Germany: Day Twelve

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
Absolutely authentic (delicious) Gorgonzola Penne.
Absolutely authentic (delicious) Gorgonzola Penne.

Day 12: Raining this morning in Nuremberg. Quick breakfast and then we checkout to hit the road for the 400km/240 mile drive to Berlin. Once outside town the rain clears up, but it’s still dreary and overcast. As we enter Berlin, it starts to rain. We arrive at the hotel at 4 pm and are pleasantly surprised to find a swimming pool (very rare), and a two room apartment with a kitchen and a washer and dryer. Once we get settled (and throw a load of laundry in) we head out to the surrounding neighborhood. We’re in central Berlin just a few blocks from the notorious “Checkpoint Charlie.” After dinner (penne with gorgonzola sauce), we stroll a few blocks to check it out. Although now it is largely a tourist attraction, it remains a symbol of the Cold War. It’s a popular spot for American tourists (like us). We’ll head back in the morning to take in the museum. For tonight it’s off to the pool, more laundry and off to bed.

Germany: Day Eleven

Kaiserburg, Nuremberg
Kaiserburg, Nuremberg
Nurnburg Sausages!
Nurnburg Sausages!

Day 11: Today we slept in a bit because it’s Sunday and the things that are open (not much) don’t open until 10 am. Pastries and coffee for breakfast, then a stroll through the old town (altstadt) of Nuremberg. The city is an interesting mix of old and new. It dates back to medieval times. Parts of the old town wall and guard towers are still standing. There are also many churches and other buildings that date back to Pre-Reformation times. Aside from Dresden, Nuremberg was the hardest hit of German cities during WWII. If a building was damaged, it was repaired in the original Gothic style. If a building was completely destroyed, it was rebuilt in a style that was traditional, yet modern. There was a big bike race today, so the Market Square (Hauptmarkt) was full of vendors, biergartens and entertainment for the kids, including a bouncy house and small train ride. We had another death march through town dragging the kids up to the Kaiserburg (Imperial Castle) that over looks the city and offers spectacular views. Lunch at Burgwachter restaurant is (my favorite) Colaweizen, cola mixed with wheat beer and Nurnburg sausages (tiny breakfast sausage-like sausages that Nuremberg is famous for) with potato salad. I’m still trying to get used to eating while everyone around is smoking. Yuck. After lunch we walked through Old Town some more and then back to the hotel for some R&R. In search of WI-Fi, I ducked into the Burger King in the train station, paid €.50 to use the WC and hid out while I checked my email. Much better than the €6 that the hotel wanted to charge for 30 minutes. While at the train station, I stopped by the variety store Müller to pick up snacks for our road trip to Berlin. For dinner we took a walk into town for some non-Bavarian food. For me it was pasta with mushroom sauce and chicken along with a wine spritzer and Caprese salad. During dinner it started to pour down rain. Looks like we’re in for mostly wet weather from here on out.

Germany: Day Nine

Rothenburg ob du Tauber
Rothenburg ob du Tauber
South Wall Gate
South Wall Gate

Day 9: What a day! Continental breakfast, then hit the road for another hour and a half drive. This time we’re headed to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Europe’s most well-preserved medieval walled city. We had lunch in the town square and then I split from the gang to get some much needed alone time. I followed the Rick Steves walking tour from my book and enjoyed leisurely strolling about the sites dodging hordes of tourists. I find everything about Rothenburg absolutely fascinating. It’s exciting to imagine people living here 700 years ago. We happened to arrive on the first day of Reichsstadt, a festival celebrating the history of the town. Because of the occasion, there were many people wandering the streets in medieval garb throughout the day. I once again tested my fear of heights and climbed 135 steps to the top of Rodertor (one of the city gates/watchtowers). The climb was worth it as the tower offered sweeping views in every direction. I met back up with Jeff and the girls for a Chinese meal. We tried to impress the restaurant lady with our limited Chinese.

George, the night watchman
George, the night watchman

After dinner, we wandered back to the town square for the Night Watchman’s tour.  George, the watchman led us around and told us a lot of interesting tid-bits about Rothenburg’s long and varied history. After the tour, we had to rush the kids to the “WC” (toilet) and accidentally stumbled upon a front row seat for the parade of villagers (hundreds and hundreds including many children) in an array of costumes representing different periods throughout history. Many of them spoke to the girls (although we had no idea what they were saying) and gave them their own torches and chocolate coins. They loved it! We waded through the crowd (hundreds of people) and back to the hotel just before the fireworks. I can still hear chanting and singing and drumming out in the streets. What an awesome day!

Germany: Day Eight

Gas Station Goodness
Gas Station Goodness

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 8: Breakfast of schokomusli (chocolate musli cereal, like Lucie’s in Shanghai), bread, cheese and tea. Off to Legoland. 100 km drive and pouring rain. Good thing we brought the Bavarian flag umbrellas that we got the first day in Fuessen. They stand out and make it easy to find each other. Pasta Carbonara for lunch with crepes (with banana and Nutella) and a latte immediately following. The weather cleared around 3 pm just as we were seated for the Shanghai acrobat show. The acrobats were the highlight for me. The rest of the Legoland experience pushed my limits of personal space, body odor and unattended children. At least the kids had a good time. Stayed at Legoland until closing time and took short drive to hotel. At the hotel, we discover that we’re really out of English-speaking Germany (it wasn’t just at Legoland). Jeff did a fine job at charades through hotel check-in (hands by head for pillow, pretend pulling up sheets for blankets, etc.). Left for dinner (just guessed at menu items) and by the time we returned the kids beds were all made up! Dinner tonight was super delicious “zartes putensteak,” tender turkey steak with spinach ricotta ravioli. OMG. We stopped by the Shell station on the way back to the hotel and I topped off the night with a “kinder maxi king” bar. It’s sort of like an ice cream bar, but found in the refrigerator section. Yum-O. Put the kids in the bath and we’re calling it a night. Gute nacht. Zzzzzzzz……

Legoland, Deutchland
Legoland, Deutchland

Germany: Day Seven

Kehlsteinhaus
Kehlsteinhaus, “The Eagle’s Nest”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 7: Off for a day-trip toward Obersalzberg, the site of Hitler’s mountain-side compound, including his mountain residence “Berghof” and the hilltop retreat, Kehlsteinhaus or the “Eagle’s Nest.” Kehlsteinhaus was a gift to Hitler from the Nazi party secretary Martin Bormann for his 50th birthday. Apparently, he was afraid of heights and rarely visited. (What a wuss – I handled it just fine.) We payed 30€ ($40) each to ride the bus 10 minutes up a super windy road, got off in a parking lot, walked up a long tunnel INTO the mountain and rode a massive lush elevator (think: polished brass) up to the retreat house. The house is now used primarily as a restaurant. The views were fantastic! You could see for miles in every direction. After we took it all in, we rode back down the mountain to the site of Hitler’s vacation home, Berghof.  During World War II, he spent more time here than anywhere else.  It, along with all of the other buildings on the site were destroyed by allied bombs in April of 1945. The area was occupied by US troops until 1996 when they transferred control to the local government. In 1999 the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg, a museum outlining how the local area was used by the Nazis. All of the information was in German, but we did get to wander a bit through some extensive network of the underground bunkers. All in all, a full day packed with tons of historical information.

Kehlsteinhaus, Obersalzberg, Germany
Kehlsteinhaus, Obersalzberg, Germany

Germany: Day Six

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
Nymphenburg Palace, Munich

Monday, August, 29, 2011 Day 6: Slept too late and missed breakfast. Back on the tram to find some eats in the city center. Breakfast in subway plaza. Sent Jeff off to BMW factory. More shopping with the girls. Spent the last two days looking for women’s tennis shoes. Realized that women don’t wear tennis shoes except for exercising. Also noticed that no one wears shorts. I must stand out like a sore thumb. Bought “sporty” women’s shoes so at least my feet fit in… Lunch of currywurst (cut up hot dog with curry ketchup that you eat with a tiny wooden fork) and pomme frites (french fries, also eaten with fork and mayonnaise or other sauce). Tram back to hotel for some iPad/iTouch game time. Short walk to Nymphenburg Palace for a walk through gardens. Picked rocks out of shoes. Met up with Jeff at tram station for transit fiasco that finally got us where we were going. Death march to the Englischer Garten (English Garden) for dinner in the biergarten by the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). Bratwurst, beer, pretzel, hendl (half a rotisserie chicken), chicken wings with spicy sauce and more pommes frites. Contemplated stealing mugs from biergarten, but returned them for 1 euro deposit instead. Death march (in reverse) back to underground train on dirty trail through the dark while dodging speeding bicycles (some with headlights some without). Train, tram and walk back to hotel. Pass out from exhaustion.

A days worth of eats!
A days worth of eats!

Germany: Day Four

IMG_8600

IMG_8605Saturday, August 27, 2011

Day 4: The weather has improved so today we headed for Zugspitze, the tallest peak in Germany that lies in the Alps straddling the Germany-Austria border. First a short drive to the station and then a ride on the gondola straight up to the top! (2960m/9718 ft.) Yesterday’s rain brought a nice dusting of snow that left me completely unprepared in the clothing department. The truly awesome views outweighed my fear of heights. We took another gondola down into the glacier and then a less than exciting cog-wheel train that cut THROUGH the mountain back to the starting point. After our mountain adventure we drove into the small town of Oberammergau, best known for skilled woodcarvers and their decennial (every ten years) Passion Play (a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death). The townspeople have been performing the play since 1634 in gratitude for being spared from the bubonic plague. We used the bathroom in the theater and had gelato. Almost everything was closed for Sunday Family Day. We continued on to Linderhof Palace, a stunning estate with a dazzling Rococo-style palace built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria beginning in 1869. From there we hopped on the autobahn to jump up to Munich. There was more spatzle and beer for dinner. Tonight, Kai had schnitzel. After dinner, we walked up to Hirschgarten, Europe’s largest biergarten. I had a crepe with apfel zucker und zimt (apple and cinnamon sugar). Prost!

Linderhof Palace
Linderhof Palace