Monday, May 21
After arriving in Erlangen to spend a few days with my close friend Stefan, he took me down to Nuremberg for the day. I had no plan for the day except to see the city and talk with him about our plans for the next few days.
Before arriving at the city center, we stopped at the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds on the outskirts. The building was to serve as a congress hall for Hitler, but was never completed during his reign. The facility has now been turned into a museum documenting National Socialism in Germany, and especially the party rallies held in Nuremberg. It’s quite amazing to see the designs for an entire complex (never completed) to create a fervor amongst the populous.
We then went to the Old City of Nuremberg and walked by the Germanic National Museum and the Street of Human Rights, which stands across from the new entrance to the museum. I saw Nuremberg’s three most important churches: the Church of Saint Lawrence (a.k.a. St.-Lorenz-Kirche), Church of Our Lady (a.k.a. Frauenkirche) and St. Sebald Church (a.k.a. St.-Sebaldus-Kirche). We also walked through the marketplace (hauptmarkt) and past Nuremberg’s most important landmark, the Beautiful Fountain (a.k.a. Schöner Brunnen).
After grabbing a bite at an imbiss and a quick drink at Starbucks; yes, I actually said I went to a Starbucks in Germany. However, I counter-acted the drink at Starbucks by having a traditional Franconian lunch of bratwurst, except that Nuremberg is known for small, white sausages that are not served elsewhere in the country.
Following the tour of churches, Stefan and I headed for the Imperial Castle (a.k.a. Kaiserburg) where we would get a view of the city and surrounding area. The view was amazing, too. We then walked to the house of famed painter Albrecht Dürer, or at least I’ve been told that he’s famous. I’m not very familiar with his work though, but it didn’t matter as the house was closed because most museums in Germany are closed on Mondays.
After having a drink in a beer garden, we headed back to Erlangen to have dinner at Stefan’s apartment and finalize our travel plans for the next few days. After eating we discussed things and decided to head to Munich for a day before heading to the Bavarian Alps to see Neuschwanstein, one of elaborate castles designed by Bavarian Kind Ludwig II. From there we would stay overnight on the road en route to Baden-Baden, where some of my family hailed from before coming to the United States.
Tuesday, May 22
Stefan and I arose and headed to Munich, about two hours south of Erlangen. We arrived and checked into our hotel before heading to Marienplatz, which is the heart of the Old City (a.k.a. Altstadt). We saw the glockenspiel performance at noon at the New City Hall (a.k.a. Neues Rathaus). The show is sort of overrated, but still neat.
A day in Munich is not sufficient to get a great feel for the city, but we still covered a lot of ground. We then made our way to the Isar Gate, one of the major entrances to the old city. We also saw the Residenz, which was the palace of the Bavarian royal family, and the National Theater (home to the Bavarian State Opera).
We also toured Munich’s two major churches: Cathedral of Our Lady (a.k.a. Frauenkirche) and Saint Peter’s Church (a.k.a. Peterskirche). Following a brief walk through the English Garden, we headed to the Olympic Park. We viewed Munich and Bavaria from the observation level (190 meters up) the Olympic Tower. It was awesome to see the snow-capped Alps.
Stefan and I were both worn out from our day, so we took a nap at the hotel before heading out to dinner. We had previously stopped near the world famous Hofbräuhaus, as I bought my standard Hard Rock Cafe “City T-Shirt” and a cordial shot glass. During our earlier visit I got my photo taken in front of the Hofbrähaus, but Stefan swore that he did not want to eat at what he called a giant tourist trap. That was fine by me, as I knew my friend would direct us to a suitable restaurant.
As Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Burns was right about our dining options, as Stefan reviewed the menus of various restaurants in the area he discovered the the Hofbrähaus had the widest selection. However, he insisted that we eat outside in the beer garden and not inside in the beer hall with all the “oompah” music. We had a great meal and were quite entertained by two American sitting near us who had drunk too much beer and were yelling and arguing about some of the stupidest topics I have ever heard.
Wednesday, May 23
Before departing Munich, we made a brief stop at the Nymphenburg Palace. From there we headed to Metzingen to do some quick outlet shopping en route to Neuschwanstein and our overnight destination, Ulm.
The castle was amazing, even from the Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge) across the Pollat Gorge. The bridge provides tourists one of the best views of the castle. It was quite funny that a Japanese tourist turned to me and asked in German if I spoke English. He seemed stunned that I responded very quickly and with an American accent that I spoke English. Apparently his tripod was not tall enough to allow him to take a picture of himself with the castle in the background, so I took the picture for him.
Stefan told his girlfriend, Hilke, later in the day by phone that he blended in quite well with the tourists but neglected to tell her about my encounter. She got a good laugh after we returned to Erlangen and I related the story.
The castle, which was never completed, was quite amazing. It was odd to see such an extravagantly decorated place taken to the nth degree.
We arrived in Ulm around 3:30 p.m. and headed straight to downtown to do some quick sightseeing. According to my handy Frommer’s guide there was not much to see in Ulm except for the towering Ulmer Münster. We walked around the canals near the Danube River before walking to the city center and visiting the Münster and climbing 768 steps to the top observation deck.
Stefan and I made the journey up, but I think we were both tempted to quit along the way. However, I think we both had resolved to reach the top after getting dizzy from going in so many circles. After an awkward climb we finally reached the top and were rewarded with an outstanding view of the city and the Danube River.
Thursday, May 24
This day was one of the most anticipated days on my vacation, as I would finally see the town where my German family had left in the 1860s. After a standard continental breakfast at our hotel, Stefan and I hit the road for Baden-Baden.
We arrived in town shortly before lunchtime and walked into the city center. We visited a few churches and walked through the main square, but were unable to find any information about my family roots.
While in town we visited the casino, the drinking hall (not for alcohol, but the soothing, mineral-rich waters) and the Lichtentaler Alley (a.k.a. Lichtentaler Allee) along the Oosbach River. The view along the Oos was outstanding and one of the most serene moments of the day.
Following the traditional German coffee and cake (a.k.a. kaffee und kuchen), Stefan and I headed back to Erlangen.