A Travellerspoint blog

Nuremberg

We have now parted ways with Neil and Amanda, as they head towards Belgium and onwards to home. We would love to see and do more of Germany but didn’t realize that the whole country would be so expensive and fully booked during Oktoberfest! Instead of heading to Berlin, we decided to spend a few days in Nuremberg and then most likely head to Greece for some warmth because it’s starting to become significantly cooler here. Nuremberg is a beautiful little city that we unfortunately only had two days to explore.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds

The first place we explored was the Nazi Party Rally grounds. This 11km area is filled with massive buildings, lakes and pathways and is known for some of the most iconic pictures from WWII. The complex, whose grandeur and style were inspired by classical Roman architecture, served as the site for the ritualistic Nazi party rallies between 1933 and 1938. Constructed by ‘Hitler’s favorite architect’ and Nazi minister Albert Speer, it formed the backdrop to the synchronized marching and showmanship captured in so many pictures and films. Large parts of Speer’s intended complex, such as the world’s biggest stadium, were never completed after the outbreak of World War II. Much of the architecture was defaced by advancing Allied soldiers at the end of the war and have since fallen into disrepair. The city of Nuremberg recently announced 90 million Euros are to be used to restore the entire grounds area. We have read that many people who live in Germany and Nuremberg disagree with this action, even though it is part of our history, many feel that the cost is to high. What do you think??

the Congress Hall

The first building we came upon was the Congress Hall, which is the biggest preserved National Socialist Party Monumental building in Germany. The building was designed to look exactly like the Coliseum in Rome. Even though it was so large there was an incredible amount of thought and detail put into it. On the inside, the bricks from the walls were crumbling away, plants were growing in and around walls and fences, and some old “rooms” were being used for storage. The outside however is made up of clinker with a facade of granite panels.

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The Great Road & The Zeppelinfeld

Next, we walked the pathways along the Dutzendteich Lake to the Great Road, which is 2km long and 40m wide. It was intended to be the central axis of the site and a parade road for the Wehrmacht (The unified armed forces of Germany). In its northwestern prolongation the road points towards Nuremberg Castle. This was to create a relation between the role of Nuremberg during the Third Reich and its role during medieval times. Now, a parking lot for festivals and football matches and once used as a runway for the U.S. army, it’s hard to imagine the amount of people that were involved in these massive parades and rallies. Continuing along some paths, we at last found the Zeppelinfeld, where Hitler used to make his propaganda speeches. Looking out from his podium, Hitler could watch thousands of soldiers marching by, professing their loyalty with the familiar Nazi salute to their Fuhrer. We both had the chance to stand on this perch and to see the enormity of this field and stadium. It was an experience like no other in the sense that we have visited so many places where WWII was fought, but this was the first time we had experienced a place that was used prior to the wars beginning. To think that this was exactly where Hitler stood and exactly where he made his hateful speeches that eventually allowed for the atrocities that occurred many years later, made us speechless. It will remain one of the most humbling experiences of our lives. We have included some old pictures to give everyone some perspective on what it used to look like.

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Old Town

Once we made it back from the rally grounds, we decided to wander around the old city in Nuremberg. We passed through the old city walls, which are still “protecting” the castle inside. Inside we found lots of new shops and restaurants, but also extremely old churches, bridges market spaces and of course, the castle. The city was built in medieval times around the 10th century, so the architecture was breathtaking. Enormous churches towered above us with gargoyles and solemn statues staring down. Cobblestone roads and bridges were leading us up the hill until finally we saw the stunning castle. It really was quite the climb to get to the gates, but it was so worth it once we got inside. We could see the whole city from up there! There were these perfect German wooden beams that cover the walls, with pink flowers flowing over the railings of windows and walls that were made of stone over 1m thick surrounded by gorgeous manicured gardens. Sigh….oh to be royalty ;)

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It was definitely a packed 2 days, but it opened our eyes to the enormity of what the Nazis were trying to accomplish prior the start of WWII. Germany you have been good to us and we look forward to seeing the rest of you very soon. Until next time.

Posted by BlondeandCurly 14:05 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Oktoberfest

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Well, there isn’t much to say about this crazy endeavour we partook in. Oktoberfest in Munich, where the original celebration of the marriage between Princess Therese and Prince Ludwig took place in 1810, was an experience unto any other. We would describe it to Canadians by saying it is like the Calgary Stampede; except there is lederhosen and dirndls instead of cowboy boots and jeans, baked salty pretzels instead of mini donuts and the largest beer tents we have ever witnessed and probably the biggest in the world. They stood tall along the grounds; everywhere we looked along the main street, 14 to be exact. It was an experience like no other. Beer, Beer and more Beer, may have led to a couple of rough mornings, but it was very much worth it. We feel bad saying this but, we feel that Oktoberfest might actually be the greatest outdoor show on earth (sorry Calgary). Just like in Ibiza, we feel that the pictures can tell enough of a story and tell it better than our words could ever do, but finally we want to say thank you to all of the locals who made us feel welcome and made attempts to teach us the ways and the history of Oktoberfest and thank you to the many others who we met along the way, who made our experience that much better. Enjoy!

Day 1

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Day 2

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Beer Tents

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Its funny how half way across the world.... you can run into your old ringette coach. Small World

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 11:11 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Germany - The Highs and Lows of Bavaria

Munich

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We took the train from Prague to Munich which, after we slept for the first part, turned in to a beautiful countryside trip. We knew we had finally entered Germany as soon as we saw solar panels on top of every single house (even barns!) and wind turbines every which way. Amanda was in heaven! It was so relieving that some countries in this world are truly trying to make a difference. Our first night in Munich, Sean took us to the Augusteiner Brewhouse where we had our first German meal and beer out of real steins! Let’s just say, the steins led us to an interesting night filled with outdoor beer gardens, intense discussions and a slightly rougher than usual morning ;)

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Dachau

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The next day took us to the Dachau Concentration Camp. This was the first concentration camp Hitler constructed. He used it to show the Red Cross that it was for housing political prisoners, even though it eventually became a place of forced labour and torture of Jewish people, gypsies, emigrants, homosexuals, etc. Many times the Red Cross came through to this camp and each time, they states it was fit to continue its practice. If only they had seen what was really happening to these poor people. As we entered the infamous iron gates that read, “Arbeit Macht Frie”, or “Work will set you free” (which has recently been stolen from the camp), we were overcome with emotion.

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It is truly hard to explain the feelings that envelop you when you’re standing in a place of such horror, a place where humans literally destroyed other humans. To walk the grounds where thousands of people were treated with such brutality was truly an eye opening experience. We were able to walk through the original buildings that the prisoners would have walked (Most are now part of a museum and exhibition). Where the prisoners would have met the guards, where all their belongings were stripped from them and taken away, sent to the bath houses where they were shaved and “cleaning” solution was used to wash the filth from their impure bodies and finally through old torture rooms where some prisoners were unfortunate enough to undergo medical testing.

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We are so glad that this camp has become a memorial site. Though it is still difficult to know that something so appalling happened and that no apology will ever be enough for the millions of people who died and the families who were torn apart and lost, we as a society hopefully can learn from these atrocities so not to repeat them in the future.

Berchtesgaden

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Continuing with our WWII journey, the next day we decided to rent a car and drive to Berchtesgaden, where Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” has been maintained. This was a bit of a lighter day than the Dachau Concentration Camp and I really think the group needed it. Because we rented a car, we were able to experience what it was like to drive on the Autobahn and boy were the guys excited! I think they made it to 170km/hr in a Kia hatchback. We blasted some music and made an Autobahn chant where only the lucky few will get to hear it! ;) We also rented the car because we knew we’d be able to enjoy the outstanding views and scenery of the Bavarian countryside. For those of you who have seen the Sound of Music, It looked identical to scene where they are escaping at the end of the movie and end up climbing the mountains (yep, movie reference number two!). There were massive mountains shooting up all around us, luscious green valley’s with gorgeous farms and animals everywhere we looked. Trees that looked so fluffy and bushy on the rolling hills and of course the clearest of blue skies to make it one of the most magnificent places we have ever been.
After a few stops and some amazing photo ops, we ended up in the parking lot where we had to take a bus up the steepest, most windy road I think we’ve ever been on. Not a road for the faint of heart, or those who were scared of heights, aka…all of us! When we reached the top, we found ourselves entering this cool, wet, brick cave that led us to the brass elevator which would take us up to the Eagle’s Nest.

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We later found out that the building of this elevator, tunnel and retreat was an architectural masterpiece. The people working on this project did an incredible job, which is one of the reasons it still stands today. After a quick ride up, the doors opened to reveal….a restaurant! I (Lindsay) apparently didn’t do my homework and had no idea that this famous building where Hitler once ruled had been turned into a tourist restaurant. I (Sean) feel that Hitler would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what his retreat in the mountains has become. We left the restaurant, walked outside and up the mountain, enjoying the spectacular views from on top of the world. Hopefully our pictures can do justice!

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Neuschwanstein

On our last day before Oktoberfest, we thought we’d take in some more sights. So, into the Kia and on to the Autobahn we went again, this time reaching 190km/hr. The boys were giggling in the front seat at their accomplishment, not knowing the girls were in the back having just as much fun! We exited off the highway and onto the Romantic Road and enjoyed the countryside views until Amanda shouted, “I think that’s it!” And there it was, Schloss Neuschwanstein, or as it’s more famously known, The Disney Castle. This castle is perched high on a hill with mountains encompassing it.

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This castle has been on my (Lindsay’s) bucket list for years and years and it was so exciting when we finally made it. Its’ white stone walls were shining in the sun and the pointed towers were so tall, protecting those who lived there. Surrounded by a magical forest that hid a magnificent waterfall and a swinging bridge, we were truly in a fantasy land and did not want to leave.

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We even started singing songs in a Disney-like manner for our hike down the hill, well, the girls did at least! We made it down the hill to a cute little town with a large lake and another castle, Schloss Hohenschwangau, where King Ludwig II actually spent most of his time. We only admired it from afar, but the entire place was absolutely beautiful.

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It was a perfect day and a perfect fairy tale ending to southern Germany. Onto Oktoberfest!

Posted by BlondeandCurly 11:12 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Prague - The Land of Goulash

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After landing in the fairly new airport in Prague, we had hoped to receive a passport stamp; something that has eluded us so far on this trip. We quickly learned that the EU has adopted something called the Schengen area. The Schengen Area is the area comprising of 26 European countries that have abolished passports and any other type of border control at their common borders. Unless you are landing in the EU for the first time, you can travel through all of these countries (train or plane) without speaking to a customs agent, therefore never receiving a stamp. Any person living in an EU country can travel without a passport as long as they stay within the agreed upon area. In conclusion and once again, we did NOT receive a passport stamp.

We decided to stay in the Old Town area, which turned out to be an amazing place to stay as we were right in the middle of the action. As we took a brief tour that night of our surroundings, we quickly noticed that Prague is a mysterious city, with completely different architecture than the western countries we had already visited. One of the first sights I (Lindsay) remember seeing, were the bats flying around the old church steeples which had been blackened by weather and age. Beside the old church is the astronomical clock. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operates four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon.

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One of the first sights that I (Sean) remember seeing is the mass amount of beer everywhere and how cheap it is. You can get a pint of beer for 80 cents. DELICIOUS!!

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As we continued on our night out exploring, we decided to eat at a restaurant in the Old Town square. It was this restaurant where we were introduced to the most amazing meal on earth – GOULASH. Even though a staple in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years, this was the first time we had ever tried it. It is a simple meal of meat and vegetables in a thick broth, basically a stew, but wow is it ever tasty. I (Sean) was stunned that the last time I was in Prague; I was never exposed to this delicious meal. It was so tasty, that we as a group had it every day for lunch. You may think overkill, but it was a necessity.

On our first rainy and dreary day, we found ourselves in the Jewish Quarter of Prague where we were able to visit the Jewish cemetery and two synagogues. This part of Old Town was the “ghetto” where the Jewish people were kept by the Nazi’s in World War II. People stayed here until they were forced into the Terezin concentration camp, or similar camps around Czech Republic or Poland. The majority of those sent from Prague never returned. One of the synagogues we visited has been turned in to a memorial site for the Jewish victims of WWII. Walls completely covered in names of the people and their families whose lives were lost during and after the war. Pictures drawn by kids who were held in the camps were staring up at us from behind the sealed glass, trying to tell a story, their story. A story of abuse and/or death seemed to be a theme that saturated most drawings. This was quite a moving place to be in and something we weren’t expecting when we entered.
Next we entered the Jewish Cemetery. This cemetery was not the usual cemetery you would think of. We found out that Jewish people must not destroy Jewish graves and in particular they are not allowed to remove the tombstone. This meant that in the early 15th century, when the cemetery ran out of space and purchasing extra land was impossible, more layers of soil were placed on the existing graves, the old tombstones taken out and placed upon the new layer of soil. It is estimated that 12,000 tombstones are present with upwards of 100,000 buried underneath. There were headstones scattered everywhere, some standing alone, but most just clustered together in a jumbled mess. Green moss was covering each one and some of the headstones were so old that we could not make out the writing that was once so perfectly chiselled. Tall trees enclosed the cemetery and made it very quiet for those who were resting underneath their leaves.

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One of the most intriguing things about this city is its uniqueness. We walked across the Charles Bridge which was built throughout the 14th and 15th centuries making it the oldest bridge in the city, and every 20 feet or so there were large statues of saints staring down at us, describing their own stories. The cobblestone underneath our feet added to the “ancientness” of the bridge and continued to lead us up and up and up to the castle.

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As we ambled up the long stairs, we looked over the large wall that separated the castle from the rest of the city and found that every house and building below us was its own entity; no cookie cutter houses or communities at all, just the city’s distinct character. We eventually made it to the castle where we found small, windy streets leading us to cottage-like shops and houses. The focal point of the castle grounds though, was this gigantic gothic church right in the middle of everything. There were sharp pointed steeples, gargoyles screaming at us from above and dark stained glass protecting those on the inside.

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Prague’s uniqueness continued as we all went out one night and found a super small jazz club on the other side of the river. You enter into what looks like a small British pub (they even serve Guinness), but you descend into a dungeon like basement that has been fitted as a jazz club. The liquor bottles need to be held up by custom made shelves to coordinate with the curvature in the stone walls. The capacity of this place maybe was 10 people, but there was a good 25-30 inside. It was a fantastic experience of great music mixed with crazy old buildings/architecture that I am sure had much different uses 500 years ago.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 08:47 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (2)

Normandy & D-Day Beaches

To cap off our Paris visit, we all decided to rent a car and head to the northern coast of France. We really felt it necessary to visit some of the important sights related to the Allied D-day Invasion. We will try to do our best at explaining what we saw and how we felt, but I’m not sure we can give the sights and emotions due credit.

Pointe Du Hoc

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We arrived first at Pointe du Hoc. Pointe du Hoc is a wall of cliffs, 100 ft (30 m) tall overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. The Allied plan called for three companies of Rangers to be landed by sea at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using ropes, ladders, and grapples whilst under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group assaulted and captured Pointe du Hoc even though suffering massive causalities. The initial Ranger force of 225 men, was reduced to 90 men after 2 days of fighting. To look out across this area seemed unreal. The landscape has been kept the same since D-Day in 1944. As you enter the memorial area you end up walking through the craters made by real bombs 70 years ago. Concrete from the bunkers has been strewn across the terrain, though some bunkers are still intact. The concrete walls were made so thick we can’t even imagine the amount of artillery needed to destroy even just one. This place overwhelmed both of us as we tried to picture what truly went on; men falling, guns shooting, bombs dropping and cries for help. All of this so long ago so that we could walk on this ground as free individuals.

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Omaha Beach

We then drove to Omaha Beach, the beach that the Americans took on D-Day and then Juno Beach later on where the Canadians fought on the same day. There are miles of beach with never ending seas as far as the eye can see. Again we were trying to imagine what it must have felt like for the soldiers running towards the land, trying to dodge bullets and watching their friends killed around them and couldn’t come to terms with the fact it really happened.

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Juno Beach

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American Cemetery

The American Cemetery was absolutely mind blowing. Row upon row of white marble headstones with crosses and stars (Christian and Jewish), sitting perfectly in the grass. Thousands of names, thousands of soldiers left here overlooking the ocean they came from and the Beach they knew they needed to capture. These soldiers who were trying to protect the people they loved and others they never knew hopefully have found peace.

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Canadian Cemetery

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At the end of the day we finally drove to the Canadian Cemetery to pay our respects to those Canadians who died in the battles of D-Day. None of us knew anyone who fought in the D-Day battles, but we felt due to our national connection, a sense of closeness to these soldiers. The Canadian Cemetery was much smaller than the American Cemetery. Nestled between two farms, a few kilometers off the coast, lay hundreds of rounded headstones, each carved with the name of the soldier, where they were from, their age and a personalized message from their family members. There were gigantic maple trees lining the sides of the cemetery, protecting the fallen soldiers while they rest in peace. Bleeding heart flowers flow along the middle of each row of headstones. For us, the Canadian cemetery was just that, very Canadian. It was humble and quiet, no need for attention, but we felt so proud standing there, looking out across the field at these brave men who came from our home and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I (Lindsay) cried a tear for each one of them. I know they will never know how much we and every other Canadian truly appreciate what they did, but I still say thank you. Thank you for stepping up in a time of need and leading this country and many others, to the freedoms we enjoy today.

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As we looked at the graves, walked the beaches of Normandy and stared in awe at the fire power that the Germans had built up on the cliffs of Point Du Hoc, we realized that these very young men paid the ultimate sacrifice for those who they did not know and for countries where they did not live. We say THANK YOU to of all of those who not only served in WWII, but to every man and woman who serve to protect our nation and freedoms. We are proud to be Canadian and proud to see our contributions to one of the biggest military operations in history.

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Posted by BlondeandCurly 05:48 Archived in France Comments (1)

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