Saturday, May 14, 2011

Geneva May 11 - 15

Arrived in Geneva by plane 1:00 May 11 and in the center of city by 2:00 to get picked up by Barbara. With the bus we were at her apartment 20 minutes later. Early evening we walked for 30 minutes to Carouge for drinks, dinner and to meet Patrick who works in that area. After a great dinner and a bottle Rhone wine (Swiss) we went for ice cream (GREAT) and back home via a few side streets and parks. Another 8 mile walking day, thank you Barbara and Patrick. Two more days of sightseeing and meeting friends in Geneva, some we had not seen for over 20 years. Friday we traveled by train to St-Imier, Canton Bern in the Jura, hometown of Patrick. A real Swiss Home dinner on Friday and a Fondue Dinner on Saturday. Sunday we will be back traveling to Geneva and fly to Frankfurt to try the 5:30PM flight to Chicago. We made it in Geneva and Frankfurt (full plane) now back in Grayslake, arrived 9:30PM at home.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Frankfurt May 9 - 11

Arrived on Monday afternoon after an 3.5 hour fast (ICE) train ride from Bremen, our longest train ride of this trip, about 500 Km. Have a very nice and large place at Pension Aller. Walked to the business and Old Opera Place for drinks and dinner. Tuesday another tour of the old town and the DOM area. Getting ready for the flight to Geneva.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bremen May 7 - 9

On Saturday we arrived in Bremen after a short one hour train trip from Hamburg. Sunny and 75F in Hamburg and Bremen and no change expected for the next days. We will stay until Monday and then forward to Frankfurt and Geneva on May 11.
Bremen is a one - two day city, many beautiful old houses and streets with restaurants including churches. Another UNESCO area. And of  course everyone knows this is the city of Becks Beer.

City Musicians - Plot
In the story a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, all past their prime years in life and usefulness on their respective farms, were soon to be discarded or mistreated by their masters. One by one they leave their homes and set out together. They decide to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners and become musicians there.
On the way to Bremen, they see a lighted cottage; they look inside and see four robbers enjoying their ill-gotten gains. Standing on each other's backs, they decide to perform for the men in hope of gaining food. Their 'music' has an unanticipated effect; the men run for their lives, not knowing what the strange sound is. The animals take possession of the house, eat a good meal, and settle in for the evening.
Later that night, the robbers return and send one of their members in to investigate. It is dark and he sees the eyes of the Cat shining in the darkness. He reaches over to light his candle, thinking he sees the coals of the fire. Things happen in quick succession; the Cat swipes his face with her claws, the Dog bites him on the leg, the Donkey kicks him and the Rooster crows and chases him out the door, screaming. He tells his companions that he was beset by a horrible witch who scratched him with her long fingers (the Cat), an ogre with a knife (the Dog), a giant who had hit him with his club (the Donkey), and worst of all, the judge who screamed in his voice from the rooftop (the Rooster). The robbers abandon the cottage to the strange creatures who have taken it, where the animals live happily for the rest of their days.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hamburg May 2 - 7

 Arrived on 2 May at 11:30 in Hamburg Altona with the fast ICE train from Berlin (in less than 2 hours). It is sunny but a cool 56F. Staying with a friend, we met in Argentina, and her partner in the apartment buildings "Guest Apartment" with all the luxuries like a hotel room. Planing on leaving Saturday to Bremen. Tuesday, roamed around Altona and later the center of Hamburg, lunch at Daniel Wisher (old Fish restaurant) then a Sauna on our roof garden and dinner.

Wednesday May 4, spent the day visiting, grave sites at the Ohlsdorf Cemetery, then the Poppenbuttel and Hohenfelde areas of Hamburg (where I grew up). The evening we strolled up and down the Reeperbahn and a few side streets, like Herbert Str.    Thursday May 5, went to the Harbor this morning to take a Ferry up the Elbe to Blankenese where we strolled the streets and had lunch, Back by bus and dinner on the rooftop. Friday we will spent some more time in Altona and watch the parade of boats at the Hamburg Harbor's 822 Birthday party (Yes 822). 50+ Sail Ships are ready in the harbor to participate in this three day event.  We have tickets for Saturday to go by train to Bremen for two nights then on to Frankfurt and Geneva.

We are staying in Altona a big area near St Pauli Reeperbahn of Hamburg (long time ago part of Denmark). The walk to the Altona train station is always an experience you think you are in Istanbul. This half mile stretch, full of shops and restaurants, is full of Turks all ages and they spent the morning smoking and drinking coffee in the coffee shops. You hear little German even they do speak German and most have lived here for 40+ years. They tell us Hamburg has MANY tourists - compared to Berlin there is no one here! Once every hour you see a City Tour bus with maybe a dozen tourists driving around and on the streets you see some and hear a few different languages. Not at all like Berlin 4-5 City Tour buses every 20 minutes full of tourists and the streets were full of tourists, noisy and every language or German dialect can be heard even the public transportation in Berlin was full of people and many of them tourists.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Germany Observations and Travel Notes

  • Prices - not as bad as we think in the US - remember Sales tax is included in all advertised prices. In restaurants the service / tip is also included (some leave additional change or a few percent). Sales tax is 19%!
  • Toilets - Euro .40 - .50 or 60 70 cents, and they do collect or you don't get in.
  • Water - no water tap in restaurants, they make you buy a bottle at Euro 2 - 4 ($2.80 - $5.50) the waiter tells us when you get home and you did not like the tap water you blame the restaurant so we only sell bottles. One Menu had "The city does not give away coffee we don't give away water".
  • Trams and Trains - you know when the next one is coming, display at the station, also inside it shows where the train is going and next stations upcoming.
  • It looks like there are now more Ice cream cafes than Beer bars.
  • Cup of Coffee 1.5 - 2.5 euros, .5 liter beer 2.5 - 3.5 Euros, Coke 2.2-2.5 small bottle.
  • Lunch or Dinner in nice Restaurant 10-15 Euros (Tip,Tax inc)
  • One day card to use all public transportation Family 7 Euros (Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin)
  • Many cars in the cities but no traffic jams, many bicycles! looks like people like to stay fit and $8 gas helps.
  • MANY German tourists in Leipzig, Bamberg, Wittenberg and Dresden. Very few in Hamburg.
  • Berlin more Beer and Bars than Ice Cream and Coffee Shops, not like other cities.
  • OK to walk around with a bottle of beer after work or evening in city area.
  • Smoking - not inside restaurants but outside  - many smokers!
  • Berlin full of tourists in late April - many languages on the streets.
  • Bikes - many and watch out they are all over you have a chance to get hit by a bike before a car.
  • Wine pured is .2 L a bit more than the average pour in the States - Nice!
  • Hamburg more expensive (10%) than Eastern Germany towns.
  • Dogs in Restaurants, is OK.
  • Switzerland Geneva prices are HIGH. $ 4.90 for a Coffee of the day at Starbucks, $ 7-8 for a Glass of wine .1L (half of what they serve in Germany), a glass of Beer $5 .3L., Dinner $40-50 person with drinks in nice Restaurant, Lunch $15-20 no drinks.
The German Democratic Republic (GDRGermanDeutsche Demokratische Republik [ˈdɔʏtʃə demoˈkʀaːtɪʃə ʀepuˈbliːk]or DDR), informally called East Germany (GermanOst-Deutschland) by West Germany and other countries, was the socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany and in the East Berlin portion of the Allied-occupied capital city. The German Democratic Republic, which consisted geographically of northeast Germany rather than all of eastern Germany, had an area of 107,771 km2 (41,610 mi2), bordering Czechoslovakia in the south, West Germany (officially: Federal Republic of Germany) in the south and west, the Baltic Sea to the north, and Poland in the east.
In 1989 a non-violent revolution overthrew the Communists. The Soviets refused to intervene, and the country soon reunited with West Germany and is now part of Germany.
At German reunification on October 3, 1990, the Länder (states) of East Germany were integrated as new federal states to theFederal Republic of Germany (FRG). Moreover, the German Democratic Republic was disestablished after the Communistgovernment, of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), lost the general election on March 18, 1990, and thus its parliamentary majority in the Volkskammer (People’s Chamber); subsequently, on August 23, 1990, the Volkskammer re-established the five pre-war states — BrandenburgMecklenburg-VorpommernSaxonySaxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia(disestablished in 1952) — for the reunification of East Germany to West Germany.

The Wende 

In 1989, following widespread public anger over the results of local government elections that spring, many citizens applied for exit visas or left the country illegally. In August 1989 Hungary removed its border restrictions and unsealed its border, and more than 13,000 people left East Germany by crossing the "green" border via Czechoslovakia into Hungary and then on toAustria and West Germany.[17] Many others demonstrated against the ruling party, especially in the city of Leipzig.Kurt Masur, the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, led local negotiations with the government and held town meetings in the concert hall.[18] The demonstrations eventually led Erich Honecker to resign in October, and he was replaced by a slightly more moderate communist, Egon Krenz.
On November 9, 1989, a few sections of the Berlin Wall were opened, resulting in thousands of East Germans crossing into West Berlin and West Germany for the first time. Krenz resigned a few days later, and the SED abandoned power shortly afterward. Although there were some limited attempts to create a permanent democratic East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for unification with West Germany.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Berlin April 25 - May 1

Dresden to Berlin today, a two Hour Train ride. Must remember that travel on Easter Monday is like Thanksgiving travel in the USA, everyone is out to visit with family. We had train tickets but no seats, all were reserved, but after 30 minutes we discovered an almost empty Restaurant Car and spent the train ride sipping Budweiser Beer (the real one) and eating Cheese with nice German company from the North.
In Berlin Hotel, after a short detour to the wrong direction from the Main Rail Station. There are two "Kastanienalle" Streets in Berlin and we were directed to the wrong one directly the opposite direction from our place, so an extra 25 minute Train / Bus ride for us. Thanks again to a nice lady in the bus that toke the time to explain the different areas of Berlin.
First impression - Berlin is too large - give us back Dresden!     Tuesday used Public transportation to move around Berlin Mitte and Alexander Place.
Wednesday met with two women that know a friend of ours (Klaus) that passed away two yeas ago May 7, 2009, visited grave site outside Berlin and walked around Kurfurstendamm. Our Hotel is in a really upcoming area (former East Germany) with many or mostly young people and many restaurants, bars, coffee shops. Not the real Germany but very interesting maybe the new Germany?  

Thursday 75 F, we are now experts with the Subway, Tram, Bus or S-Bahn. Went to the new Government Center Buildings, Presidents Palace, Memorial for European Jews, Brandenburg Tor, Under the Linden and toke the Bus 100 (Double decker, Public transportation) around the main city sites. Back in our area had Indian Food for the second day, great restaurants in the area most of them Asian, Indian, Turkish with a few German.    Two weeks now and I still get responses in English when I ask in "My German", fishing for the right words in German.  

Friday April 29, 75 F, visited Check Point Charly, East Side Gallery (Wall), North side memorial, Castle Charlottendorf  today = 9 miles of walking and 10 subways, Trams, S-Bahn, Busses, ended the day with Beer and Pizza.
Saturday April 30 went on trip to Potsdam (about 45 minutes by train) and did Tour of  three Castles:  New Palace, Sanssouci and Cecilienhof then spent time in beautiful Potsdam.
Sunday May 1, some problems the night with protesters and marches but not very serious. Today, May 1 Labor Day, there should be many gatherings in parks and some demonstrations. Went around the city with bus 200, and spent some more time in the center "The Mitte". Last day, tomorrow 9:25 train to Hamburg, a 2 hour trip. Today was a sunny day with a cool wind temperature high 63F at Noon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dresden April 21 - 25

Arrived at 2:00PM at the main Rail Station, another beautiful day so we walked to our Pension. We will stay in Dresden for 4 nights at Pension Kaubler. A beautiful older house with several rooms to rent and a delicious breakfast table set.

Can only say WOW about Dresden - there is so much to see, Churches, Castles, Halls, Monuments, Gardens, Museums and so on. Also around 30,000 students at the University. Dresden population about 530,000 same as Leipzig but it feels MUCH larger. A great place to visit if in Germany and probably much less expensive than Munich and Hamburg. One of the best transit systems I have ever seen.
Toke a trip to Meissen (30 minutes by train) on Friday, also very interesting, Factory tour was closed but the store was open to look and shop also visited Cathedral and Fortress.

Saturday another day visiting the many sites and several museums including the Armory, Porcelain, Dom Church and the older section across the Elbe River where many students and artist live. It is sunny and 70. Easter day 3 museums at ths Castle Garden, Frauenkirche, Kreuzkirche and a long trip along the river by Tram later on resting in Beergarden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wittenberg Lutherstadt April 20

Arrived this AM from Leipzig after an one hour train ride. This is the Town Luther lived and worked, visiting his Church and Home. A small very pretty town and everything to see is within 1 mile.
Left town on Thursday morning (see picture) and toke the train from Wittenberg over Leipzig to Dresden.
Our Place: Stadt Hotel Wittenberg

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Leipzig April 17, 18, 19

Arrived early afternoon at Leipzig Main Rail Station and walked 10 minutes to our Pension. Of course Leipzig is not your pretty small town like Bomberg or Wurzburg but it should still be interesting. After the first two hours decided we will stop for one day in Wittenberg-Lutherstadt, on the way to Dresden. This leaves us two full days in Leipzig (3 nights) that should be plenty. Again thanks to the German Rail System - no problem getting a train Leipzig - Wittenberg (45 min) and then Wittenberg - Dresden. It is warmer here, in the 60s - finally.

Today, Monday April 18,  went all over town to see Thomas Church, Stasi Museum, Bach, Medelsohn, Nicholas Church, Old Rathaus, Borse and many small streets and corners. One more full day to see a few museums (from the inside). It was 68 and sunny so we had coffee and ice cream in one of the many outside cafes. Have tickets to Lutherstadt Wittenberg on Wednesday.   Seija at the Stasi Museum and Downtown Leipzig on a sunny day.

April 19, another sunny and warm day (74 degrees), went to Bach Museum, Battle of Nations Memorial (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) building began 1829, Museum dedecated to History of Division and Unity of East Germany, also with a one day pass traveled around town (from end to end) by trolley.
Leipzig Attractions   

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bamberg April 16

Our full day day in Bamberg and we had a great German breakfast in our Hotel / Pension. Walked through the hilly city to visit the Dom and Cathedral, Bamberg History Museum, Brewery Museum and some time around the Old City Hall. Another cool day in the high 40s, still waiting for the 60 F days that are supposed to come any day!
It is asparagus season here, many farmers sell there fresh product at the Market. It is like white gold ($10 for a small package).

The Bamberger Dom St. Peter and St. George is one of the German imperial cathedrals and with its four towers, the dominant structure of the World Heritage Bamberg Old Town . Inside are the famous Bamberg Rider , the grave of the only canonized rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and the only pope's grave in Germany and north of the Alps. In addition to the three other Wallfahrtsbasiliken Basilica Marie Weiher , Basilica of the Fourteen Holy and Basilica Gößweinstein fourth is the Bamberg Cathedral, the Basilica Minor of the Archdiocese of Bamberg
So far the best thing about the Rail travel is that we arrive in the center of town and are able to walk to our Hotel, usually 1-2 KM from the RR Station. The streets are clean and save around the Main RR Stations so far and it gives you a change to get a feel of the city and people when walking. Temperature is in the high 40s to low 50s, it should be in the high 60s, maybe soon. Looking back we walk around 5 - 7 miles a day. Prices are more or less like the US - a pint of Beer Euros 2-3, wine 2-3, Dinner 8-15, Coffee 1-2, Euro right now $1,44.
Tomorrow, Sunday, by train to Leipzig (3 hour train ride).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bamberg April 15

Arrived in Bamberg Friday April15 1:00 PM after an one hour train ride from Wurzburg. Another easy train ride with the DB. This is a UNESCO town, many students and a fun place to spent 2-3 days. Specialty is Smoked Beer, taste like Beer and smoked bacon, not everyones taste but an experience.
Bamberg is a city in BavariaGermany. It is located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz, close to its confluence with the river Main. Bamberg is one of the few cities in Germany that was not destroyed by World War II bombings because of a nearby Artillery Factory that prevented planes from getting near to Bamberg. Bamberg is home to nearly 7,000 foreign nationals, including over 4,100 members of theUnited States Army and their dependents. The name Bamberg is supposed to have its origin in the House of Babenberg.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wurzburg Day 2 April 14

After a full day in Wurzburg and a guided tour of the town and sights from our friend Gisela (back from Connecticut in the 1980's). The Residenze Wurzburg, Fortress and Kapelle were really great sites.and so was the city. We ended the day with a nice dinner in a great small town a few miles away. Wurzburg is in Northern Bavaria, so many Churches here.  Today a few hours in our Hotel then to the train station and a train to Bamberg. 

Würzburg (German pronunciation: [ˈvʏɐ̯tsbʊɐ̯k]) is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of BavariaGermany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian.  Würzburg is approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) from either Frankfurt am Main or Nuremberg by road. The city of Würzburg is not included in the district of Würzburg, but is its administrative seat (Landkreis). Its population is 133,501 as of 31 December 2008.
On 16 March 1945, about 90% of the city full of civilians was destroyed in 17 minutes by 225British Lancaster bombers during a World War II air raid. All of the city's churches, cathedrals, and other monuments were heavily damaged or destroyed. The city center, which dated from medieval times, was totally destroyed in a firestorm in which 5,000 people perished. Over the next 20 years, the buildings of historical importance were painstakingly and accurately replicated. The citizens who rebuilt the city immediately after the end of the war were mostly women – Trümmerfrauen ("rubble women") – because the men were either dead or taken prisoner of war. In comparison, Würzburg was destroyed more totally than was Dresden in a firebombing the previous month.
After the war, Würzburg was host to the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army Hospital and various other U.S. military units that maintained a presence in Germany. The U.S. units were withdrawn from Würzburg in 2008, bringing an end to over 60 years of U.S. military presence in Würzburg.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chicago - Wuerzburg April 12 - 13 2011

The first day started "GREAT". The very nice United Gate Agent put us into Business Class for the Chicago - Frankfurt flight - he liked Alaska  Airlines or us?.  "I am going to bend the rules for you" - he said. With a Non-Rev. Ticket on Stand-By, getting on the first flight and Business class for free is great. Endless wine, real  food (Filet Mignon)  with real silverware and glasses, a chese selection with Port Wine = no time to read, did I mentionen the leg room and  seat space? Well we left Chicago 2:40PM and arrived in Frankfurt  5:20AM. A 5 minute very easy train ride from the Airport to the Main Rail station, then after a small breakfast and a walk in Frankfurt we toke one of the German Fast trains to Wuerzburg. In about one hour we arrived (around 9:10) in Wuerzburg, too early for our room to be ready so we walked around town until Noon.
Cold, 45 F, in Wuerzburg.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Map of Trip Germany 2011

Chicago - Frankfurt - Wurzburg - Bamberg - Leipzig, Dresden - Berlin - hamburg - Bremen - Frankfurt - Geneva - Frankfurt - Chicago.

Germany 2011 Trains

Types of trains

The DB offers a complete hierarchical assortment of services identified by an alphabet soup of letters.  Here are most of the train types and designations, in descending order of speed and coverage:

ICE (InterCity Express) - The ICE is the flagship of the GermanRail system and provides high-speed connections between the principal metropolitan areas.  Trains usually run every hour or sometimes even more frequently.  There are now several generations of ICE, including new tilting trains which allow for high speed travel on conventional tracks.  (See "High speed trains" below.)

IC/EC (InterCity/EuroCity) - These are high-quality express trains connecting the larger domestic destinations and hubs at speeds sometimes only slightly slower than the ICE.  Trains usually run every hour or two and sometimes share alternating schedules with ICE trains.  Many of these trains travel into adjacent countries as part of the EC (EuroCity) system.

ICN, EN, CNL, NZ (InterCityNight, EuroNight, CityNightLine; Nachtzug) - Various overnight trains providing long-distance sleeping accommodations.

D (Durchgangszug) - The venerable D-Zug is a fairly rapid long-distance train that provides connections on some of the lesser traveled routes or times.  These trains now run almost exclusively overnight.

IRE (InterRegioExpress) - IRE trains are express trains that connect the larger regional cities at regular intervals.

RE (RegionalExpress) - The RE is a regional express train connecting medium-sized towns to the main rail hubs.

RB (RegionalBahn) - The RB is the main local train in the DB arsenal and connects the smallest of towns to the RE system and main rail hubs.

SE (StadtExpress) - A local train that connects medium and large cities to their outlying satellite towns.

S (S-Bahn, Schnellbahn) - Suburban commuter rail service in and around major metropolitan areas.