10 September ’04, Friday. We both felt leaving Dresden was tough to do. That is one European city that we would definitely like to return to. In the year 2006, they are going to have the city rehab completed and I’m sure it will be done right. Well, we left anyway. Louise had prepared our route to head down the Elbe River on route 172. Our first stop was to be the 15th Century Konigstein Fortress with the Christiansburg Castle (which by the way, was never captured or over-run because of it’s design and position on the hill). At the loop of the Elbe, we saw the castle and the fortress high on the hill off in the distance. This combination took up the complete top of the hill and looked as if it were a city. Instead of stopping and taking a picture so far off in the distance, I opted to wait for a closer shot and also we are going to stop there and visit….WRONG… I missed the turn, the parking lot, and the fortress by 12km before we noticed…Nuts !!! Well, our 2nd stop is just another 6km so I promised Louise “believe me, I wont miss this one !!!” I didn’t… once we made the small village and the bottom of the hill, we started the winding, narrow, “S” turns for about 12km straight up. Our destination was the Bastei near Rathen. This is a paradise for hikers and those that are rock climbers. The view over the labyrinthine gorge with its bizarrely shaped rocks is well worth the effort. The Bastei bridge, was built in 1851 and crosses the ravine between the rocks. This gives an amazing feeling as you walk across. We saw more rock climbers in that one area than I have seen in my whole life. They were everywhere….some already at the top, some repelling, some still attempting to reach the top. It was great. After about 2 hours we moved down the same roadway to the bottom and we were on our way to cross the border between Germany and The Czech Republic. Our next stop was to be our sought after campground…apparently, we missed it or it moved. So one we went to a secondary site. This one we found with out a hitch. It was right on the bank of a lake that was formed by a dam. The water was flat and beautiful. As you looked across to the other side, you had a view of 5 cooling towers and the rest of the buildings of a Nuclear Power Plant.
9 September ’04, Thursday. The sky has been clear, the sun bright and the temp in the late morning to late afternoon, which has made it great for the last 10 days. Now for the evenings. The stars and the moon are bright as bright can be, and temperature is dropping fast. We were heading into Dresden by 8:30am today and expected to have a full day of exploring. Rick, I think this is a city that you would really enjoy… It has history in it’s name. Two of the churches that we visited, were nothing but a beautiful shell. The bombing in ’45 had completely destroyed them, and now they are being rebuilt. The exteriors, for the most part have been finished. The interiors are in the first phase of being re-established. One commonality between the two churches…the bell towers were both in working order and the bells made themselves heard throughout the day. I love the sound of the bells in Europe ... what is it with the US? Yesterday I mentioned the re-building of the “Old Town”, well that’s definitely not all the construction going on…. The communists held construction to a slow crawl for so long, so now that they are a unified Germany and a member of the European Union, they are making up for lost time. You don’t want to be in a hurry in getting through the streets….road construction is everywhere!!! New commercial structures, re-building of railway stations, new plazas, and,and,and… Now let’s get back to what we did today…a couple palaces, theatres, churches, museums, “brat” stands, and coffee houses… too much time and space but, the Royal Palace, Theaterplatz, Hofkirche Cathedral, the former Catholic Court Chapel, Semper Opera House, The Rampart Pavilion, and the Zwinger. Most of our time was spent with the “Old Masters” in Gemäldegalerie. We took three hours to “study” the “Art of the Masters”. To be within 24inches of a Rembrandt, Raphael, Vermeer…. Truly magnificent works of art. I do have to admit to everyone, after the first two hours or so, it’s “over-load” and I’ve got to move on. So move on we did. We caught the bus back, settled down with a fine glass of red and fired up the barbeque. Tonight we are having Pork tenderloin with all the trimmings….not bad for camping grub. In checking our email today, we found one from Bon and Douglas. We are going to meet them in Ankara, Turkey on the 3rd of Oct. Looking forward to it !!! So, we have got to get ourselves in gear. Tomorrow….heading south
8 September ’04, Wednesday. As I mentioned before, yesterday was spent with the laundry and trying to get some work done on the web. Everything was accomplished except the up-loading of the pictures. Unfortunately the system I was using (not my own) just wouldn’t get the job done. Well, hopefully at the next stop.
This morning (Wednesday) we pulled up stakes and headed for Dresden. We arrived in the center of town about 3pm and as we drove onto Carola Bridge (Carolabrucke) that crosses the Elbe River, the view of the “Old City”, that sat before us, blew our socks off. It was “The” most exciting ”Old City” view that we have seen as of yet, and we haven’t even gotten out of the van. It was impressive !!! (Sorry Aaron (of Berlin)) All we had to do then was find the campground and make our way back as soon as we could. Well, that is exactly what we did…we were in town and taking notes and pictures by 5pm. Because of our late hour, the “Tourist Information” office wasn’t open so we were on our own. We decided to just go by the book information that we have with us and just do a quick over-view of what we will do in more depth tomorrow. We thought the view from the bridge was wonderful, well, this was even better now that we’re on foot. The books say “Like the mythological phoenix rising from the ashes, Dresden is re-establishing it’s self following the devastating fire bombing of WW II, 13 February 1945”, and it will be unbelievable in my opinion. Right now, I call this city “The Patchwork Quilt” of re-construction. Yes, the city was leveled, but they are physically finding and using, the original blocks of stone, figurines, and filigree. Then, when they can’t find what they need, they chip, carve, and copy in stone, from pictures to bring back the original structure to it’s former glory. When all that original glory is re-established, I really don’t think there will be many cities in the world that can match the charm and beauty of Dresden. When we got off the bus and made our way back to “Bumble Bee”, the temp had dropped considerably. We not only pulled out the comforter, but also have plugged in the heater. It is definitely going into the Fall mode. Tomorrow….more of Dresden
6 September ’04, Monday. Today was our last day to use our City Tour Card, so we made the best of it. The bus and trains got to know us very well today. We even got on the wrong train 3 times….NOT ON PURPOSE, I must say !!! But even with what seemed like constant riding, we walked our legs off for the 3rd consecutive day. It is amazing, you would think that we would be tough as nails by now. Who knows, maybe we are and if we were to have started this without any physical conditioning we might really be in a world of “hurt”. Our day was to review some of the sites that we didn’t really have a chance to delve into before, and then there were a couple of sites we really had to see for the first time. Two standouts for the day were The Berliner Cathedral Dom, and the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche Memorial Church . The Cathedral Dom, with the wishes of Kaiser William II, was to serve as a rival to Rome and be both the “mother church of German Protestantism” and the Court and Memorial church of the Hohenzollern dynasty. This imposing church, built of granite and Silesian sandstone in High-renaissance style, is accessible through 9 of it’s 12 entrances. It really is a beautiful piece of architecture. The other, Kaiser-Wilhelm, was actually two…the old that was functionally destroyed in WWII (locally called the “Broken Tooth”) and the other, which is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The “B-T”, was built in the Neo-Romanesque style while the memorial church is more modern in style and is 2 separate buildings. The first is the chapel, and the other is the bell tower, which is located on the opposite side of the “Broken Tooth”. You don’t notice it from the outside of the memorial church and the tower, but once you step in, you are totally surrounded by dark blue opaque blocks, with the image of Christ in gold above the alter. Again, very stunning and unique. Well, pizza for dinner and back home for the evening.
Tomorrow….wash day and some catch up on the web page if we can find one of the elusive internet café’s that will let us bring in the laptop.
5 September ’04, Sunday. Without breakfast, we were out at the bus stop and heading down to Starbucks to meet with a tour group called “New Berlin, Free Tour”. We thought it might be worth our time to see just what they had to offer. They advertise “This tour is on us ! You’re welcome… That was enough for us !!! This company turned out to be a new company that is very well run and gave us the “BEST” tour we have had yet….Bar None !!! Louise and I would have to say, that Aaron really made this tour with his wit, knowledge, and enthusiasm. He started out with a great intro and finished with the best finale I/we have ever hear. GREAT JOB Aaron…. We left the 3 hour tour with more information and feeling, for and of Berlin, than I would have ever expected. AND IT WAS FREE !!!! Aaron does work for tips only, and I hope it works well for him. Now I didn’t mention, this is a “Walking Tour” !!! It wasn’t too bad of a walk, but it did help to have a lunch break. We did double back onto some of the sites that we did yesterday and the day before, but with all the new information we received from Aaron, it was well worth it. About 2, we said goodbye to Aaron and walked another 100 yards to visit the Pergamon Museum. Now this was like no other museum that we have ever seen. First of all, let me tell you, we thoroughly enjoyed it. As you walk into the 1st floor you are met with a breathtaking “Altar of Pergamon” (2nd century BC) with the longest frieze in Antiquity. What does this mean???? Standing before you is the 35 entry stairs leading up to the main Alter. These stairs are about 40-50 feet wide and are met at the top on each side by these pillared walls. On these walls, are decorated with a story, all done in carvings of stone. This is only one of 9 rooms that have these very large palace walls and gates. These all came from the Turkey and other countries South and East of there. They were given to Berlin as early as the late 1800’s. What a wonderful opportune it to see such a collection. Even though we got back to “Bumble Bee” before 5:30pm, I, we were pooped…. Tomorrow…. We’ll see…
4 September, ’04, Saturday. Today we were out at the bus by 10am and on our way for a full day of exploring. Our first stop was to “Check Point Charlie”. Yes, we are tourists…. Even today, as you walk across “The Line” you get a funny feeling. It is different. They have constructed many new buildings, and they look fantastic, but still…. Then of course, we went to “The Wall”. There is a section of about 100 yards long that is pretty close to being as it was under the Communist’s. The only difference was a couple of holes that had been knocked in it when it started coming down. We spent about 45 minutes at the wall and then on to the “Brandenburg Gate”. The Brandenburg Gate is a wonderful piece of architecture and thank God it is still there for us to see. The Communist’s did a job in taking a large number of historical buildings and destroying them. There are a few were the Germans have now rebuilt to look like they did before. There is a difference, the front of the building may look as it once did, but once you get past the front facade, it is all modern and high-tech. Well, I had my first 3 destinations fulfilled, now I’ll turn it over to Louise. Off we went to the Gemäldegalerie. Now I’m going to give you some information right out of their literature….The Gemaldegalerie opend in 1998, and consists of a rotunda, a long and well lit hall used as a meeting place, 18 large galleries, and 35 small cabinets. The museum shows 900 paintings that had been divided between the collection s in East and West Berlin, in the Bode-Museum and the Dahlem. Further, 400 additional works are on display in the Study Gallery downstairs. As it was, we spent about 3 hours plus and they closed the doors on us. It was REALLY GOOD. Next a “Brock” & Brew and then to the “Reichstag” (The New Parliament and Government Building). A ton of history behind this building but, I’m going to let you dig into your history books to read about it. The only thing that I will get into is the glass dome on top. Rick Steves really enjoys it on his tours and I totally understand why. It is beautiful. We were there right at sun down and it was great. Again for the second day in a row, we wonder in to the campground well after dark. Tomorrow….an earlier start to Berlin
3 September, Friday. As we started to get into the “City Limits” of Berlin we began to really get the size of this metropolis. It gets you thinking whether you really want to take this city on, as a place to visit. It could be just too overwhelming. Starting off with having a tough time finding the campground didn’t help….. But, as you pull out the electrical cord and get it plugged in, you are ready to hit the rapid transit and see if you can master it. Our goal for the 1st day was to find and buy the “City Tour Card”. To buy this card, we had to get to the bus, take about a 20 minute ride to the Underground train, ride it for about an hour, go on a search for the tourist desk, get on another train, go to another station and there it was… We had our card….for $19 Euro ea. It will give us unlimited transportation and discounts to a few museums and other tourist destinations. Now it is 4:30 and we decide to take a Berlin bus tour. It lasted 2 ½ hours and did give us a good overview. Now we can spend the rest of our visit with something in mind as we head out the door. As we got back to the campgrounds it was totally dark…8:30pm. Night is coming earlier. Our campground is about an hour by bus and train combination, from the city. Again, we are on a river bank. The boat traffic is slight, but the water birds are wonderful. We have about 200 yards of driveway to walk before we arrive back to our campground from the bus stop. One draw-back, is we are right on the landing approach to one of the three international airports here in Berlin. You might say we hear them taking off and landing….
2 September ’04, Thursday. “Bumble Bee” is back !!!! As we left Lubeck, we started to hear from the engine compartment again and we just knew that we had to do something today. As it was, the next town we pulled into had a gas station with a garage attached. After investigating the garage, we found out that the VW service area had moved to the next town about 11km down the road. We didn’t like it, but we really wanted to go to a VW garage and that was the closest around. Acting really sick, “Bumble Bee” did what she had to do and made it to the door of Kröger & Partner VW, in Gadebusch Germany. I went into the reception desk and found out right away, that to communicate, I had to draw pictures. Now we all know how good an artist I am…. Well anyway, she brought out Leander Worm, “The” man and he took take the van for a ride right then. To make this a shorter story, they did a great job of diagnosis and found that all that was wrong was 1 spark plug wire was bad….”Please Replace All 4 Of Them”…….THANK YOU !!!! Not only did they replace all four of the wires, but they gave me a new VW baseball cap and Louise a real nice neck piece. “Bumble Bee” has just got to write the factory about these very fine people and their wonderful dealership !!!!
After about an hour, we continued our way towards Berlin. About 3:30 we both decided that we would rather stop early than go into Berlin at rush hour and try to find a campground. As it was, we stopped, in a little off the road village of Wustrau. That left us with a ride the next day of about 70km to Berlin. Now, Wastrau is a jewel….this little village is filled with some of the largest diameter Oak trees that I have ever seen. I would be wrong if I stopped there in the description of Wastrau….The buildings, the little church with the wonderful bells, the great little museum, and last but not least, the incredible lake that Wastrau sits beside. Even the little campground was one of the best and also one of the least expensive. It sits on about 2 acres of land that is the backyard of our host family. We enjoyed a night camping right next to the chicken coup…. We just knew that come 4 in the morning, the rooster would be waking us up. Quite honestly, we woke up ourselves about 7:15 and we didn’t hear the rooster until at least 8am. Well, great night sleep, great shower in the morning, and we have got to move on…..
It’s interesting, when we were in the old “Eastern Block” Countries, our little “Bumble Bee” was one of the “upper class” campers in the campgrounds….now that we’re back into Germany….well, I wouldn’t call “Bumble Bee” upper class. The campers and caravans (trailers) here are much newer, larger, and have a ton more room inside. Now I must admit, Louise and I are completely satisfied with our little campervan and we really wouldn’t trade. We’ll see just what we will have when we get back to the states and chose our new “home on wheels” then.
Today was spent exploring the “Hanseatic City of Lubeck”. We had a booklet that showed 2 self-guided walking tours and we followed it to a “T”. I hope that you will have time to take a look at the pictures in the “Picture Gallery”. This has been one of the best. As Louise said, “this is a photographers paradise”. I know, I know, I’m not a “Professional”, but I shot the heck out of this city today. I don’t know how many I will be keeping, but those that I do I hope you will enjoy. We have taken pictures of the churches and commercial buildings that were bombed by the British on Palm Sunday in 1942. The medieval inner precincts of Lubeck were destroyed. With a lot of reconstruction, Lubeck has come back to a lot of it’s original beauty and has been recognized by UNESCO. Today, it is listed in the World Heritage ledgers. In our walk through Lubeck, we are looking at Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and neo-Classical buildings, all in a unique compactness and togetherness. The 1st sign of establishment on these shores was in 1000 AD and following, the great buildings of the DOM St Marien in 1170. In the pictures of the Gothic Church of St. Marien, you will notice the bell’s that crashed down from the towers in the raid of 1942 and are still exactly were they landed. On another side of our visit into the city, we stopped for lunch at “Potatoes” Pfannkuchen-und Kartoffel-Haus. What a great meal !!!! I wish we could all get together there and enjoy any and all the “Potato” items on the menu. Let me know if you want the phone number for home delivery…. By the way, I also had a great beer this afternoon that you’ve got to try if you can….CESU Premium Alus …Latvian. You can thank me later by offering me one when we get back home. Well, Tomorrow….on the road to Berlin
31 August ’04, Tuesday. Sometimes it is difficult to leave the campground, and other times, you just leave when you’ve finished seeing what you’ve come for. Today, was one of those day’s when you leave, you leave friends behind as well. We were only in Kiel for 3 nights, but in that time we were made friends with our neighbors because of them. They made us feel welcome from the first minute, when I found I had an electrical cord problem. That was only the beginning. We were made to feel welcome as long lost neighbors would be. This isn’t the first time, but I just wanted you to know, that there are good people in this world and these are a part of that growing group. Louise and I look forward to keeping in touch and meeting more in our travels just like them. This afternoon, we arrived in the “Hanseatic” City of Lûbeck. Lûbeck, the gateway to the Baltic. They take that phrase literally here in Lûbeck. The city has and will continue, to bring the Baltic Countries together for better understanding, commerce and industry. It is also a very beautiful city (you probably have hear me say that before). Without a doubt, it strikes immediately with the welcome of The “Hofstentor Gates”….the beautiful gardens, twin towers, held together with the entry gate, and the wonderful façade above. Quite impressive if I must say so myself…. But today wasn’t about touring all the sites, it was to find a convenient campground, and the internet café. The café, so that we could bring our site up to date and catch up on the email. All accomplished….