Day 12~ Berlin

Day 12 was spent exploring Berlin – a free walking tour from the hostel, a bus tour, A Visit to Checkpoint Charlie, a fabulous dinner thanks to Yelp reviews and a cruise on the River Spree. I also went to the top of the TV Tower, or Berliner Fernseturm. It is the tallest tower of its kind in Europe. I had a Night Owl reservation, which was a sale deal on Viator, and was as far as I am concerned the best way to see the city from up high – as the sun is setting. It was beautiful. I have just a little time to write this morning, as I am headed to a tour and plenary lecture at the Reigchstag building, where the Bundestag, or parliament meet, so I am uploading the pictures, but will add comments and more info later.

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Day 12 ~ Train to Munich, Dachau and Exploring Munich

Day 12 was a very different kind of good. The scenery on the train through Austria was lovely, and has solidified why I do love train travel:

The view was gorgeous, and neither this video, or these pictures really do it justice.

Following my train ride, I deposited my bags and began my emotional journey to Dachau.

The emotions of this visit were expected, but even more intense than I thought – the cruelty, horrid conditions and pain that these people experienced were made very real in the 4 hours I was there. The images in the video, mostly taken by the US forces that freed the camp will stay with me forever. Images of bodies piled on train cars, emaciated people in the barracks, and the haunting faces of the survivors. I did purchase the audio guide, and that added to the experience, because it featured the survivors, liberators and others giving first hand accounts of their experiences. While a very emotional experience, I am so thankful that the survivors of Dachau pushed for the creation of this memorial site. Dachau was the 1st concentration camp, and was where many cruel experiments (in the name of medicine) were performed on the victims. The pictures below are of structures, memorials and areas of the camp. I purposely did not photograph any of the stirring images in the memorial, as those are truly haunting, and I didn’t feel photographing them was appropriate.

If you are ever given the opportunity, I highly recommend a visit, because even though it is difficult I think it is important to understand.

After Dachau, I was emotionally spent.

I decided a visit to a Biergarten was in order. on the recommendation of Jackalie and Andy I went to the Lowenbrau, and I was not disappointed. It was fabulous, and then I went to explore Munich a bit more before I caught my over night train to Berlin. Munich was beautiful.

Also on my explorations, I found a banner that said Willis, so that was pretty cool:

Day 12 was a success, and it was time to board the Sleeper Train to Berlin.

The train was fine, and I had a very nice roommate from outside of Munich who was traveling to Berlin on business, but we didn’t talk much, as we both went to sleep rather quickly upon boarding the train. The train ride was fine, there was a lot of movement, and some loud talkers in the compartment next door, so my sleep wasn’t the best, but it was certainly better than the night bus! 🙂

I am now in Berlin, typing this at my Hostel lobby waiting for things to open to start my tour of Berlin.

Berlin is sure to be an interesting experience! 🙂

Day 11~ Pannonhalma, Hungary, Glass Art and Lake Neusiedl

Today was an exciting and very enjoyable day. Andy, Jackalie and I loaded up in their car and took a trip to Pannohalma Abbey in Hungary. It was about a 2 hour drive, and took us through some interesting sights – particularly the old Austria-Hungary Border crossing. Due to the Schengen Agreement of 1985, border checks between most EU countries have been eliminated to allow for free travel for people and goods throughout the EU – There are exceptions, countries that are not in the Schengen Zone, (mostly Eastern Europe), but it has made travel much easier – no more middle of the night passport checks on the train, etc. However, the old check points are still there – probably just incase the EU agreement fails. But, anyway, back to the fun day we had.

We journeyed out to Gyor, Hungary and the Abbey – however, we did learn that the Abbey is a hotspot on Saturdays (I’m pretty sure in the time we were there we saw 7 bridal parties). Unfortunately, this meant much of the Abbey was closed, so we had a reduced tour from the original plan. We were able to see the Library (WOW!) and the museum area, as well as the magnificent gardens! The lavender fields were spectacular! That is where my picture entry for the On the Road with CCEF contest was taken. We drank their special drink, a carbonated water beverage with lavender syrup in it – it was quite refreshing. After the stroll through the gardens we visited an incredible glass gallery – the work this man did was absolutely gorgeous – I was so impressed, particularly at his restoration work of old stained glass. It was impressive, and almost so flawless you couldn’t tell he had done any restoration work at all. The Gallery was the Hefter Glass Gallery.  After exploring the beautiful works of LászlĂł Hefter we started on our interesting Hungarian adventure to get food – and failed. There were very few places to eat in Pannonhalma, and even in the neighboring town of Gyor we did not have much luck. Hungary shows signs of lingering depression, from years of occupation by the Germans and the the Russians, particularly in the rural area we were in. Our attempt was to find somewhere to grab a bite to eat, but there were very few options in that town, and the one restaurant we did find would not seat us (we aren’t sure if it was because we were Americans, or if the place was reserved for an event) either way, we decided to go on our way, and we headed to Lake Neusiedl, which Jackalie and Andy had tried to visit before, but had ended up on the reed side, so weren’t able to really see the lake, so we decided to give it another go, and had great success. Lake Neusidel, or the Neusiedler See is the the largest endorheic (a collection basin that doesn’t flow to the ocean) lake in Central Europe. As Austria doesn’t have an ocean front the town we visited, Podersdorf Am See seemed very similar to a beach town in the US, like Gulf Shores with the beach front parks, entertainment and dining establishments. There were plenty of vacation homes and places to stay, and everyone was riding around town on their bike. It felt almost like we were on a sea shore.

All said, by the end of our exploring at the abbey and around town, we climbed 29 sets of stairs today according to my fitbit – but the scenery, flowers and views were absolutely worth it!

After that, we headed back to Vienna, and had fun watching a movie. I have very much enjoyed my time with Jackalie and Andy, and I am so thankful that they let me come for a visit to this beautiful part of the world. I am off to catch an early train in the morning, and will explore Munich, including an emotional visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp, before catching my first night train to Berlin. I am not sure if I will have internet access this evening, so my post may be delayed.

Thank you all for following my blog, commenting on the pictures and sharing in this journey with me – it has been spectacular, and I cannot believe what all I have experienced in the past 11 days, with lots of great adventures to come.

I am uploading the pictures in one big batch (and some at a lower resolution) today (I’m out of space! :-/) – but please check out the pictures of the Library – it was fantastic! I also made two panoramas of the space:

http://360.io/Nx9aKZ and http://360.io/8fZKSz.

Day 10 ~ Bratislava, Slovakia

Today Jackalie and I went to Bratislava, Slovakia. If you had asked me what I knew about Bratislava 6 months ago, I would have know nothing- not its location or anything. Bratislava is about an hour away from Vienna, and Vienna and Bratislava are among the closest capital cities in the world (less than 34 miles apart). Both cities lie on the Danube, and both have a long, and in many cases, painful history related to the occupation of the Germans and the Russians. Another cool fact is that Bratislava is the only national capital that borders two independent countries (Austria and Hungary).

It was gorgeous, and Jackalie and I had such a spectacular time exploring – our timing could not have been better. We started with a bit of a parking adventure (The Cyrillic alphabet made for quite an adventure) and then wandered into a church we saw in the immediate area.

We knew we wanted to visit the Hrad, or Castle on the top of the hill, but to get there we had to navigate the public transit system – without a map – but by asking for some help, we ended up meeting friendly Slovak who guided us on our way, and we were headed to the Hrad. The Hrad has a neat and unique history, and has recently been reconstructed following a fire that left it in shambles for many years. The building is now used as the Slovakian National Museum, and we were both impressed that it survived the tumultuous history and continued occupations that have shaped Slovakia.

When we got to the Hrad, we enjoyed spectacular mountaintop views of Bratislava on both sides of the Danube – It was amazing!

We bought our tickets for the Hrad, and discovered that there was a display of Historical Church Paraments. The church geeks in each of us were quite happy about that.

We spent HOURS in the castle, and had a wonderful time!