With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Travel Tips Germany

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 10, 2018

2017

The home of a fireman

You have to bring:

  • Just your prescription medication and a doctor’s note.
  • Everything else can be bought here.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack.
  2. Clothes:
    • You can buy anything here.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
    • You are almost never given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or grocery store.
      • Check stores like Aldi, Lidl, or Edeka.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • No problem; you can find it here.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Smartphone
    • hiking shoes
      • There are lots of hiking trails to explore.

General Tips:

Watch out:

  • Stay out of the bike lane!
    • It’s so easy to let your mind wander (and your feet too) and without realizing it, you’re in the bike lane.
  • Beware of trains that split.
    • Make sure you are not only on the right train, but in the right car on the right train.
    • Look for the monitor on the train and check to see that the terminal station for your train line is correct.

Food:

  • Try the foods in and around beer gardens and beer halls, especially if you are in Bavaria.
  • You’re never too far from an inexpensive bratwurst.
  • Just remember that sometimes “wiener” means “hot dog” but other times “Wiener” means from Vienna.
    • As in Wiener schnitzel, Viennese style schnitzel.

Transportation:

  • Sometimes the trains are late.
  • Sometimes you can be stuck on a train for hours!
    • Bring a good e-book, audio book, or movie.
    • Once Mark and I were stuck on a train for 2 hours. It was just parked on the tracks. Everyone took out their snacks and beer and kept themselves entertained.
  • Don’t forget to validate your ticket (where applicable).
    • Like in Berlin
  • Sometimes it’s easier to rent a car.

Bathrooms:

  • Germany has one of the most expensive public toilets in Europe.
    • Italy ~ 0.20 to 0.50€
    • UK ~ 0.25 to 0.35£
    • Germany ~ 1 to 1.50€
  • Always carry about 1.50€  in change with you at all times.
  • Use the bathroom before you leave:
    • your hotel.
    • the museum.
    • the restaurant.
    • a long distance train.
      • Yes, the trains have bathrooms. Not the subway trains but, the ones that go out to the suburbs.
  • At the mall the bathroom will cost about 0.50€.
    • If you get a voucher from the bathroom, you can take it to the food court and get 0.50€ off the price of your meal.

Closed Today:

  • A lot of shops and museums are closed on Mondays.
    • Check their websites for opening hours.
  • Many grocery stores close early on Sundays.

Scams:

  • Watch out for pick-pockets in Berlin.
  • If someone approaches you asking if you speak English and they aren’t wearing a uniform, be cautious.
    • Generally, other tourists, cops, or staff members will approach you by saying “hello” first.
    • Shady people, usually skip “hello” and start with, “Do you speak English?”
    • Just walk away.

It’s “that pig”!


Germany

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 112 – emergency, ambulance, and fire
  • 110 – police

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Be careful when riding the train outside the city.
    • Sometimes the train splits, meaning you are on the right train, but the wrong car.
    • At some point in time the train will split up and each car will go to a different destination.
  • Don’t walk in the bike lane.
    • There is usually a bike lane and it will be where you end up walking if you’re not constantly vigilant.

Posted in Germany | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Berlin

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 5, 2018

November 12th – 18th, 2017

Munich was light and fun-loving. We spent our time stuffing ourselves with hot dogs and hanging out in beer gardens and beer houses. Berlin was the complete opposite of that.

When I was a little kid, my grandmother, my father’s mother, lived in New York. I thought of New York as a cold gritty place filled with fast-moving people who didn’t have time for nonsense. There was lots to do, so the city seemed very exciting, but there was a cold uninviting feel to New York. Berlin felt like the New York of my childhood, but in German.

In Munich we were having fun eating and drinking like locals. In Berlin, we wasted no time and dived right into the history lessons. First World War I, then World War II, then the communist era. We visited many, many memorial sites; ones dedicated to murdered Jews, murdered Romany, gays, Russians, and communists. It seemed that everywhere we turned there was a statue or plaque. Even the ground had the occasional bronze bricks for remembrance.

We found the spot where the books of Jewish writers were burned. We walked past the now ordinary parking lot where Hitler’s bunker lays filled with dirt and cement. We took a tour of a bunker where working class citizens took shelter during World War II. We walked in and out of what was once East Berlin looking at what is now left of the wall. We stopped by a statue of Marx and Engels. Every street in Berlin has a monument pleading with you not to forget something or some lesson from the past in hopes that mistakes would not be repeated.

We visited the DDR Museum. It’s a museum that basically shows what life was like for an average citizen in East Germany under the communists. (In the photo above I am test driving a Trabant, one of those horrible little cars, in a simulated program.) Visitors get to see what the inside of a typical East German home looked like, what the people ate, read, saw at the movies, did at work, and how much they were spied on by the Stassi.

Being questioned in a dark room by a shadow man.

The East Germany of the museum had a very 60’s vibe with a hint of something off. That something was lack. They talked about how the people, while trying to seem  loyal to the communists yearned for the life of West Germans. The big wigs drove Swedish cars, while ordinary people where placed on 16-year waiting lists for a stupid Trabant.

There were some non-memorial related things to see and do in Berlin. The Pergamon Museum was nice, a bit on the small side, but nice. There was a slight British museum feel to it. But the Pergamon hasn’t stolen nearly enough artifacts to emit more than a few slight reminders of the museum in London.

Then we went to the Spy Museum and the Stassi Museum. Both were let downs. Both had a lot of information that I wanted to take in, but they felt more like a walk through my high school text books rather than museums. The Spy Museum had the facade of coolness and at least I could take interesting photos. They also had the Laser Maze which was nice, but not nice enough to justify the ticket price.

The Stassi Museum is in the actual office of the Stassi. The furniture you see was the actual furniture used by the people you learn about. The Stassi Museum is more informative and more focused on the spying done in East Germany. It is also a lot more boring. You are presented with facts and figures in the driest way possible. Some parts aren’t actually translated into English. If you go to this museum, you should read a book or two about the Stassi and East German communists. That way you will at least care somewhat about the information given. (Though, that should really be the museum’s job.)


Germany

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 112 – emergency, ambulance, and fire
  • 110 – police

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Be careful when riding the train outside the city.
    • Sometimes the train splits, meaning you are on the right train, but the wrong car.
    • At some point in time the train will split up and each car will go to a different destination.
  • Don’t walk in the bike lane.
    • There is usually a bike lane and it will be where you end up walking if you’re not constantly vigilant.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Entry is free
  • Audio Guide:
    • 4 euro per person
    • 2 euro with Berlin Welcome Card

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:00
  • Closed Mondays
  • Part of the memorial are always available

Video

Books:


Topography of Terror

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Entrance is free
  • Free Guided Tours:
    • Sundays at 2 p.m.: tours in German
    • Sundays at 3.30 p.m.: tours in English

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:00

Video

Notes:

  • If you see a guided public tour in progress, you can just join it.

DDR Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • Su – Fr 10:00 – 20:00
  • Sa 10:00 – 22:00

Video

Books:

Notes:

  • At the end, when you have scanned your ticket to leave, there is a photo machine. It will both email it to you and print it for you, for free.
  • This is a really fun and hands-on museum.
    • It might give you the impression that East Germany was fun with a bit of bother. (Oh, that Stassi…)

Pergamon Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 12€ (It used to be 15€, but there is a 3€ discount because the Pergamon Alter is not available.)
  • Free audio Guide

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:


Berliner Unterwelten

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Tour 1, 2, 3: Adult € 11
  • Tour M: Adult € 14

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 16:00

Video

Notes:

  • You cannot book a tour online or in advance, you have to just show up before a tour and buy your tickets.
  • You can only pay in cash.
  • You cannot take photos.

Spandau Citadel

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Adults 4.50 €
  • 2.50 € with Berlin Welcome Card
  • 2.00 € for the audio guide

Hours:

  • 10 a.m. till 5. p.m. (last entrance 4.30 p.m.)

Notes:

  • This is not to be confused with the Spandau Prison.
  • This place is huge. Give yourself an hour or two to see everything.
  • There is cafe and a restaurant one the premises.
    • At the restaurant you can eat historic dishes from the middle ages.

Don’t Miss:

Hungry?

You Could Get:

  • Berlin Welcome Card
    • Comes in many varieties based on area and length of time.
    • Includes transportation
    • gives discounts to many attractions.

Not So Great:

  • Stasi Museum
    • Basic Information
    • It’s even more boring than the German Spy Museum.
    • It might be better if you do a tour or if they had a good audio guide. (There is no audio guide.)
  • German Spy Museum Berlin
    • Basic Information
    • It’s boring and you have to read 95% of the museum.
      • Very little hands on stuff.
      • All the media is in German with English subtitles.
    • The only fun thing is the Laser Maze, but everyone is waiting to go in.
    • The Spy Museum in DC is way better.

Map:

Posted in Berlin, Germany | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who Drinks Coffee at a Beer Hall?

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 30, 2018

November 4th – 11th, 2017

We spent two full days in Munich. Our first day, we wandered the streets aimlessly. First we went to Dachau and then we just walked here and there before heading home. The next time we went to Munich we listened to a Rick Steves’ audio tour. That put a bit more structure in our day. It also took us past many of the stops we had planned on seeing. It was nice to do an audio tour that started, stopped, and paused when we wanted it to.

My favorite parts of Steves’ tour was when we paused it to get snacks. The first one was near the beer garden. We passed a little hot dog stand… I mean bratwurst stand. They sold 2 types of bratwurst and one of the types came in 2 levels of hotness. We ordered one of each with the second at the spiciest level.

I stood there with the 2 hot dogs in my hands when a group of tourists noticed I spoke English. The lady serving the hot dogs did not speak English and could not answer the people’s questions, so they directed their questions to me. “Is the spicy one very spicy?” they asked. I took a bite of that one and told them, “A little, but not really.” “Is the other the white sausage that comes from Bavaria?” I took a bite of that one and told them, “Yes, I think it is.” But, I wasn’t completely sure.

Rick Steves’ tour took us through churches, Markets, and past a synagogue. We saw a statue that Micheal Jackson’s fans have repurposed in his honor. We walked down the pedestrian friendly, closed-to-cars streets of downtown through the shopping district. There we saw “that pig” again.

We first saw the pig in Onomichi, Japan. He’s been popping up every so often on our trip around the world. It’s like he’s following us. Every time we see him we give him a pat on his nose if possible. When not possible, I just pretend to pat his nose for the photo.

Next we stopped for snacks and drinks at Hofbräuhaus München a famous Bavarian beer house. Everyone there was happy and, at the very least, a bit drunk. Groups of people kept breaking out in song and I had no idea why. They were singing mostly 80’s pop songs in English. I don’t like beer, so I ordered a cappuccino. I enjoyed being in the beer house with all the merriment and chaos going on around me. Even though I don’t drink, if I lived in Munich I would visit this place at least once a month.

We ended our last day in Munich watching some athletes surfing in a canal on the side of the street. The pavement underneath the water combined with the water roughly forced out from under a bridge causes a standing wave. Here, very skilled surfers come to catch the wave. They are so good, they make it look easy. But, I’m told that it is very hard and quite dangerous for surfers who don’t know what they’re doing.

I loved Munich and I hope to visit again soon.

And here’s that pig again.


Germany

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 112 – emergency, ambulance, and fire
  • 110 – police

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Be careful when riding the train outside the city.
    • Sometimes the train splits, meaning you are on the right train, but the wrong car.
    • At some point in time the train will split up and each car will go to a different destination.
  • Don’t walk in the bike lane.
    • There is usually a bike lane and it will be where you end up walking if you’re not constantly vigilant.

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • Closed on December 24th.

Video

Books:

Notes:

  • Some parts of the memorial site are not suitable for people under the age of 14.

Hofbräuhaus München

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – midnight
  • Museum – 9:00 – 17:00

Video

Notes:

  • There is a museum on the 2nd floor.
  • It’s going to be crowded.
  • Don’t wait to be seated. Just find an empty spot and sit.
  • Order when a waiter comes by.
  • Pay when you get your food and/or drinks.

Don’t Miss:

Hungry?

Try:

You Could Get:

  • Guten Tag Card
  • You can buy it from the ticket machine at any train station in Bavaria.

Map:

Posted in Germany, Munich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Mad King’s Last Castle

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 25, 2018

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

In June when Mark and I were in Bali, I spent an afternoon with the Karma Group. Karma is a hotel time-share company, but they do not like the term “time share”. I forget what term they do like, but do not call them a time-share company to their face.

They didn’t get us to sign up back in June, but in the end I still won 7 days of accommodations at a Karma hotel somewhere in the world. We kept having to pick different dates or different hotels, but then finally in late September we had confirmation that we could spend 7 nights in their Bavarian hotel.

Schliersee Lake, after which the town is named

The hotel was in the town of Schliersee which is an hour south of Munich. The place is beautiful and the hotel was very nice. The staff was very friendly and no one pressured us to join the Karma Group. We were supposed to sit through a one hour presentation, but it was cancelled. Instead, we attended Karma functions like, Trivia Night, where I won a bottle of champagne, and Bingo Night, where I won a €50 gift certificate to the hotel restaurant. Overall it was a very enjoyable stay and it didn’t cost us anything.

The niceness and free-ness of the hotel, plus the fact that I kept winning stuff, did make up for the fact that it was so hard to get anywhere in Bavaria from Schliersee. No matter where we wanted to go, it always started with a 1 hour train ride into Munich… even when we ultimately wanted to go south… like to Neuschwanstein Castle.

To get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Schliersee one could drive west southwest for about 2 hours or take a 1 hour train to Munich then a 2 hour train to Füssen. There might be an hour wait in Munich for the Füssen train, if you haven’t caught the 8:35 train to Munich. So, it could take from 3 to 4 hours of train travel to get there.

We got the combo ticket to see both the castle that Ludwig II grew up in, Hohenschwangau Castle,  and the last castle he built, Neuschwanstein Castle. We got there early enough that we could see both before closing time. Since it was so much trouble to get here, we tried to get as much as we could out of it.

After seeing the first castle, Hohenschwangau, I was very disappointed. There were so many rules. We were not allowed to take photos inside. We could not explore the castle on our own. We had to stay with a tour guide. Because of all this, I was expecting to see something extraordinary.

The tour group was too big for the rooms of the castle. Sometimes it was hard to hear the guide. At times he talked about something on the other side of the room that I could not see. There were too many people standing in the room and they could not move out of the way, though many tried.

The whole tour lasted 30 minutes and it felt rushed. I didn’t get to see everything since we spent so little time in each room and the tour was so big. It was frustrating. And overall, the castle was nice, but not worth the 7 hours of train riding I would end up having to live through that day.

I walked up the hill to Neuschwanstein Castle thinking I would get more of the same. Again, we had to stay with a guide and we were not allowed to take photos. We had come all this way and had already paid for everything, so there was no backing out. We waited for our tour number to be called and once again there was a huge crowd. This time it was even bigger.

We could take photos from inside looking out.

This tour was a little different. Instead of straining our ears to hear one tour guide speak, we were all given audio guides. Now everyone could clearly hear the information in their preferred language. We still couldn’t always see the items being talked about, but more time was given to explore the crowded rooms.

The biggest difference is that Ludwig’s castle was way better than his father’s. It is such a shame that no photos are allowed. That place is SPECTACULAR. Ludwig may have been mad, but he was a castle building genius! The walls are amazing. The ceilings are fantastic. My favorite was his throne room. The guide had to plead with many on the tour to move on from this room, it was so wonderful.

As we were walking through the castle I saw a lady vacuuming the carpet in one of the rooms. I was, and still am, so jealous of that woman. She gets to spend so much time in Ludwig’s castle everyday. I told Mark that if I had her job, I would show up to work early and just look at the rooms alone. Then I was slowly vacuum each room as I inspected every square inch of the place. That woman and her coworkers are the luckiest custodians in the world.


Germany

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 112 – emergency, ambulance, and fire
  • 110 – police

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Be careful when riding the train outside the city.
    • Sometimes the train splits, meaning you are on the right train, but the wrong car.
    • At some point in time the train will split up and each car will go to a different destination.
  • Don’t walk in the bike lane.
    • There is usually a bike lane and it will be where you end up walking if you’re not constantly vigilant.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 13€
  • Neuschwanstein Castle & Hohenschwangau Castle combo – 25€

Hours:

  • April-15 October: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • 16 Oct.-March: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Closed on:
    • 1 January
    • 24, 25 and 31 December.

Video:

  • Rick says that the castles are a 15 minute hike away from each other. It is not!
  • It takes about 40~45 minutes if you are walking.

Books:

Notes:

  • You are not allowed to take photo inside the castle.
    • It’s still very much worth it to visit!
    • You go through the castle with a tour group while listening to an audio guide in your language.
      • Bring earbuds.
  • Try to get there as early as you can.
    • Everything is closed by 16:30. So if you are on a tour that starts after 15:00, don’t expect to relax in the cafe after the tour.
  • If you are going to visit both this castle and Hohenschwangau Castle, visit this one last, because it’s so much better than the other castle.
  • You should reserve your tickets online.
    • Before you go to the castle, you will need to pay for and pick up your tickets.
    • You can change the time of your tickets to a later time, if there are tickets available. But, you cannot change to an earlier time.
  • I hear this place in insanely crowded in the summer. I went in November and it was still crowded, but not so much that tickets were sold out.
  • Getting to the Castle:
    1. Go to the Füssen train station.
    2. Take bus #73 or #78 (Everyone from your train will get on the bus with you.) 2.20€
    3. Follow the crowd up the hill to the ticket office.
    4. Now you have 3 options to get to the castle.
      • Walk the whole way up the hill.
        • It’s a 40-minute walk up hill, but it’s not too bad unless you are not used to any type of walking at all.
      • Take the shuttle bus. (Uphill: € 1,80 Downhill: € 1,00 Round trip: € 2,60)
        • The bus only takes you up 3/4 the way. You will still have to walk for about 15 minutes up hill.
        • The bus is very, very crowded.
        • But, the bus drops you off near the Marienbrücke bridge.
      • Take a horse and carriage. (Uphill: €6   Downhill: €3)
        • You will still have to walk for about 15 minutes up hill.
        • The bus and the horse take 2 different paths up the hill. If you walk up, you will take the same path as the horses.

Hohenschwangau Castle

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  •  € 13

Hours:

  • 16 October 2017 to 23 March 2018 – every day from 9:00 to 15:00

  • 24th March to 15th October 2018 – every day from 8am to 5pm

Video:

  • Rick says that the castles are a 15 minute hike away from each other. It is not!
  • It takes about 40~45 minutes.

Notes:

  • You are not allowed to take photo inside the castle.
    • You go through the castle with a tour group while listening to an audio guide in your language.
      • Bring earbuds.
      • Unless you speak English. In that case you will get an English speaking tour guide.
  • Try to get there as early as you can.
    • Everything is closed by 16:30. So if you are on a tour that starts after 14:30, don’t expect to relax in the cafe after the tour.
  • If you are going to visit both castles, visit this one first, because it’s not as good as Neuschwanstein castle.
  • You should reserve your tickets online.
    • Before you go to the castle, you will need to pay for and pick up your tickets.
    • You can change the time of your tickets to a later time, if there are tickets available. But, you cannot change to an earlier time.
  • I hear this place in insanely crowded in the summer. I went in November and it was still crowded, but not so much that tickets were sold out.
  • Getting to the Castle:
    1. Go to the Füssen train station.
    2. Take bus #73 or #78 (Everyone from your train will get on the bus with you.) 2.20€
    3. Follow the crowd up the hill to the ticket office.
    4. Walk a little further up the hill and then up the stairs.

Don’t Miss:

  • Marienbrücke Bridge
    • Basic Information
    • This is a great place to take photos of Neuschwanstein Castle.
    • You will pass this bridge if you are taking the hiking trail to the castle. Otherwise, go to where the bus drops off tourists to the castle and follow the signs.

Map:

Posted in Germany, Hohenschwangau, Schliersee | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: