Rothenberg!

June 1, 2010

Rothenberg is this awesome city that appears to be frozen in time. It used to be a major trading stop between two huge roads in the middle ages, and became very rich and strong. So strong, in fact, that it had never been taken over until the Thirty-Years War. The city was so devastated after that war that they were just too poor to modernize until the tourist industry boomed around 1900. The city remained almost entirely intact during WWII because the mother of a high-ranking official in the US once visited there and got her son to convince the generals that destroying such an awesome city would be a huge mistake. This was all learned from the “Night Watchman” from the “Night Watchman’s Tour.”

We went to the crime and punishment museum (I’m only calling it this because it’s a fitting description, not because that’s its name). There were a ton of medieval torture devices showcased there, as well as more humane punishments. My particular favorites are the “shame masks” which someone would have locked to their face when they did something to warrant it. One was a pig’s face that one would have to wear after telling crude jokes. There were a few for gossiping and babbling women. I think we should bring these back into regular use.

A few of us went to the oldest building in town after the night watchman’s tour. This was a pub named “Hell.” Its foundation was from the year 890, and the rest of it was built in the 1500s. We stayed in a pretty cool bed and breakfast whose ceiling over the stairs I hit my head on a few times in the one night.

Advertisements

Munich!

June 1, 2010

It was a nice six hour train ride from Germany to Munich, but we started this city off right, coming to town the day after their soccer team won a game. We dropped off our bags at the hostel and went out to see the Glockenspiel before dinner. When we got there, there was a massive crowd and music blaring (I’ve had Sweet Caroline stuck in my head for days because of this). They had some things about the game playing on a projector screen and the place was going crazy. We stopped to take some pictures and take in the atmosphere before wading our way through the crowd.

We made our way over to the Hofbrauhaus, which is a famous beer hall. The waitresses were all dressed up, cleavage-a-showing, the traditional band was playing drinking songs, and we ate some great food. I ordered the roasted half-chicken with a side of bread, which Bennett and I split.

On our way back to the hostel, Bennett, Caleb, and I found this awesome arcade-like game where a punching bag swung down and you could punch it to see how hard you punched. Bennett was the clear leader of the three, with a score in the 940’s, I got in the low 800’s and Caleb couldn’t get past 500 (he redeemed himself and hit 900 a few nights later). We had some more döner kebaps over the few days we were there.

The second day we were staying in Munich, we went to Neuschwanstein Castle, which is the one that the Disney castle is based off of. There was a smaller castle nearby it that we went to right before, but I can’t remember its name right now. The second day we went to Dachau, the concentration camp outside Munich.

We met up one of Bennett’s friends after getting back from Dachau (she was an exchange student his senior year and lives just outside Munich). We hung out at the park and watched some people play soccer before walking through most of the park. We saw some people surfing on the river, which is definitely the highlight of my trip so far.

Berlin!

June 1, 2010

Berlin was pretty crazy. We apparently came in during one of their big annual festivals. There were gypsy performers in the streets (one guy juggled flaming batons blindfolded, and on a unicycle). There were tents set up with bars and food, which we had for dinner. Apparently the night after we left was the climax of the event, during which there would be 1.4 million people crowding the streets right up to our hostel.

Our first day in Berlin we walked around the city, trying to find a bunch of tourist spots before meeting up with Dr. Kriley at Checkpoint Charlie for dinner. We started out all together, looking for a place to eat lunch. We found a sweet place right by the fairground that sold this amazing turkish food called a döner kebap. They have a two foot tall cylinder of meat (diameter of maybe 1.5 feet?) that they put on a spit and rotate, cooking it rotisserie-style. When you order one, they toast a piece of bread similar to a roll, and start shaving off the outer layer of the meat. They put it on the bread with some lettuce and other veggies and a sauce (the one here was a garlic dressing). It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Bennett, Clay, Thane, Anthony, Caleb, Will and I ate those at a table while the rest of the group went off to find some different food. Anyways, we went to get up and leave when we realized that the other group, whose five-person train ticket Thane was on, had ditched Thane. So we ended up having to buy an extra ticket so he could come with us.

We took the train to a long stretch of the Berlin wall which had been muralized and turned into a gallery. Some of the murals were incredible. I took some pictures which I’ll have to panorama and post in the future. From there we took the train to the Brandenburg Gate, which was amazing. We walked through that, and headed south to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe. From there we walked around the edge of the park until we found the memorial to those murdered in association with the Valkyrie plot. We went on to the Kaiser Wilhelm I Cathedral, which was mostly destroyed by bombs in WWII. We met up with Dr. Kriley and checked out Checkpoint Charlie. Some people in the group said I looked like that one soldier that was killed there.

The next day we went on a bike tour of the city (the company was Fat Tire Bike Tours). Our guide was Australian, but she moved to Canada when she was 15, and now has been in Germany for a bit over a year. Because of this her accent was kind of a combination of the three, and very weird. It was refreshing to be the ones on the bikes for once and we took great pleasure in using our bells to move people out of the way. We stopped at a beer garden for lunch, where I had leberkaβ (I’m not sure that’s spelled right), which means “liver cheese,” but apparently is unrelated to both liver and cheese. It was shaped like a pork chop, but tasted like a hot dog. I had it with sauerkraut, and it was delicious.

That night we went to the festival which was a lot of fun. I can’t believe how much we lucked out, coming to Berlin right as this was going on. Bennett and I had some really spicy South African brats for dinner, with come South African beer. We went on and found a “beers of the world” stand that had Duff beer (the one from the Simpsons). It was terrible—easily the worst we had tried. We went around the festival and had a few more drinks before calling it a night.

On to Munich!

Hamburg

May 21, 2010

I guess first I’ll write a bit about the train ride there.  The trains are pretty comfortable and nice.  The countryside is really nice.  We passed a wind farm and a lot of Mustard fields.  The mustard fields are awesome to look at because they are such a bright yellow.  Once we got to Hamburg we took the subway to our hostel, which was actually really nice.  It was clean, quiet, and well kept.

After finding the girls’ hotel, we went to this restaurant called Oktober, where we had dinner.  I had what they called a “Mexican Burger,” which was ground chuck, onions, bacon, barbecue sauce, pickles, lettuce, and tomato (I took the tomato off).  We walked around the city for a while, which is actually pretty small (at least compared to Amsterdam).  We saw this awesome statue of Otto Von Bismarck and were excited to walk over to it, but we were disappointed to find that the base was all graffitied up.  We walked down to the docks and walked the length of them for a bit, stopping in a few shops.  Right across from the docks there is an island with tons of cranes on it.  Apparently it is the biggest construction site in Europe, and will be finished in 2026.  I’m not sure exactly what it will be… probably some sort of financial district.

Clay, Bennett, Anthony, and I went to a little casino in Reeperbahn for about 2 hours.  I didn’t bet anything, just watched the other guys go at it.  We had a good time there.  The Reeperbahn is comparable to Amsterdam’s red light district.  It’s the main place where you can find bars and “other” night life entertainment.  The prostitutes in Hamburg are much more sociable than in Amsterdam.  There were still some in windows, but there was just a huge line of them in the street and sidewalks as well.  They would go up to you and wrap their arms in yours and try to entice you to give some business.  Needless to say, we had our hands in our pockets the whole time, watching out for pickpockets.

So now it’s back on the Eurorail, and onto Berlin!