A Travellerspoint blog

Germany

Germany: Munich: Augustineer, Sausage and Castles

August 24-29, 2014

all seasons in one day 68 °F

  • **** Sorry guys we are sad to report that our back up hard drive crashed when we came back to Orlando in Sept/October and have lost a lot of photos from the rest of Germany, as well as Dubai and Nepal so we are posting any of the photos that we could recover from our iPhone and/or GoPro :) *****

The distance between Berlin and Munich can be covered in a short six hour roadtrip but the difference between the culture of the two cities is tremendous. Munich is the epicenter of Bavarian culture and we loved every second of it. . . the beer, the sausage, and the awesome outfits. We are just sad we didn’t stay for Oktoberfest which actually starts in September! Aaaaah there’s always next time :)

On the way down to Munich we made a quick stop in Nuremberg with it’s beautiful red-roofed buildings for some famous Nurnberger Bratwurste which tasted like Jimmy Dean grilled sausages LOL. I think next time we’d like to spend a little more time there exploring the castle and grounds.
Just like our time in Stuttgart and Hamburg, we would have some local friends helping us explore this area. King and his wife Meschtildt, (friends of our friend Doc from Kenya), greeted us at their house with German baked goods and tea mmmmm. We’d like to think that we’ll be like them when we grow up :) They are fellow adventurers who hitch-hiked from Kenya to Munich together in their younger years. King is Punjabi but born in Kenya and she is German - so much fun getting to know them.

King spoiled us with a personalized tour around the nearby German alpine lakes and small cities like Garmisch and Mittenwald . We also got to check out his super modern office (he owns a coal freight business). They also generously put us up at Hotel Seehof, a very nice place nearby since Meschtildt was feeling a bit under the weather and didn’t want to get us sick. Schupfnudeln (cooked mashed potatoes formed into finger-thick noodles that are then pan fried in butter until crispy and golden brown) were our favorite part of the meal at their favorite German restaurant. Mmmmmmm Ruby definitely preferred this to the Spätzle we had before.

Munich is beautiful and there’s no better way to explore it than on foot. We took a free walking tour and found the stories about Hitler and his history in Munich to be fascinating. We ended the tour in the main square watching the clock tower while drinking Augustineer (our fave German beer) and having some bratwurst :)

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Just a short drive away from Munich is the famous Neuschwanstein Castle built by King Ludwig II and of course we had to stop there. This is also known as the “Disneyland Castle” as Walt Disney was inspired by this place. We had a great time exploring Neuschwanstein castle although we skipped the interior (having seen tons of castles already). It was a gorgeous sunny day so we hiked up to the Marienbruke bridge. There were tons of tourists since August is the peak of the summer season and we wondered if possibly busier than Disneyland?

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We ended our time in Munich with a wonderful Italian dinner with King, Meschtildt and their daughter Rasna and a crazy humongous dessert!

Posted by Tony.Ruby 03:52 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany: Berlin: Uber Cool Artsy Alternative Walking Tour

August 22-24, 2014

sunny 70 °F

  • **** We are sad to report that our back up hard drive crashed when we came back to Orlando in Sept/October and have lost a lot of photos from the rest of Germany, as well as Dubai and Nepal so we are only posting photos that we could recover from our iPhone and/or GoPro :) *****

It’s only about 300 km to Berlin from Hamburg but today it felt much further with gridlock traffic and construction. . . remind us to never drive into the largest city in Germany on a Friday afternoon in the peak of summer season :)

Phew! We finally made it there — 48 hrs in Berlin is perfect for a first trip. This city is old, dirty, gritty and bursting at the seams with culture, music and art. It reminds us a lot of New York and London and like those other cities, this one can be a bit overwhelming at first. We took our friend Ross’ sage advice and joined a free “Alternative” Berlin walking tour. We hoofed it around the neighborhoods of Mitte, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain for several hours. It was terrific to get an insider’s view on the street art around the city and visit some super cool undercover spots. We even made it to a Jamaican beach party on the river! Friedrichshain is a hip area and central for getting around on the train so that’s where we decided to stay.

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It was great to learn about what the people of this city have lived through and how it reflects in their attitudes towards personal privacy, video cameras, companies tracking your credit card purchases etc. . . It also made us realize how we as Americans are nowhere near as sensitive to these issues and even offer up tons of free information about ourselves to these companies via social media, our own blog, and the use of credit cards. Definitely food for thought. . .

Did you know that there are lots of Turkish people in Germany? We didn’t know this either but we learned that the Turks were encouraged to immigrate during reconstruction of cities after WWII but instead of leaving when the job was finished they chose to stay and brought their families over. We could still feel a friction, similar to how some Americans feel about Mexican immigrants.

We also visited the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie and we were both sobered by the horrific things that went on in this country . . .but to forget about that for the night we ended up at a party called the Hoffest at the Schwarzenberg art house. This place is covered in beautiful graffiti, it was full of musicians and artists who were smoking too much for our lungs to our lungs to handle so we ended up at a crazy play going on in a nearby park. This play appeared to be a version of Shakespeare meets the Rocky Horror Picture Show in German! Interesting to say the least. . .LOL
The cool thing about Berlin is that anything can and probably will happen: we had so much fun walking around town and on museum island. These were some of the most impressive buildings and sculptures we’ve seen to date! Somehow we ended up watching a silent movie accompanied by classical music at the Pergamon museum.
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Another highlight was finding Burrito Dolores, a Mexican food restaurant…YES good Mexican food in Northern Germany! There was something so familiar about Burrito Dolores that we had to stop. . . then we noticed that it’s a San Francisco restaurant, what a coincidence! :)

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We most definitely could have spent more time here in Berlin. . . but we have to save something for another trip!

Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:09 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany: No Hamburgers in Hamburg!

August 18-21, 2014

rain 68 °F

  • **** We are sad to report that our back up hard drive crashed when we came back to Orlando in Sept/October and have lost a lot of photos from the rest of Germany, as well as Dubai and Nepal so we are posting any of the photos that we could recover from our iPhone and/or GoPro :) *****

We said goodbye to wine country and headed off the Hamburg…I know it wasn't the most direct way to Hamburg from Dusseldorf but we’re on vacation. The highlight of our visit in Hamburg was definitely visiting our two friends Andreas and Katharina who we met while crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia on our last around the world trip! I’m not sure exactly how much wine or German beer we went through while visiting them but boy was it fun!

These two are such adventurers! Andreas’ photography blog at photos.andreastephan.com is so inspiring! He is so very talented! Katharina works for a tour/travel agency and specializes in Southeast Asia so of course we picked both their brains about photography and got expert help planning the rest of our trip :)

They spoiled us the whole time— as fellow world travelers they know how simple things like doing laundry and having a home cooked meal can make a long trip just a little more comfortable. First it was the fresh sole filets from the Baltic Sea for dinner and then on our last night they treated us to a traditional Raclette (which is apparently for special occasions like holidays!) We will miss them on this trip but we definitely look forward to a visit from them in California next year!!

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Our main purpose of visiting was for our friends but there are also some pretty parts of Hamburg. Michael’s church has a gorgeous white/marroon interior with stained glass windows, Moenckebergstrasse Street is great for shopping and the coffee and breakfast at Cafe Paris can’t be beat!! :)

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The Rauthaus Town Hall is a nice building to walk around and has a beautiful fountain in the center atrium that we enjoyed in the sunshine.
We learned about the North vs South German rivalry: the Northerners are annoyed that the “Bavarian” culture is what has been stereotyped as German in places like the U.S. while the south views the Northerns as “fish heads” since they live in mostly port cities like Hamburg.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:45 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

Germany: Traveling Up the Romantic Rhine — FOODIE ALERT

August 17-19, 2014

semi-overcast 65 °F

We loved the Mosel Valley so much we couldn’t resist visiting the Rhine River Valley as well. It was supposed to be a 3 hour drive us to ——- but we detoured in Heidelburg and got lost so it ended up taking closer to 5 or 6 hours. The small town of St. Goar is smack dab in the center of the Rhine and a perfect takeoff point to visit the other towns via ferry or car. There is a gorgeous castle just across the water from the hotel we stayed at: Hotel An de Fahre (which translates to On The Ferry).

St. Goar by day:

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St. Goar by night:

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The hotel An de Fahre (45 Euros/night) is in a super convenient waterfront location just next to the ferry station. We totally fell in love with the owners Max and Alyssea! He’s German and she’s from Kazakstan (the first person we’ve ever met from there!) We got to know them over a couple of beers and blog writing in the hotel lounge. They were super sweet and did everything to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The beds were soft, the bathrooms spotless! We would definitely stay there again. We were spoiled by Alyssea’s home cooked breakfast (which was included in our room rate). Super delicious food with huge portions big enough to fill yourself up for the entire day. They also treated us to a lovely home-cooked barbecue which was really special for us (especially after being on the road for so long). We are really looking forward to going back to the area to see Max and Alyssea! They lent us their local guidebook so we could explore the area. . . . and explore we did:

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We drove to the adjacent small town of Bacharach and found a path to hike up the steep vineyards for a view of Rhine. WOW!

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I thought Ruby was going to have a heart attack as I chose to hang precariously on the hillside to take some of these grapevine shots!

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Bacharach is pretty adorable with a village type feel. . .

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While walking around we found a great Greek restaurant called Zeus. It was authentic and super delicious. The ouzo shots at the beginning were a nice surprise :) We had the pork plate, zucchini and tzatziki and are still thinking about it today. The chef is actually Greek and his wife is German which explains why the food was so good!

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On the way back from Bacharach we saw a huge rainbow across the Rhine and it was super close to the famous rock called Loreley which is a grey cliff that towers 433 feet above the Rhine. Legend has it that this was the most dangerous section of the River Rhine during the middle ages and the spot where the mythic siren Loreley used to sit atop the cliff combing her hair. Her beauty and singing would lure sailors to their deaths on the cliff below:

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On our last day in St. Goar we drove through another town called Braubach and enjoyed views of another gorgeous castle.

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Our friend Phil Raffa had nominated Ruby and I for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was much harder to find ice than one would think—for future reference, in Germany, only specific gas stations sell ice (not grocery stores) and it’s expensive for ice! We ended up completing the challenge in Kobern-Gondorf one of our other favorite little towns.

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We were sad to leave the Rhine River Valley but we got on the road for our six hour drive North to Hamburg by the early afternoon.

Posted by Tony.Ruby 18:05 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany: Stuttgart: Heiko and the Huge Hohenzollern Castle

August 15-17, 2014

sunny 68 °F

Amazingly we made it to Heiko’s without getting lost at all!?! WOW! We must be getting better at driving in Germany :) He has an awesome flat super close to a nice church which we walked by at night. Like all good things in Germany. . . his apartment required an uphill hike up 4 flights of stairs LOL :)

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We got the true Bavarian experience with Heiko and his girl Yvi—an awesome German dinner with some local specialities like “Spätzle”, a pasta made with large amounts of eggs, another dish that reminded us of an omlette. . . .and of course Schnapps shots!! We stopped at some local bars in Stuttgart and checked out the scene while having a few beers. Very low key night, just what we needed after all that driving around the Mosel.

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Recovering from the shots, we woke up late and had weitwurst (white sausage) with sweet mustard a pretzel and topped it all off with a Hefeweizen! Heiko says this is a true Bavarian breakfast. . not sure about that. . . but it was delicious!

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We spent the rest of the day exploring some of Stuttgart. We saw the center of town, views from a rooftop and the Mercedes logo of course (since this is where Mercedes is manufactured!).

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We showed Heiko some places he hadn’t been either. The library is amazing!! We love the symmetry and clean lines.

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Heiko also promised us a huge castle. . . and he did not disappoint! Yvi, Heiko and the two of us went to Hohenzollern which was straight out of a fairytale. The hike uphill was definitely worth it: great views, history and not a bad place to stop for an afternoon beer and currywurst—definitely the fanciest Biergarten we’ve ever been to! :)

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That night we hung out with some of Heiko, Yvi and Heiko’s local friends Ollie and Kathie. . . we had such a great time and hope to see all of them in California next year! Of course the German Giant had to have Ruby climb one last hill. . this one was to see Stuttgart by night!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 06:12 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany: Moseying Along the Mosel Wine Valley

August 14-15, 2014

rain 62 °F

With the rental car fiasco out of our hair and the freedom to drive anywhere. . . we were finally off! I was super excited to be driving on the autobahn but luckily for Ruby our rental car wouldn’t go that fast. . . small economy Opel cars aren’t exactly known for racing LOL.

Originally we were heading straight to Stuttgart from Dusseldorf and on the way we stopped for our first Bratwurst of many. . . unfortunately it was at a gas station (I know, I know we are risk takers!). It also came in the smallest bun for such a large sausage. . weird. . . but it was yummy.

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Looking at the map, Ruby (the navigator) noticed that there were lots of grapes on the tourist map and detoured us straight to wine country. Wow! What an awesome surprise, this was not even on our itinerary for visiting Germany but would definitely come back here in a heartbeat. We started in the Mosel Valley at a town called Kobern-Gondorf and loved the feel of the area immediately. It’s hard to describe the beauty but all along the Mosel River is a small windy road lined with vineyards rising steeply on both sides of the hills. It’s even more stunning when you notice all the medieval castles perched above the small towns along the way.

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We ended up in Alken and admired the grapevines before an an elderly couple showed up and led us to a local restaurant where we had our first glass of German vino. We were in such awe of the beauty of this place that we lost track of time. . . okay, so maybe it was the wine? :)

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A that point we decided to stay right in the middle of the Mosel Valley. We found the perfect place: Guesthouse Am-Markt in Treis-Karden: nice rooms with a great view of the steep vineyards— a steal at 45Euros/night or $60 USD.

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Dinner was at a local “weingut” haha— it means winery in German but Ruby and I like to say that we don’t have beer bellies— we have “weinguts” LOL! Our waitress Barbara at Weingut Weinstube Otto Knaup was super sweet and she gave us a great mini-introduction to German food. . . we had our first ever authentic German Schnitzel that night. .. Jaeger Schnitzel actually (which is pork with a mushroom sauce), a german salad which was pretty good. . . and a non-sweet riesling from the Mosel Valley of course. Barbara loves to travel too so perhaps we’ll see her in California one of these days.

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The next day we continued along the Mosel with a plan to make it to the end of the Mosel Vine Valley in Trier and then continue on to our 3 hour drive to Stuttgart in time for dinner. In the morning we thought we would try a waffle for breakfast, and I played a crazy game of charades at the German Bakery downstairs in order to get a topping on the waffle—I ended up with cherries which is common in Germany. Forget about syrup and strawberries though! We enjoyed it in our room with a view of the grapevines outside.

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Burg Eltz (a beautiful castle) was just across the narrow Mosel River from Treis-Karden so we decided to cross over and see it for ourselves. You can easily park at the base, pay 3 Euros for parking in the lot and hike up about 45 minutes through the forest. Wow! This was our first castle and I know that Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich is supposed the be the inspiration for the Disneyland castle but this one looks like a close contender to me!

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It was raining which got us moving again, we ended up in Cochem. The bridge crossing the Mosel was decorated with beautiful lamp posts and flowers. It was an idyllic place to stop for a photo for sure!

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Lunch was spent in Beilstein. An adorable little town, wish we had more time there! Next time for sure. . . We found that the last few towns after Beilstein were not nearly as nice, so our advice would be to turn back there and head back toward Koblenz stopping at towns on the opposite side of the river. Skip Trier altogether and see Roman ruins in Italy!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 10:34 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany:Dusseldorf: Crazy Trains and Rental Car Disasters

August 14, 2014

sunny 68 °F

We thought the trains in India were bad. . .but the ones in Amsterdam were just as crazy! We could see people walking up and down the aisles confused over where to sit and luggage everywhere! Of course these ones are exponentially more expensive, at 70 Euros per person to take the ICE train from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf Germany. I thought Ruby was going to have a heart attack over our budget!

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When we arrived into Germany we immediately noticed the difference in attitude from people in The Netherlands. Not to say there’s anything wrong with people from the Netherlands but sometimes we got the feeling that they just wanted us to spend money and go home. Meanwhile, Germans seem to be straight shooters, really a no-nonsense type of people that really don’t care who you are, where you come from or what you think of them.
Who knew that Dusseldorf would have a cute little aldstadt (aka old town) and people hanging out along the waterfront.

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There was also great shopping and every type of food you could imagine. We had the most delicious tapas at a restaurant called “La Copa” in the main square. Tony had his first beer in Germany

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. . . and they really did a good job with our usual Spanish faves of “pimientos de padron" and “gambas al ajillo”.

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While eating dinner outside it was fun to watch this wacky old Bavarian guy (you can recognize them by their silly outfits) pushing a cart that played German organ music!

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We finally got back to our attic room and watched a beautiful orange-red sunset over the buildings from the Altus Guesthouse (which by the way was a steal at 44 euros a night with our own bathroom and super convenient location close to public transportation). We would definitely stay there again and would book the top room in the attic— even though it’s a hike to the top room, the skylight and lack of noise upstairs from neighbors make it worth it!

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  • ***************************************Small Note on Car Rental Disaster Avoidance*************************************************

We had such a fiasco when renting our car at the Dusseldorf airport. We always use CarRentals.com and love it but we are going to try and AVOID FROM DOLLAR/THRIFTY CAR RENTALS in Europe!! They have the cheapest daily or weekly rates to lure you in but then they require you to have/buy collision insurance (for hundreds of extra dollars!!) and then they have a silly policy requiring you use ONLY a PLATINUM MASTERCARD (not a regular mastercard) if you want to use your credit card to cover the collision insurance. They also require PROOF of your Collision Damage Waiver from your U.S. credit card company with your name, credit card number, location and value of coverage in writing at time of rental. After a few hours of trying to get all this sorted out we gave up! Next time we won't bother with all that nonsense and rent with Sixt which doesn’t require any of that silly hassle and knows that almost all good US Credit cards provide Collision insurance when you use their credit card!?!

Posted by Tony.Ruby 08:41 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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