A Travellerspoint blog

Germany

We were so keen to leave the Netherlands that we didn't care where we went as long as it we got out and were heading in the direction of Berlin. We ended up spending our first night in Freren, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it town near the Dutch border. We found a quaint (and dirt cheap) camp ground with even quainter showers. On the plus-side it had a Bavarian version of a fish and chip shop (schnitzel unt pommes?) nearby so we were able to get stuck into our first proper German sausage!

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The next morning we awoke to the blissful (and almost forgotten) feeling of sunshine on our faces and enjoyed a drive through the German countryside to Hameln (of Pied Piper fame). We wandered through the old town and dodged as many tourist traps as possible before heading back to the campsite...

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The photo doesn't really do it justice but there is a giant golden rat on top of the bridge!!

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Pretty much everything here is rat or piper orientated...

The next day we headed to the central Harz mountains and based ourselves in Bad Harzberg for two days so we could walk the Goethe trail to the summit of the Brocken, the tallest in the range. Despite the “mountain” only just managing to crack 1140 metres, it was a fatiguing 16 km round trip from the closest town.

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The lazy option...

After getting some long overdue laundry done, we headed straight for Berlin. We managed to find a great spot called Tent Station, an old sports complex that has been converted into a camp ground near Berlin's northern train station which gave us an excellent base from which to explore.

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The Reichstag

The foot falcons once again got a good working over as we made our way around the major sights. The first day took us to the impressive Reichstag building. We couldn't get inside the new dome because you now have to book online two days in advance – its ugly anyway (not that we're spiteful or anything) and the Brandenburg Gate.

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The Brandenburg Gate

We had a minor Lonely Planet fail when we got to Berlin's Museum Island just after 6pm (all the museums were supposed to be free between 6pm – 10pm every Thursday...) Apparently free Thursdays went the way of Communism last October and nobody bothered to update the websites. Thankfully, the interesting, interactive (and very cheap) DDR museum was nearby which gave us an insight into East Germany under Soviet administration.

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I don't remember this from Scouts...

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The Berliner Dom with the TV Tower in the background

After the DDR museum we wandered along to the TV Tower, Berlin's tallest structure, intending to have a few drinks and watch the sunset over the city at the unimaginatively named 360 Restaurant. Unfortunately when we arrived we discovered that there was going to cost us 11 euros each just to get up to the restaurant, so we abandoned that plan and found a small pub nearby instead.

The following day began at the Holocaust Memorial, which in hindsight was a terrible way to start the day... The underground visitor's centre contains about five rooms of displays containing extremely graphic photographs, videos and personal testimony either related by survivors or recovered from the belongings of the victims. The information is presented in a brutally honest way and the facts are not sugar-coated which, given its location in the middle of the German capital, makes the emotional impact of the displays even more tangible.

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The Holocaust Memorial

After the memorial we wandered past the former location of Hitler's bunker (tastefully, there is nothing there - although as one of our friends suggested perhaps they should consider a public toilet?) before grabbing a currywurst (Berlin's favourite street food, apparently) and heading to the Topography of Terrors exhibition at the site of the former SS headquarters.

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Despite being very well laid out, the Topography of Terrors was a serious case of information overload – the best bit was a section dedicated to the Nuremburg Trials and the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem several years later.

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Where the wall once stood...

Our next stop was the Checkpoint Charlie museum just down the road from the replica of the Cold War checkpoint... Unfortunately we found the museum to be even worse for information overload than the Topography of Terrors and would definitely not recommend anyone trying to do them both in the same day!

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The Checkpoint Charlie replica also comes complete with a replica American officer (who doesn't speak a word of English and charges 2 euros for a photo...)

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The free world ends here?

Having said that, we did enjoy a break from WWII, the holocaust, etc; although the Cold War and East-West escape attempts ending in hails of gunfire isn't exactly cheery subject matter! The Checkpoint Charlie museum does contain a lot of exhibits showing the inventiveness (or sheer desperation) of some people in their attempts to escape East Germany. One of our favourites had to be the bloke who tried to get out in a home made mini submarine!

After working up a thirst traipsing from one side of town to the other, we headed to a chilled out bar in an old yacht club overlooking a small canal. Several drinks and a pizza later we walked to the East Side Gallery (graffiti painted on one of the longest remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall) before heading back to Tent Station for a well earned sleep.

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Some other impressive graffiti from around Berlin...

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Not so impressive, but still, either this guy really hates canned ham or he has been receiving unsolicited emails...

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The site of one of the notorious Nazi book burnings commemorated...

Saturday was museum day for us (yes, we did have to fork out the cash in the end) and we spent most of our day trying to tear around as many museums on the island as we could. The undisputed highlights were Nefertiti's bust (no photos allowed!) in the Egyptian Collection at the Neues Musuem; and everything inside the massive Pergamon Museum, named after the reconstructed Pergamon Altar inside - although we think it should probably be renamed the Museum of Dubious Acquisitions. It also houses the spectacular Ishtar Gate from the city of Babylon, and the Market Gate of Miletus.

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The Pergamon Altar

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The Market Gate of Miletus

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The Ishtar Gate... The smaller of the two massive blue tiled gates of Babylon and our absolute favourite!

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A mihrab from the museum of Islamic Art on the second floor of the Pergamon

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Bust of Athena in the Altes Museum

After spending several hours on our feet, we looked into a suitable location to catch the NZ/SA tri-nations game. We discovered Berlin's 'Kiwi Pub' way out in the suburbs and decided that it would be the best bet for rugby in Berlin. As it turned out, there were only three of us (including the owner) for most of the game...

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Despite spending the last 20-odd years in Germany, the owner still hadn't lost his Kiwi accent and was pretty happy to hear it reciprocated from what we could gather. The Monteith's was cold, the rugby was on a big screen, and despite the result, we had a fantastic night with Rob scaring the crap out of the locals with an impromptu haka...

The next day we slept off our well-earned hangovers before heading towards Dresden. We did have a stopover near Moritzburg on the way.

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The beautiful castle at Moritzburg

The next morning we got up early and drove into Dresden...

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Whilst very tastefully restored, it is mind boggling to see how little of the original buildings are left following WWII.

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Yay Communism! Traces of East Germany still remain...

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The former royal stables (left)

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The impressive Furstenzug, or Procession of Princes is a 102m long porcelain tile mural - amazing that it survived the war!

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We had a great breakfast near the Dresden Cathedral before stocking up on bratwurst and heading to the Czech Republic...

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The Dresden Cathedral was pretty much destroyed during WWII but has been very well reconstructed.

All in all we had a great time in Germany and really only scratched the surface of funky Berlin where there was so much going on. We are looking forward to returning to Germany to explore the south a bit more after we have had a spin through Eastern Europe...

Posted by RobandEve 12:45 Archived in Germany

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WOW wow wow! You saw a very different Germany to us 30 years ago!! Need to revisit. Glad Check Point Charlie Museum survived.

by erynne

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