum took that to mean that Dad thought she could do my washing for when i arrived like she kindly does when i'm at home...spoilt yes!! Double bonus is that they allow dogs so me and Ellie can have the camper bed in the living room...a bed, washing and bathroom facilities, i'm in heaven!!

But first though, before all that excitement with a room, we woke up really early and got to do an early morning walk of the Sanssouci Park at 7.30am. Two reasons 1) as the light was shining on through the van and 2) when i'm on a public road with people walking on by i like to feel like i'm decent inside the van by knowing, but only myself know, that my PJs are on! So to the Park and this was laid out between 1744 and 1756, and its considered the most celebrated example of Potsdam Rococo. Reflecting the personal influence of Frederick the Great, the park includes a lovely Baroque flower garden, more than 3,000 fruit trees, and numerous greenhouses. It's a pleasure strolling around this huge park, especially the straight-as-an-arrow, two-and-a-half-kilometer-long avenue, shielded on each side by trimmed hedges, perfect lawns, and gorgeous gardens.

We came across another dog who the owner had off their lead so i did the same with Ellie so that she could have a play. Chatting with him he mentioned that they aren't allowed off the leads but at this time of morning the guards don't mind so much. Then sometime later i met another couple of dog owners chatting with theirs on the lead as i came on by and as i let go of Ellie's lead, as we were playing 'the crossing of the streams' (well leads), they mentioned that she's not allowed off it just in case i decide to do so. The guards in grey apparently don't like it...these people are really warning me about these guards! Apparently one of them said that they don't actually have power to make you do so but its better than having them frowning upon you. Two minutes later what happens, one such guard came upon me but not because Ellie was off the lead, but because we were just about to step onto the grass area to do a short cut to another path. Big no no that one, so we took the long way round!

I was busting for the toilet as we started this walk and after Ellie finding no issues with such a thing i was following signs to the info points as there must be toilets there...but i was following to nothing and wondered where i was going wrong. 2.5km ahead i knew that i was coming to the main attraction point so they must have toilets there but looking ahead that seemed so so far away! WC sign found, 1km away, down from 2.5km...come on bladder, you can do it! Then WC sign saying they are at the ticket booth, but where has the arrow gone!?! And as per unusual i go one way to see i'm heading to no where so I quickly backtrack and see the ticket booths...and the WCs!! 70c, really, really, really?!! Luckily i had a euro and they had a change machine so the transaction was done and i can stroll casually around these gardens now and allow Ellie to have a good smell at the surroundings.

It was all so quiet when we began this morning but by 10am when we were on our way back to the van the tourists on the buses load were popping on in. Suddenly when i try to take photos i have people in my shots...with people who just stand there and don't move, or people who sit right on the monument that you're taking a photo of. That's the worst i find as thats not the place they can just sit as they'll be slap bang in the middle of everyone's photo, especially when they can sit elsewhere! Also on our way back I noticed one of the fountains, oh no wait make that two as i'm exiting the Park, now has water spraying. So when i originally took the photos early doors i didn't get the full effect...oh well, i can photoshop that in later maybe!

Just before i crossed the road to where i parked i remembered that there was a town, the actually town of Postdam that i hadn't seen as yet so we walked on further to have a look around there too. Now it's time to head on off and we'll make it to the hotel by 12pm which means i'll be able to get a shower, put some washing on, relax and use the internet as the parents were on a tour and not due back around 3pm. I'd given up on the idea of putting the van into the garage as there hasn't been an issue with it again and i'm not sure if i'd trust them...not that i trust the UK car mechanics either!

Berlin is just a 45 minute drive from here and i find the hotel of which they have a permit for me to use so that i'm able to park it up on the street whilst i'm here til Sunday. Now with my organisation skills in my job, well i hope that i do (!), sometimes i wonder why that doesn't sometimes spill into my normal everyday life as i parked up some 100 yards away and then lugged all of my luggage over. Why didn't i just take it out when i was right outside to then park it?!? Oh well, its keeping me fit although when i forget one thing it meant heading all the way downstairs, out of reception, and to the van to pick it up. That wasn't an issue but i then remembered that i had forgotten something else when i entered the room again...sorry Ellie, i'll be back in a mo!

Next was 'find the washing machine' game as i looked in the kitchen area but got nothing...but it isn't that big a place that it could be anywhere else. Then a moment of inspiration flashed, could it be in the bathroom? And there is was hidden away behind a door in the bathroom and Mum bless her had the tables and the dryer wipe things she puts in displayed on top. Knew she'd have them with her! So load number 1 is in as i can't really let Mum do it as i am quite capable of filling the machine myself...even if it is in German the programmes! Then i see Dad's note 'the washing machine is the bathroom', yep that would have come in handy about 5 minutes ago! The rest of the note was about the garage for the Bongo but as i said that plan was now scrapped...could i be making a huge mistake here?!

Next on the agenda was settling myself into the shower which was so badly needed and was heavenly bliss. Don't want to stink out the place for when my parents got back! Once that was done i opened up the balcony and had a sit down reading through the blurb that the hotel give you with a Aperol Spriz in my hand that i'd had since Stef was here, still in the fridge. This view will do nicely! Drink done, another washing load in, dryer on for the last...hmmmm, maybe i'll have another drink of which i raid the minibar...i'm sure Dad won't mind if i have a beer!

Just after 3pm and Ellie has a bark as someone's coming in through the doors...its the parents!!!!! Whoop whoop!!!!! Can't tell you how pleased that i am to see them and i'm sure that mum is just happy that i've made it this far still alive with no horror stories to come about on my adventures! Dad takes off his backpack, has a quick change and asks if we are ready to head on out...erm we were ready when you started getting changed! So we are off to see what delights Berlin has. Well what i can tell you is that the Oscar Wilde pub a few streets along from the hotel and a few streets down from the centre of town is an Irish pub. That's as far as we made it! Reason being is that Scotland were playing against Georgia, a team that they should really beat, in the Euro Qualifiers. As we entered the bar there were two girls sitting by it and as we were looking for what drink to have one of them suggested a black russian, and asked for me to try hers. Yep still tastes like Dr Pepper but i think i'll pass on that one! She was swaying a bit so i think its Alcohol 1, Irish Girl 0 on this score!

After making sure that the game was on, although we were early by a good hour and a half, we ventured to the back room where the guy put on sound for us. Settled into position and an Irish guy called Jamie came and chatted to us who's been in Berlin for some 7-9 years. Whilst he chatted with Dad, myself and Mum had a catch up and then it went and happened...Georgia went and scored and that was it, Scotland lost 1-0 to a team that they should have really have beaten! Sorry Dad...maybe England will win tomorrow to make it all better!

Food, we need food! After a few drinks down the pub we headed back to the hotel to grab some food at the restaurant of which i had the Aussie Burger with the works...which included beetroot and a fried egg. Wasn't so bad as it goes! Food eaten and it was soon time for bed as not only did i have an early wake up call but so did the parents and with their walking tour. So lights were out, I settle into the camper-bed with Ellie over me...night!

Wish List - To see the parents in the midst of my European trip: tick

Posted by emmabrown1014 11:02 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 126 - Thursday 3rd September - Nuremberg to Bamberg to

... Dresden to Potsdam 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ... Name Them!'

Sleep was easy to come by here as there wasn't too much traffic with being in a residential estate but as the morning came so did those getting up and out ready for work, including the HGV lorry that parked round the corner who was getting ready for the off. I take it they need to keep their engine running for a few for minutes before they make a move as that seems to be the case here i've found. So 7.30am and we are up and walk under the bridge to the park opposite for Ellie's morning walk which was by a lake too with the ducks and swans paddling...and paddling even quicker when Ellie got near!

Walk done and we on head back to the van to drive to the centre of Nuremberg where we find a spot just outside the town walls to park. Being early again it was easy enough as we were also only a few km's down from where we stayed last night. Money in the machine, ticket on display and we are sorted...but how do you get into the town area as all i could see were brick walls but with no entrance in! Finally we find a road to take us through to the town and again as we were early i came to wonder if we were in the right place as there are no tourists around here. About 20 minutes later i see a little motor train that takes you around, for a small fee mind you, and a tourist group so then i'm happy to get my camera out. Sometimes i feel a right numpty if i'm in the midst of the locals taking photos and not being with a tourist group, especially when you don't see any tourists which makes you question if you are in the right place! Nope there are cameras out in this group so i snap away and head up to the Imperial castle up on the hill and then around the city streets.

Nuremberg was, according to the first documentary mention of the city in 1050, the location of an Imperial castle between the East Franks and the Bavarian March of the Nordgau. From 1050 to 1571, the city expanded and rose dramatically in importance due to its location on key trade routes. Nuremberg is often referred to as having been the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly because Imperial Diet (Reichstag) and courts met at Nuremberg Castle. What i didn't realise was that there was a history of the Germany and the Jews way back in 1298 as the Jews of the town were accused of having desecrated the host, and 698 of them were killed in one of the many Rintfleisch Massacres. Behind the massacre of 1298 was also the desire to combine the northern and southern parts of the city, which were divided by the Pegnitz river. The Jews of the German lands suffered many massacres during the plague years. In 1349, Nuremberg's Jews were subjected to a pogrom. They were burned at the stake or expelled, and a marketplace was built over the former Jewish quarter. The plague returned to the city in 1405, 1435, 1437, 1482, 1494, 1520 and 1534.

Maybe that's why Nuremberg held great significance during the Nazi Germany era. Because of the city's relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its position in the centre of Germany, the Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions – the Nuremberg rallies. The rallies were held 1927, 1929 and annually 1933-1938 in Nuremberg. After Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933 the Nuremberg rallies became huge Nazi propaganda events, a centre of Nazi ideals.

City done and we head on back to the van for it to start as it has done these last few days without a hitch. Maybe i don't need the garage after all when i get to Berlin of which the hotel, with Dad's help, have got one in which i can put it into, but they are not open on a Saturday so I would have to arrive early Friday to see if they could fix it...but who knows! I'll keep you informed obviously should that arise!

Next we are in the valley of the Regnitz where the river divides into two arms, Bamberg, the old imperial city and the most important town in Upper Franconia, is one of the best preserved of Germany's many charming old towns. Its old episcopal quarter is home to the 13th-century cathedral and the old Benedictine abbey of Michaelsberg. It's between the two river branches that you'll find spectacular Bürgerstadt, a small borough of Bamberg that contains the Grüner Markt, an excellent pedestrian zone that's home to the 17th-century Baroque church of St. Martin and, to the north, the New Town Hall, or Neues Rathaus, built in 1736. Perhaps the town's most important structure, however, is the Old Town Hall, built on top of the Obere Brücke. After a few rings around a couple of the roads i find a parking space with a barrier of which had a red light with 3 cars turning around because of it...i stayed and a minute later a car came out, green and i'm in! We walk over the bridge and its a beautiful town to see with its colourful flowers, the river running strongly in the middle as you look at it from the bridges and the church up above to see the town below. Okay so Bamberg done and into the car where it starts to rain as we are heading on closer to Dresden.

On route the rain comes down even heavier and with daylight escaping i'm left wondering if we'll be able to see Dresden tonight but we don't really have time to do this in the morning with the drive to Berlin in which we need to see the Sanssouci Park and Palace in Potsdam before meeting the folks at the hotel. Come on rain, disperse a little at least. We park up just by the old town and we have our dinner whilst we wait to see what happens with the rain. Suddenly at near to 6.30pm it stops, the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to poke through one of the clouds so we still have a bit of daylight left! Quick march and we are out of the van!

On route to the middle of the city by the river i see 4 arches to the windows on the top floor of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts building and each had a name across them. I see Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raffael but hang on one minute, who's Erwin van Steinbach in the Ninja Turtle gang, never heard of him. I do believe someone needs to write to this 100 year odd old building, founded in 1764, to say that they've got this all wrong, they need Donatello up there next to the other three!!

So located in Dresden, the Frauenkirche (Church our Lady), is a Lutheran church that was completely destroyed during during WWII. The church reconstructed using original plans from the 1720s and reopened in 2005. The city of Coventry, which was raided by the Luftwaffe donated the golden cross for the dome of the church. Since reopening, the Frauenkirche has been a hugely popular tourist attraction in Dresden and in 2009 was visited by President Barack Obama.

Also i noted that the Hilton hotel here has broadway lights around the glass dome entrance and a red carpet...where was that in Milan?! We walk around and as the night is beginning we get to see a lot of this place with the street performers playing classic and modern music with their classical instruments. Beautiful setting for it all and we are done, near to 9pm. Trouble was that Potsdam was a good 2 1/2 hours away get so its a drive through in the dark and the radio on loud to get us there! Better to start there tomorrow than drive from here so off we go!

At one point in the journey we are going so very slowly down on the motorway and i'm wondering if its like at home where they close some of it down of the night to do roadworks. At a time when you think you'll race home instead its longer than normal which is annoying, especially if you're driving at that time of night you just want to go to bed! But it wasn't that as after 30 minutes we pass a van staring large load and in front of that was an open back HGV lorry carrying a very long wing of a plane. So slowing down was for that rather large item being transported! Then i saw another...but then another. When did a plane have 3 wings?!? Come to think of it they are all quite long and thin to be wings of a plane...will see if i can figure this one out later!

Near to 11.30pm and we park up, well i'm not exactly sure where we parked as all i knew was that we were about 500m from the parks entrance that we needed to head on through tomorrow. I went down the residential streets so i know i'm down one of them...but they were packed but finally there is one sneaky space by the end of the road to the main. I can see a parking meter so in the morning if need be i'll just put some coins in there. Job done, and we have a parking space ready for tomorrow exploration, bonus!!

Posted by emmabrown1014 00:46 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 125 - Wednesday 2nd September - Mainz to Bingen am Rhine

... to Frankfurt am Main to Rothenburg on Der Tauber to Nuremberg 'You've Named Your Cat _ _ O _ F - Wheel of Fortune; guess the word'

Not too bad a sleep as the traffic noise was minimum and with the overcast clouds it meant a cool night to tuck yourself under the duvet. Took awhile to get to sleep though as I was having one of those moments figuriug out if I was being bitten by 100s of bugs last night. Shouldn't be as a) in urban city, and b) don't remember seeing any before lights were out but you feel as if they are there, crawling all over you. Don't think I was as with waking up this morning I had same bites as I did few days ago. Just must feel its a regular accordance so my body re-enacts it in case i'm not able to sleep without it as i'm so use to it by now!

Toilet stop and Aldi it was 200m down the road and as it was a tiny 10 shop mall which must have one. Door with a hand written sign saying WC found but it states to ask the restaurants for a key, try it anyway and it opens. On the way in outside I saw a man with a wash bag and wondered if he was using this as his bathroom. It was a disabled loo too and could I figure out the flush on this one? I've been in loads as I tend to go into disabled ones with Ellie as bit more room to have her with me than leaving her outside but I pressed a waves looking symbol and nothing. Checked hanging handles and everywhere else at arms length...nothing. Will forever be a mystery!

Back to the van and to check how much electricity I've used as I don't want to be half way through a draft of a blog and the laptop cuts out on me. Turns out the 30 minutes I had on the laptop last night and the charge of the camera in the night was a total of 1c out of my 50c. By the time I charged my phone, kindle and 3 hours worth of laptop use I'd used 4c in total! Wow, so all this time at campsites when they are charging me 2€50 on average for a day's use they were really getting their monies out of me! Other motorhomes with their TV's and other electrical sucking items will use all that, not me it seems!!

Suddenly I see something on my windscreen and its a permit form and envelope for payment....er the guide said it was free!! Should really read those signs before entering places like this! Just before I went to the toilet I do remember seeing a man pull up in his car before heading on out, that'll be the ticket man then. It is a nice set up here so I won't begrudge paying it but another annual inspector for this guide needs to be fired!

Bit later than planned but finally left at 12pm after getting some blogs done, still 4 days behind but better than 12 the other week! And what's this, van starts perfectly and I'll wait until it doesn't start again to see what best to do. In the meantime we are off to....well should it be Frankfurt or check out if this Bingen was the place to see? Frankfurt inputted into TomTom and its 548km away....I'm sorry, a what?!!? Nope I'm pretty certain there's one just about 50 odd away. Bingen was nearly 300km. Have I just been transported somewhere else during the night without my knowledge?!!

I look to the map in one of my guides and try to figure this out. Bingen I could only see as the one I was at few days ago, same as TomTom but there was definitely a sign to one 20km to here. There's no other Bingen on the map but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist as the map only shows the names if there's a place to stop at or of a major city, so not a real map. Now Frankfurt on the other hand I could see but with the wording am Main next to it. I can also see there's a Frankfurt in between Dresden and Berlin with am Oder next to it. With TomTom finding this one is this the city I need to see? But there's airport showing on the other side of TomTom as places around in Frankfurt (this it finds) only 38km away....wish I concentrated in geography a better!!

Decision made, am Main surely means it's the main Frankfurt in Germany and it has an airport so i'm heading there. As I do I see that Bingen sign again so I input the name and find a train station so I head to there so the destination has been altered! Determined to find this Bingen as I'm convinced the last one wasn't the right one and Google maps took me to one to Frankfurt, hence why it was here to see on my list. We're getting closer and suddenly a sign ahead on off the motorway states Bingen am Rhine, now that's what i should have put in, so Bingen am Rhine is inputted and its found it no problem. Parking on up it's definitely one in which is a place to start to see the 65km of some 60 picturesque medieval towns and 40 castles. Now if the website I was looking at put it's full name of the town in I wouldn't have gone to the other Bingen in Germany!! This River can most certainly get ships down in, unlike the dingy size of a brook at the other!

We have a walk along the river and in the town there's a Castle on top of a hill. Bingen I can now safely tick off the list as seen and it has tourists, unlike the other! Right, now let's figure out Frankfurt! Frankfurt inputted into TomTom and its still over 500km away, but surely not. Lesson learnt from Bingen and i input in the full name, Frankfurt am Main and we are off to the centre of town, is found it but what I'll find who knows! We're getting closer and it quite industrialised around here, by the river side with commercial planes I can see above. This must be the main city of Frankfurt. Then I see it and try to remember the last time I came into a view like this. Not so much in Europe I couldn't remember, more like the east of London and New York as the skyscrapers were huge and plenty of them. Just coming into this city you could see a lot of company headquarters in these huge rises. This is definitely Frankfurt.

We turned off the motorway and I could see lots of art, one in which black metal silhouette of a man, the size of a 6 storey building was mechanical with a moving arm holding a sledgehammer which comes on down. What surprised me was moving away from the skyscrapers we came across old, beautiful buildings and churches by the river. A bit like London on a smaller scale. This I wasn't expecting as the Frankfurt in my head was full of high-rised buildings and company head offices. There were tourist groups and hop on and off sightseeing buses...definitely in the right city!

After driving around to recce the city, for the best place to park and walk around, we found a tight spot by a parking meter and manage to reverse park it in. One hour maximum allowed but that's all the time I've got really as I still need to see Rothenburg on Der Tauber and Nuremberg but with not leaving here til 5pm at least Nuremberg will have to wait til tomorrow now! Coins in and as usual I forget what time it is to start with so i can work out how much time i've given myself with the change in as the machine only states what time that takes me up to. I release the coins to see the time now on the clock but I'm sure there's a Euro it's not given back. I look inside but nothing, little git! Money back in and ticket received, off Ellie on a whirlwind tour of this place!

It's like Las Vegas here too as not with the casinos and entertainment shows but of the construction you see going on in each of the streets you walk on. Whether it be a building being knocked down, road repairs, buildings being renovated or being built, it's a city ever changing it seems. Or I've come at a time when they are doing it all at once! I went through an underpass which had a square of about 6ft by 6ft and the rubble was in a volcanic shape up to a shoulder width height. On top of the rubble was a round pool of water, I couldn't quite figure out if it was art or construction waste...but the pool above seemed solid that it was designed to be there permanently. Or was it already there and they've just shoved rubble around it for now?

Continuing down this narrow underpass I come across a group of Chinese tourists and what made me giggle is that they were in 5 little groups walking to the next tourist attraction. As the first group I came to saw me they let me pass with Ellie as they weren't too keen we were right behind them. Then the voices behind passed over me to the next group and they stepped aside, then that continued til I was past them all...the parting of the waves once more with Ellie!

Sight seeing done and I do like this city, it's got everything a city should have with a mixture of old and new, street food markets, large commercial shops, art, expensive looking hotels and an opera house. Certainly surprised me, didn't expect what I saw and I'm glad I saw it. So back to the van and I look for that Euro in the machine once more, yes I'm sure back at home I wouldn't have bothered but a Euro is a Euro for me right now on a budget! I see it!! It was wedged under where the flap lifts up to get change / ticket and where the shoot is. After getting my keys to wedge it out the golden / silver coin is mine once more! Oh and the van starts, double bonus!

Driving onto Rothenburg on Der Tauber there's enough light to look around this town and its one I didn't expect. It's an old Franconian city of Rothenburg and one of German's attractive places on the famous romantic road tourist route. It's on banks of River Tauber with its walls and towers untouched since the Thirty Year War of 1618, completely preserved medieval town of charm. It really was a times less experience and one I'm glad I found in Germany. So with the Black Forest, Strassbourg (France) Frankfurt and being here it was worth the trip to the more West of Germany.

As I was playing with Ellie in the main square a German couple came over as they had a bet as to whether she was a labradoodle between themselves. The lady won as Ellie looks like their dog of which she shows me a photo....on her credit card!! Do they still do that? I remember you once could back in the UK, but can you still? Not seen that option for ages now thinking about it! I recognised the same brown/ginger beard that these black pair have and as I was talking to them a guy asked me if she was a Portuguese Water dog. Still getting that one too! Also on her credit mastercard the numbers I noticed were printed on and not raised like ours. The one myself and Stef needed at the German restaurant for the food and drinks we couldn't pay for! Is it only in the UK we have raised numbers, in olden days we needed it for the card machines that needed to be run across and the raised numbers would ink it on their payment form for us to sign. Do we still need that?

On the way out and back to the van Ellie spots a cat and gets ready for the launch. The cat matches that stance and raises it with that of it's bottom in the air and on their tip toes. And we have a stand off!! There's something about the car that I couldn't quite put my finger on and that was until one of the two ladies who were sat down nearby got up towards her cat. She was calling her cat 'Adolf' and it was, as it was a black and white cat yet the black marking in its face was that of a small moustache?!! It looked like Adolf but would you still call your cat by the same?! Made me giggle!

From Adolf I'm now driving to Nuremberg where the trails took place, held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the Nuremberg trails were a series of 13 trails carried out here between 1945 and 1946. It was chosen as a site were judges from the Allied powers - Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States - presided over the hearings of twenty-two major Nazi criminals. Twelve prominent Nazis were sentenced to death, by hanging.

It's dark as i get to Nuremberg but I don't fear I'm missing too much of the scenery and head on through the side of town first before parking up. There was a great big fair going on with lights ablaze and the ferris wheel shining in all colours. Was a lovely sight to see and then we got to the spot to park...but there was no such spot I could see where we could. I could see two motor homes parked up under the railway bridge here but that was it...inspector man here of the guide getting fired too! There was a spot under the trees by residental flats, lined out parking spaces, so we parked up there. Seemed as good as any and I need a shower soon...Friday in Berlin with the parents and their apartment can't come soon enough!

Posted by emmabrown1014 12:20 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

DAY 124 - Tuesday 1st September - Strasbourg to Baden-Baden

... to Stuttgart to Heidelberg to Mainz 'Dogs Aren't Only One On A Lead'

As we wake the skies above are looking a bit more cloudy than it has for the last few days but after the heat of the last its a welcome for now. Its either stifling hot or cloudy with a chill and rain. I blow my nose a few times and think that my body is feeling the same, getting a cold or not to get a cold! Walk done, breakfast eaten and now the testing time, are we going to be able to get back into Germany once more? Car starts, not a problem in sight! Well what to do, see how long i can keep doing this or get it fixed today although it would be better to get it done at home...but home is 31 days away with Belgium and Holland at least to come!

First to see is Baden-Baden, yes i've made the decision to keep going until i really have to come up with a plan! Also i'll pre-warn the parents as the hotel in Berlin may be able to help with knowing a good garage and i'll be there for two days, well Friday afternoon and Saturday for when they may be open. If need be i'll just stay around Berlin to get it fixed and then make it up on the way round as there is still Mel to visit, Ellie's vet appointment to be had (tapeworm so she can come home to the UK without quarantine on her passport) a ferry to catch of which i already hold the ticket.

Baden-Baden is another town in the Black Forest which has magnificent spa facilities apparently. Actually the town itself was really rather lovely to walk around as the rain was holding off, for now at least as you could feel that it was coming. I walked near to a couple of tour groups just to check that i've seen everything to see and looks like i've explored this town enough for the hours ticket i've put on display. Oh yes, where i parked the van was at a parking meter but would be safe to stay where it is should i need breakdown...but the engine started once more, we are on a roll! The rain starts to descend upon us but we're safely in the car, and it nicely stops as we enter next into Stuttgart which was nice of the weather.

So Stuttgart and i do remember that a Production Designer, whilst going through my itinerary last year with him, asked me why was i going to the industrial part of Germany. Therefore I took it off, along with Frankfurt, hence why originally i wasn't coming to the West but then Strasbourg and the Black Forest came up. So with doing these places i was kinda near to here so why not have a visit, just in case it has a little gem at least within the industrialised place of it all. First of all i needed petrol as i was under the red after wanting to get to a city in which if the van did wish to break down it would be easier to be towed to the nearest garage here. I did turn into one when i was in the middle of the Forest but then suddenly exited as i thought, 'what if i couldn't start it again'?! Hence being under the red. Petrol station was to be passed a km away from the centre, and that didn't exist. Inputted petrol station again into TomTom and it was slightly off from the road so maybe that's why i didn't see it originally...nope, its because it ain't there! Another one inputted and pressed one that was close by to get to and....yep that don't exist either!!! There has to be one around here, it's a city! So I inputted 'Petrol' again for another to pop up and this one took us up a hill, please be one up here especially after that hill climb...and there it was, a petrol station! Hurrah to number 1, number 2 is that they took credit card (everywhere does really but after Italy i'm not always as confident!) and number 3 .... the engine started again! Once again as we headed to our next destination the heavens opened up and the rain was pouring on down, as we parked up the rain stopped once more. Perfect timing this day!

Back down the hill to park and what about Stuttgart...what a, well to use the old toilet creator, a 'thomas crapper'. It really was, that's as best as i can describe it!! As i crossed over to get into town i came across two run down casinos and sports bars, then into commercial town where there was a smell lingering and not of the fresh baked food and flowers variety. Finally we came into some form of niceness of the food / drinks village with wooden huts for restaurants, sweets and seating areas with the German traditional tablecloths and large tankers of beers everywhere by the church; but that was about it. One thing that topped it all off was that there was a couple dressed in goth coming my way and the guy was doing the same as i was to Ellie, she was attached with a lead and collar to him! Not only that but hard rock was blaring out from her smartphone as they walked. Really kids, are we still doing that, you're not looking hard or clever or against whatever society has done to you?!! You just look silly and made me laugh...that to me will be S**ttgart! Then there is a man in the middle of the square in a leather tall chair with a table in front of him. Just right there, bang in the middle of everyone in this busy square of pedestrians and there are two plastic stools in front of him also. For a few euros you can have a game of chess with him apparently, just funny seeing him sit there but no one to play with. Kinda felt sorry for him in the end! Yes Production Designer, you were right! Maybe i'll think upon Frankfurt but as i say, you need to experience these things yourself in order to have your own opinion.

Back to the car and all i can think of is that if it doesn't start then my luck is certainly out, i'm left to hang around here, my worst nightmare of a place to be stuck at! Back to the van...come on van....come on, you can do it. It starts without a hitch, YES!!!! Thank you! Next to see is Heidelberg which is a popular tourist destination and during WWII this city was almost completely spared by allied bombings which destroyed most of Germany's larger inner cities...did Stuttgart (?) as seems like it needs a bomb to start again right about now! Sorry for anyone who comes from there...maybe you can tell me the nicer things about it? Rain once more heading on through to our next stop, but this time belting on down with full wipers on to see where we were going, but once again it stopped when we reached Heidelberg.

This was better than where i've just come, this had a castle up on the hill with the town having it's baroque charm of narrow streets with picturesque houses. As we were up at the Heidelberg Castle Ellie was getting a lot of attention from a couple of Chinese girls who said she was so adorable and cute, so why not have a quick chat to them after saying that. Sometimes i do wonder if people see the person on the end of the lead as they look to Ellie! These two were asking all kinds of questions and Ellie was lapping up the attention as the Americans were soon coming on in to join. Makes me laugh, see a dog and it makes people smile with such happiness; or you see the opposite with sheer horror, jumping out of the way in disgust as if she had the most hideous disfigurement and the men jumping in to save their wives from the black plague that Ellie must have!! Ellie must be thinking if she's loved or hated with all these different emotions coming her way!

Next to the van and it starts once more, am i going to get back home or will it strike again? I'm now playing a game in which it's called, 'Where Does The Playbus Stop'...where will the van stop!?. I remember that not as a kid as i was too old by then for that, but because it was always on when i came home from school as the children my mum childminded, well the extended family in the end (!), were watching it! It starts the van, so Heidelberg we exit and see how long we can last, will it be Mainz upon waking up tomorrow morning when it totally gives us, who knows! Mainz is our next destination as its close to Frankfurt with free parking and electricity to pay for should we need it, sounds good to me and its well fenced off and clean looking when we arrive. A bonus with an Aldi to get some food in as not eaten all day and we settle in for an early bed as its nice and cool to sleep in this time....with no rain beating down also on the roof.

Now on this journey to here i did notice something that didn't seem quite right, i saw a sign for Bingen...Bingen the place i was at a few days ago which was meant to be part of the Romantic Rhine but it certainly didn't seem so to me. So what was this Bingen all about, a good 400km from the other one?!! Could this be the Bingen that i should have been at all along and it does make sense as when i originally googled the place it was in this direction and that's why it was on my list before Frankfurt...but TomTom said otherwise. Hmmmm. Maybe we need to stop here tomorrow and check it out as this one was Bingen am Rhine for the full town name on the sign, which gives a great clue away that its on the River Rhine at least!!

Posted by emmabrown1014 11:13 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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