Germany and The Netherlands: June 5 to June 17
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: Munich Deutsches Museum Castle Tour Neuschwanstein Castle Linderhof Castle Ettal School and Monastery Romantic Road - Nordlingen Romantic Road - Dinkelsbuhl Romantic Road - Rothenburg Rothenburg Kriminal Museum Romantic Road - Creglingen Church Rhine River - Bacharach Rhine River Boat and Bike Tour Rhine River - Oberwesel Rhine River - St. Goar's Rheinfels Castle Rhine River - Boppard Berlin Pergamon Museum Haarlem Netherlands Dutch Open Air Folk Museum Amsterdam
Guten Tag Unsere
Hallo Onze Vrienden!!
This segment of our Rich Odyssey has been lots of fun as we have traveled in Germany and the Netherlands. Here we are with our rented (hired) bikes in the town of Bacharach on the Rhine River in southern Germany. In addition to visiting Munich and the Romantic Road, we rode several kilometers along the Rhine and had a fabulous time visiting towns and castles along the way. Riding bikes by the Rhine is easy as it is flat, unless, of course, you want to ride the bike up a steep hill to see a castle. We opted for a bus up the hill and walked down. Everybody in the Netherlands rides bikes, most of which are just like the Raleigh 3 speeds of our youth.
This update covers the great time we had in Germany and the all too short visit to the Netherlands. Though we had planned to spend several days in Denmark, when we went to book a hotel a few days ahead of time, we found that there was a convention in Copenhagen and literally every hotel, hostel, and B&B was full!! Bummer! So we stayed two extra days in Berlin marveling at the city's incredible construction boom and spent three delightful nights in a town near Amsterdam called Haarlem. Copenhagen will just have to wait along with the rest of our postponed visit to Scandinavia... there simply wasn't time. We had not appreciated before all there is to see and do in Germany, and found the time went surprisingly fast. The Netherlands was a friendly, fascinating and very 'open' place.
Our tourist German communicates our desires much of the time. But most commonly we mix up our bits and pieces of Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German and French together with abandon, much to the amusement of the multi-lingual Europeans. Surprisingly, it usually gets us by! Of course, it helps that most people we deal with have a good grasp of English, which truly is the common language of the world. This is good, because in the Netherlands we found it difficult to hear and understand Dutch, which appears to be a combination of German, English and the other romance languages, with strong local accents thrown in. Fortunately, nearly everyone in the Netherlands speaks excellent English. (Accurately reading train schedules is another matter!)
This is a sample of what we saw: a view from a window of (supposedly mad) King Ludwig's most famous and elaborate castle, Neuschwanstein (click on the picture to see fresh snow in the mountains), and one of the famous Dutch windmills, this one from the Arnhem Open Air Folk Museum.
Click on the update line in the box at the top (or the navigation frame to the left) to see more views and details of this update. We added a new feature showing the route of our travels through all of Europe -- click on Europe Route Map to check it out. You can click on our Trip Log to see dates and comments about where we were in Germany and the Netherlands. Maps of Germany and Netherlands show our detailed travel routes by Eurail.
We hope you enjoy this update from northern Europe. After a week in Paris, we leave the continent for the United Kingdom. It's hard to believe we'll be heading home in another month! But we'll keep you posted of our continuing progress.
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Leaving Vienna by train to Munich, we wondered whether we would enjoy Germany as much as Austria. We were looking forward to seeing castles along the Romantic Road in southwest Germany, but otherwise weren't sure what we would find. Jennifer felt we could skip Germany and spend more time in Paris, where she can communicate better in French. But, she is now glad we visited much of Germany because we discovered a lot! Our Nikon digital camera had broken in Salzburg, so the digital pictures taken with our video were of lower quality. Thus, some pictures below are lower in quality than normal. Sorry! (We got the camera fixed in Munich!) We also discovered through our Rick Steves' guide that there is a helpful service at the train stations in Munich and Berlin called Euraid, run by Americans for English speaking tourists: a great resource. They will do everything for you from finding hotels to booking tours and making train reservations, all without the usual worries about communication problems. The owner, Alan, even conducted our super day tour of King Ludwig's castles.
In Marienplatz, the main plaza in Munich, we found the town hall (Rathaus) which was built only 100 years ago and survived the war. This plaza and a connecting pedestrian mall are a main draw for tourists and locals due to the Glockenspiel (carillon) which runs at 11 AM, Noon, and 5 PM for about five minutes. Everybody literally stops what they're doing and watches the performance of the two floors of moving figures. The highlight is a joust between two knights. From the top of St. Peter's church we got a nice shot of another tower complete with an ornate clock and a sundial.
This is a view from inside St. Peters, which had to be largely rebuilt following the war. It is very bright inside with its white walls and open windows shining on a spectacular alter. In contrast, we visited the very popular Hofbrauhaus, where beer is consumed in great quantities. While it was filled with tourists (mostly young people), locals still hang out there. The oompah band was lively with many players wandering through the crowds. Steffi, of course, is not into beer or wine, but she is a connoisseur of local water, testing and reporting on characteristics, as you see here. We have quite a time at each dinner asking for water. Even when you know tap water is great, you can sometimes only get bottled water and you are never sure of what you will get, even when you specify "No gas."
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We went to the Deutches Museum which is somewhat akin to our Smithsonian in Washington with exhibits and lots of hands on activities. Steffi is trying her hand at various means of moving water as part of a hydroelectric energy exhibit. Here is the first electric railroad engine which moved four people on tracks through Munich. And, the first car, a three wheeler shown here, was invented by Karl Benz in 1895.
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One day we took a bus tour to view some of Germany's elaborate castles. Along the way, we enjoyed the countryside and a couple of very beautiful churches. Wieskirche pilgrimage church (a UNESCO world heritage site) was the first built (1745) with a very wide and open domed architecture. Inside, it is very bright and beautiful with lots of light coming in the windows, unobstructed by columns.
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Many of you may have seen pictures of King Ludwig's famous castle, Neuschwanstein Schloss, near the town of Fussen in Southwest Germany. Click on these pictures to get a sense of how elegant and big the place really is. It was built from 1869-1886 to meet the expensive and ornate tastes of King Ludwig. He only lived here for a few weeks after it was completed.
A short note on the story about King Ludwig II being mad: King Ludwig II, single and wealthy, was fond of spending money on music (patron to Richard Wagner) and building castles. The three castles that we saw were very expensive and Ludwig was spending much more on these castles than he and the country of Bavaria had. Officials and family were concerned that he was bankrupting the country, but because he was king, he could do what he liked, including borrowing construction money that his heirs would eventually have to pay. Worrying that they were at high risk, the stakeholders had his doctor declare him mentally ill to get him to stop, which the doctor did without examining him. Shortly thereafter, he and his doctor were both found drowned in a nearby lake. The current belief is that he was not 'mad' at all, but was merely exploiting every means to get at his nagging relatives and built edifices to his memory. The drowning, while never proved to be anything but an 'accident', is now widely believed to have been a murder (by ???) of both Ludwig and his doctor. Had the doctor changed his mind on Ludwig's mental state, Ludwig would again have been king and have been able to do again as he pleased. All in all, an interesting story which is great movie material!!
Here are couple of outside shots from the castle itself. Click on the first picture and you can see Ludwig's boyhood castle in the lower right, called Hohenschwangau. Probably where Ludwig got his taste for nice castles. The next picture is of Mary's Bridge, above Neuschwanstein where Ludwig would walk to marvel at his newest castle during construction. The bridge itself is quite an engineering accomplishment for the late 19th century. Finally, the Riches in a flowered mountain meadow below the castle.
Pictures of the inside of the castle were not generally allowed, but these quick shots give you some idea of how ornate it was. Ludwig spared nothing in his decoration and paintings. The last shot shows the kitchen: for its time, it was quite advanced with full plumbing and cold storage.
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This castle, further north along the Romantic Road, was Ludwig's home where he lived much of his adult life. Jennifer described it as an ornate jewel box, and that description really fits. It is smaller and more intimate, set in the woods, complete with fountains and Italian-style gardens. The first two pictures show the castle from the gardens and the gardens from the castle. The ornate gold fountain is turned on every hour, we hear.
For reasons that are never clear, this castle did allow photographs, without flash. The first shot is of the ceiling at the front entry way. The Latin translation roughly means, "Nothing But the Best." Fitting. The next picture is of a special piano/organ combination that he had built for his friend and composer, Richard Wagner. Even though Ludwig sponsored Wagner throughout his life, Wagner never played or composed at this castle.
This is Ludwig's bedroom. Because Ludwig did not like to be with people, including servants, this table could be set with the meal in a room below his bedroom and raised into place through an elevator at the foot of the bed thereby avoiding all contact with people. While he may not have been mad, he certainly was eccentric! Finally, a room of gold and mirrors showing you why this castle gave the impression of a jewel box.
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Ettal School and Monastery
On our return trip to Munich, we stopped at Ettal preparatory school which Charles DeGaulle attended. Once an old monastery, its cathedral with a huge domed ceiling was one of of the more beautiful we have seen. We only want to show you churches and castles that are really spectacular. This one was.
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Romantic Road - Nordlingen
Next we left Munich to tour the northern section of the Romantic Road, marketing term for a beautiful section of largely untouched medieval Germany. We opted for a bus journey to Rothenburg and then on to Frankfurt after an overnight stay in Rothenburg. Along the way, the bus stops at the more scenic towns. Here are a couple that we visited.
The first medieval town that we stopped in was Nordlingen. Click on the first picture to see a map of this typical medieval town with its protection walls, entry gates and towers. The town itself was lovely as was St. George's church with its high domed gothic ceiling. Under the organ on the side wall were some interesting carvings which looked exactly like upside-down decorated Christmas trees.
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Romantic Road - Dinkelsbuhl
In Dinkelsbuhl, we climbed to the top of the church for a great view of the surrounding town. Clearly visible in the distance is the town perimeter with its wall and guard towers. The red roofs are typical of German medieval towns with the houses and buildings all built right next to each other. Geraniums typically line the walls and windows of these towns and are very colorful. You can see the church tower we climbed in the background.
Here is a typically ornate gold 17th century sign outside a business, a pub. In walking around the town, we noted a modern addition to the red roofs: the owners of this house had replaced a few red tiles with clear glass thereby creating skylights. Clever!
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Romantic Road - Rothenburg
We arrived in Rothenburg about 2 PM in time to do some exploring in the intermittent rain. We climbed to the top of the main gate tower, and you can clearly see the wall around this medieval town with towers along the way. The next shot shows the main road coming into the town. This is the route that we used to pull our suitcases the 1 km from the bus stop to our 650 year old hotel. We took a taxi back! Jennifer and Steffi enjoy themselves as we walked along the walkway on the top of the wall. Defenders would have used this walkway to keep invaders away. Medieval towns were frequently under attack and were often destroyed or burned. Rothenburg is unique in that it was never destroyed and was only lost to a siege once in its 1200 year history, and then the invaders left without destroying it. (The reason for this was that the mayor at the time said he would drink 3.5 liters of wine in one draw if they would leave. They thought he was crazy. He drank it and they left! The mayor then slept for three days.) However, in WW II, the German Army decided to hide here towards the end of the war. An air bombing raid had destroyed about 25% of the town, but an American General then made the decision to stop attacks because this was a very historic town (and his parents lived there). They negotiated for the German Army to leave, and the destroyed portion has been rebuilt with donations from people all over the world. One fundraising technique included selling sections of the wall and putting the names of the donors on the wall, as you can see behind Jennifer and Steffi.
Here is a shot showing a typical narrow medieval street with shops lining both sides. Rothenburg is noted for its Christmas stores as you see with Steffi in front of this giant nutcracker. We'll have a few new goodies on our tree this year. Last a shot of a tower and gate on the other side of the town with one of its older (leaning) buildings in the foreground.
Every evening in Rothenburg, there is a spectacular tour of the town given by the Night Watchman, who you see here decked out in his medieval garb. He was very entertaining and informative as he led about 150 tourists around the town. The tour started in the main plaza shown here. The Rathaus (town hall) is to the left and a newer building on the right has the Glockenspiel reenacting the mayor drinking his town-saving litres. Click on the last picture to get a shot of a figure lifting his glass of beer. This is Germany. Fun!
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Rothenburg Kriminal Museum
The interesting Kriminal Museum shows how the medieval justice system worked, including all kinds of torture techniques used to extract confessions and administer punishments. Here are just a few; click on the pictures for a better view. The first is a chair with sharp spikes in it. Next, the famous 'rack' which would be used to pull peoples limbs out. A more subtle punishment mask that would be worn by people who had gossiped too much (usually women). Last, a dunking cage that would be used to dunk people found guilty of being drunk. If you could hold your breath a long time, you survived. If not, well.... We also learned there were all sorts of rules in the justice system for the use of these devices. The devices were used a lot, so we would expect most people did obey the laws.
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Romantic Road - Creglingen Church
Continuing the next day on our bus tour, we stopped at a little church (1386) named Herrgottskirche in Creglingen. It is noted for its beautiful and famous hand carved wood alter, carved by Tilman Riemenschneider in 1510. And, outside the church was another beautiful cemetery. It looked just as nice as the cemetery we saw in Switzerland with every plot clean and set out with flowers. This tradition (apparently European) of maintaining beautiful grave sites is certainly lovely and makes our US cemeteries look stark.
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Rhine River - Bacharach
After arriving late in the evening in Frankfurt, we found our hotel close to the train station and got up early the next morning to catch the train west to the Rhine River valley. The Rhine valley and the attached Mosel River valley (which we did not visit) are storybook Germany with medieval towns and castles all along the way. Virtually every tall hill had a castle built on it. Most of these were 'robber-baron' castles, built by rulers of what amounted to 300 little countries in all. Each castle (country) would stop boats passing on the Rhine to levy tolls. If you did not pay, the punishments were severe. Other castles saw military action and some were the residences of kings. Wars between Catholics and Protestants and between France and Germany caused many to be destroyed. Later, in the romantic era of the late 1800s, many of these castles were rebuilt and are now restaurants, hotels, hostels and the like. In sum, the Rhine Valley is a very interesting place to visit.
Our B&B in Bacharach was very close to the train station, but it took us a while to find it as we were not expecting a named street to be only 6 feet wide in spots. After getting settled, we took a tour around town. The first picture shows this small medieval town which now caters big time to tourists. The large Catholic turned-Protestant church is the major building in town. Later, we took a hike and climbed up the steep hill above the town to see a very old gothic Cathedral that had burned and was never rebuilt. The remaining structure, with no roof or windows, was quite a sight anyway.
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Rhine River Boat and Bike Tour
Over the next two days, we took a boat down (north) and back up (south) this scenic section of the Rhine to Boppard and rode our bicycles from Bacharach down river to St. Goar. These pictures are of some of the scenes we saw along the way. Obviously, if the shot is from the water, we are not on our bicycles!
Along the river, there are kilometer markers showing the distance of the 1312 kilometer long (820 mile) Rhine River from the point it leaves Switzerland till it empties into the North Sea at Rotterdam. The scenic part is from the town of Bingen (528) north to the town of Koblenz (590), a distance of 62 kilometers (36 miles). The first picture shows km marker 544 across the river from Bacharach. Just down river is the really cool Pfalz Castle, shown here looking just like a ship on the river. This was probably the most effective castle for stopping river traffic. They would raise their chains across the river and lowered them only after the boat paid the toll. The railroad track runs right beside the Rhine, so you can get good views from a boat, train, bike or car. This picture is of one of the many tunnels along the way, built complete with a medieval looking tower at the entrance. Every tunnel had decorations similar to this.
This is a picture of a famous large slate rock jutting into the Rhine called the Loreley. In earlier times, there were actually dangerous rocks and waves in this area. Click on the pictures to get a clearer view of the navigation aids used today in this swift flowing and curvy stretch of the Rhine. The aid with three triangles (the back is in the first picture on the left) are used to tell boat captains of any traffic in three sectors ahead. The second picture shows there is no traffic coming up because the bar is at the bottom of all three triangles. If there were traffic ahead, an upper bar of the triangle would be lit showing whether boat traffic was coming on the left or right side in that sector of the channel. The last picture is of the castle called Burg Katz. In the 1300s it was considered a state-of-the-art fortification and could not be taken. That changed in 1806 when Napoleon had it blown up with then state-of-the-art explosives. It, like many other castles, was rebuilt around 1900.
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Rhine River - Oberwesel
On our bike ride, we stopped in a little town called Oberwesel, which had a beautiful red church. Inside, the vaulted ceiling was particularly beautiful As we passed through the town, Jennifer and Steffi are seen watching a train pass by at high speed. Actually, what they are doing is flattening coins on the railroad tracks. Steffi keeps the coins from previous countries, which now have no value to us, and lets the trains make oval souvenirs out of them. She has learned, however, that they are not always easy to find after the train passes, and that stationmasters are not very enthusiastic about this hobby.
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Rhine River - St. Goar's Rheinfels Castle
High above the Rhine and the town of St. Goar is the large and ruined Rheinfels Castle. This large and well fortified castle was built in 1245 and withstood a siege of 28,000 French troops in 1692. However, in 1797, the French Revolutionary army destroyed it with explosives. This was the biggest castle on the Rhine River and was used as a quarry. These pictures give a sense of just how big the castle was, with lots of towers, walls and inner passageways. The first shot is of the highest wall facing the river. Next, is a roadway that led through the main section of the castle. Jennifer and Steffi inspect a pile of large catapult balls. These balls were valuable and were retrieved after a battle was over.
The tunnels (with a flashlight) and the dungeons were lots of fun for us to explore. Steffi emerges from one of the darker tunnels using the flashlight to find her way and let us see her face. Fun!
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Rhine River - Boppard
The furthest down river (north) that we went on the boat was to the town of Boppard, whose town square has a slightly odd fountain (at least it was working!). There was also a ski lift (no skiing) to take you up to the top of the ridge along the Rhine for a great view. This is a view back to the town of Boppard and shows the start of a 180 degree turn that the Rhine makes at this point. The Rhine's horseshoe bend is too big for our camera to fit in. On the way down, Jennifer and Steffi hiked while Denny nursed his tired knees and took pictures. The ski lift beat them down by a small margin.
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We have mentioned before that we are getting better, but not perfect, at train travel. While we handle most things well, there are always new challenges to meet. Our trip from Bacharach to Koblenz to Bonn to Berlin was an example of a potentially big problem. We left Bacharach after hoisting our suitcases up the typical railroad station stairs and caught our early morning train. We only had about 10 minutes in Koblenz to catch our next train which went through Bonn on the way to Berlin. Well, we got off the train, read the signs and saw a train on the right track which was leaving immediately. Thinking this was the right train, we all began hustling to find the car we had seat reservations in. We knew from diagrams that it was at the front of the train. Steffi and Denny began running down one side of the platform and Jennifer down the other side weaving in and out of people. Well, Denny and Steffi were about to board what appeared to be the right car and the conductor stopped them saying there were no reservations there and they should not get on. In fact, it was the wrong train, running a little late. It was also proceeding to the the first major stop we needed to make, Bonn. As the train was pulling out, Steffi and Denny looked back for Jennifer and she was gone!! As it turned out, she had gotten worried about missing the train and had boarded the train on another car without Steffi and Denny and the door had locked behind her!
Steffi and Denny looked everywhere, determined that she was on the wrong train, and was now long gone. The correct train soon arrived and they decided not to board that train because we have a rule to stay where you are when you get lost and the parties will try to hook up at the last place we were together. We also determined that Jennifer's wrong train was going to Bonn and that is where we needed to be going also as our first stop. What to do??? Jennifer also had the Eurail pass which is good for all of us, so she could travel, but Steffi and Denny could not without buying tickets. Jennifer also carries an emergency cell phone which we rarely use. But Denny did not even know the phone number of the cell phone.
Some quick thinking made us realize that Denny's sister, Nancy, in California did have the cell phone number and could call her. The only problem is that it was 1 AM in California. Oh well. Denny called Nancy from a phone booth with our cheap calling card and woke her up and told her the problem. She agreed to start calling the cell phone number and tell Jennifer that Denny and Steffi were waiting in Koblenz for her to return. In a call back to Nancy after a while, Denny learned that Jennifer had, indeed, turned on the cell phone and had answered the call. He also learned that Jennifer was in Bonn and that he and Steffi could get there on the next train thereby keeping her from having to come back. A very nice German railroad conductor agreed to let Denny and Steffi on the next train, only 20 minutes later, without a ticket. Denny, having obtained the cell phone number, then called Jennifer from the phone booth, got her on the phone, explained the plan and told her to wait in Bonn. Denny and Steffi got on the next train, went to Bonn and found Jennifer sitting by the track waiting with breakfast from McDonalds and no longer crying. After some quick train schedule checking which had some misprints (be very careful around June 9 or June 10 each year as the train schedules all change a bit!), the Riches boarded the next train (only 20 minutes later) on their way to Berlin-- together. Whew!
We now agree that nobody boards a train, bus or subway unless all three Rich Odyssey members are boarding at the same time. The cell phone saved us, along with some great help from Denny's sister, Nancy, in the middle of the night.
We arrived in Berlin on time (astonishing!) and got the Euraid office to help us find a local hotel that we could wheel our suitcases to. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and planning our time. The next day, we took a walking tour of Berlin. The great Berlin Walks tours allow you to see the main points in the city and get some perspective on the history of Berlin. Most of the major tourist attractions from a history perspective are in what was East Berlin. Before the wall fell in 1989, much of what we saw was not accessible to tourists. Needless to say, a lot of work has been going on in the last 10 years to bring the two old Germanys together. There are, however, still differences. For example, East Berlin, and the old East Germany, has 20% unemployment rate (down from 40%) whereas it is only 4% in the west. With no significance to Germany or history or anything, here is pretty bird we saw in a large cage in an office building. It is a Chinese pheasant.
There are construction cranes everywhere in Berlin, mostly in the old eastern part. Behind the crane in the first picture is a tall television tower which was built by the East Germans to prove they had high technology. They did use a Swedish engineering firm to build it though! This church is called the Berliner Dom, built in 1905 to serve as a rival to Rome and be the 'mother church of German Protestantism.' Like many buildings, it was partially destroyed in WW II and has been rebuilt. The last picture is a statue in a large building which is a permanent memorial to the sins of war and oppression. It is of a mother holding her dead son. Very moving.
Another memorial to remember the horrors of the Nazis is this below ground sculpture in the middle of a large plaza. It is a large white room with empty white bookcases taking approximately the space needed for the 20,000 books which were burned here by the Nazis. Click on the next picture so you can see the patchwork on this building in old East Berlin. It clearly shows patches covering the many, many bullet holes still visible from the end of the war when the Russians were storming the city. Buildings all over the city have patches or bullet holes still in them.
This statue is of Frederick II (Frederick the Great) and was erected in 1851. It marks the start of a street called Unter den Linden, the main street of old Berlin. The name literally means 'Under the Linden Trees.' Linden trees had been planted long ago and were 150 years old in the early 1930s. Hitler had them all cut down so he could better view his goose-stepping soldiers on the street. The replacement and smaller Linden trees there now are 50 years old. The last picture is of the famous Brandenburg Gate. Click on the picture and you will see this is not the gate itself, but a picture covering the scaffolding which is up to restore and clean the gate and colonnade. The cleaning is sponsored by Deutsche Telecom. They used computer graphics to move the columns to the center forming a 'T' which is their logo, and their motto, we connect. The gate will again be visible next year.
The Berlin wall is now a very important part of this city's history, but there is very little of it left. The first picture shows the back side of the wall which is in front of a open air museum and memorial to the terrors of the old Nazi SS organization. The next shot is of a piece of the wall with an old destroyed guard tower. Even though West Berlin always had laws against graffiti, the wall itself was totally decorated when it was standing because it was actually 3 feet into East Berlin territory. Therefore the 'artists' could not be stopped by the West Berlin police and, of course, the East Berlin police did not care because they could not see it anyway.
The Checkpoint Charlie museum memorializes the time of the wall and documents efforts made over the years to get people through it from the east to the west. The museum was well worth visiting. This sign in the museum was the actual sign at Checkpoint Charlie. Last year, they put up a replica of the guardhouse which was at Checkpoint Charlie.
From the top of the television tower seen earlier, we got a good picture of the quite beautiful old Berlin town hall (Rathaus). Here is one of the few relics left standing after the bombing in WW II totally destroyed the city. This is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and is known by Berliners as the 'rotten hollow tooth.' A new church was built next to it with its tall bell tower on one side and an octagonal sanctuary on the other. The glass from the old church was used to make a wall of blue stained glass in the new church.
West Berlin has seen many years of building and progress, and it is still going on. The first picture is of the Sony building, which they wanted to look just like Mt. Fuji in Japan. Click on the next picture to see the first traffic light in Europe. It is the tall tower with columns holding it up. You can also see a real traffic light here showing a colorful green figure giving the OK to cross. These cute figures are from East Berlin and are deemed "better" than the ones that had been used in West Berlin. Berliners want to replace all the old West Berlin crossing lights with these which they feel are clearly superior and should be preserved. You can even buy souvenirs of these cute little crossing figures. The last shot is of the many, many new and modern buildings in a new development called Potsdamer Platz
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The Pergamon Museum in what was old East Berlin is being cleaned and restored. This museum houses much of the relics from the old Greek city, Pergamon, which was discovered in western Turkey in 1864. Permission was granted to excavate and the Pergamon Alter (built in the second century BC), seen here, was moved to Berlin. The last picture is part of the longest frieze in antiquity which ran around the alter depicting a battle between the gods and the giants. The story line was very interesting.
The Pergamon Museum also housed the splendid dark blue ceramic Ishtar Gate which was on the road into the city of Babylon. This was built in the 6th century BC. The last shot is of one of the many proud lions surrounding the gate.
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We left Berlin for the Netherlands and the Amsterdam area. We actually decided to stay in a smaller city called Haarlem, about 15 minutes west of Amsterdam itself. This picture is in our hotel room and is not typical of where we stay. We felt spoiled. We found out after getting settled that we would need to move to another room. That room was on the 4th floor of a different building with narrow 6 inch wide stairs that went up at about 50 degrees!! The hotel moved our bags in for us, but we had to move them out when we left early on our last day. Quite a task, which can be likened to sliding 30kg bales of hay from a haymow by straps but without a pulley. Jennifer would have preferred to drop the bags out the window into the street, but it probably would have made a mess. This is a picture of the town square in lively Haarlem.
This 15th century Gothic church, now Protestant, in the main square is huge and is noteworthy for its large organ, shown next. The organ is 30 meters high and has over 5,000 pipes. Handel and Mozart both loved this organ. The last shot is the actual hiding place in the Corrie Ten Boom House, depicted in the famous book and movie, The Hiding Place. During WW II the Ten Booms helped to hide Jewish people and people who were in the Dutch resistance. This hiding place behind a false wall kept people from being discovered by the Nazis.
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Dutch Open Air Folk Museum
About 80 km east of Amsterdam is Arnhem, which is the home of the Dutch Open-Air Folk Museum, called Openluchtmuseum. We had a good time learning about and experiencing some Dutch culture and history. Stephanie stands in front of an old building which was both a house and a barn in one. Here is a church shot just to show that all old churches aren't big. Notice the clever design of this heating stove with its flat cooking surface. And, we saw how a commercial laundry would work with its horse-drawn giant washing tubs. The agitator turned and went up and down about a foot. We wonder how the clothes survived the wash. People in the 18th and 19th century did not wash clothes very often... every six months or so was fine.
Steffi also got to practice on some old kid toys. Here she is on an old bicycle and also learning how to use stilts for the first time.
Geese look a little different in the Netherlands. Click on the next picture and you can see Steffi and Denny pulling themselves across a lake with a rope and a small boat. Of course, the Dutch are famous for their shoes. Here are several pair at the entrance to a house.
The Dutch are also famous for their windmills. We saw several of the old style like you see here. But, more often, we saw farms of high tech windmills being used to produce power.
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We only had time to spend a day in Amsterdam itself, and we left much to come back for. Amsterdam is a fun city with many museums and things to see and do. Bicycles are the norm in the Netherlands. This picture shows just a 'few' parked by the train station. And Amsterdam has canals, which are much bigger and more practical than those we saw in Venice, Italy. No, we did not see any gondolas. They are clearly missing a good tourist opportunity, we think.
We did tour the fabulous Rijksmuseum shown here. This museum houses the nation's greatest art and has several thousand paintings highlighted by all of the Dutch Masters. This picture, titled Night Watch, by Rembrandt, is typical and was about 4 meters high and 5 meters wide. The Dutch Masters' paintings are all fabulous with great detail and with the figures seeming to come to life as they do look very real.
We could show you lots of pictures of the fine art throughout the museum, but thought you would enjoy seeing a couple of doll houses as much as we did. Click on the pictures to see the details. Steffi admires a very large doll house shown in a glass case with its front access doors shut. The next shot of a room in another doll house looks like it could be the real thing. Finally, this is a picture of a ceiling in a doll house!! Amazing. Obviously, these doll houses were much more than something for a child. The wealthy Dutch had them built as real pieces of fine art work.
We also visited the Vincent Van Gogh Museum with its 200 paintings and the historic Anne Frank house. Neither of these museums would let us take any pictures.
Our travels have brought us to beautiful Paris and then we're going through the chunnel to meet our friends the Carpenters for a week in the Cotswolds. Then, after three more weeks of touring the British Isles, we'll end our Odyssey in London, returning to the states July 25. Can't believe it's gone so quickly, but we're looking forward to home. Next update will be in a couple weeks.
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