German Journey

German Journey
Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany With our new travelling companions, Eva and Tate, our first stop in Germany was Munich. Eva and Tate had rented a car for their European adventure so Joseph and I were lucky enough to hitch a ride. I offered to drive as Tate had seriously rolled her ankle in Prague. Secretly though, I wanted to drive as fast as I could on the German Autobahn. I always thought the Autobahn was a super modern highway with lots of special safety barriers to allow for super speedy driving. In actuality, it looks a little shabbier than Australian freeways. That said it was fun getting the little rental car up to 185km per hour. But the fun doesn’t last, eventually as we approached Munich speed limits started being imposed. The Autobahn was definitely something I was glad to have experienced and I apologise to Eva and Tate for using so much of their fuel. We were very lucky in Munich that our gorgeous friend Julia, whom we met in Brazil, allowed us to stay with her. Julia lives in a very cool part of Munich (the gay part) with lots of little bars and cafes dotted throughout. We unpacked and headed out to a popular tourist destination in Munich,the Hoffbrauhaus. It is so touristy that Julia herself has never been there and I am fairly sure she was the only actual German there. The Hoffbrauhaus is basically a very large beer hall. There are lots of long tables with benches where you can sit, drink some very big beers and eat traditional Bavarian food. Having being handed a menu completely in German, I let Julia order for me. I am glad that I did. The meal of baby suckling pig and potato dumpling was actually delicious. From the Hoffbrauhaus it was time to head back to Julia’s hood to meet her friends and hang out. Even for a Monday night, Munich was still buzzing. The next day Joseph and I set out to explore Munich. Our starting point was Isator. Isator is one of the five gates of Munich. From here we headed into Marienplatz, this is kind of the main square. There are plenty of little cobblestone streets and of course biergartens (that’s a tough translation, Beer gardens). I told Joseph I wanted to take a photo of someone dressed in the traditional Bavarian lederhosen as I had seen a few randomly throughout the day. It was my lucky day. Rounding the corner marching down the street was an entire band dressed head to toe in the funny little outfits. Behind those guys were farm tractors covered in flowers and various vegetables. They were celebrating some kind of anniversary of botanic gardens (according to Joseph’s translation) and people were handing out flowers. Feeling very Bavarian, we decided a traditional lunch was in order. As per my previous blog, I was very excited for Italian food. I can’t say I shared the same enthusiasm for German cuisine. But I can honestly say, I actually really loved Bavarian food. Lunch was delicious and it was here where I developed a love for spatzle. Spatzle is made from flour and is generally a side dish with a meal. It has a delicious flavour especially when you order it with cheese. I guess it is kind of like mac and cheese. Yes, I have a very sophisticated palate. The afternoon was spent exploring more of the city. The river Isar runs pretty much north to south. Further downstream they have built little beaches where the locals can take advantage of the slower current and go for a dip in the summer. The river then splits and faster flowing channel is popular with surfers. It was kind of random to see folks in wetsuits and carrying surfboards and jumping into the river. The river bed had been shaped so the water running over it caused a sort of wave shape. This water then runs into the enormous park, Englischer Garten. It was here we found our first outdoor beer garden, Chinesischer Turn. I didn’t even attempt to pronounce these names in German. The tasty beer snack of choice seems to be giant salty, warm pretzels and I have to agree. They are delicious! That evening Julia took us out on a little tour of another part of the city. One of the world’s most popular festivals is Oktoberfest. We saw the area where it is held and they are already busy constructing the massive tents in preparation. Neuschwanstein castle was always on my list of ‘must see’ European sights. It is the “Disney” castle built by crazy King Ludwig II at the base of the Bavarian Alps near the town of Fussen. So one day Jospeh, Eva, Tate and I packed up the car and headed out of a little day trip. Our first stop was not really on the way but a sight that no trip to Munich would be complete without, Dachau. This was the first Nazi concentration camp built in 1933. It was a sombre excursion and the museum contains some horrendous facts and images. The end of the tour concluded at the gas chamber and incinerators. It is still so shocking that people could be so evil. The memorial is so sad but worth the visit. From here we headed down the autobahn to the castle. The area is close to the Austrian border and is absolutely beautiful. There are lots of farms and the green landscape is bordered by massive mountains. If we had more time up our sleeves I would definitely have wanted to stay in a little cabin in this area. Eventually we arrived at the castle. Unfortunately, Neuschwanstein was undergoing some kind of restoration and most of the castle was shrouded in awful scaffolding and plastic. Undeterred, we pushed on to drive to the entrance. Eva and Tate’s GPS unit literally directed us to the castles front door. From the town below there is a long uphill stretch of skinny road that most people walk up. I guess they park their cars and walk. Not Eva! She just drove right up through while the crowd of people parted way on the road. We were the ONLY car driving up so we got some pretty strange looks from some very sweaty people. The view from the top was incredible and what we could see of the castle was beautiful. It really was a top spot for old Ludwig to build a castle. For our last evening in Munich, Julia took us to Olympic park. As they name suggests this is where the 1972 Munich Olympic Games were held. The park is huge and the sporting arenas are impressive. For a few weeks during summer they hold a festival here and this was the main reason for our attendance. There was a big stage set up on the lake with bands playing, rides, outdoor cinema, beach bar and plenty of stalls to buy more tasty German treats. We had a great night with Julia and her friends under the stars; it was the perfect way to wrap up Munich. The train ride to Berlin was in the style to which we have become accustomed, first class. The station in Berlin is a testament to the feel of most of the city. It is super modern and isn’t shy in using a ton of glass. We made our way via the spaghetti network of U and S Bahn trains to our humble hotel. It is smack bang in the gay district surrounded by lots of shops and cafes. I would like to say our first night in Berlin was wild and crazy but due to the fact we’d been ‘recycling’ underwear for a few days, a trip to the Laundromat was in order. Exciting stuff. I did have my first Currywurst that night. People had recommended it and apparently it is a Berlin tradition. I can tell you it is basically a chopped up sausage covered in tomato sauce with curry powder sprinkled on top. I would love to meet the culinary genius that dreamed up that complex dish. It tasted as expected, like a sausage in sauce with a hint of curry. Our first day in Berlin was sunny but a little cool. Perfect temperature for me to drag Joseph around to all the sights he’d already seen on his last visit here. Berlin has such an interesting history. Not only the two world wars but also the division of the city post WWII by the big old Berlin wall. I am fascinated by this so made it my mission to take in as much as possible. First stop was the revitalized Potzdamer Platz. When the wall was up, this area used to be an empty plot of land on the East German side in the kill zone. It is now filled with uber modern, glass clad buildings and tourist attractions. From here we headed to the most iconic Berlin si ght, the Brandenburg gate. That’s the one with the pillars and a big statue of horseys towing a carriage. The wall also ran by here separating East and West Germany. So of course there were people dressed up as East German soldiers that would pose for a photo, for a few Euros of course. After quickly scooting around the Reichstadt (German parliament) we headed down to the DDR museum. This was basically a collection of East German bits and bobs and gave an insight into what life was like in this communist country. As expected there was a massive crowd in this place and every exhibit had lots of reading that accompanied it, after I got my fill we headed off. Next stop was Checkpoint Charlie. This was the US controlled border between East and West Germany. Berlin was divided into four parts after World War two by the victors, the USA, France, Great Britain and the Russians. The Americans, French and Brits all shared their part but the Ruskies decided they wanted border controls and eventually build the wall. There was a little outdoor museum with more reading at Checkpoint Charlie that gave a blow by blow account of how it all happened. East and West Germans were allowed to freely travel between the two countries for work and study etc. Because the living conditions were not the best in the East, citizens started moving over to the west. In order to stem the flow of people leaving and stop the entire East German economy collapsing, early one morning in 1961 the closed the borders and began building the wall. There were lots of interesting stories (some quite sad) of people attempting to flee. In 1989, after many protests the wall came down. Most of the 160km wall was torn down but some if it still remains throughout the city. Five minutes away from Checkpoint Charlie there is a large section still standing. Up close the wall is huge. Next to this part there is another outdoorsy museum. This was more about the history of Nazi party and once again, there was lots and lots of reading. I didn’t mind so much but I could see from Josephs skimming, he was done. We had spent a good five or so hours sightseeing/reading so we called it a day. Or so we thought. We headed back to the hotel and noticed a little sign in the hotel bar with two of my favourite words on it. Happy Hour. After a few pre dinner drinks we decided to head into the thick of it for a little dinner. We ate Japanese, as you do in Berlin, and in the process met an English and German couple. They insisted we join them for a nightcap at one of the local bars so we did. It was a Greek themed night, again obviously in Berlin, and the staff were handing out plates for their patron to smash on the floor. I instantly thought of the multitude of Occupational Health and Safety laws this would break in Australia but at the same time, glad I wasn’t wearing flip flops. After forcing Joseph to read 10,000 words the day before, it was his turn to plan a day in Berlin. It was a lovely leisurely day, but not without more reading. We headed to the Gay Museum of Berlin. I had learnt the previous day that Berlin had a thriving and accepting gay community in the 1920’s. Unfortunately, the Nazi party was not a fan so we were included in the list of ‘undesirables’ and consequently persecuted. This meant all the progress that had been made was essentially destroyed by the Nazis. The Gay Museum was an interesting collection of pictures and stories from the 1800’s to present day. As it was all in German, we were provided with a rather thick book to serve as the English translation. Again, more sad stories. But, despite the setbacks of the past, it is great to see present day Berlin is one of the most gay friendly, diverse and accepting cities in the world. Another museum we went to that was worth a mention was the German History Museum. It provides a pretty comprehensive history from about year 400 to 1994. There are lots of cool medieval things, suits of armour and swords and of course a detailed section on both world wars. A museum I had high hopes for but have to say was fairly ****** was the German Technology Museum. The Germans are a smart breed and I was hoping for lots of high tech German things. Instead the place had a lot of old trains, really old boats and planes. I can’t decide if I like the entire section on Textiles or Jewellery making the best. That was our final museum and I can honestly say, I am now officially all museumed out. Germany has been an awesome country with lots of diversity. I loved the more traditional Munich, the food and beer but also loved super modern Berlin with so much to offer. I only wish we had more time to explore more of this fascinating country. But the show must go on, we are off to Norway to see our lovely Norwegian friends and eat a sheep’s head. UPDATE: Hi guys, Joel here. We’ve created a fantastic travel website designed to inspire your next destination. For more information on Munich, check it out.


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