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Entries about germany


Another visit with family in another great city.

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View Semester Break, pt. 3 on kmclean's travel map.

We got off a couple of stops early on the overnight train we had already booked to Freiburg to meet Russ and Sheila in Heidelberg. We met them at their hotel for a yummy German breakfast and then went out to see the city. We spent the next couple of days seeing the city and surroundings with them, and now we’re finally on our way back to Freiburg.

On our first day in the city after breakfast we went to the Heidelberg castle. It was badly damaged in a French invasion quite a long time ago, and they’ve left it that way. I think one reason was at the time there just wasn’t a lot of money for the rebuilding, but after some time the half-destroyed castle became a sort of symbol of the city, and now they actually do work to preserve it in its exact current state, which I find kind of odd. Either repair it or don’t, but it seems odd to make an effort to keep it in its current sort of half-done state. I think it has a lot to do with famous paintings of the city showing the castle this way. Either way, it was really something to see and we got a great tour of the interior from a rather funny German guide.

That evening we went to a concert at the university, which is the oldest in Germany, and got to see the Old University Hall, which was really great. Freiburg is also a beautiful and very, very old university, but the original buildings aren’t in use for classes anymore. All the buildings where we have classes are new, modern lecture halls, so you don’t really feel like you’re at a university over 500 years old.

On our second day we went for a little hike around the forest surrounding the city and made it to some really amazing ruins. For one, there was an amphitheatre on the top of the hill which was built by the Nazis in 1935 using slave labour, and was opened for propaganda presentations. Beyond this amphitheatre were ruins of a 9th century monastery, which has been abandoned since the 16th century, apparently because a roof-collapse killed the last three remaining monks. Surrounding this entire mountain were ruins of a wall which was built by the Celts in the 4th century! It was just so fascinating to see all these layers of completely unrelated history piled on top of one another, as if they had no idea at the time what they were building, and where. All this in a little academic city not in any particularly useful location.

We got rained on pretty severely on our hike down the mountain that day, and it rained again the next day. It worked out alright anyway, and we went to a “Packaging Museum”. I know, maybe doesn’t sound that interesting, but on the inside it was really cool. They had all kinds of factory equipment used for packaging different things and labels of all sorts of German brands over the years. One particularly interesting piece was a special edition tin of cigarettes made for the titanic, which a survivor carried out with them. There are three known left in the world. The museum turned out to be great and the man working there gave us a great tour; I would definitely recommend the packaging museum, as uninteresting as it may sound.

We had one last meal with Russ and Sheila before getting onto our train back to Freiburg. It’s never fun saying goodbye, but it just makes me look forward to the next time I’ll see everyone – hopefully in the summer. This was the final stop on our semester break trip and now we’re going back to Freiburg for a while. Classes start full swing on Monday, so hopefully this semester my classes will all work out. I wish we could keep travelling; there are so many more places I would love to see, but at the same time I’m excited to get settled somewhere for a little while at least and get back to school. There are quite a few holidays this semester since Baden-Württemberg gets both the Protestant and Catholic holidays, being one of the only “mixed” states, so we’ll be doing a few shorter trips later on, but for now I guess it’s time to get on our last train for a while.

Posted by kmclean 15:50 Archived in Germany Tagged germany heidelberg Comments (0)


There's not enough time in the world to see all this city has.

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View Semester Break, pt. 3 on kmclean's travel map.

This was our second time in this amazing city, and I still want to come back again! We were here in October with our group of Canadians after the “immersion” part of the year in Freiburg and got to see quite a few of the museums and sites, but I don’t think there’s enough time in one’s life to really appreciate all that Berlin has. This time around we went to the Dali exhibit and the Checkpoint Charlie museum, and took a couple of walking tours of the city to see some sides of it we hadn’t yet.

The Dali exhibit was great, and definitely worth seeing if you’re into that type of art. It’s permanent in Berlin right in Potsdamer Platz, so also convenient. Afterward we went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which was amazing. It should be called the “GDR escape museum”, but I guess the name suits it. Inside they have tons of things people used to escape the GDR, including cars rigged in different ways to make space and prevent sagging, all kinds of make-shift ziplines, and even a kayak a guy actually used to get out through the Ostsee. They also have a make-shift scuba tank built by someone who obviously knew what they were doing, since all diving gear was banned in the GDR to prevent people from escaping by sea. It’s insane what some people went through to get out. What’s more insane is how much worse it was in most countries, and how long it lasted. At least the East-Germans had somewhere to go; usually they’d be welcomed with citizenship, accommodations, and cash in West-Germany. It’s hard to believe what some people had to put up with.

The next day we did a walking tour through “alternative” Berlin, which was kind of just a street art tour, but it was really interesting. It came with a lot of history, and a lot of explaining about why Berlin is the way it is today. Now it’s a top notch place to live and you’d be lucky to afford a decent apartment near the centre, but after the war it was quite a hole. For one it had been almost completely destroyed, and every building was at least damaged, and second of all Germany split up. This meant difficulties reconstructing the city and a lot of check points. West Germany always worked hard to keep Berlin, though, since they never accepted that Germany would be divided for ever, and were not about to lose their capital. Anyway, during the division of Germany Berlin wasn’t such an attractive place to be, so the government provided incentives for people to live there like low or no taxes, living subsidies, and waiving the military service requirement. Of course mostly artists and students are attracted to this kind of lifestyle and Berlin evolved into one of the most alternative cities in the world. After the wall fell half the city, and the country, was full of buildings owned by a state that no longer existed, so the hippies moved over there and Berlin is now one of the coolest cities in the world.Unfortunately the epitome of this alternative spirit of Berlin -- Tacheles -- is under serious threat of being shut down now, and the entire district surrounding it of being turned into a high class apartment block with expensive cafés and high-end art galleries. Here's hoping!

There are artist squats and make-shift galleries everywhere, although unfortunately with all the money coming into Berlin it is becoming quite “gentrified” and losing its edge. You can still find some really great street art and of course the East Side gallery, which is unfortunately slowly being torn apart to let massive buildings and apartment complexes through, but hopefully they find some way to stop it.

We had a great time in Berlin seeing this other side of it and learning more and more. There are still things there I’d love to see and do, and hopefully we’ll be back again someday. This was going to be our last stop on the trip, but it turns out my uncle and aunt Russ and Sheila are going to be in Heidelberg over the next few days, so we’re headed there next before we get back to Freiburg for a while.

Posted by kmclean 15:22 Archived in Germany Tagged germany berlin tacheles Comments (0)


A very beautiful, very German city

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Our second last stop and the last city in mainland Europe we visited this Christmas break was Munich. I’ve really been wanting to see it, being so close in Freiburg, and this was perfect chance since it’s about half way between Prague and Freiburg. It’s a great city and very, very German. I guess most of the German stereotypes come from Bavaria. It turned out to be a lot smaller than I thought it was, but that ended up being a great thing since we had no problem getting around on foot. I guess it’s also one of the first cities we’ve been to in a while that doesn’t have two sides divided by a river, which makes it a lot more accessible for pedestrians. The city was really interesting and has a fascinating history. It’s very grim in a lot of ways, but nothing a few litres of beer can’t fix.

We did a walking tour on our first day, of course, and learned a lot about the city. The history goes way back to the Bavarian kingdom, but more recently it was the centre of the Nazi movement, being called by Hitler himself “Die Hauptstadt der Bewegung” – the capital city of the movement. He gave his inaugural speech as leader of the party in a beer hall here, he carried out the “beer hall putsch”, a first attempt to overthrow the government by force, here, he gave a speech every year on its anniversary here, and he opened the first concentration camp just outside the city in Dachau. Of course because of all this by the end of the war the city had been destroyed, but they knew it was coming and made a lot of effort to preserve original city plans and building blueprints. Because of this the city still looks quite beautiful compared to some other German cities, like Berlin, which were kind of just thrown up quickly according to the design of the time. Unfortunately 60’s and 70’s architecture is nothing special.

The nightlife in Munich isn’t exactly the liveliest, but we still had a good time at a couple of beer halls, which seems to be the thing to do here. We had a hard time finding cafés as always, but the drink of choice is definitely not coffee in this city. Our first night we went to the Hofbräuhaus, the royal brewery, which is where the stage Hitler gave his inaugural speech as leader of the Nazi party on is still standing. The beer was great, but the minimum litre you can order is a little much! The second night we went to the Augustiner Bierhalle and discovered why it’s the local favourite. The beer was probably the most delicious I’ve ever had, and even the pretzels were great.

There’s not a ton of stuff to see or do in Munich, but it’s definitely worth a visit and a few days is a great amount of time to see the main sites and discover the history. I’m glad we stopped over here, it was a great place to just take it easy with a few beers, but now we’re looking forward to getting some sun!

Here a few pictures of Munich.

And a few of our tour of Dachau.

Posted by kmclean 20:27 Archived in Germany Tagged beer germany christmas europe german hall munich putsch stereotypes mainland Comments (0)

Arrived in Split

Finally our trip has started

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We arrived in Split this morning at 8:00 am. I definitely didn’t consider how difficult a 6:20 am flight would be to get to and catch. Luckily there’s an airport bus that leaves from Neunburg every hour – even at 4:00 am! – to the Basel airport. Meike drove us to the bus stop (we owe her big time!) and we caught the flight with no problems. Also, EasyJet doesn’t seem to be as bad as it can be made out to be. Of course there are “no frills”.. no drinks, snacks, pillows, towelettes, or headphones, but for the price and a one hour flight, we had no issues.

Our first view of Croatia was absolutely beautiful; the Split airport is surrounded by mountains and palm trees. Germany is beautiful, but I think Croatia is so stunning because it’s so different from what we’re used to seeing in Canada. The drive from Basel to Heitersheim looked surprisingly similar to a drive through the Valley. Anyway, our first day in Split was action packed. We had the worst time finding our apartment and ended up walking around the old town and then through it, and we somehow ended up on top of a mountain in a forest park. After an hour of trekking with our heavy packs, we made it, and discovered that the apartment was actually only a 10 minute walk from the centre of the old town. Our apartment was great and the host Ivan was very helpful – he even gave us a quick tour of the city as soon as we checked in. The first day in Split we toured around the old town and explored Diocletian’s palace. It’s quite extravagant. We also went to the ethnographic museum, where you can climb to the roof and catch an amazing view of the city. It was well worth the 10 kunas it cost. We checked out the market to get some groceries and then went home for lunch. By the end of a busy day touring around we’re exhausted, so we’re going to get some rest and get ready for tomorrow!

Update: Here are some of our pictures from Split.

Posted by kmclean 17:47 Archived in Croatia Tagged germany croatia flights split basel easyjet Comments (0)

We made it!

Finally arrived in Europe.

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After 3 delayed flights Mike, our luggage, and I all arrived safely in Germany. It was a long trip, but the overnight flight turned out to be alright and the food was decent. In the end we made it to Basel with no problems and our lovely friend Meike met us at the airport. We stayed with her and her family in Heitersheim, a really nice town not far outside Freiburg. Her and her family have been treating us to lots of delicious German food since we arrived. They took us out to a great local restaurant where Mike and I had Flammenkuchen, we had meat, cheese, and fresh bread for breakfast and for supper Maultaschen.

On Monday we took the train to Freiburg and spent the day there. It’s such a great city! I can’t wait to live there for the year. The trains were great – right on time and with an automated ticket station. Another thing we’re looking forward to is easy transportation. We spent the rest of the night with Meike and her family and got ready to catch the red eye to Split.

Here are some pictures!

Posted by kmclean 17:34 Archived in Germany Tagged planes germany friends flights freiburg heitersheim Comments (0)

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