I’ve recently returned from a two-week vacation in Germany and while I’ve spoken with some friends about what I did and saw while there, I thought it may be easiest to start my blog with a monologue about my travels to Deutschland. Since I spent nearly 14 days in Germany, my entries will be lengthy but I will also try to break them into segments to make reading easier.
Wednesday, May 16, and Thursday, May 17
I was due to depart from Atlanta, Ga., on May 16 for Newark, N.J., and then fly from Newark to Frankfurt, Germany, before changing planes and arriving in Berlin at 3:55 p.m. on May 17. Unfortunately, severe thunderstorms throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast closed the Newark airport and I did not arrive there until 9:50 p.m. That was also the same time my flight from Newark departed for Frankfurt, so I spent the entire night at the airport scrambling and trying to change plans.
The next day, I was able to talk with somebody at the Lufthansa ticket counter who could saw that my reservation had been changed and that I was being charged extra for my new ticket. She asked what happened, and after explaining my story she said that I should not be charged and that she would get me on the first flight out. After sweating it out on the waiting list, the supervisor told me that I had a seat on the flight and to check in my bags.
Friday, May 18
The flight was delayed leaving Newark, but I was at least able to get on the plane and know that I would soon be arriving in Germany. Due to our departure delays in Newark, my time between flights in Frankfurt was cut from 1:15 to 30 minutes so I had to run through the airport and change terminals to make my connection. I luckily got to the gate 10 minutes before departure and arrived in Berlin at 8:55 a.m.
After checking into my hotel, showering and taking a short nap I went on a walking tour of Berlin offered by a company called Berlin Walks. I had a great guide, who is originally from New Zealand and has been living in Germany’s capital city for almost six years. Most of the sites I saw were located in the former East Berlin. I saw segments of the former Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the TV Tower (Europe’s second tallest structure), the Berlin Cathedral, the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murder Jews of Europe (sometimes called the Holocaust memorial), and a host of other sights. Following my tour in the afternoon, I ate dinner at a small Italian restaurant before returning to my hotel and falling asleep around 10 p.m.
Saturday, May 19
With my bearings pretty settled in Berlin, I left my hotel with a plan to visit the Berlin Zoo and see one of the world’s most popular polar bear cubs, Knut. The cub made international news a few months ago after his mother rejected him and would not nurse the newborn, which caused an uproar from animal advocates arguing about whether or not he should be hand-raised. He is now five-months old and quite a handful. I saw a lot of the zoo, but missed several other animals because it was a priority to see this cuddly cub.
Following my time at the zoo, I visited Museum Island Museum and will remain there until the . In the former East Berlin (now called Berlin-Mitte) Museum Island is home to some of Berlin’s best known cultural attractions. I visited the Altes Museum, home to the Museum of Antiquities and the collection of the Egyptian Museum. Most notably, the colored bust of Queen Nefertiti is currently housed at the Altes while the Neues Museum’s renovation is completed in 2009. I also toured the Pergamon Museum, which contains the Pergamon Altar, Babylon’s Processional Way and the Ishtar Gate, and the Market Gate of Miletus.
After finishing the museums, I toured the Berlin Cathedral (which is actually a Protestant building). It’s dome provides wonderful views of the Berlin skyline while the dome’s ceiling has some exquisite paintings. The church also contains the crypt of the Hohenzollern family (Prussia’s ruling family and later the first emperors of Germany).
After a brief nap at my hotel, I headed out for a bite to eat and do visit a few sights in the early evening. Following a small dinner at an imbiss (German eatery that serves just about any type of food for people on the go). After having a hamburger there, I took some pictures of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was built to honor the first German emperor, but suffered immense damage during Allied bombing raids in World War II. I also stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe to buy a “City T-Shirt” before heading to the Reichstag, Germany’s parliamentary building. I had hoped to view the capital from the top of the building’s glass dome, but even at 9:30 p.m. there was a long line going outside the building. So I called it an evening and returned to my hotel.
Sunday, May 20
I had considered trying to see Charlottenburg Palace and perhaps the Olympic Stadium before going out on my tour of Potsdam, but decided the night before that I needed the extra sleep. So I awoke Sunday going on yet another tour with Berlin Walks – this time with the owner of the company (an expatriated Brit).
We first walked across the “spy swap” bridge from Berlin into Potsdam and the former Soviet zone. As we walked toward the New Garden and the Cecilienhof Palace, we saw a Norwegian-inspired boat dock. Eventually we reached the Cecilienhof Palace, site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference which shaped the face of post-war Europe.
Following our time at Cecilienhof, we headed towards Sans Souci but first had a lunch break. Eventually we arrived at the Palace of Sans Souci, which is quite stunning. The park surrounding the palace is beautifully sculpted and the building is quite amazing as it overlooks the gardens below.
As the tour wrapped up around 3:30 p.m., I could not explore the palace and its grounds any further as I had to return to Berlin and prepare for my train trip in the evening to Erlangen.
I successfully managed to get on the train at Berlin’s main train station, although I did not get on the correct passenger car at first. I eventually navigated the high-speed train as it quickly moved through the German countryside. Around 11 p.m. I arrived in Erlangen (just north of Nuremberg) where I met my friend Stefan.