Archive | September, 2015

Germany 9/24-9/30/15

30 Sep

Hi everyone.  After a heavy fondue dinner in Winterthur, Switzerland last night we all crashed hard about 7pm.  Which has me up and awake at 3am, so I figure it’s a good time to catch you up on our travels.  All pictures can be found over at my Facebook page if you’re interested at https://www.facebook.com/Brentallica

Ok….where were we.  Heading to see the Nazi museum in Nuremburg last Thursday (maybe it was Friday).  Holy cow!  It’s been a week?  I don’t know if I can remember all we’ve seen, done, and stayed, but I’ll give you the short and sweet.  Moreso, so I can look at this years down the road and remember where I’ve been.  🙂

Friday, 9/25 – I think this happened Friday – Day touring the Nazi museum in Nuremburg which was really fascinating.  It didn’t really focus on the war, or the anti-semitism and horrors of concentration camps, but more of the rise of the Nazi’s power and then the actual facility itself which was to built originally kind of as a massive 11 sq km complex as a headquarters and showplace with huge halls, parade grounds, stadiums, you name it.  Huge rally’s were held here and brought people from all over Germany to attend.  The complex was never completed as all construction ended at the beginning of WW2 and was never completed.  After that we found a laundry mat and after a week in country it was nice to catch up on all clean clothes!  All in all, a very interesting day.  Slept back in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Saturday, 9/26 – Awoke in Rothenburg and as we hadn’t seen much of the adorable little German town (which is like the German version of Leavenworth).  I know that sounds wierd, but it truly is.  The town itself is remarkably intact from how it was 1000 years ago I understand.  Completely surrounded by walls which you can still get up on and walk around a good part of the small old town part of the city.  It’s old world charm, cobblestone streets, 1/2 timbered buildings/homes, shopes, cafes, hotels…..it’s really very touristy and mostly foreigners visiting.  A tourist hot spot.  Making it more of a Leavenworth in my eyes, but still great to see and get an idea that as much as things change, they stay the same.  It is beautiful.  It’s the little cute medevil city you see in every snow globe.  Pretty perfect in every way.  We also took a visit to the Criminal Museum in town.  While not the greatest museum, it did have a lot of exhibts that dealt with criminal punishment in old world Rothenburg and covered it quite in depth.  A good deal of it was in English.  The way crimes were brought forth, the criminal prosecution and how that was handled, and ultimately a good deal of it dealt with the punishments, and tortures used to get someone to confess.  I imagine a lot of innocent people endured a lot of pain to the point it was easier to admit guilt just to get the torture to stop.  Gruesome, but interesting.  Headed back on the road south after this and wound up spending the night in Krumbach.  While there wasn’t anything particular interesting about Krumbach, other than it seemed a good stopping point, we did have a nice stay.

Sunday, 9/27 – Got into Stuttgart in the early afternoon and headed off to Cannstatter Volksfest which is a 2-3 week festival/party that is held annually in Stuttgart.  I learned this is the equivalent of the Munich Oktoberfest.  Imagine a gigantic Puyallup Fair with a lot of beer.  There were thousands of people, more carnival rides than I’ve ever seen in one place by far, food vendors everywhere and then there were….beer tents.  This was my first time.  We walked in to a tent we figured easily had 2000-2500 people, many of them dressed in the traditional laddenhosen (sp?) drinking and partying and having an all around great time.  We found a table and tried to take it what was going on around us and try to feel a part of it.  At first, you’re clearly an outsider, however, as the beers go down (and they did), you find yourself getting into it and feeing more comfortable.  People start toasting your glass and you go with the flow.  Lots of singing, clapping, standing on benches, singing more, ordering beers…..we’re not really totally sure what happened after that as all our stories sort of conflict and not everyone in our group could remember the evening the next day.  Let’s just say we know we had a great time looking through our pictures the next day.  We figured we must’ve been in the beer tent 4-5 hours and have no idea how we were there that long.  We were able to find our exceptional hotel room (another nod to booking.com) and were all excited at 10:30p that we could listen to the Seahawks game which was starting back home.  By 10:45p, I think we were all fast asleep, but were excited to find out we beat the Bears 26-0 the next morning.

Monday, 9/28 – Figured we were so close, we couldn’t pass up a side trip to France, so we headed just over the border to Straussbourg, France and found a place for the night.  After a parking garage adventure in the scariest parking garage on earth, we dropped our bags in our room and headed out to explore the old town here.  Wound up finding the central plaza and another huge, beautiful cathedral (Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg) and admiring.  To me, while very beautiful and a look into the past, they do start to look and feel very similar.  They had a cheezy little tourist tram that drove you through and around the old town area at the speed of an 85-year old man on crutches, but it was a good overview.  Afterwards we pretty much repeated the same route, but on foot.  The area that really stood out to me was called Petite France (or little France).  Right out of any postcard you’ve ever seen and probably one of the coolest, most quaint, little areas I can every remember visiting.  It was spectacular to just sit at an outside care, watch the people passing by, and take it all in.  I enjoyed a beer, but my mates all insisted on wine.  We were in France so it was a must.  Situated on a little canal, it was simply spectacular.  The French gelato is also a spectacle in it’s own right.  Absolutely delicious.  And in my opinion, the majority of the French people we came across didn’t seem to really like us.  Just an observation.  I have no idea if it’s true, but they do seem to come off very snooty.  The staff at our hotel and our dinner waiter were just kind of “dicky”.  I still haven’t decided if it’s true that French people hate Americans, but in my short visit and experience, I can see where that belief comes from.

Tuesday, 9/29 – Headed back to Germany and stopped at the Friedrichsbad Irish-Roman bath.  We knew about this place before our travels.  Built in 1877 and catering only to the super rich (Baden-Baden is know as a “spa” town), it was the top spot back in it’s day if you wanted to be clean and pampered.  It retains a lot of it’s heritage today and for $40 you too can experience showering with your friends.  All nude.  Co-ed.  Now, it’s not exactly the Roman orgy, you may picture.  In fact, there’s nothing sexual about it at all.  It’s simply about well being and a series of steps (17 to be exact) you complete, in order, to get the full experience.  There’s a lot of showering, soaking in pools of various temperatures, sitting in air baths of warm to hot air, sitting in steam rooms of varying degrees, and my favorite, laying on a marble table, buck ass naked, face up, while a man scrubs you down with soap and a soft brush.  It was actually wonderful, and I loved the entire experience and the whole day.  Michelle joined me in my enthusiasm for it.  Chuck seemed to be cool, and even Jimmy while probably not his favorite part of the trip had a good experience as well.  After literally about 1 minute, you completely forget you’re naked and just enjoy the whole thing.  It was a blast and I wish we had something like it at home.  I thought it was wonderfully relaxing and I don’t think I’ve ever been cleaner.  I tried to not poop for as long as possible afterwards because I wanted to stay so shiny and pristine.  (All good things must come to an end sadly.)

Back on the road south we stopped for a bit and a look around Frieburg.  Another huge Cathedral (Munsterplatz Frieburg), lots of shopping streets, restaurants, and cafes.  The most interesting thing is these little waterways that run alongside the streets.  I believe they are called Buchle….something like that.  I wanted to go buy a little toy boat and sail it down one.  I’m sure they have some funtional, practical use, but I don’t know what that is.  It did provide a nice ambience and trickling water noise.  Probably would’ve sounded cooler at night and I can only imagine the hundreds of people (especially drunk ones) tripping in them later in the evening.

Now onto Switzerland.  In searching for nightly accomodation we learned quickly that Zurich was out of our price range.  A dump was $300 a night for meager, slim accomodation.  We don’t need much, but spending that much for nothing didn’t seem to be a good enough value so we settled at a hostel just outside Zurich in the town of Winterfell.  The place is an old factory that was refurbished in 2011 and is not only beautiful and spacious (but again remember it’s a hostel), but our room is big with very high ceilings.  It’s a winner and we’re all very comfortable.  We did not get in until 8pm so we found the Austrailian restaurant downstairs to have a few beers and unwind.  We quickly learned that Switzerland is expensive!!  $10 for a plate of french fries?  However, they were so good, and they give you a bottle of ketchup to enjoy, not a wimpy little packet or two.  Those were some grubbin fries.

Wednesday, 9/30 – We took the train from Winterthur into Zurich to explore for the day.  Switzerland is expensive.  Zurich is off the charts!  $8 for a large coffee?  $25 for a hamburger?  It was just off the charts.  We took a walking tour with our excellent guide Jonathan who took us through the old town area of Zurich which is very beautiful and very bustling.  It’s a big city, lots of people, everyone going about their days.  The day was brisk and cool and we had to walk in order to not freeze to death.  Saw a few of the sights in the inner city and walked up to a park which had a great overlook view down onto the city below which seems to stretch as far as you can see in every direction.  Had a walk about on our own down to the lakeshore, but on a cloudy almost foggy day, it was hard to see and get a good sense of the vast size.  The public transport is exceptional and after some quick study it was easy to find your way around on the numerous trams that go off above ground in every direction and run every few minutes.  All-in-all a very nice visit, but not kind on your wallet.

Heading back to Winterthur we were decided our mission was we needed to have fondue while we were here and went out in search.  Fondue is a lot harder to find here than you would think it should be.  We learned apparently, like many cultures, the Swiss, do not regularly eat “Swiss” food.  Fondue is something you’d only have a few times a year, generally served after a cold day of skiing.  We did finally find a very well-to-do restaurant that had it on the menu and it was the full experience, exactly what we were looking for.  And of course, it wasn’t cheap.  But our service and food was wonderful and none of us could hardly walk afterwards we were so full.  Bread, and boiled potatoes, and so….much…..cheese.  Mmmmm…..so good, but we all overate and then waddled back to our room.  Everyone needed to lay down after that meal for a good hour or two and then we planned to head out for a beer.

Fast forward to now, 5am, Thursday morning, 10/1 as I sit here and write this.  We never quite recovered and the gang is still upstairs asleep.  I think we were all fast asleep before 8pm so it is a good chance to catch up on some rest with our tummies way overfilled.

In a little bit, everyone will wake up and we’re jump in our car and head back to Germany where we have an apartment rented just outside Munich for the rest of our trip.  We stay 1 night in most places, and no more than 2, so I’m looking forward to actually getting to settle in to a place.  We’ll be in the same place now until next Wednesday, 10/7, when we fly home.  There are quite a few sights in Munich we have picked out to see, as well as a day planned at Oktoberfest.  There are also nearby day trips we plan to take down to Innsbruck, Austria, the Zugitsphere mountain, and we’re all still looking forward to doing a summer luge.  Can we get it all in?  I don’t know, but we’ll try.

You’re totally caught up now as I sign off for the day.  Will try to write more sooner.  xoxo

 

 

 

Germany – 9/22-9/24/15

25 Sep

Hi everyone – Still haven’t felt the inspiration to blog, but I don’t want to dissapoint my dozens of fans so I will do my best to find the words.  First off, maybe it’s not been as necessary to me to blog as Facebook seems to be the way to communicate quickly and share pictures back home.  I assume everyone reading this is Facebook friends with me, but if not, just send me an add request.  My Facebook is at https://www.facebook.com/Brentallica

So….the last I left you we were on the train to Dusseldorf.  We arrived safe and sound and booked accomodation in the city at a small hotel called AOK I think.  They seem to be a large chain as I’ve seen them everywhere.  Nothing special, but we then made our way about a mile and a half through the city (again nothing special) to the Altstadt which is the old town which was very cool.  However, it was also very miserable weather and just about everything was closed.  We walked along the promenade on the Rhein which was lined with Beer Gardens (Biergarten?) which are row after row of communal table meant for drinking and visting and general all around having funness.  We had a restaurant suggested to us by someone and we were able to find it easily and sat down to our first authentic German meal since being in country.  Sometimes the menus have an English translation, but sometimes they down and you just kind of wing it.  We’ve been able to figure it out so far and I think we’ve all gotten everything we “thought” we ordered.  The food is delicious and with the exception of a pizza I got back in Amsterdam, I’ve been all local in my food choices which I know will be surprising to some.  The greatest thing about the restaurant was the beer service.  There were constantly servers walking around with glasses of beer.  If there was no glass in front of you, or an empty glass, you got a beer.  We sat down and within literally 10 seconds, we all had beer in front of us.  That…..is awesome.  They tally how many you’ve drank on your coaster to keep track.  Pretty cool.  We finally learned when you don’t want anymore, you put the coaster on the top, but it was a nice lesson to learn six beers in.

Awoke on Wednesday and headed south towards Koln and visited the Koln Dom (or Cologne Cathedral) which is a spectacular Catholic Church on the edge of town.  Massive and beautiful and tourist crazy, but we were able to go inside and although I’m not a Catholic I felt the need to light a candle for my brother who left this world too soon.  I think the most impressive thing from this area in my mind were the photos of the bombed out Cologne from World War 2, but this huge religious monument was unscathed.  I suppose it’s a nod to the exceptional targeting abilities and advocates to the unwritten rules of war by our Allied Forces during WW2.  Really just remarkable photos.  I’m sure you can google them.  Don’t have the greatest bandwidth so I’m trying to just keep the pictures of everything on Facebook.

From Cologne we travelled south and found what we knew to be Rick Steve’s favorite German castle, Burg Eltz.  Owned by the Eltz family to this day from around 1000 years ago, it was a combination of 3 families (spurs of the Eltz) who built for about 500 years and would up with what is today, the castle.  The remarkable thing about this place is it was only attacked once, and for a very brief period so it has remained wonderfully intact and is today what it was for the last several hundred years.  It was decorated authentically for the different time periods and a real chance to walk through some medieval history.  Wonderful and beautiful place and definately wound up being a worthly stop.  Oh, and the Armory there was bad ass checking out all the ancient weaponry.  Totally far out.

Back on the road, a little further sound and we wound up in a town near Meinz, but I can’t recall.  I believe it was Russelheim or something.  Chuck had been in Meinz a week for work a year or two earlier and recalled a great German restuarant there.  We got back into Meinz and he was able to direct us right there.  Another fantastic place and pure German.  This was a brewery called Eins-something-burg.  I have to get better about writing things down.  As I mentioned we’ve been eating and drinking hearty German style.

We had a great hotel in Russelheim that we found on booking.com.  They’ve been our go-to source for accomodation on this trip and have found us great places at hostel costs.  Been really good to us so far so that’s their plug!  http://www.booking.com

Awoke yesterday, Thursday and decided to head a little further south to Heidelburg.  Visted the allstadt (which is now what I’ve learned is “old town” anywhere we go.  And “Zentrum” is town centre).  It’s very touristy and a walk through coblestone streets and very old building that are now shops, cafes, and whatnot.  Lots of tourists.  Lots of Americans.  The food and beer again continue to kick ass.  The walk through oldtown while beautiful was nothing spectacular you haven’t seen 100 times before and it’s funny I find my self thinking of Disney and Universal Studios and places like that.  It almost seems like you’re at one of those places and you have to remind yourself this is the real deal.

So the highlight of Heidelburg for me was Heidelburg Castle which is called Schloss Heidelburg.  For 6 Euro you ride an inclinator up the side of the mountain out of old town up to the castle.  If you saw the climb, 6 Euros was well worth it.  A Euro is currently about $1.16US.  These little cars are built at what I’d guess is about a 45 degree angle to fit right on the track up the side.  So if you laid them flat on the ground, you’d be reclining if you sat in them.  However that would be pointless as the floor would also be at an angle so you couldn’t even walk in one.  Everything’s level on the ride up though I’m happy to report and we made it to the top and walked all through the ruined castle from the 16th century.  I believe when it was up and rolling.  It was massive and we walked through the nearby park grounds as well.  The views from the castle looking down over Heidelburg are exactly what you think of when you think of Germany with the town spread out below in all it’s grandeaur and a peaceful river running through.  Bridges, people, rooftops…..all very peaceful and serene and we stood at the top a good while just looking down and admiring.

After a good visit we turned inland and would up driving into Rothenburg ob der Tauber where we spent last night.  This city is the real deal from the year about 1000AD I guess and while different with cars and tourists and shops, I understand is remarkably the same as it’s been for 1000 years or so.  The city is all old, old buildings, coblestone streets and very Charles Dickensesque.  At least it seems that way to me.  I can only imagine this place with snow and it would be right out of the movies.  True old world and I have to remind myself again this is the real deal.

I’m sitting at the bottom of a coblestone street and see my travel mates emerging from their slumber ready to start the day.  Heading down the hill towards me.  I guess this is a perfect stopping point.  It’s Friday now and our plans have us daytripping into Nuremburg to visit the city and Nazi museum.  We’re all very excited to see it.

I certainly don’t mean to glorify or condone Nazism or anything like that, but I’ve always found the story and history of Nazi Germany interesting and their rise to a world power.  I know probably a little more than the average person and looking to learn more even if parts of it are horrific and terrifying.  The military force and how it was built in the time it was built I find a remarkable story.

Tshutse…..I think this is spelled right.  It’s pronouned almost like “juice” and is the informal word we know as “bye”  🙂

Germany 2015

22 Sep

Hi everybody –
Haven’t had a chance to blog yet. Haven’t really felt like it. Not sure why I don’t feel the inspiration, but I’m just not. BUT, I’ve been getting notes from home and my travelling partners as I think they want a shot to be famous in my travels so I guess I better get busy.
Have some downtime now as I’m sitting on a train travelling through the beautiful Netherlands countryside on my way to Dusseldorf Germany. The last few days have gone by quickly.
We left Seattle about 4:30pm on Saturday the 19th. And finally made it to Amsterdam about 1pm local time on Sunday. Only Chuck was able to sleep. BUT, we know the best strategy is to just immediately adjust to the local time and so we did.
My travelling partners this trip are Chuck, friends since high school and a bit of a general dipshit. Has travelled all over the world for work, but never actually seen anything or really gotten local. This is really his first time getting to vacation/travel in Europe. My buddy Jimmy who I’ve known 25 years, is an extensive world traveler, and even lived in Germany for a year and a half with his 8th wife. He’s on wife 9 now and seems pretty happy with her. And my old partner in crime, Michelle, who I’ve known since I was a little kid and my regular companion on these adventures and usually a co-pilot on a bar stool back home. My sista-from-another-mister. This is our 3rd Euro adventure together. Anyways, that’s my travel gang this time out.
So, we get into Amsterdam and immediately go the wrong way searching for our place we have booked for a couple nights. I thought I knew where I was going, and while I was heading the right direction, it did take us a bit to find the houseboat we were staying on. Happy to report, we finally did, and met our Captain Dawn, who was a gracious host and the houseboat was really great. Not the most spacious place, but we had enough room to move around and stow our gear. The toilets were weird, but I won’t go into that.  Staying on the boat was cool and I could feel the gentle rocking at night as I’d drift off to sleep.
We were all excited to see Amsterdam and the Red Light District, so we set out walking. And walking. And walking. We walked all over that first evening. Saw the lights. Saw the “coffee shops”. Saw the girls in the windows. Saw busy canals. Crossed many bridges. Enjoyed the building and narrow alleyways and nooks. Had a lovely dinner, although I don’t recall where. It was all … not overwhelming, but definitely an experience. Really cool just to stroll. I slept well and dreamt of Amsterdam all night, but I tell you when I woke up, I couldn’t remember what I was dreaming about. Honest. Just know it was about Amsterdam.
The next day, after everyone caught up on sleep, we had a grand day out. This time we set out towards the Anne Frank house, which I knew who Anne Frank was, but no real details. (I thought I knew who Anne Frank was…..I didn’t.) At first, I thought Anne Frank was Helen Keller, but I quickly learned that was the wrong story. One of my favorite things to do when travelling in Europe, or anywhere really, is to “walk in History”. That’s what I call it anyway. Be on the site, and walk in the steps where famous historical events have taken place. I just love it. So once I read the story of Anne Frank (while waiting in line 2 hours for tickets), I was really excited to get to take my walk through history. Absolutely fantastic tour, and museum, and a marvelous story, with a very sad ending. Just another month and the whole crew would’ve made it out as Amsterdam was liberated from the Nazis just a month or so after the Frank family and friends were rounded up and taken away. It inspired me to definitely read the Diary of Anne Frank which I will probably download on this trip and read on my kindle during down time. (Kindles, cell phones, portable wireless access points, it is so simple to travel here nowadays.)
After Anne, we needed to lift our spirits? So we eventually made our ways to the coffee shops, perused the menus, and uh, did as the Dutch do when Amsterdam, and every other tourist here (which there are a lot and a lot more Americans than I expected). It’s a great experience to see all the freedom and tolerance towards alternative “lifestyles”? The so-called “seedy” part of Amsterdam while different, didn’t seem so seedy to me. Everyone going about their lives enjoying their substance of choice, sitting at outside cafes, visiting, laughing, enjoying. The canals and boats passing by are wonderful to veg out to as well as some of the best people watching on the planet that I’ve seen. We just kind of absorbed and integrated into what was happening around us the rest of the afternoon and it was all really, really…..just great. I’ll tell you, I didn’t love the Red Light district like I expected to, but I did enjoy it very much. If I never come back, that’s fine, and if I come back again, great. I’ll look forward to it.
We wound up taking a canal cruise as well which was completely awesome. It was inexpensive, tolerant of any substances you may bring on board  and served drinks! That was a fun ride. Our tour boat captain educated us on the various buildings, districts, and histories and it was pretty groovy to cruise the waterways and go under all the bridges. Calming, relaxing, and very fun.
At dinner we discussed all the great things we had seen, only to find Chuck missed everything, literally everything, we learned on the cruise. He was busy taking selfies. As I mentioned earlier, he’s a bit of dipshit. We filled him in though on what he missed.
By about 9pm (we’d been out literally all day), we’d all had our fill. We made our way back to our houseboat and crashed hard. Those who couldn’t sleep the first night, did so the second, and we’re all perfectly integrated into the local time now. No jet lag at all.
And that brings us to right about now. Got up this morning and made our way to Amsterdam Central to catch the train to Dusseldorf. So, we’re all caught up! Love & kisses to those back home and will write more as soon as I can.
When we get to Dusseldorf, we have pretty much zero plans. We’re picking up a car at the railstation…..and that’s it. More to come…..Ta ta…..