Friday, 25th July – Hamburg to Copenhagen

After a dramatic sunset the night before, we knew today would be a great day. And it was a bit of a special day for Keith.IMG_0299

After leaving Hamburg, we headed towards the German/Danish border. On the way is a little town in Northern Germany called Wacken (pronounced Varken). Every year since 1990 there has been a massive heavy metal festival that goes for three or so days and features heaps of top name bands in metal. They usually draw on average 75,000 people to participate in the festival each year.

We didn’t have our travel plans confirmed early enough and Wacken 2014 was sold out, but we managed to be going past about a week before the festival started. We called in to see what the place was like, take some photos and buy some merch! Can you believe there was even a WOA (Wacken Open Air [Concert]) branded cow?

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We left Wacken travelling toward Copenhagen, our next stop though was a town called Horsens in Denmark to say hi to an old friend of ours – Tina! Not only did she make time to catch up with us, but also went to the trouble of creating us a traditional Danish Smorrebrod, it was absolutely delicious. Tina’s daughter Hannah had made an amazing chocolate cake, it was so wonderful to see Tina and Hannah, meet Tina’s mum and lovely neighbour and enjoy catching up and relaxing in the sunshine.

After leaving Tina’s place, we headed on to Copenhagen.

2014 European Adventure Denmark Germany

Thursday, 24th July – Hamburg

Today was a full day of sightseeing in Hamburg. We got up early, had breakfast and then headed out to catch a bus and a train to the city. Keith’s German was tested when the bus driver didn’t understand a word of English, but that’s part of the fun being in a foreign country.

As soon as we got off the train we saw the most spectacular building – the Hamburg Rathaus. “Rathaus” loosely translates to Town Hall and was the centre of all activities in medieval towns. The one in Hamburg is particularly breathtaking.IMG_0084IMG_0113IMG_0140IMG_0123IMG_0133IMG_0136

Out the front of each Rathaus is the Rathausmarkt, the market place or town square for the village.IMG_0083IMG_0137IMG_0162

After taking a million photos, we wandered around the city taking in the sights. Our first stop was the Alsterarkaden, basically an arcade with shops and cafes overlooking a canal and the Rathaus.The churches in Hamburg are also spectacular and we saw St Peter’s Church, Katherinekirche and the St Nikolai Memorial. The spire of St Nikolai made it the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876 but was heavily bombed in WWII. It is currently undergoing a lot of restoration work, but even the ruins are magnificent.

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Then we went on to the Church of St Michael – it was so impressive we had to have a look inside. There were so many sculptures – on the outside of the building, on the doors and even the interior was impressive!

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Our walk finally took us to a major river port – the Landungsbruecken – which is a huge transit hub with ferries, trains and buses all stopping there. There are also lots of cafes and shops. Think Sydney Harbour but still looking like it did when it was built in the mid 1800s. We didn’t stay long because a massive storm was coming in, so we jumped on the train and headed back to where we were staying.

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On the way home we stopped at an open air shopping mall near to where we were staying and stocked up on supplies. We also had a beer, coffee and cake while we waited for the storm to pass. Afterwards we headed back and got ready to leave Germany for the moment. Next stop tomorrow – Denmark!

 

2014 European Adventure Germany

Wednesday, 23rd July – Berlin to Hamburg

Lazy start to the day with a home cooked breakie, we packed up all our stuff and headed out of Berlin toward Hamburg via the Autobahn by around 11am. It was a 3 hour trip via the Highway or 7 hours via the backroads, with an expected temp of 36 degrees today we decided not to be in the car all day. The Autobahn is not nearly as impressive or scary as we’d thought it would be. It’s actually just a big highway with 4 lanes both sides and no speed limit.

Arrived in Hamburg ahead of schedule so did a detour into the City to have a quick look around, grab a town map and have a drink break. The train station is massive!

IMG_0037IMG_0043IMG_0041We’re staying in an apartment just outside of Hamburg (about 15 mins drive), so after doing some shopping we checked in. The apartment has a pretty cool view and we have a little mate to keep us company for the next two days. How cute is Maya!

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2014 European Adventure Germany

Tuesday, 22nd July – Berlin

Today was surreal. No really, it was all about Picasso and Paul Klee amongst others.

Started off our morning with a home cooked breakfast. We’ve broken up our adventure by staying in some apartments via Airbnb, the best part is having a kitchen and being able to cook our own food.

Berlin has fantastic public transport, you can buy a day pass for about 8 Euro that allows you to use any tram, train or bus for the entire day until 3am the next morning.IMG_9907We negotiated a tram, then a bus to the Museum Berggruen this art gallery has over 100 Picasso pieces and it was incredible. There was also work by Henri Matisse, and Alberto Giacometti. Across the road there was another gallery that is included in the admission – The Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg which had a Paul Klee exhibit, so after looking through both galleries, a coffee and a shared croissant we were kept busy until lunchtime.

Close by the Museums is the Charlottenburg Palace, the largest palace in Berlin, and the only surviving royal residence in the city it was originally established in 1699 and is absolutely beautiful.IMG_9905A bus and a train and we went to the seedy tourist side of Berlin, Check Point Charlie and the Berlin Wall Memorial. It was hectic, full of tourists and we both really didn’t think much of it all.IMG_9958IMG_9956

We decided to go back to the apartment for a late lunch/early dinner (awesome steak and salad) and a nap.

The days are long here in Germany at the moment, sunrise before 6am and sunset around 9.30pm, so after a good nap we headed back out at 8.30pm to return to the Brandenburg Gate, we wanted to see it at sunset and had heard that it was beautifully lit up at night.

What an awesome evening, a balmy 26 degrees with a cool breeze, we set ourselves up in a perfect spot in front of the gate, had a few beers/wines, chatted and took a million photos. Such a perfect way to finish our trip in Berlin – off to Hamburg tomorrow.IMG_9972IMG_0025IMG_0012IMG_0009

 

2014 European Adventure Germany

Monday, 21st July – Berlin

Bec has been sick with a mutation of the “airplane flu”. After trying to kill it with cold and flu tablets (called “antigrippine” in Dutch) she still isn’t getting better. We had to take her to a doctor – no mean feat in a country where you don’t know the language. We managed to find a fantastic Doctor who not only checked Bec out and gave her instructions on how to get better in German with sign language, but also prescribed natural based antibiotics. The best part? He didn’t even charge for the consultation! Really nice guy and so helpful.

After Bec had taken her pills, we were off to do some site seeing, catching a train and a bus to finally reach the Reichstag Building.

The Reichstag building was built in 1894 and was basically a government building. It is massive and impressive and a huge tourist attraction.

IMG_9663After looking at the building and snapping a few photos we stopped for some food and drink (schnitzel and beer) and then headed around the corner to the Brandenburg Gate. It was built in the late 1700s and whilst badly damaged in WWII has been restored.IMG_9676IMG_9684IMG_9718IMG_9726From the gate you can see the Victory Column. We decided to walk there through the forest/park and take some more pics. Although it was a long walk on a hot day (around 35 degrees), the forest was cooler and we saw some great stuff along the way.IMG_9691IMG_9716IMG_9717

From there we caught a taxi back to the gate and walked through the city. We saw some amazing sites, like the square where the famous book burning took place.IMG_9752IMG_9757

At the Gendarmenmarkt, a square that has a concert hall and a German and French cathedral on either side of it, we were lucky enough to catch some traditional German dancing.

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After that we went to “Museum Island” where there were lots of museums on a island made by the main river through Berlin – the Spree. We didn’t have time to visit inside them, but the buildings themselves were magnificent.

IMG_9823IMG_9831IMG_9849IMG_9862These photos are only the very edited highlights of what we saw! Another big day planned for tomorrow.

2014 European Adventure Germany

Sunday, 20th July – Hannover to Berlin

At 7.30am it was already 25 degrees we were in for a scorcher, so we were pleased to get an early start as usual.

The city of Hannover was hit hard in World War II due to its location to Berlin and its manufacturing activity at the time. It was a strategic target and the Allies attacked it fiercely, more than 90% of the city centre was destroyed in 88 bombing raids until eventually taken under control by the Allies. The buildings and ruins therefore have many interesting stories, such as the Aegidienkirche built in the 14th Century but not rebuilt, rather kept as a memorial.

The town feels traditional, its buildings and architecture particularly in the old town have not been remodelled nor modernised.

This massive church was in the middle of the Old Town and Keith’s favourite.In nearly every German town there is a Rathaus or Town Hall it generally plays an important part in the Town’s culture, whether it be for daily/weekend markets, concerts, town meetings etc. The Rathaus in Hannover was especially beautiful.

After looking around Hannover it was time to head to Berlin, this was a trip that unfortunately we had to do via the highway as time just wouldn’t permit going an alternative route (3hrs vs 5hrs).

Unfortunately Bec’s ‘plane flu’ had progressed to something more sinister, so once arriving in Berlin and checking into our accommodation for the next three nights, she crashed out. We’ll have an interesting visit to the Doctor tomorrow!

2014 European Adventure Germany
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Saturday, 19th July – Bremen to Hannover

Waking up early in Bremen to beat the Saturday tourist crowd, we walked through the most gorgeous park Wallanlagen, and disturbed a few little rabbits having breakie!IMG_9199IMG_9425IMG_9433

Bremen is surrounded by parks and is pretty flat, you can see everything for miles, as we walked out of the park we saw something very cool in the distance and walked towards it. This is the cutest little windmill we have seen so far – and we’ve just come from The Netherlands!

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Walking into the Altstadt or Old Town, we were overwhelmed. The buildings, statues and sculptures were incredible. We spent a lot of time wandering around not knowing where to start, everywhere we looked there was so much to see.

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When Keith was growing up his Mum read him a Brothers Grim story about the Bremen Town Musicians, it was on our shortlist to find the statue of the characters from the story. Not only did we find the famous statue, but a cute water feature as well.

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Sadly it was time to leave Bremen, like with Bruges we could have spent an entire week here it is definitely on the ‘favourites’ list.

The drive to Hannover was another trip where we decided to skip highways and do the back roads. We saw fields and fields of flowers where you could pull over on the side of the road, pick your flowers and purchase them using the old ‘honour system’.IMG_9439The architecture of the local houses has started to change a little now as we head further East. The roofs appear to dwarf the houses and they are more slanted towards the ground.IMG_9445We had the funniest experience when reaching our hotel in Hannover. We entered the underground carpark and there appeared to be no parks available. Preparing to do a 3-point turn to reverse we had to wait for another car that came in behind us. We were chatting away and realised that the car had disappeared! Keith got out to investigate, used his handy phone app ‘World Lens’ to translate a sign, and realised that there was an automatic lift that we had to use to go down to the next level. It was the strangest experience, driving in, the doors at the front and back closed and down we went!

Treated ourselves to a wine and beer in the hotel lounge and then crashed out, sightseeing in Hannover tomorrow.

2014 European Adventure Germany