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Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Day 5: 13 Jun 2005 – Frankfurt

Past midnight, we touched down at Hanh Frankfurt, Germany and checked into Holiday Inn Express Frankfurt-Messe. This hotel is located near to Fankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof Station but certainly a distance away from Frankfurt downtown.

This week, we would be taking a break from the tour; I would be working in Germany while JL spent some relaxing time in Frankfurt. We would then spent the weekends together in Lucerne, Switzerland. In fact, JL was so exhausted after the last four days of packed intinerary, she decided to give herself a rest today. 

Day 6: 14 Jun 2005 – Frankfurt City Tour

JL joined a city tour today. Here were some highlights of the tour:

Römerberg

Römerberg is the central square in Frankfurt’s old town (Altstadt). For most visitors, this is usually their first stop. Romerberg is a site for holding all kind of trade fairs and festive celebrations. One of the city’s most important historic buildings is the Römer or Frankfurt’s town hall. The town hall consists of three different structures with stepped gables, originally built between the 15th and 18th century in Gothic style.
Romerberg 01
 
On the east side of the square is known as the Ostzeile.  Like all of the historic Römerberg, the buildings were destroyed by allied bombardments in 1944 and were rebuilt after the war. These half-timbered houses were recontructions of the original 15th and 16th century houses. In front of the Oztzeile is Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (the “Fountain of Justice”) built in 1543. The statue is goddess Justitia, holding the scales of justice but without her usual blindfold.
 
Romerberg 02
 
 
To the north of Romerberg is the Paulskirche or St Paul’s Church. This Neo-classicist church was constructed between 1789 to 1833. It was used as a protestant church until the meetings of the Vorparlament (German revolution). Religious services only resumed in 1852.
 
St Paul Church
 
Founded in 1981, the Museum für Moderne Kunst or Museum of Modern Art has a number of outstanding American and European works of art dating from the 1960s.

Museum of Modern Art

Frankfurt City Centre

Frankfurt is one of the few European cities with a sizeable cluster of skyscrapers in its downtown area. The Commerzbank Tower is currently the tallest skyscraper at 259m. Built in 1997, it was the tallest building in Europe until December 2003, when the neo-stalinist Triumph Palace in Moscow overtook it.

Frankfurt CBD

Marriott tallest hotel 

Sachsenhausen

Across the Frankfurt Bridge lies the city’s beloved apple wine district of Sachsenhausen. The main street of Sachsenhausen is Schweizer Straße, a cosmopolitan boulevard with bars and two of Frankfurt’s most traditional cider houses.

 frankfurt bridge

Sachsenhausen 01

Sachsenhausen 02

Along the street, there is an apple wine statue of a Hausfrau (“Frau Rauscher Brunnen”) who periodically spits water at unsuspecting tourists!  The idea is based on a popular Frankfurth song about apple wine.

 Franofurta 02

After the tour, the tour bus brought JL back to the Hauptbahnof Railway near to our hotel.

Hauptbahnof Railway]

Day 7: 15 Jun 2005 – Rhine River Tour 

Today, JL travelled west of Frankfurt, towards the Rhine River. The Rhine is the longest river in Germany and one of the most important rivers in Europe. The Rhine Valley in Germany is famous for it’s castles, wines and the river cruises along the Rhine River. The region is home to village like Assmannshausen, which is famous for its red wines. A quick way to view the vineyards is to float up on a chair lift…

Rhine - Cable Car

Rhine - Cable Car 03

Rhine - Cable Car 08

Rhine - Cable Car 07

River Cruise

Another destination to see Ruedesheim and taking a cruise on a steamer ship is great way to get there.

Rhine view

Rhine - Steamer ship

 Along the way, you can see several German Castles. the Rhine served as a vital, navigable waterway which carries trade and goods, as well as a defensive feature. The many castles and prehistoric fortifications along the Rhine testify to its importance as a waterway.

Rhine - Castle

Rhine - Castle 02

 This town produces the famous Riesling-grape wine, sparkling wines and brandy. Therefore, many of Ruedesheim’s streets are filled with cosy wine taverns, many of which sell their own wines. One of the most famous streets in Ruedesheim is the Drosselgasse.

  Rhine - Rudesheim 02

Rhine - oldest hotel

Rhine - deers

Rhine - Rudesheim

This was an interesting trip which I had missed unfortunately. Glad that JL had the opportunity to see it and took pictures during the tour.

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 20-22 Jun 2005:  Leipzig, Germany

This week, I am traveling to two relatively unknown German cities – Leipzig & Goettingen. With me on this assignment is a young German chap named Steffen, who is driving me to these places on his Audi convertible. Like most Germans, he is extremely proud of the German cars – Audi, BMW, Benz, Opel, Volkswagen, etc.  It is true that there are no speed limits on German freeways called Autobahns. On average, Steffen was traveling between 100 mph to 120 mph; and he was already constantly overtaken by many other drivers!

We arrived at Leipzig in the afternoon and checked into The Westin Leipzig.  This half-million populated city is linked to names like Johann Sebastian Bach, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. Johann Sebastian Bach worked in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750, at the St. Thomas Lutheran church, and Richard Wagner (the composer) was born in Leipzig in 1813. Robert Schumann was also active in Leipzig music while Felix Mendelssohn established Germany’s first musical conservatoire in the city in 1843.

Gewandhaus Concert Hall

Leipzig - Gewandhaus

Leipzig Opera House

Leipzig is world-renowned for its annual music festivals and spectacular Leipzig Opera House (aka Oper Leipzig). The Leipzig Opera House was established in 1693, which is the third oldest opera house in Europe.

Leipzig - Oper

City Halls

On the east of the market is Leipzig’s an old city hall called Altes Ratharus, which was built in 1556 and houses a museum of the city’s history. The building around the old city hall is very unique and has a great renaissance influence.  

Leipzig_Altes Ratharus 02

Leipzig_Altes Ratharus 01Leipzig_Altes Ratharus 03

But since 1905, a new city hall called Neues Ratharus was built within the Leipzig city center ring at the southwest corner across from the former Supreme Court on Martin Luther Square.

  Leipzig - Neues Rathaus 01

 Leipzig - Neues Rathaus 02

St. Nicholas’ Church

Nikolaikirche or St. Nicholas’ Church is a famous church in Leipzig. It rose to national fame with the Monday Demonstrations in 1989 when it became the centre of the revolution. Built in 1165, it is named after St. Nicholas, the patron saint of merchants and wholesalers.

 Leipzig - Nikolaikirche

Thomaskirche

In contrast, Thomaskirche  or the St. Thomas Church is a Lutheran church and is most famous as the place where Johann Sebastian Bach worked as a cantor, and where his remains currently lie.

Leipzig - thomas kirche

Steffen was pretty excited to stay at The Westin Leipzig, claiming this was the best hotel he had ever stayed. As a Starwood Platinum member, I was given a free upgrade to a nice junior suite. In one of the evenings, Steffen and I watched a soccer match in my “suite” room and had beers (drinking beer becomes inevitable with a German around!). Soccer is gaining heat-hot popularity here as Germany is hosting the 2006 World Cup. Steffen proudly told me that his fiance and him had gotten the tickets to watch the semi-final match.

  23-24 Jun 2005:  Goettingen, Germany

My experience with Goettingen was very brief. We arrived the town in the late morning and checked into Clarion Hotel Goettingen. There were only two things I remembered vividly about this hotel. One, there is no air-conditioning for the room (at least not in my room) and it was hot in mid-summer. Second, the hotel was a spacious garden area where they served traditional Mediterranean delicacies and light snacks in the open air.

flowers in gottingen 01

Goettingen is a small college town in Lower Saxony of Germany with a population slightly over 120,000. It is famous for its old university, Georgia Augusta, which was founded in 1737 and became the most visited university of Europe.

We were up to speed and completed our assignment before mid of the following day. Since we were ahead of schedule, I decided to head north and spend my weekends in Berlin while poor Steffen had to drive back to Frankfurt alone (sorry, Steffen!).

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24 – 26 June: Berlin, Germany

To be frank, I was not keen to visit Berlin at all. Two things completely changed my mind. First was the movie, Goodbye Lenin (2003), a German tragic-comedy set in 1990, where a young man frantically kept his fragile mother (who woke up after a long coma) from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared. My second compelling reason was that I heard so much about the Berlin’s Museum Island that I have to see them!

The ICE rail from Goettingen to Berlin took 2 hours and I arrived at thePotsdamer Platz stationat 6 pm. The reception told me that the Holiday Inn Berlin was just “a stone throw away” from the subway. “You can walk,” she assured me over the phone. But the distance turned out out to be more than  half a km away and I certainly had built up good muscles dragging my luggage that far. Taking it in good light, I assumed that the miscommunication was nothing more than “language barrier”.

Potsdamer Platz used to be one of the busiest crossing in Europe. However, it was completely destroyed during the world war. The newly constructed square today has a large new underground station, shopping arcade and entertainment center; starting to grow back to its former status as one of the liveliest squares in Europe.

 Unter den Linden 04

25 Jun: Brandenburg Gate

I started the morning at the Brandenburg Gate. Since the fall of the wall, the Brandenburger Gate has became the an iconic landmark of a reunified Berlin and Germany. It is so important that it appears on German euro coins. This is the desolate area signifying the division between East and West Germany during the Cold War. Located at the end of Unter den Linden, the Brandenburger Gate is a 60m-tall gate that was part of a wall surrounding the city and was the main entrance to the city. The gate was constructed between 1778 and 1791; and the designer Carl Gotthard, took another 4 years to complete the decorations depicting Greek mythology on the gate.

Brandenburg Gate 01

Brandenburg Gate 05

Reichstag

The next historical landmark to see was the Reichstag or the German Parliament House. The current Reichstag building underwent a major renovation in the 1950s after severe World War II damage.  In the 1990s, the building was remodeled by British architect Norman Foster, who added a glass dome over the plenary hall. In order to capture the full view of Reichstag in my Pentax camera, I had to retreat a distance back in the green field. What a magificant and glorious building!

Reichstag 03

Berliner Dom

My next stop is the Berliner Dom, a Protestant cathedral situated on the Spree Island. This church was first built in 1465 and underwent several rounds of demolitions and reconstructions.  There is a big fountain and several people were surrounding it to take heat off them.

Berliner Dom 03

Berliner Dom 04

Checkpoint Charlie

My following destination is Checkpoint Charlie, which was highly recommended by Steffen. Like Kora’s DMZ , Checkpoint Charlie is the symbol of the Cold War and the separation the east from the west for nearly 30 years. After the East German government erected the Berlin Wall in 1961, President John F. Kennedy ordered the US forces to build three checkpoints along the wall to control diplomatic corps and allied forces who could enter West Berlin.

Being the third checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie got its name from the American alphabet (the others were Alpha and Bravo…a, b, c). It was finally removed in 1990 after the German reunification and nearly a year after the Berlin Wall came down.  Today, Checkpoint Charlie is just a line of bricks which traces the path where the Berlin Wall once stood. The booth and sign is replicated at the original site. Here, you hear many stories of how people attempt to cross the border and were killed by the military.

Checkpoint Charlie 01

Checkpoint Charlie 03

Not all of the Berlin Wall was dismantled, some parts still stand. The most famous one is the 1,316m long East Side Gallery (containing 106 paintings) located along Mühlenstrasse.

Berlin Wall 05

Checkpoint Charlie - peter fsicher
 
Neptune Fountain

The last stop of the day was to see the Neptune Fountain at Alexanderplatz. Originally, this square was called the Ochsenmarkt or ox market; but after a visit by Tzar Alexander I, it was renamed to Alexanderplatz.  This beautiful fountain was created by Reinhold Begas in 1891. It featured a ten-meter high sea god Neptune reigns supreme in an enormous shell carried by tritons and surround by nymphs. Sitting at four edges of the fountain are female shapes symbolising the four rivers that once ran through Prussian territory: the Rhine (with a fish net and wine leaves), the Weichsel (with woods), the Oder (with goat and skins) and the Elbe (with fruits and cobs).

Unfortunately, it had started to drizzle the mid-summer rain. In fact, this picture was taken under my umbrella. I decided to call it a day.

Alexanderplatz 05

 26 June: Berlin: Unter den Linden

After breakfast, I strolled along Unter den Linden, a main east-west street running through the city of Berlin. It earned its name from the rows of linden trees that were first planted there for more than three-and-a-half centuries ago. Berlin is a amazing city bustling with life; and unexpectedly at the turn of each corner, some surprises await you… like this statue of a man in front of a unknown building…Or a this arty farty, strange look ox in front of its Art Gallery.

Berlin City 01

Berlin City 03

The cost of living is relatively cheaper than Frankfurt;  whether it is a cone of Movenpick ice cream or a street donut, everything is so much affordable here.

Unter den Linden 03

 Berlin City 05

Flea market

If you are looking for a bargain of some hard-to-find rarity, or just want to browse, there is a wide range of flea markets in Berlin to spend on a weekend morning. In German, flea market is called Flohmarkt, a literal translation “junk market”. Ranging from antique junk to kitsch (i.e., cheap copies), these outdoor markets sure have something for all tastes and pockets. As a avid coin collector, I picked some worthless German coins used by East Germans.

Berlin City - Street Stores

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Somehow, I had roamed to Breitscheidplatz, the center of former West-Berlin. This is where the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church stands. After allied bombing in Nov 1943, only the broken west tower of the church was still standing.  The damaged church serves as a symbol of Berlin’s determination to rebuild the city after the war and a constant reminder of the destruction of war.

 Kaiser Wilhelm 03

This was my final stop for the day. After noon, I boarded the highly-comfortable ICE Rail back to Frankfurt.

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25 June: Berlin, Germany

In 2000, Berlin’s Museum Island gained the status as UNESCO National Heritage Site. Museum Island comprises of 5 museums located between the Spree River and the Kupfergraben. The idea of grouping these museums originated from King Friedrich Wilhelm III to allow the general public to view the royal art treasures of Germany. The 5 museums are: Old National Gallery, Altes Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum and Pergamon.

 Pergamon Museum 02

Pergamon Museum

I started the art journey at the Pergamon Museum (1930), where there is a comprehensive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities as well as an impressive Ishtar Gate of Babylon. The Pergamon Museum is divided into three distinct sections: the Greek and Roman Antiquity Collection, the Islamic Art Museum and the Near East Museum.

The Greek and Roman Antiquities is the most magnificent part of the museum. The central piece is the famous Pergamon Altar (180-160 B.C.), which was constructed in Pergamon as an altar to Zeus. The altar is so huge that it occupies an entire room and costed US$3 million to restore the marble frieze!

 Pergamon Museum - Altar 01

Pergamon Museum - Altar 04

Pergamon Museum - Altar 05

The Islamic Art Museum focused mainly on the Middle East including Egypt. Here, the art of Islam from the eighth through the nineteenth centuries are displayed from architectural decorations, ceramics, jewelry, wood carvings, textiles, to calligraphic works.

It is in the Near East Museum you can find ancient treasures from Babylonia, Persia, and Assyria, including a model of the Tower of Babel in the Babylonian Hall. The most important exihibit here is the majestic Ishtar Gate of Babylon. The brightly decorated walls are still very well preserved. 

Pergamon Museum - Babylon 02

National Gallery

Leaving the Pergamon, I stepped into the National Gallery, which owns one of the largest collections of 19th century sculpture and paintings in Germany. The most noticeable aspect of the museum is the massive steps outside the neo-Classical-style building.

 National Gallery 01
 
The National Gallery is best-known for its fine collection of 19th century paintings from artists such as Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905).  But I was personally more impressed by its collection of 19th-century sculptures.

Such as this beatuiful work from German sculptor, Johann Gottfried Schadow (1764 – 1850), depicting a sleeping child…

National Gallery - Schadow

And these sculptures are so fine in details and come very much alive…

National Gallery 06

National Gallery 09

Unfortunately I was running short of time to visit the other museums. To alleviate this regret, I simply passed by them to take a shot. This is the Bodemuseum, which boasts a large collection of sculptures and one of the world’s largest numismatic collections and a selection of paintings from the Gemäldegalerie (German for picture galllery).

Bodemuseum

Next is the Old Museum or Altes Museum, which houses ancient Greek and Roman artifacts and its biggest attractions is the bust of Queen Nefertiti. The building was built to resemble a Greek Corinthian Temple. 

Altes Museum 02

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29 Jun 2005: Frankfurt, Germany

Beer festivals are important events in Germany. Besides the world’s largest beer festival Oktoberfest, several other smaller beer festivals are held all over Germany all over the year. I was fortunate to attend one in Frankfurt, held next to its famous old opera house (aka Alte Oper).

This opera house , built in 1880 by the architect Richard Lucae, was damaged in World War II. It was later fully reconstructed and reopened in 1981. Today it functions as a concert hall and you can see the inscription on the frieze which says: “Dem Wahren, Schönen, Guten” or ” To the true, the beautiful, the good”.

Beer Festival by the Opera 02

This beer festival was much more organised than the one I attended at Qingdao, where I witnessed drunk fightings and stacks of abandoned bottles and trash. Our minds were relaxed and drowned in the live music. Steffen, Ingo and I bought some beers and took sips at the steps in front of the concert hall.

 Beer Festival by the Opera 03

Tonight was my last night in Frankfurt. I was out of Singapore for more than three weeks and was definitely ready to go home. Well, there was no better way to end the trip but to have nice cold beers with your friends and bottom-ups. My best wishes to my German friends. CHEERS!

 CS Steffen and Ingo 01

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