Friday, May 17, 2013

Germany Trip 2013

Barbara and I visited our son in Germany for thirteen days, leaving the U.S. on April 22 and returning May 4, 2013.

During the 13-day trip we visited Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Cologne (Köln), Würzburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Kattenhochstatt, Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles (near Füssen), Munich (München), Leipzig, Berlin and Hamburg (whew!).

We had a great time! Here are photos of a few places we visited. Except for a day trip to Cologne from Wiesbaden (by train) and the three days in Berlin (where we used the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn exclusively), all travel was by car, driven by our son.

Frankfurt April 23

Our flight having left America on Monday, April 22, we arrived at about noon on the 23rd. John met us and drove us in his new VW GTI to our hotel in Wiesbaden.

Wiesbaden April 23-25

Residenz Rheinblick--our hotel on the Main River--aka Residenz am Schloß Biebrich

Schloß Biebrich (Biebrich Castle), next door to the hotel

John and Weldon in
the Wiesbaden  town square with the Rathaus (old town hall) in the background
Door of the Rathaus (now a restaurant)

Barbara and John in front of the Rathaus in Wiesbaden
Hessischer Landtag (Parliament of the State of Hesse, which convenes in Wiesbaden)
Wiesbaden means "Meadow bath." The "bath" is a hot spring. Here is a hot spring in a city park.
Heidenmauer ("Pagan's wall"). "Built by Emperor Valentinian (364-373). The oldest building in Wiesbaden and the most important late Roman monument between the Rhine and Ume." (See plaque below.)

Barbara and John on viewpoint above the Heidenmauer

Day Trip to Cologne (Köln) April 24

We took the Intercity Express (ICE) from Wiesbaden, through Frankfurt to Cologne for a day trip in Cologne. We departed Wiesbaden at about 8:00 a.m. Our return trip had reserved seats on the 7:20 p.m. train. (It was a good thing we had reserved seats: the return trip was "packed.")

View Larger Map

Wiesbaden's Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) where we boarded the train for Cologne
Inside the Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof. John and Weldon are checking the train schedule.

Cologne Central Station is right next to the Cologne Cathedral--probably the main object of our only inter-city train ride during our visit to Germany.
The Cologne Cathedral, as we exited Cologne's Hauptbahnhof

Inside Cologne Cathedral, showing part of one organ.
Another organ in Cologne Cathedral
Looking up, outside the door of the Cologne Cathedral
Another view
Front door of Cologne Cathedral
John the Baptist (left) and Noah, at the door of the Cologne Cathedral
Fountain across the plaza from the cathedral
Closeup of elves to the left of the fountain

We walked the streets of Cologne after visiting the cathedral. I ate pork Schnitzel at a restaurant near the cathedral. We tried some (non-alcoholic, of course) Kölscher at the restaurant. The only thing worse than its taste was its smell. We couldn't bring ourselves to drink more than a few sips.

In listening to Pimsleur German CDs, I always wondered what Mineralwasser (mineral water) was. Well, one taste was enough to convince me that I don't like it. (The Germans are crazy about it, by the way.) I learned to request "stilles Wasser" if I wanted "plain" water. (The Germans always asked me if I was certain I wanted stilles Wasser.)

We visited the Lindt Chocolate factory/museum while in Cologne. (They make the round Lindtor chocolates seen in many American grocery stores and gas stations.) The museum was fascinating. It included an actual assembly line--complete with workers taking wrapped chocolate off the line--that made chocolate from start to finish. It was very interesting!
Entering the Lindt Chocolate Museum in Cologne

Würzburg April 25-26

John drove us from Wiesbaden to Würzburg on April 25.

View Larger Map

We slept overnight at Würzburg.

It was at Würzburg that we experienced Dönners for the first time. We saw Dönner restaurants in pretty much every city we visited. In fact, we often saw them every block. The closest thing to Dönner's ubiquity was the McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Baskin-Robbins and other fast food restaurants I found in Tokyo in 2000--except that Dönners are far more prevalent. Most of their menu items involve a large (5-6 inches thick, 2-3 feet long?) stack of beef slices on a large skewer, suspended from the ceiling (where it continues to cook). To create a sandwich (or other menu item), the employee takes what appears to be a large (about 4 inches wide?) razor-like tool and shaves off meat for the sandwich. They were very good. (We ate at several other Dönners in Germany.) Most of the Dönners are run by individuals of Turkish ancestry.

As we were driving to Würzburg, I realized that registration for Apple's World Wide Developers' Conference would be that evening at 6 or 7 p.m. (Central European Summer Time). We had a few spare moments at just the right time (in the hotel), so I visited the WWDC site on my ChromeBook (I left my MacBook Air at home, not wanting to risk losing it). I immediately obtained a reservation. (WWDC sold out in about three minutes). Although the Internet connection failed as I was pushing the button to submit my credit card information, Apple treated it as a success. They emailed me, acknowledging that I had successfully registered, and sending a link for me to follow to complete the registration. Apple does, indeed, have the best customer service of any company I've dealt with.

Barbara and John standing on a bridge over the falls in Würzburg. (It reminded me of the falls in Idaho Falls.) We arrived in Würzburg in plenty of time to see its sights (and sites).

Watching a boat come through the locks at Würzburg was reminiscent of the ships we watched go through the locks on the Mississippi at La Crosse, Wisconsin and La Crescent, Minnesota.

Barbara and Weldon at the side of the Würzberger Residenz (Palace)
The Residenz from the back

The Residenz had extensive beautiful gardens. (We felt "all fenced in" for awhile.)
Cone-shaped trees at the Residenz

Barbara and John, taking it easy behind the Residenz

A Würzburg city park. (Note the pink cherry blossoms that had fallen to the ground.)

Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress) in the distance in Würzburg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Kattenhochstatt, Nuremberg, April 26

On April 26 we left Würzburg (marker A on the map below) early, visiting Rothenburg (B) and Kattenhochstatt (C) on the way to Nuremberg (D).

View Larger Map

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Driving the Romantic Road from Würzburg, we reached Rothenburg before noon. It definitely met and exceeded our expectations!

Rothenburg Fountain representing St. George Fighting the Dragon
John and Barbara, at the entrance to Galerie John
The Rothenburg Rathouse (Town Hall)

John (left) and Weldon at a castle entrance
Carefully trimmed boxwood surrounded this statue within the castle garden
View from the castle garden to the rest of the town across the valley

The castle walls--looking like Hagrid's hut. (The entrance towards the left is the same as the entrance two photos above.)

Barbara and Weldon standing where two roads meet that lead to two city gates (in the background).
Barbara and John by the steps by the gate on the right.

John, climbing the stairs leading to the battlement atop the city wall. (Barbara is waiting for John at the top of the stairs.)

Barbara at the top of the wall by the gate. (This is part of the battlement.)

John, standing on the balcony, looking into the city, with back to outside battlement wall. (Windows in the wall overlook the valley.)
View of the valley through a battlement window. This looks back toward the castle garden shown previously.
Continuing along the balcony we now see guards' rooms on the left. Windowed battlement is still on the right.
One more gate we passed by on the way to the car.


From Rothenburg, we used John's Android's GPS to find tiny Kattenhochstatt where Barbara's great grandfather Schreiner was born. (The house is just across the street from the church.)

We knew we had found Kattenhochstatt when we saw this road sign

The church was easy to spot
John, walking toward Great Grandpa Schreiner's house across from the church.

View of the front of the Schreiner home.

The sign above the door still reads "G. Mich. Schreiner" (Georg Michael Schreiner), which he added when he renovated the house over a century ago. Later residents added the tiled door frame and different window shutters.
Weldon and John looking at the connected barn at the back of the house.

Closeup of the barn door. Notice the pigs inside. 
Shed across the driveway from the house.

The countryside surrounding Kattenhochstatt

Kattenhochstatt from a distance.

Nuremberg (Nürnberg) April 26-27

We rolled into Nuremberg at about 6:00 p.m. on April 26 (after visiting Rothenburg and Kattenhochstatt. We found a Best Western hotel near the Altstatt. After dinner, we went to see the movie "Oblivion" ... in English.

After a good night's rest, we visited the Deutsche Bahn Railroad Museum--several blocks from our hotel. Then we walked in the Altstadt, visiting the Nuremberg Castle (Burg), etc.

Deutsche Bahn Museum

Engine cab mockup inside the children's section of the Deutsche Bahn Museum, Nuremberg

Entrance to Nuremberg Castle
Outside the castle. Entrance is to the right

Nuremberg Castle Garden
Knight's shining armor we saw at the Nuremberg Castle
I used my German PlateFinder iPhone App extensively on the trip. (Note the "N" at the beginning of this license plate in Nuremberg.)

At about 4:00 p.m. we departed for Munich.
Note: It was probably on the drive from Nuremberg to Munich that we noticed that John's new VW GTI would go no faster than 202 kilometers/hour (about 125 mph)--likely due to a governor?. I think that's where we first encountered unlimited speed limits. (We also enountered them later, on our drive from Munich to Berlin and from Berlin back to Wiesbaden via Hamburg.) Brian's Guide to Getting around Germany has an informative article on the Autobahn and its traffic signs. The "End of all restrictions sign" and the per-lane speed limit signs were particularly interesting. (After being on the Autobahn, I hate American freeways--especially the separate HOV lanes with slow drivers!)

Munich (München) April 27-30

We arrived in Munich from Nuremberg at about 6:00 p.m. on April 27 and stayed in the Best Western near the Olympic Stadium.

View Larger Map

Day Trip to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

It was cool and overcast as we neared Neuschwanstein. (Those are real clouds)
Zooming in on Neuschwanstein
Approaching Neuschwanstein on foot
Weldon and Barbara at Neuschwanstein
John, ready for to enter Neuschwanstein
Barbara and John (right) entering Hohenschwangau--Ludwig II's other castle near Fussen
Parking area as seen from Hohenschwangau. (We were parked to the right--off the picture. There were ducks in the pond.)

In Munich we visited the Hugendubel bookstore in the Altstadt, watching the Glockenspiel on the plaza. We also visited the Residenz of Duke Leopold.

Munich Rathaus, showing the Glockenspiel on the clock tower
Glockenspiel closeup. Chimes ring and figures move at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Inside Munich's Hugendubel bookstore. Interior view showing reading pits in center core of six-story store. (Hugendubel is John's favorite bookstore.)
Shopping mall. Interior view showing plants hanging from ceiling.
BMW Headquarters Munich
Organ inside a Munich church
Another organ

Munich to Berlin (via Leipzig) April 30-May 3

View Larger Map


We stopped at Leipzig on our way to Berlin from Munich. We saw many bombed (or burned) out buildings. The one bright spot of the day was a visit to Thomaskirche, where Bach was organist, choirmaster and composer for 27 years.

John and Barbara on the plaza by the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church), Leipzig
Barbara and John at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Bach Museum at Thomaskirche

Yours truly in front of Bach's statue
An organ at Thomaskirche.
Inside Thomaskirche, showing another organ.

Berlin April 30-May 3

Berlin was probably my favorite German city. (That's significant because Berlin wasn't in any of our tentative itineraries before travelling to Germany!) It was fun riding the S- and U-Bahn trains. We stayed at Hotel Carolinenhof on Landhausstraße and ate at the same Vietnamese restaurant for three evenings in a row. (I had Pho [which appeared as Fu and is apparently pronounced that way] each time. FWIW, I had no sushi or Japanese food the entire trip!) 

During our first full day in Berlin we visited the National Museum's Gemäldegalerie. Barbara added two more Vermeer paintings ("The glass of wine" and "Woman with a pearl necklace") to the list of paintings she has seen in person.

We had our passports stamped at Checkpoint Charlie, visited the Computerspiele Museum, several Media Markt locations, a Hugendubel or two, and generally had fun, leaving the car in the hotel garage all three days.

John and Barbara at the Berlin Wall
Approaching Berlin's Brandenburg Gate from the Berlin Wall
Weldon at the other side of the Brandenburg Gate. (Being May Day, there were actors in military costumes.)
Link (from Legend of Zelda) welcomed us as we entered Berlin's Computerspiele (Computer Game) Museum

John and Weldon leaving the Computerspiele Museum in Berlin's Alexanderplatz

John and Weldon in Berlin after visiting the Computer Game Museum

Berlin to Wiesbaden (via Hamburg) May 3-4

View Larger Map


We stopped in Hamburg for lunch on our way back to Wiesbaden from Berlin. It was a beautiful city--but we had no time to explore it further.

Along the Hamburg-Frankfurt Autobahn. "It was surprising how much forested land is in Germany. People have been there thousands of years and haven't cut it all down." --Barbara
Windmill farm. These are on the road from Hamburg to Wiesbaden, but they are scattered across Germany, especially in the north.

Wiesbaden, May 3-4

Yours truly, with swans, in front of the castle in Wiesbaden

Frankfurt to the U.S., May 4

We flew from Frankfurt at about 2:00 p.m., arriving in San Francisco after 6:00 p.m. the same day. Then back home.