The Doughty's 2004 Germany Tour Journal
30 June - 1 July
... a leisurely trip to SFO for an afternoon flight to Frankfurt. The flight was long and the seats were close together, so sleeping was difficult. It never seemed to get dark -- duh!, as we arced through the arctic circle. At long last we descended through that northern European cloud cover to a landing in Frankfurt. But no terminal walkway to great us -- down the stairs, to the buses, and to the terminal. Then a wait for the hop to Berlin -- hmm, what's with this smoke? Up through the clouds, back down through the clouds and we're in the Capital. Expecting a long wait in Customs, but no, no Customs, no Passport stamp, just straight to the bus and Casimir.
We did a quick touristy, bus trip around the city for orientation and then to the Kirche were the others met their host families and we to our hotel. We had a moment of difficulty locating the hotel, but finally we could rest. Unser Zimmer hat vier Betten -- zwei grosse and zwei kleine. Das Zimmer ist sehr hell mit zwei grosse Fenster. Das Hotel ist in der sehr rutig Strasse. The kids watched cartoons auf Deutsch im kleines Fernsehen. Before sleep could overcome us, we walked to a small restaurant and had some pizza, pasta, und Pils.
It was a restful sleep but I awoke at 4:00 so still have an hour or so of recalibration. The kids also slept well, but the wait to fruhstuck time was greeted with impatience. And then they weren't too interested in the odd looking breakfast fare. We met up with the bus a few blocks away and then back to the church to reassemble for the tour. We had a guide who appeared to specialize in "The Wall" (die Mauer). We did eventually end up at the tourist trap that is Checkpoint Charlie, but not before seeing some unique and unfrequented Wall stops.
The first was at a military cemetery along a canal that was in between the inner and outer walls. This stroll lead to the spot along the canal where the first person was killed fleeing across the new wall. There were remnants of the wall that could be glimpsed throughout our ride. The actual location of the entire length of the wall is now marked by a line of cobblestones running across streets and through forests. We next stopped at the Reunification church. The original church was separated from its parish by the wall -- eventually the East demolished the church in the early 80's. After the crumbling a new church was build with sand and crushed rock from the original foundation. The circular wall was built by laying down the dirt and then compacting it -- that's the entire load-bearing structure. Across the street was a tower one could climb and view a preserved section of the inner and outer wall capped at each end with large stainless steel mirrors. The museum at Checkpoint Charlie was quite good with some interesting art, but it was crowded and probably not the best place for the kids at this time.
Finally, we were dropped off at the bombed out church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche) to make our way back to the concert location. It is rather amazing that they have been able to stabilize the very tall front part of the building (all that remains). Brautwurst mit sauerkraut for lunch in one of the many outside cafes. Then we strolled back to the meeting place dragging the tiring children.
The first concert. A dangerous time since the kids had not yet completely re-phased to the new time zone. But they did well despite the occasional bobbing head. Lori said the Emily appeared to be sleeping while playing at one point. There was a full house -- they even had to open up the back overflow section -- and the audience was very appreciative. A fitting, yet unplanned encore with Twinkle-Twinkle.
One more breakfast in the sunny Fruhstuck raum and then we labored with the luggage to catch the bus ein paar blocks away. As we headed out of town it began to rain and continued on and off as we drove through the (former East) German country side. The landscape can easily be mistaken for that of agricultural Wisconsin -- perhaps not as much corn, and certainly no red barns -- but the land and sky and the ordered rows of pine trees, they said Wisconsin.
Dresden lies in a shallow valley of the Elbe -- as we descended to town center its Baroque skyline came into striking view above the river. A largely reconstructed skyline as most was destroyed in the 1945 firebombing. At first I thought the blackened structures were the result of the fires that raged, but no, it turns out this is the result of the East German pollution controls, or lack thereof. The blackened veneer is apparently similar to the desert varnish of the western US sandstone canyon walls. The guides were quite proud of the restoration of the very large Frauenkirche in the old town center. It was a random checkerboard as whenever possible the original stones were brought back to the walls. The Procession of the Princes was another impressive sight -- a 100 meter long wall covered with a mural composed entirely of the local porcelain. We walked about the Zwinger palace grounds, but did not have time to tour the many museums that were inside. All this was in contrast to the communist era prefabbed apartment complexes that are slowly and fortunately being razed and replaced.
Then to the concert venue -- another LDS church, where we were greeted with another hearty pasta dinner. Little heads still bobbed at the relatively late hour of the concert but everyone held up for a fine performance. Emily played her solo with aplomb and gained a new pen pal.
No flags waving, no RW&B banners, no fireworks -- just another day in Germany. A huge spread for breakfast -- not at all the sparse continental version -- and then back on the bus for the short drive to Leipzig. This city also suffered significant damage during the war and it has not yet recovered to the extent that Dresden has. All the cities appeared to have a graffiti problem, but worse so in Leipzig. The hotel though was another one of these three-star americanized places -- no place like home.
After stashing our stuff, we headed out to old town and the land of Bach. In another five years or so this should be a glorious place with Baroque facades as far as the eye can see. But now, lots of construction and lots of graffiti. Being a Sunday there was not much commercial activity, so the crowds were sparse. We quickly came upon the Thomaskirche with its steeply sloped roof line and baroque spires. The inside was glorious with the wooden cross bracing high in the ceiling in deep contrast to the white plaster in between. Bach's grave was at the head of the church, but this was only a recent addition as his previous resting place was damaged in the war. We then toured the Bach museum, which I thought would not be attractive to the kids, but they got the guide headsets and took off to listen on their own.
Another concert, the third in three days, but the kids held up well and their performance was right on -- with the Bach pieces having a particular poignancy. Afterwards the kids signed autographs and enjoyed the fruit and baked goods provided by the church members.
Ah, two days off. The countryside of the former East Germany, as we approached the boarder, was devoid of villages or farms or any semblance of settlement -- the result of years of keeping the frontier sealed. West German villages, though, pushed right up to the frontier. The trip to Rothenburg o.d.T. went faster than expected and we arrived around noon. One old city gate just barely accepted the bus cross section and then we cruised through the very narrow cobble-stoned streets in this behemoth to the hotel -- Altes Brauhaus. Our two third floor rooms were in the forward, old section -- one with a view out over the village roofs with the horizon spiked with the spires of the large church and town hall; the other looking back to the wall and one of the round lookout towers.
We had a guided tour during the first afternoon which provided a good overview of the historical city. Then a dinner in the wonderful old vaulted hall of the hotel. I fully intended to walk the wall in the dawn of the following morning, but at 5:30, though well beyond dawn, a light rain fell, so I re-retired. It cleared off nicely in the later morning and we headed out through the city wall and down into the Tauber valley, hiking to the village of Detwang and its ancient and modest church (~960 a.d.). From there we crossed the the ancient stone bridge to a field of waving poppies. Back along the opposite bank we strolled, crossing the river further upstream and climbing the steep valley side to the wall.
Laura and I scrambled up the town hall tower just making the top before it closed. Then down to the central square where the kids did an impromptu concert on the steps of the "newer" section of the town hall (Renaissance). The evening's dinner, in another restaurant, was not particularly notable -- perhaps intended for the base American pallet -- just give me Wurst mit Sauerkraut! Tonight a few of the adults paid off ein paar teenagers to baby sit and went out for some recommended apple strudel (and beer, of course).
7 JulyIt was a short drive over the rolling hills to the village of Lendsiedel -- a stones throw from Kirchberg. This was the location of the working farm (Baurenhof) with Gasthaus were we would next park and concert. Lori had chosen this tiny berg because of a connection with the family who ran the farm -- one of the relations was an exchange student in Gilroy many years ago. There was space to run around, kittens to hold, milking to watch -- a good break for the kids. The Grossmutter got the village minister to open up the church (1511, with the tower dating to the 13th century) where the concert would be, and gave us a bit of a tour -- it should be a great venue. Then we had a hearty home style meal, hiked into Kirchberg (~1 km), walked around the old castle, had a chaotic dessert, and retired. We to our B&B just down the road from the farm.
8 JulyHalf the group took an early train to Nurmberg -- the other half, us included, took the bus to a recreation village, depicting rural life 100-300 years ago. After a relaxing lunch and beer in the outdoor cafe we headed back to rest before the concert -- and of course to eat again. The acoustics in the church were the best to date. And Emily is still falling asleep during the first half. The concert ended all too soon, but I remained behind to play a few tunes and listen to the resonance within this 16th century monument. We then enjoyed a beer in the old wine cellar of the farm -- now converted to a pub. And finally back to the Hulzmann's where we were treated to some homemade plum snapps -- 7 years old and smooth -- and some good Deutsch practice. Herr Hulzmann spent some time as a US POW after the war, where he learned his ein bisschen english, and he could still recite lines from the class he had taken some 60 years ago. Before the evening was out he gifted us with a bottle of this marvelous "mineral wasser".
Off to Muenchen. The plan was to head to Linderhof (a 19th century castle) before going to Muenchen as we didn't have to meet up with the host families until 17:00. But on the way we were informed that we had to be there at 15:00 instead. Perhaps if we had continued straight to the castle instead of stopping for lunch at Oberammergau, it might not have seemed so rushed and we wouldn't have been quite so late. But as is were, we were an hour plus in Oberammergau and then a quick run through the castle, and then about 1.5 hours late to Muenchen. But here we were at last.
The sound of kids in two languages filled the hall as the pen pals searched for their partners and tentative introductions were made. And they did have time to play a few tunes together before we lost the hall. Then it was time to disperse some fifty people. Emily and Kathy headed off with their host family -- Laura and I were assigned a place that would require an S-Bahn ride some 10 miles west of town. Well, at that point I didn't expect to see anyone from the group until the concert -- so much for enjoying some time together in the beer gardens. Fortunately, Emily's host mom, Marion, asked if we would like to join them -- what a break. So off we drove to Pasing (kind of like Santa Clara to San Jose) and their wonderful flat.
Despite the language barrier, Emily and Sarah hit it off immediately -- they seemed to be communicating well, though by what means I don't know. Laura also joined in and helped entertain Sarah's younger brother Fabian. Emily presented the two of them with the Gilroy baseball caps and stuffed animals. And then dinner plans. We headed to one of the large beer gardens in Muenchen to meet up with many of the other families. This place was in a large public park, that according to our host, is normally filled in the evening with kids cavorting about, fussball matches, etc. But with the cool rainy weather the numbers were way down. The custom for a beer garden visit is to fill your picnic basket with food, table cloths, plates, utensils -- and then grab a table, buy a beer and enjoy.
The original schedule called for a morning of swimming at the indoor water park. There were some complaints about this, but the idea was to get the visitors and hosts together and I thought it would be good for the kids who were toured-out. As it turned out we got to experience something better -- Sarah's school was having an open house that day. So Emily and Sarah headed off to school hand-in-hand and we followed a bit latter to find kids running through the colorfully painted halls. Each classroom had some special activity -- art, face painting, dancing, etc. and the gym was filled with a giant bake sale.
Stefan arrived home from his business trip and took Emily and Sarah to the 13:00 rehearsal. Marion's mother came over and cooked our lunch before we headed downtown to the Hochschule fur Musik were the concert was scheduled. The Muenchen group was smaller, but there was at least one representative in each of the concert pieces. The two groups together played a three group round and the Muenchen players accompanied the singing for the finale. Then the room emptied and streamed down the street a few blocks to the Lowenbrau restaurant were we had a traditional Barvarian meal.
We checked out of the tour, said our goodbyes, and then headed down one stop on the U-Bahn with our hosts to the pedestrian center of Muenchen. We strolled by street musicians and 18-19th century buildings, including the impressive Rathaus. A final bit of Eis and it was back home with a tired group of kids.
Marion had thoughtfully set a colorful breakfast table with a birthday banner and candle for Laura. And then we had to leave our wonderful hosts. Fabian was picked up for his swimming lesson. Stefan and Sarah saw us off -- Sarah running down the sidewalk after us -- as Marion drove us to where the McCann's were staying. Our two families then Bahn-ed to the Deutsches Museum were we had a few hours to look around a few sections of this immense place. Then we retrieved our luggage and dragged it to the train station and hopped on for the two hour trip to Salzburg.
The hotel was a few blocks from the train station and we again dragged all the luggage down the sidewalks. It wasn't much of a first night in Salzburg -- a few pizzas and laundry and TV. But we did break open the Pflaumwasser. So the tour ends -- some are heading back nach Amerika, others like us have a few more weeks of travel adventure. But whose going to drive the bus now?