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Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monday, July 07, 2008

Deutschland

Chris and I spent seven packed days in Germany and two in Prague (Czech Republic). We flew overnight from Boston on Friday, June 27, and returned Sunday, July 6. We arrived at the Frankfurt airport about 2:00 pm, local time, and rented a little Panda Fiat for the duration of the trip. The shuttle driver who picked us up from the airport asked us our names as we entered the van and upon hearing our last name said unsolicited to Chris, in a slightly disgusted tone, "Leckrone? That sounds French." That was an immediate blow to Chris' claim that the name is German in origin.

We drove about 30 minutes south of Frankfurt to Heidelberg, near where ancestors of both of ours once lived. The town was a perfect introduction to Germany, walkable and picturesque, with its expanse of tile roofs, ruined castle and winding river. Here are some pictures of the town, church and castle:


From Heidelberg, we drove through Bavaria to Munich, but along the way stopped at Neuschwanstein, the famous fairy tale castle (Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty castle on it). King Ludwig mirrored the castle to a drawing by a theatrical artist and arranged the interior around operas by Richard Wagner. King Ludwig was eventually declared insane (perhaps maliciously) and was found drowned in a lake under mysterious circumstances. I couldn't take any pictures inside, unfortunately, but I'm sure there are some floating around online. We stopped for lunch along the way... Chris ate a disgusting amount of sausage on the trip.

Munich was a lot of fun in an entirely different manner. We watched the famous Glockenspiel clock performance in Marienplatz, sampled German fish, cheeses, sausages and beer at the Viktualmarkt and ended up at the Hauptbahnof at the end of the first night (a beer garden where Hitler spent a lot of time). It so happened that the Euro Cup was on big screen that night: Germany versus Spain, and watching a bunch of rowdy Germans in a beer garden cheer their favorite team was a lot of fun.

Our second day in Munich we walked through the English Gardens, with its created river. At one point in its course, it shoots so strongly from under a bridge that waves big enough to surf are created! We also drove to Olympic Park where the summer games were held in 1972 - the architecturewas incredible: translucent tiles drape over huge metal beams like cotton. The top of the tower gave a great view of Munich, the nearby BMW factory and the stadium below. We ate that evening outdoors at the Augustiner Beer Garden, where Germans drink more beer on Mondays than most Americans on Saturdays. The garden encompasses at least three acres, completely shaded by old-growth chestnut trees. We even saw a girl, about 13-14, down a liter of beer with supper.



On our drive out of Munich, we stopped by the concentration camp Dachau. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries, so I'm stealing the below pictures from the Internet. It was a sobering experience to see the gas showers, cremation ovens and barracks. In the gas chambers, the Germans enticed the prisoners inside by offering showers, but poison gas also vented into the room along with the water. The first picture below is of the gate into the camp on which the German soldiers stamped, "Arbeit macht frei" or "Work makes you free."

Prague felt very different than Munich - much more touristy and crowded. Lots of souvenir shops and vendors crowded the streets and Charles Bridge, but even so, I think Prague is one of the prettiest cities I've ever visited. We walked the streets, toured the castle (including torture museum), church and Jewish neighborhood and ate along the river. As we were nearing the border to re-enter Germany on the way to Berlin, a Czech police officer pulled us over, and we basically had to pay him off to continue on our way: about $30 US dollars. Not so bad considering he originally demanded $150.

Our two days in Berlin were packed: we walked to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag, Brandenberg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Nazi Interrogation Hall, remains of the Berlin Wall and a bombed-out church. The first day as we sat in the grass outside The Reichstag (parliamentary building), a bicycle tour plopped down by us, and the tour guide gave a twenty minute history of the collapse of communism and the fall of the wall between East and West Berlin - it was great. The second day we took a bus tour of the city since it was raining. It also so happened that our visit coincided with the grand opening of the US embassy (right alongside the Brandenberg Gate), and former President George H. Bush spoke at the ceremony. But we didn't sit through the rain to hear him speak.

We ended our vacation in Frankfurt, which felt really seedy/industrial: lots of brothels, prostitutes and strip clubs. Here's a picture with our little car. Chris did the driving on the trip, keeping a constant speed of 160 kmp (100 mph) on the Autobahn, which doesn't have speed limits most of the way. It was very common to see Mercedes and even Volkswagons speed past us at >130 mph - such a bummer our little car didn't have any oomph.

5 Comments:

Blogger The Charlebois said...

Did Chris get that Hitler haircut special for the trip, or was that just a coincidence? :) (just kidding, Chris!)
Looks like you guys drank a lot of fun -- Oops, I mean HAD a lot of fun! Can't wait to talk and hear more stories!

9:30 PM  
Blogger Bonny Karina McRoberts said...

How fun!!! It looks like you guys had a great time. You did SO much in a short amount of time. It must be kind of a let down to be back home again. I love all the pictures!!

10:06 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Fresh Footprints said...

What a fun trip!! Glad you guys got to get away and travel!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Thoughts from a TCK said...

Great tour! I'm so excited you had such a great time. I'll try to call you this week!

I had to pay off a Slovenian police officer once. I think they specifically target foreign cars.

1:26 PM  

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