Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time in Germany

 This past year 2012, during the end of August and the beginning of September, Linda and I traveled to Germany with two other couples who have retired to the Gilmer county area. We all had a wonderful time. Flying out of Atlanta into Berlin we spent three nights there. During our visit we did Museum Island with all their fantastic buildings and collections, like the Pergamon museum that contained the Ishtar gates, the Pergamon gates and so much more.  Of course we visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Cathedral, the Jewish Memorial and other points of interest. We walked all over the city and found the people delightful and very friendly. They all spoke perfect English. The food was quite interesting with an emphasis on sausage and potatoes, although there were many other culinary choices as well.

            We rented cars and drove from Berlin to Dresden and found it really remarkable and beautiful. All of the older parts of Dresden were bombed and totally destroyed in World War II. After the war the city voted to restore the city as it had been before the bombing. It was and what a wonderful job they did. The Grüne Gewölbe (Green Vault) and Türckische Cammer (Turkish Chamber) was filled with treasures from all over the world, collected by Augustus the Strong and his successors. They were avid collectors as evidenced by this collection. So many paintings, porcelains, bronzes, jewels and treasures of every kind imaginable, were there from all over the world that it boggled the mind. From Dresden we went to Nuremburg and saw so many things. Nuremberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz River and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometers north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. While in Nuremberg we visited the home of Albrecht Durer who has always been a favorite of mine and was born there. From Nuremberg we drove to Munich.

            Often ranked as the world’s ‘most liveable’ city, Munich is a city of many charms. Aside from its beautiful architecture, countless al fresco beer gardens and manicured green parks, it is also famous for its locals’ boundless ‘joie de vivre’ and Epicureanism, as well as their love of folklore and all things traditional. They even wear lederhosen hosen in the beer gardens and on the streets! Speaking of beer gardens, in October they have the Oktoberfest which, from what I gather is a time to skip work for a week or two and go to these venues where local beer of many varieties is served and drink till you can no longer stand up. One feature of Oktoberfest is that you are supplied with areas called Vomitoriums. This I assume is a place you visit just before you come to the point where you can no longer stand up.

             In one of the beer gardens, Munich is famous for I ordered a “pig’s Knuckle”, which I recommend with some reservations. One should try it because it is a tradition in Germany. My oldest son Bric ate one when he and his wife were there and he loved it. He insisted that I try it on our trip. My reservation is that it should be eaten with blind fold on because while it is delicious it is not very attractive to dismantle and imbibe, fat, ligaments, sinew, veins and arteries and a lot of parts of the pig that I could not even identify and I have had an anatomy class. Maybe it was just me? The second night in Munich we again went to the same beer garden as the previous night. The restaurant was very crowded that night and the waiter asked if we would mind if he seated strangers at the far end of the table. We, of course said certainly please do, as we were interested in meeting Germans and trying to carry on a conversation with them. The waiter seated an elderly man and woman at the far end of our table. While I do not remember what the woman ordered the man ordered a pig’s knuckle. Yipes! Here I was for the second night in Munich confronted with another pig’s knuckle at the same table as me. I was however, awed by the way the elderly man ravenously ate the dish. He ate, ate and ate till there was nothing left on his plate but two small tapered shiny bones, no skin, no sinew and no veins or arteries. There was not even a smudge of grease left because he mopped it all up with a soft pretzel and wolfed it down.
            In Munich we took day trips out to several places of interest. We visited Hitler’s Eagles Nest in the edge of the Alps one day and then went to Neuschwanstein castle, Linderhof Palace and Hohenschwanga Palace the next. All I can say is wow! What amazing places. I really want to try living like that once.

            From Munich we went to Rothenberg, a walled medieval city, very beautiful and interesting. It is like taking a giant step back in time. Every place you looked was like a post card, picture perfect. We spent two nights in Rothenberg, which I highly recommend because all of the tourist leave just before dark and the city is practically deserted at night. It is a totally different place without the mobs of people in it during the day time. You have it to yourself. So many photographs beg to be taken because the place is honestly incredibly picturesque. We stayed in a hotel that was hundreds of years old, charming with good food, service and a delightful staff.

            Probably the most interesting castle we visited was on the way to Cologne from Rothenberg. It was an out of the way place called Berg Eltz. Burg It is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier. It is still owned by a branch of the same family that lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations ago. It is filled with artifacts and historical memorabilia beyond belief. A wonderful stop on our way through Germany, it is well worth your time and effort to see this amazing place. It is not however, the easiest place to find but with the help of our English speaking Garmin we managed. Get the Garmin if you go because while it does not always get you there, it gets you very close.
            Cologne was a modern city and quite interesting. Tthe only building left standing in Cologne after the Second World War was the Cologne cathedral. There in the shadow of the cathedral was a Roman museum that was amazing. It truly was an amazing place. If you are interested in history and or art I recommend the book, “Monuments Men.” It was written by Robert M. Edsel and covers the latter part of the Second World War. It is about the American and English efforts to protect the monuments and art work stolen from private German citizens and French museums by the Nazis. The book has been made into a movie that is soon to be released and stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and others. It should be great. I have also read, “Saving Italy by the same author and it was excellent as well. It covers the efforts in Italy, especially Florence the Uffizi museum, the Accademia and the Bargello and others and the Allies efforts to protect the art and monuments there.

            Our next stop was in Hattingen, Germany where we had been invited to attend a birthday party for a friend. The party was a great experience, so much fun and a real opportunity to get to know some of the Germans on a personal level. The party was held at the Odeon Restaurant and Bar and was delightful. We had so much really fine food typical of a German party and the beer and drinks were fantastic and unending. I found the German party goers friendly and fun to be with. Everyone we met in Germany seemed to be waiting for five o’clock so they could start drinking. It is a habit I am trying to adopt but not having an available vomitorium handy I am being very careful. I may be too old for these types of pursuits as well!

            Our final stop was in Frankfurt. We walked from the Hotel, John F. Kennedy to the historic old city part of Frankfurt and thought it was certainly worth the walk, which was formidable. The hotel was five stars and excellent, including an excellent five star gourmet restaurant and a terrific bar as well. When we turned our rented cars in at an underground garage there in Munich, I commented to the bearded man sitting behind the desk receiving the car keys as to what a wonderful and delightful country I thought Germany was. He responded and I quote, “That’s because you don’t live here!” I am sure there are problems for people living in Germany just like everywhere else. Their eighteen percent sales tax is likely one of them. We flew back to the U.S.A. the next day exhausted but delighted with all we had seen and experienced during out trip to Germany.
            As usual I made a travel book from all the photographs and notes I took on our trip. The resulting book is on line at if anyone is interested in seeing it. The title is “Time in Germany” and can be viewed free on line at the following web address.
            We are currently planning a trip to Tuscany at some point in the fall and are looking forward to that. We have been once before in 1996 when we took the boys to France and Italy and can’t wait to see Florence and Venice again.

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