My husband and I are in our 50s. We decided to go to Germany primarily because my husband is interested in War History (I,II and the Cold War) and beer. I have a bum ankle, so walking is sometimes a chore, which is why good public transportation and bike riding are important to us. We determined that we would concentrate on the Eastern part of Germany and save the West for another trip. Neither of us enjoys castles and palaces too much, but we enjoy food! Apologies for the length of this. I did review each restaurant, hotel and site on tripadvisor separately.
So, our two week trip was planned as follows:
Munich – 5 night, with day trips to castle area, Eagles Nest and Dachau
Rent car and travel to Nuremberg, then overnight in Bamberg
Dresden – 2 nights, with day trip to Gorlitz
Travel to Leipzig and Dessau then 6 nights in Berlin.
Looking back, I wish we would have spent an additional day in Munich, and somehow squeeze more time in Bamberg. But we will return! We did not have good weather the first week, in fact some of Europe flooded while we were there.
Lots of solar panels on buildings and solar farms along the highway. Germany gets 70% of its power from renewable resources.
You could take your bicycles on subways and trains…they have a channel built in the side of stairways to slide your bike down, if an elevator isn’t handy.
A much greater percentage of German adults smoke. 34% versus 18% in US. And the patio restaurants are all decked out in Marlboro, Lucky Strike etc instead of beer umbrellas.
Blankets available for outdoor dining patrons.
Munich bicyclists are more polite than in Berlin, where they will run you over.
Munich’s stores close early and are not open on Sundays.
Stoplight signals—besides the cute ampelmen (walking green man and arms out red man), they give motorists a hint that the light is about to turn green by flashing the yellow light for a second or two.
Restaurants don’t seem to translate the daily specials into English, so if you want fresh, ask.
FRIDAY MAY 24
Drove to Newark Airport and used Snap Parking, which is an off site facility, that parks your car and shuttles you to the airport. United Airways’ seven and a half hour flight to Munich - Economy Plus was worth it for the extra legroom.
SATURDAY MAY 25 MUNICH
Arrive in Munich around 7:30am, cool, overcast, took the S8 train to downtown Munich and followed the hotel’s directions. It was about a ten minute walk from the subway.
We arrived at Maximilian Hotel; the room was ready! They upgraded us to a Garden studio, though you really couldn’t see the garden unless you stood on your tiptoes to look out the window. So we unpacked and got take-away sandwiches at Rischart’s (we would eat here a lot) in Marienplatz then took Munich Walks’ Third Reich Tour at 11:00 AM. Overall a decent tour, and probably a good way to start the day and get a quick introduction to Munich.
After tour had a snack at Rischart’s, I had a strudel medley, apple and cheese curd with vanilla sauce, My husband had Kaiserschmarrn, a sugared pancake with raisins, both of us had café latte. Watched the Glockenspiel do its thing.
Residenz tour of the Treasury, took about 45 minutes. Beautiful royal jewels. Finished the Residenz tour in one hour, followed Rick Steves’ recommended route. Enjoyed the shell grotto especially. Your typical ornate, overdone palace.
Had dinner at Ayingers, where I had a half pound of white asparagus (frischer spargel) with Weiner schnitzel with Hollandaise sauce and an old Bavarian dark beer. My husband had Bavarian peppered joint, with a tasty sauce and two types of dumplings and the original dark wheat beer. Thus began my love affair with white asparagus. The portions were huge and very tasty. One of the best meals we had. Service was prompt and the place was quiet & charming.
Munich football (soccer) fans were all over the city, singing, drinking, and chanting, because their team was in the European championship, an all German affair, thankfully Munich defeated Dortmund 2 to 1. Everything closes early except restaurants and pubs.
SUNDAY MAY 26 MUNICH
Rained all day! Note: no retail stores open due to religious reasons.
Breakfast at Rischart’s, I had scrambled eggs (their eggs are yellower then ours) with ham and Nutella toast, My husband had veal and parsley sausages, pretzels and mustard, we both had café latte. The restrooms had an attendant and required a token to access.
We used the subway and tram to get to Neue Pinakotech museum.
I was disappointed there was no Glimt or Jungendstil (German art nouveau), contrary to their website’s info. But there were some interesting paintings, and the building itself was lovely.
Next we took the subway and tram to BMW Welt (World), an uber sleek building that showcases BMW products. Great displays of current BMW offerings from cars to motorcycles to Minis. It was very crowded, with families. We enjoyed a light snack at Cooper’s, a cafeteria style restaurant, and went over the bridge to the BMW museum, which had a great exhibit of the history of BMW. We struck up a conversation with a guide named Robert. We discussed the odd little Issetta, a BWM model from the 1950’s and his trips to the US and Canada. He told us that after the war many people used bicycles to go on vacation. He also explained why so many Germans come to the American southwest; it’s like no other place on earth!
From there we walked in the rain to the Olympic Stadium (at least a mile) for the Bruce Springsteen concert. Our seats were straight on to the stage and about mid way up and most importantly they were covered, because it rained all night, and was very cold (mid 30s)…glad we had gloves. The German crowd whistled a lot, and didn’t understand the Bruuuuuuce cheer that we were shouting. When Bruce hit the stage he immediately went out on the riser and got wet, the crowd appreciated this show of solidarity. Overall the German audience was polite, but reserved, they didn’t get off their butts until Bruce announced they would play the Born in the USA album, and then they showed some life. The show lasted three hours, from 7:10 to 10:10; it was still drizzling as we walked to the subway. The transit service had people at the platforms helping to get the many folks taking the trains to their destinations. We arrived back at our room at 11:15, wet, tired, but happy.
MONDAY MAY 27 MUNICH-NEUSCHWANSTEIN
We ate at Maximilian, which offered a wonderful but pricey buffet style breakfast. Gray and cool, out at 9:00am to take the Bus Bavaria tour to the castle area. We headed to Mike’s Bikes which was a five minute walk from our room. We walked to a large bus and took a two hour ride to the Bavarian Alps. The weather was sunny and warm (compared to Munich) and we took a fun two hour bike ride around Swan Lake. Brad was our guide and he was entertaining and willing to take photos for us. After the bike ride we had a mediocre lunch in a local restaurant . Then we tried the Teleberg luge run. The luge consists of a metal track and small sleds that are pulled up the hill by a chain lift. We both enjoyed it though it wasn’t as terrifying as we thought it would be. We didn’t have time to see any of Brad’s famous card tricks.
We then boarded the bus and headed to the Hohenschwangau area.. We attempted to hike up the hill to Neuschwanstein Castle with our group, but they set a wicked pace, so we turned around and took the bus up the hill. The bus drops you off nowhere near the castle. But Mary’s Bridge is a short walk away. It spans a gorge with waterfalls and a spectacular view of the castle. The bridge was crowded, scarily so.
We caught up to our group on the walk to the castle. Tours accommodate 70 people, leave every 5 minutes and last a whopping 30 minutes. This place is a cash cow for the Bavarian government. Frau Brucker gave a very poor tour, her delivery was robotic and her voice was dull. Ludwig’s bed wasn’t even king sized, oh the irony!
After the tour Brad rushed us out, leaving no time to examine some models and photos near the gift shop. We started walking down the hill, but once again we couldn’t keep pace, everyone seemed to be in a hurry. This time Brad was bringing up the rear and kept us company for a while.In retrospect Brad should have done a better job of controlling the group’s pace, he is after all responsible for all of us. The ride back to Munich was peaceful, everyone was quiet and classical music played over the speakers.
Once in town we stopped at our room and regrouped, then we headed to the Hofbruahaus (5 minutes from our apartment), the most famous beer hall in the world. When we arrived we wandered around looking for an open spot, finally spotting a table that had an opening. Waiter eventually came and took our order. My husband got the sausage platter (pork, viennese and pfalzer) mit kraut and I had the grilled veal sausage.. We had pretzels as an appetizer and enjoyed beers. We talked, drank, and listened to the live Bavarian band till we left at 10:00, saying good night to our friendly dinner companions, who ironically happened to be at the castle today as well.
TUESDAY MAY 28 MUNICH-DACHAU
Warm, sunny in the 60’s, out at 9:00am. We ate breakfast at Rischart’s, where we had a conversation with an older German woman discussing the differences between our countries.
We took the subway and a bus to Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp. It’s a well done memorial to the victims of Hitler’s madness. We spent three and a half draining hours there.
The horrors that were committed here are just unbelievable. The audio tour was excellent.
After Dachau we headed back to Munich and went to the Viktaulienmarkt, a combination farmers market and shopping/dining area offering many food items and a variety of other things. We bought some apricots and raspberries and some pastry. Yum.
We headed to Mike’s Bikes to rent bikes, and headed off to the Englischer Garten (English Garden, larger then Central Park in New York).The park is very natural, not a formal park with well defined flower beds. The first thing we encountered was the Nudist Meadow, a spot for people to nude sun bath. Sadly the only people doing this were old, wrinkly men.We continued on past the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) and further north to the See Haus, a restaurant near a lake with ducks and rental boats. Returned back to the beer garden. We both had radlers (beer and lemonade mixed) and shared a giant pretzel with mustard (the mustard was .20 extra!) We headed south and finally found the surfers, doing their thing right below Prinzregentenstrasse. They were “surfing” on rapids that emerged from a culvert under the street. It was amazing! The ride through the park was a wonderful tonic after the morning in Dachau.
As we exited the park we stopped in front of Haus Der Kunst, one of the few Nazi built structures remaining in Berlin. After we returned the bikes we went to our room to freshen up and then went searching for dinner. We ended up at a Lowenbrau restaurant near the Viktaulienmarkt. I had a radler, and white asparagus with ham and potatoes. My husband had a Franziskaner weissbier and jaegerschnitzel (veal cutlet with mushrooms in cream sauce with homemade spaetzle). Not a great meal.
My husband wanted something sweet so we stop at Haagen Dazs were he got a cookies and cream ice cream. On the walk back to the room we encountered a mob/parade of Munich football fans celebrating their recent win. They were chanting, singing, drumming and exploding canisters that released colored smoke, police were in the area, but nothing happened.
WEDNESDAY MAY 29 MUNICH-EAGLES NEST (Kehlsteinhaus)
Gray, rainy, cool out at 8:15am. We ate breakfast at Maximilian and bought sandwiches at Rischart’s then headed to the subway to get to the main train station and started our trip to Freilassing which took about two hours. I had pre-purchased train tickets to Eagles Nest, for $26 for both of us, using a Bayern pass.
We changed trains at Freilassing and took the train to Berchtesgaden, which is a pretty little Alpine town (only 3 miles from the German-Austrian border) but it was rainy and foggy.
Our tour guide for Eagles Nest Historical Tours was Sharon who was very knowledgeable and kept the group moving. She used wireless audio transmitters which made the tour much better.
Our first stop was the Obersalberg documentation center where Sharon, gave a brief overview of the exhibits of Nazi Socialism, then we visited the underground bunker where a large complex of rooms were built to protect the High Command during air raids.
Then we boarded a bus and drove up the Kehlstein Mountain, an elevation change of about 2,600 feet of winding narrow roads. The buses have to keep a strict schedule because the roads are only wide enough to allow one bus at a time, though there is one “passing” spot.
After arriving at the top, we walked through a set of giant gates then through a very long tunnel.
We boarded the brass accented elevator with green leather fold down seating and took the 124M (406 feet) ride to the top. Eagles Nest has no bedrooms and is built of granite and the inside is covered with knotty pine. Knotty pine is a rare wood in Germany, but not in American where basement walls in the 1950’s were covered with it. There was snow on the ground, and the fog obscured the potentially beautiful views. There is a restaurant (percentage of profits go to charities) and the agreement is that no memorials can be established here. There is not a whole lot to see, especially because of the weather. On the way down the mountain snow flurries were swirling all around. The bus left us off at the train station so we were able to catch the 5:20 back to Munich.
We had dinner at Zwickl, a very modern and stylish restaurant with dark woods and light plaster finishes. We shared an appetizer of delicious bread with a wonderful cheesy spread and a small “rocket” salad. I had lamb meatballs stuffed in roasted red peppers and white asparagus.
My husband had Weiner schnitzel with roasted potatoes and “cranberries”, though they were smaller then the cranberries we are familiar with. We both tried the house beer, which was disappointing.
THURSDAY MAY 30 MUNICH-NUREMBERG-BAMBERG
Gray, cool and rainy.Take out breakfast from Rischart’s, then taxi to Avis to pick up rental car, Ford C-Max.The attendant spent some time switching the GPS from German to English, to add to the anxiety this weird, scary guy was hovering about. He actually opened the passenger door! At first we thought he was an employee. When we realized he wasn’t, we wondered why the Avis guy didn’t shoo him away. Eventually we got on the Autobahn and headed to Nuremberg. Driving the Autobahn was wonderful; everyone knows the rules and follows them. We were doing about 140KPH (87 MPH) for most of the trip. And yet cars were passing us.
Arrived in Nuremberg after about two hours, and had lunch on the lake at Strandhaus Dutzendteisch where it was overcast and windy. I had asparagus soup; we split a spicy pepperoni pizza. At this restaurant Lucky Strike provided umbrellas, ash trays and other items. Patio restaurants often provide blankets for patrons, which I gladly used.
After lunch we went to the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds Museum where we spent three hours immersing ourselves in the part Nuremberg played in the rise of Nazism. There was television footage of the 1936 party rally at Nuremberg, which was very interesting.
I thought the video of the post war Nuremberg trials were fascinating and feels the audio guide is necessary, but skip the introductory stuff, if you’ve already covered it in other venues, and go to room 6 which starts with how Nuremberg played a role in history.
One of the highlights, at the end of the exhibit, was a video of Germans recounting what it was like during those times. A woman remembered the first time she heard the phrase “Hello Blonide!” was when an American soldier shouted it from his tank. Another woman related the story of a German soldier who went mad because he was gassing people in the back of a van. But nobody believed the story because the Fuhrer would never allow that!
At the end of the exhibit, you can walk out onto a cantilevered platform and look down onto the courtyard of the Congress Hall. This is the best view, and no need to go down and walk to it.
Afterwards we drove to Zeppelin Field site of the massive Nazi rallies. And it is massive, and crumbling. My husband hiked up to the speaker’s podium and took in the view.
Right now it’s a mixed use facility between car races, skateboarders and football games.
We continued about an hour to Bamberg and checked into our Best Western hotel, then went to dinner at Brauerei Spezial to sample the specialty of Bamberg, smoked beer (rauchbier), which was tastier than the smoked beer from Schlenkerla. I had roast pork belly, a big ugly dumpling with a side salad ; My husband had the sauerbraten with dumplings and red cabbage.
We sat at large wooden tables which we shared with the locals.
After dinner went back to the hotel to do a load of wash, then we went to Brauerei Fassla for another beer. This bar had an interior courtyard open to the weather and a unique vending machine that dispensed canned snacks. We returned to our room at 9:30.
FRIDAY MAY 31 BAMBERG-DRESDEN
Gray, cool and rainy, out at 9:30am.We ate at the breakfast buffet at the hotel which was awesome! The buffet offered many types of cheeses and meats, eggs, speck, sausages, pickles, olives, nine types of jams, three honeys, and five types of muesli. The coffee machine was a self serve and had at least six different drink settings!
We walked into old town which was very German and very quaint. The river was running fast and was very brown; Bamberg is built on seven hills, like Rome. There is a lot of interesting iron work that is usually in the form of shop signs. We stopped at Kathe Wohlfarht and bought some Christmas ornaments, this was the only place that tried to “scam” us on the exchange rate when we used our Visa card to pay for the purchases. She wanted to charge us in dollars instead of euros. We continued to wander the narrow, twisty streets and bought some other things.
We began our bar hopping by stopping at Ambrausianum for a Bavarian breakfast of boiled veal sausages, warm pretzel, sweet mustard and a hefeweizen beer for My husband, the sausage was excellent though the casing was very rubbery. I had a three beer sampler. Next up was Schlenkerla were we sampled their wares. Many of these German bars have little windows that you can order a beer. You pay a deposit for the glass, and then get it back when you return the glass. Then we went to Zum Sternia and shared a beer there. We were not too impressed with this establishment.
On our three hour drive to Dresden, torrential downpours greeted us on the Autobahn.
The gas was 1.629 Euro per liter which translates to $8.13 a gallon!
Sunshine and confusion greeted us in Dresden. We had a very hard time figuring out where the entrance to our room was and drove through the public square several times, dodging strolling pedestrians. Eventually figured it out (the entrance to Aparthotels An der Frauenkirche was in a service area for restaurants) and settled into our fifth floor flat above a busy street. From our living room dormer window we had a view of the Elbe River to the right and the Church of Our Lady to the left.
We followed RickSteves walking tour of the Old Town, visiting the Church Of Our Lady, the mural at the Royal Palace, the Opera House and through the courtyard of the Zwinger.
Went to dinner at the Altmarkt Keller, a restaurant in the basement of a large building. I had white asparagus with Weiner schnitzel with a radler beer. My husband had Saxon style potatoes soup with my husbandfurter slices and Thuringian style fried sausage with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes and a Krusovice schwarbier. A man was dressed like The Good Soldier Švejk and acting the part, talking to the diners and singing songs. It was touristy, but fun, and the beerhall was beautifully decorated.
We walked back to the square and enjoyed the vibrant night life. Due to the nice weather so many people were out and about. There was a guy playing guitar and singing American pop songs (Eagles, Bob Seger, Cat Stevens) he was pretty good. We took the steps to the promenade next to the Elbe River and took some photos and admired the view, and enjoyed an ice cream. Back in our room we did a load of wash, but had difficulty getting the washer to start, so we called the help line and a young man arrived to set things straight.
SATURDAY JUNE 1 DRESDEN-GORLITZ
Rain, out at 9:30am. We drove to Gorlitz in the rain and a detour on the Autobahn made our trip even longer than the hour, ten minutes it was supposed to be.
Arriving in Gorlitz, we went to the train station which was advertised as in the Art Nouveau style, which was a real stretch. We both used the WC, which were smelly and dirty.
Parked in the old square market and walked over the bridge into Poland to have lunch at
Piwnica Staromiejska. A small quaint place that had very good food.
I had warm borscht soup with some sort of dumplings and fried potato/cheese pierogies (the other pierogies were stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms) with sour cream and a Zywiec beer. My husband has a potato soup with sliced sausages for an appetizer. For his entrée it was a thin steak rolled around chopped veggies with dumplings
and cold beet slaw on the side, the waiter assured him it was a very traditional Polish meal.
Walked back into Germany as the rain fell and went shopping for Polish pottery. On the way back to the car we admired the wonderful architecture. I’m sure we would have done more admiring if it were sunny and pleasant!
Back on the rainy Autobahn and speeding to get to our 3:00 PM appointment at the VW “glass” factory. We arrived late but were able to join the tour about half way through it. The tour was fine, the guide was young but he didn’t speak loudly enough. We were led into a small theatre and thought the video might show us how the factory works, but instead it was just a long commercial for VW. The expensive Phaeton ($85,000 US) is hand built over a 36 hour period within the confines of this extremely cool glass and steel factory. Trams bring in parts as needed; this is done to prevent adding to the crowded streets. Looking back, we would have skipped this and done more sights in Dresden.
We wanted to go to New Town, but between the road construction and our headstrong GPS it wasn’t easy. We chose to eat at a Thai restaurant called Good Friends. I had the Thai salad and an excellent crispy duck with veggie stir fry with a glass of Riesling.My husband had egg rolls and shrimp with veggie stir fry and an unfiltered wheat beer. It was nice to have real vegetables with our meal. The waiter gave us directions to a nearby grocery store and we got there 10 minutes before closing. We picked up bread, jam, orange juice and yogurt.
Arriving back to the public square we decided to have dessert at the Grand Café which is a lovely place. I had a lime cake-mousse thing with an iced tea; My husband had the traditional Dresden cake (original Dresden Eierschecke) with a cappuccino. Then back to the apartment to relax and pack.
SUNDAY JUNE 2 DRESDEN-LEIPZIG-DESSAU-BERLIN
Raining again, out at 9:00am. We had breakfast at our apartment, and then drove to Leipzig (about 1 hr 20 min). We found a convenient parking garage, and then walked in the rain to the Museum under Runden Ecke (Stasi Museum). The audio tour was full of information, but the written information was in German. Many of the exhibits had the authentic items, and showed the devoted efforts of the volunteers. The Stasi’s were so paranoid. They collected odor samples of suspects and trained dogs to identify the odors of pamphlets from people who distributed them. The Stasi had 170,000 unofficial agents, AKA informers. They opened every piece of mail from outside the DDR. They tracked everyone and kept extensive records. Today Germans are allowed to look up their Stasi folders and see what was done to them without their knowledge.
We stayed for about an hour and a half, then we walked in the rain (still!) to Café Luise, a Rick Steves recommended restaurant, and had a good and reasonably priced brunch (10 Euro per person, 2E for cappuccino, 4E for beer).The brunch offered a good selection: hot eggs, sausages, cold chicken salad, cucumber salad, couscous, cold cuts, etc. My husband tried a Gose beer, a local specialty. The waitress thought he might need syrup, but he was too manly and refused it.
After eating we walked to Contemporary History Forum (Zeitgeschichtiches Forum) which had just introductory sections in English, the rest was in German. The exhibits were interesting and the video loop showed television footage from Oct 7, which was very well done. They also had a mock up of an East German Cold War era apartment.
After that we drove to Dessau (about an hour away), and arrived a half hour before the Bauhaus closed. There wasn’t much to see, but there was a nice café and bookstore. The present exhibition was in German and about the outreach from German artists to India artists.
We drove to the Masters Houses, which all looked the same. One is being restored.
Dessau is a very quaint town and we wished we had more time to explore it, but it was nice to have visited the birthplace of modern architecture.
Headed to Berlin (still raining!) (took about 1 hr 15 min) to check in to Brilliant Apartments, which is situated in what was once East Germany. Then we returned rental and (thanks to the helpful Avis agent) took 25 minute subway ride back to Prenzlauer Berg area. Had dinner at Rick Steves recommended La Bodeguita del Medio Cuban Bar and Restaurant. My husband had a massive chicken and bean burrito and I had chicken fajitas. The food was good, and a nice change of pace. The owner told us some friends of his were in danger of being flooded. That was our first clue that the rains were going to do some damage….to Prague, and southern Germany and Dresden. We returned to the apartment and turned in for the night.
MONDAY JUNE 3 BERLIN
Overcast in the AM, sunny in the PM, out at 10:00am. We had breakfast at Krone, the café in the same building as our apartment. I had scrambled eggs, My husband had meat & cheese platter, both enjoyed café w/ steamed milk (called milchekaffe). We met Sandra & Simon the very pleasant couple from whom we rented the apartment.
The first item on the agenda was Berlin Underworlds Association Underground Tour #1. This involved a tour of a subway bunker used during World War II. Our tour guide, Toni, from Holland, was excellent. We learned a lot about the shelters, their construction, the difference between a bunker and shelter; we saw composting toilets, learned about the candle trick (to determine how much oxygen was left) The walls were painted with glow in the dark paint, so that if the power went out people could find their way around. There were many artifacts on display, luggage, glasses, dishes, bombs, guns, even some (we’re hoping) unused condoms! There were even nurseries in these bunkers where mothers could take care of their babies. And speaking of babies, Toni mentioned some people were born in the bunkers, it’s on the birth certificates as place of birth, they are known as “bunker babies”.
After that we went to Alexander Platz, but had difficulty figuring out the bus schedule.
Eventually we got on bus 100 and took a ride through the city seeing the major sights and getting a sense of Berlin. On the return loop we exited at Brandenburg Gate and explored the area including Pariser Platz. There are lots of embassies located here, including the US Embassy. Actors dressed as US & Soviet soldiers were available for photo ops in front of the gate.
We visited the Berlin Story store and bought a few things, then went to Lutter & Wegner for dinner. It’s a 1920’s era restaurant with sidewalk seating (we chose to dine al fresco) and a huge wine list. The first server we had didn’t understand English, so she handed us off to another server. I had a garden salad, vegetable lasagna and white wine, My husband had the Caesar salad and roasted coalfish with bouillabaisse sauce, veggies and natural potatoes and meaux mustard sauce. It was our first “upscale” meal of the trip and was delicious and a welcome change from tubular cuisine.
Since we were nearby we stopped at Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers, a Berlin institution,
and did some shopping. The displays are amazing—the Brandenberg Gate in chocolate!
On the way back to our apartment we stopped at a convenience store, bought some beers, then sat on our patio and enjoyed some quiet time.
TUESDAY JUNE 4 BERLIN
Overcast in the AM, sunny in the PM, out at 9:00am. We had breakfast at Krone, again, (this time my husband had the veggie platter).
We went to Berlin on Bikes for our biking tour of the Wall. Peter from the Netherlands was our guide and a young couple from Israel and a French family of three were companions. The ride lasted three and a half hours and was very good. Peter was an excellent guide and told many stories about the background of the wall. It’s design, construction, attempted escapes and killings. He said Berlin has lots of “heavy ground” For a hundred years it’s been a city of constant change and has experienced some of the most horrific events of the 20th century,
The Berlin Wall being the most recent. We saw parts of the actual wall, and its location is marked by cobblestones and brass markers at where it once stood. There were also symbolic displays of the wall, steel rods embedded in the ground marking the division between east and west, tyranny and freedom.
After the bike ride we stopped at Konnopke’s Imbiss for a currywurst. This place is touted as having the best currywurst in Berlin, so we ordered some along with fries and two radlers.
It was fine but we can’t figure out why people go gaga over this stuff. It’s basically a hot dog covered with ketchup and curry powder.
Next we went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, near the Brandenburg Gate.
The memorial is a haunting place, a series of 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. Walking through it creates a confusing atmosphere. We would have visited the underground “Palace of Information” if the wait was less than 30 minutes.
Walking to the Reichstag, we bought some excellent gelato from a street vendor. We arrived at the Reichstag and discovered our reservations were for May 28, the previous week!!!! OH NO!! We had planned our entire day around the Reichstag. After kicking ourselves for not noticing the error earlier, we decided to go to the DDR Museum which was great. There were lots of touch and feel displays and even an actual Trabant, the East German competitor to the VW Bug.
The exhibits were wonderful and had lots of information about life behind the Iron curtain.
Afterwards we stopped at the Ampelmann Store and browsed through the many items with the iconic red (and green man) used in the traffic lights of East Berlin.
Next we searched for Hackenshen Hofe for eight courtyards done in the “jugendstil” style.
Upon finding them, we were disappointed. Only the first courtyard showed any sense of style, while the other seven were nice but not worth the hunt, in our opinion.
We opted to eat at Oxymoron a restaurant in the first courtyard. I had asparagus & strawberry soup (it was very good!) and avocado ravioli with a yummy sauce and green & white asparagus. My husband had herring fillet on a radish cucumber salad with horseradish and fried pike perch fillet with asparagus, potatoes and Hollandaise sauce. Another wonderful upscale meal.
We took the M1 tram back to our apartment, arriving at 9:45. We settled in and did a load of laundry.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 5 BERLIN
Sunny, warm, out at 9:00am. We had breakfast at Krone, again. The coffee just can’t be beat!
We took the subway, S42 ring and a bus (we are getting really good figuring out how to use public transport and save our feet!) to get to the Brohan Museum. We spent about an hour and a half there. The wonderful exhibits include Art Nouveau and Jugendstil styles of furniture, decorative art pieces and some paintings and many beautiful glass pieces. After all the depressing WWII and Cold War exhibits, this museum fed our souls.
Onto the Kathe Kollwitz Museum. Kollwitz was a German painter/sculptor who lived in the first half of the 20th century. I liked her charcoals and sculptures the best, the etchings not so much. Overall a small but well presented exhibit.
Next stop KaDeWe or in English, Department Store of the West. This is the second biggest store in Europe and the sixth floor brags about having two football fields of food!
I think they are right. There is an amazing variety of prepared foods, fresh foods and restaurants…chocolates, champagne, sausages (of course!), and live fish in tanks!
We had lunch here, enjoying the Nuremberg style sausages which reminded us of Johnsonville
breakfast sausages in size and taste. For sides we had sauerkraut and two types of potato salad, one mayo based the other oil based, and a nice mellow mustard, all very good. A helpful clerk was able to locate the mustard from Bautzen that we were searching for.
The Topography of Terror is a fine exhibit on how to control a population through intimidation and terror. Located on the site of the Gestapo headquarters there is an outside and an inside exhibit. The outside exhibit focuses solely on Berlin in regards to the Nazi rise.
The inside exhibit is much more comprehensive. I viewed the special exhibit on using the media to sway public opinion.
Next to Topo of Terror is the German Finance Ministry building that is a Nazi built structure still in use today. It fills two city blocks and is the architectural style of “Severe”.
A short stop at Checkpoint Charlie was next. Dominated by a Times Square atmosphere and lots of commercialization (there’s a McDonalds) it’s rather disappointing. The little guard booth is there and tourists can get their photo taken with actors dressed in military uniforms.
We took a bus to a neighborhood (Kruezberg) populated by Turks and had tents and ramshackle sheds that reminded us of Occupy Wall Street, it was a bit sketchy. We went to Henne for dinner, a restaurant that only serves chicken. And that’s what we ordered. Half a chicken deep fried to perfection. Crispy skin and tender moist meat. Really fantastic.
My husband had his first Berlinerweisse with rot (raspberry syrup). Henne doesn’t allow photography, we don’t understand why, but it has a lovely courtyard with shade trees, wonderful tile at the bar front and historic photos on the walls.
We took the bus and a tram to Anna Blumes and had dessert. I had a slice of apple strudel and My husband had a slice of rhubarb strudel, both of us enjoyed café lattes.
Anna Blumes is located on a corner, with shade trees, in a quiet neighborhood with lots of restaurants and apartments not too far from our apartment in PBerg.
THURSDAY JUNE 6 BERLIN
Sunny, warm, out at 9:30am. We had breakfast at in our apartment, coffee from Krone, and the pastries we bought at KaDeWe.
We took the subway to the German History Museum and spent two and a half hours till lunch marveling at the exhibit and events in German history.
After some discussion we decided to save time and eat at the museum café. I ordered a “tart”, which turned out to be a flat bread, with onions, asparagus, tomatoes and cheese.
My husband had asparagus and potato salad with smoked salmon and grated horseradish (could have used more!) and black bread. My husband also had another Berlinerweisse this time with grun (woodruff).
After lunch we took in the travel poster exhibit, very stylized posters from the 20’s to the 70’s,
tempting folks to drop it all and get away. Then we went back to the World War II exhibit in the museum.
At 4:30 we headed to the Pergamon Museum to see some plundered antiquities, specifically the second century B.C. Greek Pergamon altar and frieze. Tickets were 14E each and we spent about 30 minutes in the museum. I paid an extra 4E to see Queen Nefertiti’s bust in the Neues (New) Museum and Egyptian collection. It was definitely worth it. She is luminous! I would have spent more time in that museum, but we had other plans.
Our plan was to go to dinner near the East Side Gallery, and see the Gallery afterwards, since it is light until 10pm. However, the restaurant was out of business, and the alternative was far away. I guess if we had a smart phone, we could have found another place. But we were hungry, tired, and so we bagged it and returned to PBerg .to eat at Anna Blumes.
I had Weiner schnitzel with two types of asparagus and “lovely” potatoes, My husband had fish (velt?) with broccoli (yeah!) and rice and a Maisels weisse beer. Dessert was a slice of cake with layers of raspberry mousse, chocolate cake and topped with a cherry/gelatin top layer.
We took the tram back to our apartment, but before turning in we had dessert again at Kauf Dich Glucklich, the local ice cream shop just a few doors down from our apartment. I had pineapple and My husband had cassis ice cream, both were very flavorful.
FRIDAY JUNE 7 BERLIN
Sunny, warm, out at 9:30am. We had breakfast at Krone, for the last time.
We took the train to Potsdam and rented bikes and audio guides from Potsdam per Pedales. The idea of renting a bike from the Griebnitzsee Station sounded good, because we would spend some additional time riding. But that additional time took away from the time we could have spent in Sansouci Park or in Potsdam town. So, I would recommend getting bikes at the train station, or if possible doing the Fat Tire Bike Tour (which only runs Wed, Sat and Sun). Also, the bike ride to Potsdam was pleasant and easy to follow, but coming back, we got confused and lost and it really spoiled the day. The map they provide is not great and it is difficult to follow it without a map holder on the bike. The audio tour is NOT worth it. After we listened to a few, we just gave up. The English speaker is horribly boring.
We stopped for lunch at Meierei, a local craft brewery, where we both had bockwurst (very much like a hot dog in appearance and taste) without a bun, and pommes frittes(which weren’t great). The sit-down, full-service restaurant looked good, but we didn’t want to spend the time.
I had a Potsdamer, a mix of beer and fassbrause (a non-alcoholic german drink made from fruit and spices and malt…sort of like apple beer). My husband had another Berlinerweisse with rot; this one was mixed in front of his eyes and was the best of all he sampled.
We continued our ride and saw (from the outside) Orangerie, the Chinese House and Sanssouci Palace. This place is huge! It definitely needs better and more signage and possibly trams or shuttles. Somehow we lost our way and didn’t get to finish the route, but a kind German woman assured us we were headed in the right direction and we did return to the bike shop at 4:30, five hours after we left.
We had dinner at Oderquelle, across the street from our apartment. I tried a “Hugo” cocktail and loved it. For apps I had a house made cheese with pickled onions and caraway, My husband had a tomato salad with capers, garlic and olives.For main courses I had lamb and My husband had chicken. Both were excellent, we cleaned our plates. This was possibly the most creative meal we had the whole trip. The neighborhood was alive with people walking, dining, biking, street musicians.
We went back to pack some more, then went for ice cream at Kauf Dich Glucklich, which was extremely busy. I had a double cone, strawberry and melon, while my husband had a waffle and ice cream. The waffle was warm, crisp, slightly sweet but thinner than a Belgian waffle. It was topped with sour cherry and cream ice cream, whipped cream and for good measure, powdered sugar. We returned, finished packing and went to bed at 11:00.
SATURDAY, JUNE 8 BERLIN
Taxi was outside at 7:15 as requested. 20E to Tegel Airport. Tegel is small, outdated and soon to be replaced. All the pathetic retail spaces were outside security, so as soon as you checked in you were not able to get any services except a small food vendor and a vending machine. Flight was unremarkable. Snap showed up within 15 minutes of calling to bring us to our car.