Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 17 Heading Home

Our last day in Germany started with that overpriced breakfast I talked about in the previous post. We went to the subway and headed over to the train station where we picked up our bags from the locker and then hopped on another subway to the airport.

We got checked in just fine and then exchanged our left over euros back into dollars and headed home.

Several hours later we got to Cincinati. The ticket said we were supposed to go to terminal A, but when we got there they sent us back to terminal C. That was a lesson about checking the flight board when you get off the plane, especially on tight connections.

Well we made it on the plane and when we got to Roanoke we found out that Bill's suitcase had also made it, mine on the other hand was not so lucky. We filled out the paperwork and headed home. There was another flight that would be arriving at about 930pm with my suitcase.

About 230 the next morning, since we don't have a street address and didn't want to try and explain it, the airline delivered the suitcase to Bill's sister's house in Athens.

Trip is done.

We had a wonderful time and loved every minute of it, even the learning experiences.
In the end, we spent a ton of money, but we didn't create any debts.
We have a lot of memories and no regrets. We already miss the food and our friends.

Now back to reality.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 16 Frankfurt

We headed for Frankfurt a day earlier than we had planned, but after our experiences with the Hilton reward nights in the previous cities, we decided to get one there too so we wouldn't have to rush anything in the morning. I booked it online with no problems at all.
The day started at 0926 with another broken train. All through our trip we have experienced a non-typical travel experience since the trains keep running late. German trains are usually very reliable, but we keep finding the problems. Good thing our tickets are good for a variety of trains since the first train out of Bamberg was a full 15 minutes late and our connection in Schweinfurt was only 4 mintues. Luckily there was another train running to Wurzburg just as we arrived. It was a slower one, but since we really weren't in a hurry it was okay and part of our continuing adventure.
In Wurzburg we saw a train load of trees at the station.

Arriving in Frankfurt we first went to the airport to make sure we knew where we would be going in the morning. When we got that straight we went back to the train station and put our big bags in a locker for the night. We traveled light to the hotel since we didn't need all that other stuff. Then we got on a subway going the wrong way. Came back to the station and I remembered that I had left the hotel confirmation in the locker. We had to open the locker and pay again to lock our stuff up, about $6 each time. Argh! Then we got on the subway going the wrong direction, again. Got going the right way finally. Got to our stop which was about two blocks from the hotel and made it there with about 2 seconds to spare before we missed the check in time.

Our room in Frankfurt was typical Hilton. Very nice with a great view on the park side of the building. Unfortunately, it did not come with the normal breakfast like every other Hilton. Worse yet, we didn't realize that until we had already eaten and were checking out the next morning. This Hilton came with a complimentary $6 drink for Diamond members since they couldn't upgrade my room. It was our fault for not checking to ensure we would not be charged, but breakfast the next morning was really the worst of all four hotels that we stayed at and cost us about $90. Yes, ninety dollars. We were in the "Wall Street" district, but that seems excessive to me.

We went out walking and looking for dinner and found the Pied Piper on the corner of a building.

A little further down the street and we found Romerberg, which is a central old city square that dates to the 14th century. The buildings were destroyed during WWII, but in this area they have been rebuilt. We asked the tourist info office for some information to figure out what we had found and he sold us a map of the area and sent us across the river to find some nice places for dinner.

We crossed Eiserner Steg (Iron) pedestrian bridge with St Bartholemeus's Cathedral in the background.

We had dinner at Claudia's in Old Sachsenhausen. Jaegerschnitzel and Raumschnitzel. Delicious, I forgot to get a picture, but it was Delicious.

Then we went back to the Romerberg for an ice cream. Well worth the effort.
Banana split and spaghetti ice. mmmmmm

Another Pegasus, seen from the glass elevator in the Hilton.

That was our visit to Frankfurt. We didn't intend to spend time there, but it all turned out okay. Even the overpriced breakfast. I dare them to send me a survey.

Day 15 Bamberg Sites

Well, I missed my last chance to go running in Germany. I should have gotten up to do it. Instead Billy and I walked to the Bakery and got some pastries. They were good too.
Later we went with Jen to check out the local sites. We had been here for two weeks and had seen them from a distance, but not up close. So we headed to Bamberg.
Our first stop was in front of the Bamberg Cathedral, built in 1237, is the final resting place of Pope Clement II. That fact alone seems to have saved Bamberg from much of the potential destruction during WWII.

We spent a little time in the rose gardens in the New Residence near the cathedral

and got our picture taken

From there we climbed up the hill to the visit Michaelsburg monastery built in the 12th century.

Opposite side view from Altenberg Castle
Altenburg was first mentioned in records dating from 1109. It overlooks the city of Bamberg and can be seen along the road from Erlau.

Viewed from the monastery
The Altenberg tower
bridge to Altenberg
inside defense wall and outside view
That was a trip to the sites. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed touching base with the local sites so that we can have been there. We ought to do that with more of our own local sites!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 13 and 14 Weekend Rest

Day 13
Laundry and Country Fest
Started the day washing clothes again. Woo exciting. LOL
That afternoon we grilled some pork steaks and had them on brotchen with potatoes and onions. Very tasty. Then in the evening we went to the local beer garden and listened to some country music. Not a lot happening. But we had a good time relaxing.

Day 14
We did nothing but enjoy vacation today. Well, we ate, drank a bottle of wine and walked 3 miles on country roads in this neighborhood, but other than that we were just quiet.

Day 12 Berlin Wall

Day 12
The Wall and Return
The next morning we had another great breakfast and then checked out and headed over to take a look at the East Side Gallery. During the years of separation the West side of the wall was covered in graffiti, some of which I got pictures of in '83. The East side of the wall was not touched with graffiti because it would have gotten people in trouble to express themselves in that way. When the wall came down a group of artists were allowed to display their visions of history and the coming changes on the East side of the wall. These are some of those pictures that have survived. Some look new or at least updated, but all are interesting.
This one shows Checkpoint Charlie and some famous kisses. this one shows the Brandenburg gate in 1980 that I show in a previous post. This is what I saw in 1983 compared to what is there now.

This one shows them tearing down the wall.
This one shows the celebration
This one shows the stream of people coming through the wall.
Dancing to Freedom
Left two are sad and the right two are glad
Prison being torn opne by peace
The end of the East Side Gallery looking back along the wall.

The end of the wall led us right to a train station so we went in and caught a train over to the main station and headed back to Bamberg.
Berlin Train Station claims to be the most modern in the world. Certainly was the most modern that we saw on our trip.

Castle along the rails somewhere
We got back to town earlier than expected, but that was OK. We were tired, but not too much so we couldn't go get a schnitzel and beer.

Day 11 Berlin

Day 11
Berlin Walking
After getting started in the morning we took some time figuring out where we wanted to go. It is so much easier to do that here in Germany than it was in Czech. I understand the maps, signs, and trains better. We went over to the Hilton Berlin that we would be staying in that night and left our bags in the luggage storage and then took off to see the city.

We saw the Kaiser William Memorial church, which was built in 1890 and was badly damaged during WWII.
The newer towers on each side are the replacements.

The mosaics inside the memorial spire.

Looking through the spire.

While walking along the streets in this neighborhood we found the Berlin zoo, which might have been nice to visit, but for the money we would have had to stayed all day. So instead we walked the streets in the area, seeing what there was and enjoying some street entertainment.


skateboard acrobats

more dancers

After that we went over to Alexander Square to see the old TV and Radio tower.

The Galleria and meeting place fountain

Fersehturm TV tower
A regular car and a smart car. Cute isn't it.
Neptun Fountain was built in 1891.
The Berlin Cathedral built in 1895, the TV tower built in 1969, and what is left of the Palace of the Republic, the seat of the East German parliament in the process of being torn down due to asbestos contamination. The building was built in 1973 on the site of the former Berlin City Palace, which had been damaged during WWII and may be rebuilt.

The Red Town Hall Originally built in 1861. Rebuilt after WWII
I think I have photos of these same land marks from 1983 when it was all on the East Berlin side and I was here touring with a school group. The comparison will be interesting to see when I get home.
The one thing I am sure of is that Alexander Square was very grey, quiet, and almost empty. The only people making any noise were some small children playing in the fountain. The stores around the square had very few things in them and what they had we really were not allowed to purchase. We were told that they got so few “fine” things from outside the East – they did not allow foreigners to buy them and take them out again. We could buy anything made “in” East Germany, but there really wasn't much to choose from at that time. Back then the group I was with wanted to have a snack and couldn't find anything except an ice cream stand that had a really bad watery product.
The difference now in the new Berlin is amazing, the square had lots of people and color. People of all ages really seemed to be enjoying themselves around the fountain and just generally shopping. The stores were full of a huge variety of products from all over the world. There is more food available than they can get people to eat. I didn't have any ice cream, but it looked pretty good. The canopies and signs for the restaurants added a lot of color.
From there we walked up Unter der Linden street to the Brandenburg gate.
It was a long walk filled with more sights, shopping, food, and people. So much different and good. When we got to the gate area the difference there is also huge. Back in '83 there were no buildings near the gate on the East side. Now they are rebuilding the area and putting buildings back into the same spaces they had previously stood. One example is the US Embassy.
US Embassy by the Brandenburg Gate

It originally stood to the right of the gate, they are rebuilding in the same space, though security concerns have moved it back from the street more than previously. The other difference is that back then you couldn't even get close to the gate, let alone walk under it. The gate was built in 1788 and was one of the only Pariser Square structures to survive WWII.

Former East side of Brandenburg Gate
Former West Side of Brandenburg Gate

We walked under and took pictures from both sides and then headed to the hotel after a long day of walking.
This Hilton was very much like the one in Prague. Lots of people in business attire and us in shorts with backpacks, and staying for free! LOL Our room was not upgraded, but we were very happy with what we got. This is the view out the windows.
The German Cathedral on Gendarmenmarkt was built in 1705. It was completely destryed in WWII and was rebuilt between 1977 and 1988. Now it is the Museum of German History.
Pegasus is everywhere.
Nothing to complain about there.

After checking in we went over to Potzdamer Platz to find something to eat and see that showcase of a mall. It is another place that was popular before WWII and has now been rebuilt to show off the new city. We had a nice dinner and then went back to the hotel very tired.

Day 10 Prague Czech Republik

Day 10
We spent the night in the Hilton Old Town Prague and woke up to a very nice day. Breakfast in the executive lounge was nice and I was able to post the previous day's info on the blog so that got me somewhat updated. We headed over to the train station to work out our details for the trip to Berlin and found out that it was going to be another expensive ride,so we went over to exchange some more money. We messed up there by not noticing that the posted rate was for very large amounts and since we were exchanging a smaller amount it was less. Bad move, I really don't like giving away money like that.

Old train station shows clocks of the world

Then we went over to the train station to get our tickets and realized that the international counter was way backed up. So we tried something different. We got a ticket to the German border. We figured once we got there we could get off the train and get the next ticket to run us through Germany. What really happened was when we got to the border the train didn't stop and the conductor wanted to know why we didn't have a German ticket. So we ended up buying our ticket from her right there. It all worked out OK.

Back to Prague – when we got done with the train station we stored our bags in a locker and then went back over to the city and the castle. When we were walking across a bridge we saw that the next one over was the St. Charles bridge. Its constrction started in 1357 during the time of King Charles IV.

Regular view with my camera.

Zoomed in on some of the bridge statues.
Another Charles Bridge view

Then we stopped at the Czech senate, which is housed in the Wallenstein Palace built in the baroque style in 1623. We read about the history of the country and got some pictures.

Ceiling of an outer hallway, the art even in vulnerable places is beyond great!

Grotto wall in the senate court yard. Picture was taken from a road above the Palace in order to get the whole thing in.

Then we sort of followed the crowd and continued toward the castle.

We stopped again for lunch at a little bistro. It was delicious and another learning experience. When in Prague and you order a meal. Each piece of the meal is ordered separate or as a meal with specific items in it. If the waiter sets anything else down in front of you it will be extra. Bread before your meal like we get at some places in the states, will cost you extra.Coffee after your meal will cost you extra. We knew that going in, but still got caught by the bread and herb butter. On top of that watch out for the “Convert”. It is an extra charge that means nothing. It isn't at the end of the bill like a service charge. It is sort of tucked in between the items on the bill. We chose to pay it, but didn't leave a tip rather than fuss about it.

We finally made it to the castle and the batteries on my camera died. Wouldn't you know it, we made it up the hill and then had to go back down, just a little ways though. So then up again and we got some nice pictures.

The castle dates back to the year 870, yes three digits in that number, though the gothic part that is in most of my pictures was added in the 14th century.

The main gate to the castle had two guards posted with on having this scary statue over his head.

The front of the cathedral showing the top

the front at the bottom

the clock tower next to the main section

from the side showing both the front and clock along with the new addition

I had fun finding the statues in the design of the cathedral. They aren't hardly visible from the ground but zooming in on them showed a ton of details.

This looks like a princess to me

This one looks like a bishop

Maybe the Queen Mother?

The Queen with a future King?

There were also mosaic scenes of religious events

and lots of Gargoyles that have faces of what seem to be people, maybe they made the royalty mad at some point?

This Dragon slayer was over a door way

Bill's favorite tree

Prague's Eiffel tower, really the Petrin lookout tower. is much shorter than the real Eiffel tower. It was built in 1891 and used for observation and transmission.

After that we went back down the hill and across the Charles Bridge.

The crowds on the bridge were not as thick as I had expected, but it was a rainy day

The crucifix and statues portraying the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist.

Then we followed the crowd again to what turned out to be Old Town Square with the Astronomical clock. We had meant to go there, but by accident was fine way of finding it too.

Astronomical clock has 3 main parts. The dial represents the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displays various astronomical details. The clockwork hourly shows Apostle figures and other moving sculptures. A calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

The Tyn Cathedral contructed in the 14th century

and court yard memorial of Jan Hus, born in 1370.

Hus was an influential religious thinker, philosopher, and reformer in Prague.

After that it was time to head back to the train station and get out of town.

Leaving Prague station

Destination of our train - Berlin

We made it to Berlin at about 11:30pm and really didn't feel like wandering the city all night, so we got a room at the train station hotel. When we planned this part of the trip out I had originally expected we would stay in Prague longer and take a night train to Berlin arriving in the morning, but this was better. We slept good and breakfast was included.