Thursday, June 7, 2018

Trip to Europe - Summary of the Trip - Part II, Germany

I have already posted the first part of this blog which covered our trip from Mumbai to Paris then to Ghent and finally to Amsterdam. Our last day at Amsterdam (actually a half day) has been covered in that blog post. Here is the link to that post - Trip to Europe - Summary of the Trip  - Part I, Paris, Ghent and Amsterdam  

Day 8 - Continued. That day after our trip to Amsterdam countryside we took a train (Deutsche Bahn ICE train) to Cologne. A very comfortable train running at a top speed of 300 kmph (top speed and not average speed). The journey took about 4 hours. We were booked at Pathfinder (Backpackers) Hostel. a place just a few hundred meters from Cologne Central Station. It was a very neat and clean accommodation We were booked in a two bedded room with attached toilet (most of the hostel accommodation was dormitories with common toilets). After a quick dinner, we called it a day. Our son was to join us tomorrow from Paris.

Ancient Roman Gate

Day 9 - Cologne. Our son joined us in the morning. We left for our first destination for the day, that is, Cologne Cathedral. An imposing structure which is worth spending time. This place was full of people. Als many locals were displaying their talent including a group of African origin youngsters showing their dancing talent. All of them expected money but none begged.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral Another Photo

After our trip to Cologne Cathedral, we decided to have our breakfast (actually Brunch) in a nearby cafe. The place was good and we enjoyed our Brunch. We then visited the Ludwig Museum which is just behind the Cathedral.

Ludwig Museum has a good collection of paintings of various famous artists including Picasso. It has many other attractions including various temporary exhibitions that are hosted from time to time.

On-Site Art Class in Ludwig Museum
When done with Ludwig Museum, we decided to take a stroll along the bank of Rhein (corrected the spelling as per its German version indicated in Google maps) River (in the middle of the day which starts from 0600 and ends at 2030) basking in the moderate sun.

River Front - Rhein River at Cologne
We reached the Chocolate Museum at about 1730  and were happy as the closure time indicated was 1800. To our surprise, the entry to the museum was closed. Containing our disappointment, we did some Chocolate shopping in their shop and made a U-turn to return to our accommodation.

Walking back from there we returned to our accommodation. Expectations for Rhein Valley car drive were already high.

Day 10 - Rhein Valley Trip day I. After picking up things for Breakfast we picked up our hired car from Sixt (a German Car Hire Company). It was a VW Passat Diesel Automatic. We left Cologne for our first destination called Drachenburg Castle. After about an Hours drive using onboard navigator, we reached the foothills of the castle. Parking our car in the car park, we took the dedicated mountain train (which runs to both levels, the castle and the ruins on the top).

 Reaching the top we had a mesmerizing view of River Rhein and its surrounding valley. There is a ruin of a Security watchtower outpost (mostly Roman era) which is accessible and hence that peak (however small it was) was captured.

Rhein River from Top of Drachenburg Ruins
Taking the mountain train downhill to the only intermediate station, we went to Drachenburg castle. A castle having medieval looks but fairly recent origin (1885). It is a beautiful place with landscaped gardens. It has been renovated to bring back its original glory. One can visit the castle from the inside and feel the opulence.

Since we had our packed stuff with us and also we had a few light eats at the restaurant at the top, we decided to move to our next stop, Eltz Castle, its a real old castle into deep Jungle.

After visiting Eltz Castle, we drove on to Koblenz for Night Stay.

Day 11 - Rhein Valley Trip Day 2 - Starting in the morning our first stop was in Koblenz itself. We were to visit confluence of Rhein and Mossel Rivers which is marked by a 37 m tall Horseman statue. There is also a Basilica and a Ludwig, yes you got it right, Ludwig Museum (both places we did not visit). The confluence of two great rivers was enjoyable.

The confluence of Rhein and Mossel Rivers
From Koblenz, we drove to a town called Boppard. Boppard is an old charming town. We were looking for Wineries. Could not find any but had a stroll on riverfront. 

Boppard Water Front
From Boppard, we drove back to other bank of Rhein and drove to Marksburg town to have a (distant) look at Marksburg Castle. We also had our lunch at this place in a restaurant on the riverfront.

Marksburg Castle
Thereafter we continued on the riverside and saw many castles on either side of Rhein. As we were passing the town of Lorch we decided to look for famous Rhein Valley wine here. After some search we found a winery and bought few semi-dry and dry white wine bottles. 
Lorch Town
Leaving Lorch we continued our journey to Frankfurt where we were to stay for the night. We made it to Frankfurt by about 1900 hrs. After checking in, we took a stroll on the river front of Main (name) river, Then it was dinner and time to sleep. We had a train to catch for Berlin the next day.

Day 12 -  Taking a private company (Loco more) train in the morning we reached Berlin by lunch time. After checking in at our B & B we had our lunch and set out for Brandenburg Gate, the famous landmark of Berlin. The sun was not favourable for photography from the side we were on but we still clicked photos.

Brandenburg Gate
After having a look at Brandenburg gate we went on to see the German Parliament Building, Reichstag. It is an imposing building but unlike India parliament having all kind of security, large perimeter and almost inaccessibility for common people, the German Parliament courtyard was full of people , Tourist ad locals alike. It was also right next to the main road with free flowing traffic.

German Parliament Building (Reichtag)
After visiting the parliament building, we took a bus to Berlin cathedral. We stayed around the cathedral for some time and enjoying the surrounding of the Cathedral, feeling happy, we proceed further.

Berlin Cathedral
Next stop was the TV Tower. It is a tower built by the communist regime of GDR. This tower is about 370 m high and has a high speed lift that takes you on the top in just 30 second or so. One gets a panoramic view of Berlin from the top (we took that trip to top on the next day).

Berlin TV Tower
It was already dark by the time we were done with an external viewing of the TV Tower. We took a bus back to Brandenburg Gate to photograph it in the night. It looked very different at night. Once we were done with photography, we called it a day.

Day 13 - Day 2 at Berlin. Trip to Potsdam. Potsdam is a historic city in existence from Bronz age. It was the residence  of Prussian Royal Family and the German Kings. Taking a metro train from our B & B area we reached Potsdam Railway Station. Taking a bus from there, we reached Potsdam UNESCO Heritage area.

First palace that we visited was New Palace. A grand structure with its independent cook houses in a semi circular construction (as heard from a guide) are photographers delight. 

New Palace
 We thereafter visited Orangery Palace. A beautiful palace with landscaped garden and two green houses within it on either sides. We also visited this palace from inside and enjoyed the trip.

 Orangery Palace
Our final stop in Potsdam was Sanssouci Palace. It is grandest of all palaces and it has steeped garden, a huge one to add to its beauty. A visit to the palace interior is a must.

Sanssouci Palace
We returned from Potsdam directly to Alexanderplatz S Bahn station which is right next to the Berlin TV tower. We walked to the tower, bought our ticket and using that high speed lift (mentioned in day 12 description) reached the top of the tower in no time. The panoramic view of Berlin from about 370 m height is as grand as the city of Berlin.

Aerial View from Berlin TV Tower

After this trip, it was a standard end of the day routine i.e. dinner and sleep.

Day 14 - Last day at Berlin. This day we were booked at 0830 for visiting Reichtag glass dom. Leaving early from our B & B we reached Reichtag via Brandenburg gate at the right time and were ushered in after giving us an audio guide and post due security checks. This glass dome is right above the Parliament hall and it is possible to see what is happening below (not hear, only see). This dome is part of the modernisation of this old historic building. 

Inside Parliament Dome
 Walking u the spiral pathway to the top and then walking down on similar pathway gave a good glimpse of Berlin. The whole concept of Glass Dome looked novel. 

After visiting the Parliament, we reached Brandenburg gate where we were to undertake a free walking tour of Historical Berlin (the guide expects a tip at the end but will not demand it). Starting from Brandenburg gate,  we went to the "Memorial of Murdered Jews".

Memorial of Murdered Jews
From here we walked through the historic (but mostly rebuild post WW II) berlin. Went to a place where Hitlar's command bunker once was.

Some where Under the Parking and Buildings is Hitler's Command Post (Buried)
Also saw a portion of the Berlin Wall (which was to encircle West Berlin) and secret police detention center.

Part of the Berlin Wall and Secret Police Interrogation Chambers (East German)
Post this place and a break we went to Check Point Charlie, which happened to be one of the authorized transit places across the Berlin wall. Today it is just a photo ops place. By then we were tired of walking. We left the tour there after tipping our excellent guide.

Check Point Charlie
Last place we visited was Gandarmenmarkt or Gandermen Market, considered the most beautiful square in Berlin.


This square has two beautiful churches (or cathdrals as they are called), the German and the French ones. In the center, another beautiful Building called Konzertous (concert house) stands proud. 

Right in front of the Konzerthous is the statue of famous German Poet ETA Hoffman who once lived here *The statue can be seen in the above photograph. 

Gandermenmarkt is a place where summer concerts are held. After spending some time in this cute place we had a very late lunch and called it a day. We were scheduled to take an ICE train to Dresden tomorrow for our final two days in Germany.

Day 15 - Dresden. Taking a morning train we reached Dresden by around 1100 hrs. After checking in in our hotel we set out for visiting the town. Our first stop was a place famous for its Dairy Products. Its called Pfund Restaurant and cafe located at Bautzner Street. It is a interesting place with many Dairy equipment and accessories used for decoration.

Ice Cream Machine at Pfund Cafe

Next place was Zwinger, a grand Rectangular Palace with entrances on four sides and a well maintained garden in the center. Decorated with gold colour, zwinger is a delight to be at. Zwinger is in the heart of the palace district of old Dresden.

Right next to Zwinger is Semperoper or (Royal) Opera House. Another grand building where inside tour is possible (but the day we went there was an Opera show thus visit inside was out of question). There is a courtyard outside the opera house with symmetrical landscaping. Center of it has a statue of King Johann.

Opera House

Catholic Cathedral of Dresden is opposite the Opera House. It is also an imposing structure. By the time we were done with The Cathedral, it was late evening. The day finished with having dinner in  Sher E Punjab. only Indian restaurant where we ate India food in 24 day trip and we just went not because it is an Indian Restaurant but because it was the only eating place open at 10 pm when we decided to come out of our hotel and have food.

The Catholic Cathedral
Day 16 - The last day at Dresden and also Germany. Our main schedule today was to visit Bastai in Saxony Switzerland (just a name of that area with no connection with Switzerland. Bastai,40 km from dresden is sandstone rock formations jutting out over 180 meter from the river Elbe. It is also is a place where there was a castle in the past. The place is really awesome.

Bastai Rock Formations
Returning from Bastai to Dresden after almost a days trip we decided to visit the famous Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in the city square. Another beautiful building which soothes your eyes just by sighting it. This square also has a statue of Fridrich August II and Martin Luther.

Church of Our Lady
Our final place of visit in Dresden and Germany  was Frustenzug or Procession of Princes, a 102 meter mural made out of ceramic tiles. this mural shows various kings of Saxony from 1127 to 1904, a lineage of about 800 years.

Procession of Princes
After visiting this Mural which happens to be on a public road on the walls of the then Royal Stable we made a visit to Opera House to look at its moods post illumination. After a quick dinner, we retired for the day. We were to catch a train for Prague next day morning.

That finishes Summary of the trip Part II which covers our Germany trip.

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