(Second post — for first post, click here)
From Bonn to Hamburg (April 28)
We decided to end the bicycle ride in Bonn, because there were various issues contacting the friend in Krefeld we were going to stay with there. We decided on an alternate plan: we would travel up to Hamburg and stay a couple nights there before travelling in Berlin. We scheduled train tickets to Hamburg and then to Berlin, and because the trip from Hamburg to Berlin required we leave early in the morning, we decided to try to find a hotel next to the train station. I looked up hotel reservations online, but unfortunately, all the hotels near the city center were out of our price range. We ended up settling on a Holiday Inn with was a few kilometers away, however the lodging price was still a bit high for what we were hoping for.
Until our train was scheduled to leave, we wandered around downtown Bonn, browsed various markets, passed by some monuments, stopped by Nordsee for lunch. The street musicians we encountered were quite good.
The train left around 10 o’clock in the morning, and it wasn’t until late in the day we reached Hamburg (it is, besides, around an 8-hour 300 mile trip). When we finally got to Hamburg, we looked up the directions to the hotel and went straight there. The hotel staff upgraded our room to one of the executive suites near the top floor, which had a great view of the industrial side of Hamburg.
One of the major items on my agenda at this point was to figure out where I could launder my clothes, since I had no clean clothes left. I asked the staff at the lobby where a coin laundry location was nearby, and they referred me to a nearby hotel and sold me some laundry detergent. I took a couple loads of laundry to the neighboring hotel, however I found quickly that I would have issues operating the machinery. The machines were free to operate; however, they were quite different than the machines I was used to. I required a quick German lesson to understand the operating instructions, however I think I didn’t quite understand the instructions, because I ended up having my clothes locked in the machine for a couple hours, unable to figure out how to end the cycle so the doors would unlock. When the doors finally unlocked, it hadn’t spun the clothes, so they ended up soggy. Additionally, I somehow set the dryers into a mode where they wouldn’t actually dry the clothes but just tumble them. At the end, it was getting too late, so I settled on clean — but soggy — clothes; better than having smelly clothes, at least.
Hamburg (April 29)
In the morning, we first made our back to the train station for breakfast at one of the bakeries and made changes to the train schedule to Berlin. After that, we made plans to head in the direction of the Brahms museum, which we wanted to visit there. Hamburg is a city with rich musical history, to include many Baroque composers. Brahms lived the first part of his life in Hamburg. On the way there, we saw the City Hall, where we saw a memorial to George Philipp Telemann (Baroque composer).
We finally made it to the Brahms museum. The museum was near a barque museum, which is in a house that Gustav Mahler lived for a while. The Brahms Museum was one of six museums in the “Composer’s Corner”, which honored various musicians whom are tied to Hamburg — to include Georg Philipp Telemann, CPE Bach, Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler. We decided to see two of the museums, one for various baroque composers, and the other for Brahms. The museums were fascinating, containing original manuscripts, recreations of opera stages, some of the original instruments, and tools used for creating manuscript copies. The Brahms museum had a re-furbished piano, which was the piano owned by one of the Brahms’s students; so no doubt, Brahms probably had played on it before. The museum director invited me to play it, so I played the Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118, no. 2. It was a little difficult to play, since the piano action was a little different than I was used to. While we were there, we were the only visitors at the museum. I left with a few souvenirs from the gift shop, including a porcelain bust to add to my collection of composer busts purchased at museums dedicated to the composer.
Afterwards, we decided to go out for some authentic Hamburg hamburgers. I’m not sure, but it is rumored that hamburgers originated in the city of Hamburg, however nobody seems to know for sure. We found an authentic Hamburg hamburger place called “Burger King” (not sure what that means in English), and they had very delicious hamburgers there. We both had the house special, which they called the “Whopper” (not sure how to pronounce it). But the burger was far better than any burger I’ve ever tried in the states.
Afterwards, we wanted to get into the Miniature Wonderland (Miniatur Wunderland) museum. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get in that day, and the waiting time for the museum was days long. The museum featured impressive miniature creations (model trains, cities, etc). Instead, we took a walk around the city, and saw many of the historic landmarks. It wasn’t a huge disappointment; at least we were able to see the Brahms museum, which was the main attraction.
After walking around Hafencity for a while, we decided to head back to the city center near the City Hall. Afterwards, we went to one of the shopping centers where my dad got ice cream (I don’t eat ice cream myself). We stayed here a while because it began to downpour, and we didn’t want to walk around while it was raining.
After it stopped raining, we made our way back to the hotel. Later for dinner, we stopped at the Alt Deutsche Küche Elbbrücken (the Old German Elb Bridge Kitchen).
Hamburg to Berlin (April 30)
The next morning, we got up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and rode our bikes to the train station. There we had breakfast then got on the 6:30 train. The train ride was several hours long, so I read some books which I had brought. When we got to Berlin a little before noon, we had to swap the tube in my bicycle, which had failed. Since it was too early to check into the hotel, we rode around a bit, riding by the Victory Column, Brandenburg Gate, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (which had been bombed in World War II, and was being preserved in ruined state as a museum), Checkpoint Charlie (which is still manned as a form of historical reconstruction project), the TV Tower, and passed briefly by the museum block. We had lunch at Hackescher Markt, which consists of a series of stores located underneath the railroad tracks.
Afterwards, we headed to the hotel, checked in, and paid a visit to the Rewe (grocery store) at the train station. That night, we ate at a Peter Pane (burger restaurant) near the Ibis hotel which we were staying at, which is across the street from the train station.
Berlin Day 2 (May 1)
We started the day by grabbing breakfast at the Le Crobag in the train station. I grabbed a sandwich and a couple Berliners (jelly doughnuts).
This day was the German Labor day, meaning many businesses were closed. Fortunately for us, many of the museums which are normally closed on Mondays were opened for Labor Day. We wanted to go to the Pergamum museum first, but as we got to the ticket stand, we found many of the exhibits in the museum were going to be closed. Instead, we went to the Berliner Dom, and went on a museum tour of this building. The Berliner Dom is a Lutheran cathedral with very impressive architecture, at which many of the German royalty were buried. It is somewhat a state church. The museum tour talked much about the history of the building, of how it was built, how it suffered damage during WW2 and was later rebuilt. We visited various different levels of the building, going up along the dome walk path, and then down into the crypt, where many of the German nobility are entombed.
After touring the Berliner Dom, we decided to visit the Natural History Museum next. This museum was close to the hotel, and I had seen signs for it advertising some of the dinosaur bone exhibits they had on display. But first, we decided to visit the Goete Institute which my sister Diane attended when she stayed in Berlin, have Döner nearby, then text her images. She always seemed to appreciate when we texted her images of us eating her favorite German food. (Actually, she quite hated us for it.) Döner usually consists of meat or Falafel and various vegetables (cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce) in a focaccia-like bread, topped with a special sauce.
After lunch, we peroused the streets for a bit. Occasionally, we would see placards on the street with names of Jewish people who had lived or worked at those locations, who had during World War 2, been sent to concentration camps and later executed. We stopped by the Foundation New Synagogue, which is now a permanent venue for exhibitions.
We then made our way back to the hotel to unwind for a hour. Afterwards, we went off to the Natural History museum. The Natural History museum had various very impressive exhibits, including a extensive rock and mineral collection, one of the most impressive taxidermy collections, various dinosaur bone collections, and an enormous collection of pickled fish (very creepy exhibit). Some of the notable exhibits include Tristan the tyrannosaurus rex (the largest and most complete T-Rex collections which was excavated in Montana) and Knut the Polar Bear (you might have heard about it in the news).
Afterwards, we tried to get into a pathology museum, but it was about to close; so we headed back to the hotel. We later stopped by the Rewe, then went to dinner at Zollpackhof Restaurant. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and retired for the evening.
Berlin Day 3 (May 2)
This day, we intended to go to the district with the museums, and see how many we could fit in our schedule. Many of the notable museums in Berlin are located in a section on an island in the Spree river. We bought a general museum pass which would allow entry into most of these museums.
Before visiting the museums, we first went to the Memorial to the murdered Jews in Europe. I can’t seem to figure out what the monument symbolizes. The monument consisted of stone blocks of varying sizes, and a concrete ground which was uneven with various dips and ridges. There really doesn’t seem to be very much information on the site, but supposedly there is somewhere an information center has an archive of over 3 million Jews which were murdered by the Nazi regime. The monument has received much criticism for it’s level of vagueness.
The first museum we visited was the Neues museum, which consisted of a wide range of artifacts from the stone, bronze and iron ages, to include many artifacts of Roman colonization. The museum contained a large collection of Egyptian artifacts (sarcophagi, ancient writings and tablets). Because we had much planned for the day, we need to hurry through the exhibits; so I wasn’t able to glean much from the exhibitions.
We next went to the Pergamon museum next door. We ended up having to wait in line for over an hour to get in; and retrospectively, we should have gone to this museum first when the line wasn’t nearly as long. However we got in. This museum is notorious because it has some of the more impressive exhibits. The museum actually contains the Ishtar Gate, a massive structure which was transported from the dig of Babylon in Iraq. They were only able to include a portion of the palace, however the entire palace was transported back to Berlin, many of which is stored in archives. The museum also has reconstructed Roman buildings, and a collection of Islamic art.
Afterwards, we met with a friend of my dad’s from several years back, when he made a medical trip to Cameroon. We sold her my dad’s bicycle, which meant we wouldn’t need to worry about hauling two bicycles from then on. We had lunch with her at Peter Pane again, and talked about her plans to come to the United States for a tour this year.
Berlin to Leinach (May 3)
The next day, we checked out of the hotel, had brekfast at the train station, and boarded a train to Würzburg. Our final destination was Leinach, and it would require three train transfers to get there from Berlin. We left fairly early. On the way, I finished the book I was reading, mad a few emails, then began another book. On the last train, it was a bit crowded, and we were uncertain where to get off; however, we did get off at the right time, so everything worked out. When we arrived, we were picked up by Hans Wagner, loaded our baggage in his car, and I rode over to the Wagners’ house while my dad rode my bicycle over to their place. There, we had dinner and talked most of the afternoon. Much of the conversation was in German, and since I could barely understand what was being discussed, I eventually got tired and headed off to bed.
Leinach (May 4)
We began the day with a typical German breakfast (bread rolls with meat and cheese and coffee). We started the day by taking the Wagner’s dog Gustav for a walk in some nearby wine country, then later went to Karlstadt am Main to peruse the city. We visited a bakery there and picked up some pastries.
We headed back to the Wagners’ house, discussed more, and eventually decided to go to dinner at Landgasthof “Zum Bären” UG restaurant in Thüngersheim.
That evening, a friend Herbert Feucht dropped in to say hello, and we talked the rest of the evening. I think mostly about politics. It was a long conversation, and it’s interesting to hear different perspectives on various matters.
Leinach to Frankfurt (May 5)
In the morning, we got on the train to Frankfurt. My dad rode my bike to the train station while I loaded the car with the baggage and rode over with Hannas and Katja. At the train station, we said our good-byes. The train ride was a little uncomfortable, since there was a group of children which had completely occupied the bicycle holding area, so I had to stand most of the way with the bike. We got to Frankfurt, and first found a Mediterranean restaurant. I had a Mediterranean skewered Chicken dish there.
We checked into the hotel, then brought my bicycle into the bicycle shop to be dismantled and loaded back into the bicycle box we had transported it to Germany in. It would take a few hours to do, so in the meantime, we walked around the city and shopped for gifts to bring home. I ended up getting a bunch of German chocolates. We later picked up the bicycle at 5:00 PM and dropped it off in the lobby of the hotel. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city on my own, looking for gifts and stopping at the grocery store.
Frankfurt had a much more modern feel than most other German cities I visited. The town had construction projects all over. It also seemed to have a much more diverse culture, relatively fewer Caucasians, a large amount of people who appeared to be tourists from other countries.
For dinner, we went to the closest place I could find, and I ended up ordering ramen noodle soup. That night, it was very difficult trying to get to sleep. We needed to keep the window open to stay cool, however there were a lot of late-night dwellers outside. There were some people who were yelling in the streets (I couldn’t understand what). This went on essentially all night.
Flight Home (May 6)
We decided to make two trips to the airport, the first to carry the bicycle box and my dad’s luggage. I would then stay at the airport and watch the luggage while my dad went back and got my luggage. It was a bit tricky to try to carry everything at once. Once he returned, we could then check in the luggage and bicycle, and find breakfast somewhere in the airport. We were both tired and a little cranky after a night with very little sleep. We were able to check in with no issues, then we stopped by the duty-free shop for more gifts and to use up the rest of our Euros that we had.
The flight home required a transfer in Chicago. When we got to Chicago, my dad was under the impression we had one fewer hours to transfer planes than we actually had (I’m guessing because he calculated time differences wrong), so when we arrived at the gate after rushing and running a bit, we were relieved to find out we hadn’t missed the flight to Seattle. We arrived back at Seattle, and my mom was waiting to pick us up.
Overall the trip was a great time. Not exactly what people would consider a restful vacation, but lots of memorable moments.