Category Archives: Germany

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is a city on the move.  Since the Wall fell over twenty years ago, construction zones are commonplace in the reunited, capital city.  With its ever-changing landscape and its roller-coaster history, Berlin is a fascinating place to visit.

Berlin Wall 

Berliner Mauer

Since Kevin and I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer), we were transfixed by the sight of its remnants in the Friedrichshain district— where one of the longest sections stands relatively intact…

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is a ¾ mile (1.3km) section of the (former) Wall covered with art and graffiti by artists from all over the world.  The approximately 12 foot high concrete slab once served as a dividing line between democracy and communism, but now serves as a memorial for freedom.

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall - East

Berlin Wall - East Side

Berlin Wall - West

Berlin Wall - West Side

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), completed in 1791, was initially used as an entrance gate to the city.   It later became a crossing point between East and West Berlin after the Wall was built.  It was here, on the 12th of June 1987, during a speech in front of the Gate, where U.S. President Ronald Reagan uttered the now famous line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”   Fascinating stuff.

(The Roman Goddess of Victory stands high atop the gate in a chariot drawn by four horses.)

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie - Photo of American Soldier

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie - Photo of Soviet Soldier

Checkpoint Charlie was another border crossing point between East and West Berlin.  It was named Charlie by Western Allies, as it was the third checkpoint or “C” (as in Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, etc.).  The US Army Checkpoint guard station (below US soldier photo) is a reconstruction of the original and now serves as a tourist attraction.

Holocaust Memorial

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial)

Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as, the Holocaust Memorial, was designed by American architect Peter Eisenman.  Completed in 2005, the Memorial is made up of a grid of 2,711 concrete pillars.  The undulating labyrinth creates a unique perspective for each person who visits.

Bebelplatz

Bebelplatz

Bebelplatz - Memorial to Nazi Book Burning

Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

In 1933, Bebelplatz, a public square in the Mitte district, was the site of a major Nazi book-burning—around 20,000 books were set fire.  The window, in the center of the square, reveals empty bookshelves underground which serves as a memorial to this despicable act.

German History Museum

German History Museum

German History Museum

The German History Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum) offers a fascinating look into…you guessed it…the history of Germany.  From 1 B.C. to present day, this museum delivers.  If you have the time (a good chunk of time), it is well-worth a visit.

Reichstag Building

Reichstag Building

Reichstag Building - Seat of German Government

The Reichstag Building, home of German government, first opened in 1894.  A major reconstruction in the late 1990s, by British architect Norman Foster, added a contemporary dome to the top of the building made of glass, steel, and mirrors.

Reichstag Dome

Reichstag Dome

Inside the Dome

Inside the Dome

The spiraling ramps around the dome offer amazing, panoramic views of the city. Security is extra tight to tour the dome, so prior, online registration is required.

Illuminated Face

Illuminated Face in Potsdamer Platz for the Festival of Lights, October 2011.

…and that wraps up our visit to Berlin, which will certainly not be our last.  We had a great time and learned a lot in this historic city.

Notable Eats:
Sophieneck – traditional German food
(Grosse Hamburger Strasse 37, Mitte Neighborhood) 

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Munich, Germany

New Town Hall Towner, Munich

New Town Hall Tower, Munich

Five train transfers later (due to snowy conditions and train issues) K and I arrived in Munich.   If there was ever a time I wanted to swing my suitcase into orbit it was then.  Hopping on and off trains with a heavy bag was no joy, but we made it to Munich on Christmas Eve tired and hungry with snow falling at a steady clip.

We asked the hotel staff for a restaurant recommendation and they told us that most places were closed Christmas Eve (which we figured) but there was one restaurant they knew was open that served good beer.

(Sounds like the perfect spot for the state we were in.)

With our ragged travel clothes still on our backs, we hit the snowy streets.  After a few moments of confusion, we found the restaurant and were surprised when a doorman welcomed us in.  As we looked into the dining room we noticed everyone dressed in their finest holiday attire (penguin suits included) and the candlelit interior was impeccably decorated for Christmas.

They serve beer here?  Really?

Kevin seriously contemplated asking for a table, but when I saw the hostess in her perfectly fitted evening gown and her perfectly coiffed hair, I retracted.  After all, my hair hadn’t seen a brush since that morning, so all bets were off for the two of us dining here in our denim.

We ended up finding a pub-style restaurant, which was surprisingly busy, and the night turned out perfect.  Merry Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, despite the light snow and cold temps, it was time to check out the city.  We took to the streets and walked to Marienplatz, the main square/hub of Munich, to begin our church tour (fitting for Christmas Day)…

  • First, Peterskirche, the oldest church in Munich.
  • Second, Frauenkirche, its two onion domes are distinctive landmarks of Munich.
  • Third, Michaelskirche, a magnificent Renaissance church.
  • And finally, Asamkirche, probably the most ornate church we’ve ever seen—every inch embellished.

We also visited the Münchner Stadtmuseum (Munich City Museum), which celebrates the history of Munich. Housed in a former Gothic armory, this wonderfully diverse museum offers insight into Munich’s people, traditions, art and so much more.  A fun place to see, hear and learn.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Munich without a visit to a beer-hall.  Although we chose probably the most famous and most touristy one, Hofbräuhaus lives up to the hype.  With the dirndl-wearing waitresses, the roaming Bavarian band and the 1L steins of beer, I can only imagine what this place is like during Oktoberfest.   (Hofbräuhaus, Am Platzl 9)

Even though it was a short visit, we enjoyed Munich and hope to return to experience more.

Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, Germany

We spent a night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (not to be confused with other Rothenburgs in Germany) to continue our Christmas Market extravaganza.

Rothenburg is so darn cute it seems to perfect to be real.  With its cobble-stone streets and pretty, colorful architecture, it looks more like a movie set than an actual place.   This charming medieval walled town is a favorite among tourists, especially during the Christmas Season.

K and I arrived in mid-afternoon and strolled around the Christmas Market in Market Square (our fourth of the trip).  We indulged in more glühwein (warmed mulled wine) along with crepes filled with Nutella and banana—a popular choice among us market-goers.

We also walked the rampart wall that surrounds Rothenburg. This covered, narrow walk offers great views and an interesting perspective on what it was like when the wall was actually used to protect the city from siege.

Notable Eats in Rothenburg
Bürgerkeller.  A cellar restaurant serving local cuisine with a pleasant host.  Try the Wiener Schnitzel.  It will not disappoint.  (Bürgerkeller:  Herrngasse 24)
P.S. They don’t serve burgers.  Bürger means citizen/townsman.

Our visit to Rothenburg was short…but enjoyable.

Nuremberg, Germany

Nurnberger Christmas Mug

Nurnberger Christmas Market Mug

We finally arrived in Nuremberg (after another delay at Brussels-Midi and another cancelled train) at around 4pm.   We quickly settled into our hotel so we could check out the city before it got too dark and cold.

Each year Nuremberg hosts one of Germany’s most famous Christmas Markets. Nestled in the city walls of the Altstadt (old town), it spans several blocks making this market the largest one we wandered through during our trip (this one being our third).

We made it our mission to try traditional German fare such as the Nürnberger Rostbratwürste (finger-sized sausages served three on a roll with mustard), Lebkuchen (soft gingerbread cookies), and glühwein (warm mulled wine).   We even purchased the two mugs our glühwein came in to commemorate our trip—something we never do.  (see photo)

We walked around the Altstadt to view the medieval architecture that makes this city so attractive to tourists.   Due to our travel woes, this Nuremberg sight-seeing walk was mainly done in the dark, but we made the best of it.

The next morning we decided to spend a couple of hours at the Dokumentationzentrum (spell that ten times), since we had another train to catch.  This museum’s exhibits document the rise of Hitler and Nuremberg’s role during that time.  It was a fascinating learning experience.  Well worth the stop.    (Dokumentationzentrum: Bayernstrasse 110)

Unfortunately, since our trip here was cut short, I have no notable eats & drinks to list.  Although, the food at the Christmas Market was some of the best we’ve had.