Saturday, August 2, 2014

12 days in Germany

8th June 2014- 20th June 2014

Right after the exams and before I left Britain for home during the 2014 summer holidays, I found myself meandering along the restored streets of Germany. First among friends, then alone, and finally with my boyfriend; this trip spanned across thirteen days (the whole of the thirteenth day was used to hop onto a bus from Cologne back to London and hence, not counted) where I threaded the soil of more than 20 cities.

Travel trips in Germany:
(Not many, because my boyfriend speaks German and I had quite many German friends who pointed me in the right direction)

1. Take the bus or carpool

Long-distance domestic bus service (with a few exceptions) have been outlawed in Germany since 1931 to protect the state-owned railway system. But due to the decision made by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to deregulate domestic travel, the anti-bus law has been dissolved. This is really great for us travellers- taking the train in Germany is really expensive! You can try FliXBUS and/or  Meinernbus (they're both actually really comfortable, but the wifi is unreliable).

The  Germans also have an amazing carpooling culture (probably due to the expensive train fares). I can't endorse this as I was facing verification issues, but my friends tell me that it's really good!

2. Visit the smaller cities 

Although I enjoyed Berlin and Frankfurt, they certainly weren't my favourite cities- industrialized Berlin was gloomy (not just its history) and Frankfurt was nothing more than a huge shopping centre. On the other hand, I loved racing to the top of Schloss Drachenburg (Drachenburg Castle) in Koenigswinter with Pascal, riding the cable car up the hill in Koblenz, and so on.

3. Ritter Sport chocolate in Berlin is extremely cheap

I bought A LOT of chocolate here- they were only EUR0.90!

Day 1: Berlin

My official welcome in Berlin!

While waiting for my friends to arrive, I bumped into a group of brightly clothed individuals heading to Hermannplatz for a fiesta; and being bored, I hoped along and joined in the fun! I found out later that it was an annual celebration called the Carnival of Cultures- the carnival pays tribute to Berlin's ethnic diversity and the peaceful coexistence of its different cultures. Here are some of the pictures I took:

I also had time to wander around the vintage market 10 minutes walk away from the place we were renting. The items were certainly interesting , but not affordable at all!

Day 2: Berlin

I managed to get the bunch of friends I was with to join me for SANDEMAN's New Berlin Tour- and it was simply amazing! Our tour guide brought us to many of the main attractions and gave comprehensive insights into German history. I highly recommend taking the tour (especially if you're a history junkie)- and it's tip based so the 'cost' of the tour is completely up to you and your budget. The tour also has very good reviews on TripAdvisor.  

The rest of the day was spent visiting museums and walking around Berlin. 

Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe

The Ampelmannchen! One of the few features of communist East Germany to have survived until now. 

Finally, I also went to take a stroll around Schlachtensee- a lovely, tranquil lake in the middle of the city. When we went to visit, there were only locals around the area enjoying their beer or taking a dip in the lake. If we had more time, I would have loved to just stroll under the shade of the forest or go boating in the lake. Not somewhere to go if you're stressed for time, but certainly somewhere to go to chill or have a conversation.

Day 3: Berlin

I booked a visit to the Reichstag Building and that's where we spent the whole morning- learning about the German Parliament and enjoying the scenery from the roof terrace.

View from the roof terrace.

After that, I went around visiting the museums and strolled in the museum area. And actually, the museumplein is a very interesting place to take pictures and look around. 

A picture taken from the East Side Gallery. 

Day 4: Berlin and Dresden

I decided to visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp before leaving for Dresden in the evening. I have written a complete guide on how to reach this attraction on TripAdvisor here- please go check it out! 

Don't expect Sachsenhausen to be picturesque- it is not. But it's historically significant and there's more to the place than the eye. 

I wanted to climb to the top of the Victory Column before leaving Berlin but it was raining. 
(I love panoramic views)

Before going to bed, I was shown around Dresden at night by my host. This is a picture of Dresden Castle.

Day 5: Dresden 

Dresden is a beautiful albeit tiny city and I really enjoyed walking around. There was this slight hitch where an Indian traveller was trying to convince me to go to Prague with him, but overall, Dresden was a nice place to visit. This is also where Balcony of Europe is located. 

These are a few pictures I took walking around Dresden Castle and around Dresden. 

Day 6: Leipzig 

This is another beautiful city in Germany- but certainly more lively than Dresden. 

View from the Panorama Tower

Walking around in Leipzig

A huge statue of Bach! I was unreasonably excited to take a picture next to him.

In conjunction with the World Cup fever

Leipzig is also famous for its canals- and this is one of the photos I took while walking around Karl-Heine- Kanal. 

And finally, more interesting traffic lights

Day 7: Frankfurt 

As I said earlier, Frankfurt was like a giant shopping centre. These are a few of the photos I took:

Frankfurt Cathedral

View from Main Tower

View from the opposite side of the river near Museumplein- the financial district of Frankfurt.

Day 8: Outside Frankfurt
Finding Frankfurt a tad boring, I bought a regional train ticket and went city hopping around the district. And due to the complicated train system (or maybe it was complicated because I couldn't understand a word of German), I hopped onto the wrong train more than once and got yelled at by a German train conductor (who couldn't speak a word of English) for taking the wrong train (I was outside the Hessen region), and was stuck in a tiny village in the middle of no where for 40 minutes until the train going in the opposite direction arrived. The two more notable cities I visited were Kassel and Marberg.

Note: Castle in German is Schloss. I had so much trouble trying to make the Germans understand that I wanted to visit a Castle in Kassel!

Outward bound!

Day 9: Was spent on the bus 

Day 10: Koblenz and Andernach

This was where I really started enjoying my trip. And this is due to a number of reasons:

a) The smaller cities in Germany were much more beautiful and serene
b) I finally got to see Pascal 
c) Pascal could speak German and I no longer had to struggle with asking for directions myself
d) The people in smaller cities are much more pleasant (we were even given free cherries by a random passerby!)

Koblenz and Andernach had River Rhine flowing through them, making them idyllic cities to have a picnic by the river. 

A random thumb in Koblenz?

Cable car ride in Koblenz!

'Romantic Germany' where River Rhine and River Moselle meets.

Meet le petit ami :)

Day 11: Bonn and Koenigswinter

Bonn is also known as Bonn the city of Beethoven! I insisted that I wanted to take a photo next to the cool 3D statue before we headed off for Koenigswinter (and hence, the picture below).

I enjoyed this leg of the journey the most.
a) Pascal and I biked all the way from Bonn to Koenigswinter- the route was relatively straightforward, and the view was breathtaking as it was along the river
b) We got to race up the hill to a castle
c) The castle had a cool name- Drachenburg Castle (Dragon's Castle) on Drachenfels Hill (Dragon's Rock) in Koenigswinter (King's Winter)- so much indirect reference to Game of Thrones 
d) There is Norse mythology related to Drachenfels- Sigurd 
d) Our couchsurfing host brought us for a house party where we mingled with his friends, drank good beer, and played games 

Meet Beethoven!

At the foot of the hill- beware of dragons!

Breathtaking view from Drachenfels Hill

The Siebengebirge (Seven Hills)

Dragenburg Castle

Day 12 and 13: Cologne 
We didn't do much in Cologne because we were both too tired. However, we got shown around by a secondary school friend of mine. Say hello to Ariff (who looks like a cheeky French guy in this picture according to Pascal)

Picture taken at Hohenzollern Bridge

And finally, my TripAdvisor reviews on Germany (especially the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp review) pulled me up to be one of the most popular reviewers in London!

Cheers to more traveling in the future.

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