Nürnberg & Munich (November 8-11, 2014)

Saturday

We arrived in Nürnberg around lunchtime and went straight to the longest German words I have ever seen: the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Nazi party rally grounds). There was a museum in the old Congress Hall building, but we chose to just buy a map and take our own walking tour around the grounds. It was a gorgeous and sunny fall day with colored leaves all over the ground. Charlie lead us past Congress Hall, which was meant to serve as the hall for the Nazi party but was never finished, then we walked along the Great Street, which was used for parades. We also passed Zeppelin Field, a huge stadium with concrete built-in bleachers for the rallies. After seeing so much incredibly old history as we travel around Europe, it was hard to comprehend that all of this Nazi history occurred relatively recently in comparison.

Gorgeous fall weather at the Nazi rally grounds
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Congress Hall
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Grandstand at Zeppelin Field
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After walking several kilometers at the Nazi rally grounds, we hopped in the car and drove to the Nürnberg Zoo. Connor had been talking about it all day, and thankfully we had enough daylight left to see it. My favorite part was the end of the dolphin show that we caught, but Connor was more interested in climbing on the concrete bench next to me and ended up falling head-first into the rock in front of him. One quick fuss and a drop of lavender oil and he was good as new…minus the big scrape on his forehead!

Zoo
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My feet were aching from all of the walking (I guess that’s what I get for wearing shoes that I’ve had since college), but we weren’t quite done walking for the day. After driving to our hotel and checking in, we took a short walk to the Old Town area and found a restaurant for dinner. We all enjoyed traditional Nürnberger sausages, which are similar to a small American breakfast sausage. I ordered mine with a salad, and Charlie ordered his with sauerkraut and horseradish. Connor ate tons of sausage (no surprise there) and even had some sauerkraut!

Sunday
Our day began with a walk to the Old Town and a stop at Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Connor inhaled his donut, which I think was the first one he has ever had. I guess the employee thought he was pretty cute, because she gave him 2 free donut holes after that. He probably had more sugar in that breakfast than he has had in his life. As we strolled through the Old Town, we window-shopped, saw a church, and stopped at Starbucks for a souvenir mug. We arrived at the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus, which wasn’t as spectacular from the outside as I had expected. Connor preferred the creepy rabbit statue nearby. We also found the Kunstbunker, an art gallery inside an underground bunker, but it wasn’t open yet. Next, we walked uphill to the Imperial Castle (Kaiserburg). We toured the inside on our own, then walked up a small tower.

Walking through Nürnberg
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View from the Kaiserburg tower
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After touring the castle, Connor took a nap while we walked to the nearby Johannis Friedhof (cemetery). Charlie had found out that Pachelbel was buried there, but after a twenty-minute walk, Charlie realized that he was actually buried in a different cemetery, about 2 kilometers away. We trudged along and made it to St. Rochus Friedhof. The next challenge was to find Pachelbel’s grave! Charlie found a picture online, but it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I eventually stumbled upon an old map that showed the location of famous graves, and then we were finally able to find Pachelbel’s grave.

Snoozing on the walk to the cemetery
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Connor slept through both cemeteries, and was still asleep when we arrived at the Deutsche Bahn Museum (the German train system). He finally woke up once we went into the museum café, and we enjoyed lunch before walking around the museum. There was a huge area for kids where Connor had fun playing with Playmobil toys, simulating putting gas into a train, and riding a train around the room with Charlie. The rest of the museum wasn’t too interesting, and Connor was just dying to get in all the trains. Thankfully there were a few that he could walk into.

Train ride with Daddy at the Deutsche Bahn Museum
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It was late in the afternoon when we walked back to our hotel, got into the car, and drove a little less than 2 hours to Munich. We checked into our hotel and then walked across the street to a small café for dinner. Our meals were even better than we had expected! I had a fluffy pumpkin omelette with a salad, and Charlie had gnocchi with spinach sauce. Connor was way too interested in the gnocchi to eat any of my dinner. Charlie got a slice of cake to go, which we enjoyed after the little man went to sleep.

Monday
The first activity for the day was Rick Steves’ self-guided walk through the center of Munich. We stopped at a Starbucks along the way for breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and a Munich souvenir mug. As we began our walk, we saw the incredibly ornate Asam Church. Next we found the Marienplatz in the center of town, where we saw the old Rathaus and the new Rathaus. We chatted with two older couples from Texas while we waited for the elevator to the top of the bell tower in the new Rathaus, then realized it was out of order. We started up the stairs and weren’t quite sure what we were in for, but it was only a few flights until we reached another elevator. The view from the top was nice, but unfortunately it was really foggy. After climbing down, we waited for the famous “Glockenspiel” on the new Rathaus to chime at 11:00am. The clock tower played music for several minutes and had some figurines that moved to depict a story. It wasn’t as impressive as we had anticipated, but it was worth staying to see it.

New Rathaus in Munich
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View from the top of the New Rathaus (Old Rathaus in the center)
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Connor had a chance to run around and play a little bit while we were at the Marienplatz, so he was ready to snooze on my back while we continued our Rick Steves walk. Next up was the Viktualienmarkt, a huge outdoor market area with lots of tents and vendors selling produce, meats and cheeses, baked goods, beer, etc. On the other side of the Viktualienmarkt was a large building called the Schrannenhalle, which housed many restaurant and market stalls selling high-end food, drinks, and other items. We continued our walk and saw the Jewish Synagogue, Frauenkirche, and St. Michael’s church. A little while later, we found a Michael Jackson memorial. It’s a statue of Orlando di Lasso that Germans have covered with photos, memorabilia, etc. of Michael Jackson! The memorial is in front of the hotel where he often stayed when visiting Munich. Eventually we found ourselves at the Hofbräuhaus, the world’s most famous beer hall. We were hungry and it was packed, but we finally managed to find a table and a highchair for Connor. We were right next to the oom-pah band, which Connor loved. We were pleased with our meals: I ordered a spinach knödel (dumpling), which Connor devoured and I managed to get a few bites. Charlie had Rahmschnitzel with spätzle (I think Connor ate a lot of that, too), and we shared a side of red cabbage. After a stop at the gift shop, we were ready to venture out again.

Michael Jackson memorial
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Lunch at the Hofbräuhaus
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Connor had been asking all morning to see the museum we had told him about, so we decided to ditch the rest of the self-guided walk and go ahead to the museum. We walked across a small river to Museum-Insel (“museum island”) and found the Deutsches Museum. First, we walked into the basement and toured a mining area. Next we went upstairs and saw lots of airplanes. Once again, Connor was just dying to go inside the planes, but there was only one he could go into. Finally we found a steering wheel with pedals that he could use to control a model airplane in front of him. The museum was getting ready to close, so we hurried back to pick up our coats and went outside to the gift shop across the way. We found a special Christmas decoration that Charlie had his eye on for a few months.

As we walked back towards our hotel, we stopped at the famous Lebkuchen Schmidt for a souvenir tin filled with gingerbread. We relaxed in our hotel room for a few minutes before heading across the street to the same café for dinner. Our same waiter from the previous night even remembered our drink orders. Charlie had the spinach gnocchi again and shared with Connor, and I had a salad topped with pan-fried Schafkäse (similar to a feta cheese). Everything was delicious again, including the gelato we all had for dessert. (Well, Charlie’s was a little disappointing. He ordered a milkshake, but it was more like cold milk!)

New Rathaus on our walk back to the hotel
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Tuesday
Last day! We checked out of the hotel, then walked to the closest bakery to pickup breakfast. (Mmm…I had Frischkäse on salted brioche and it was amazing!) We walked back to our car and drove to BMW World. After walking around the showroom for a little while (and finding a steering wheel for Connor to play with), we walked across the bridge to the BMW Museum. Connor was in “I’m-done-with-vacation” mode, but we managed to make it through the museum in one piece. After a stop at the gift shop, we walked across the main road to Olympic Park, site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. We fed ducks in the pond, and saw the outside of the Olympiahalle, Olympic Stadium, and Olympic Tower (but it was way too foggy to even consider walking up). Connor’s favorite part was trying to slide down the huge concrete blocks that acted as anchors for the buildings.

BMW World
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We picked up some amazing Nutella and banana crepes at a food truck before walking back to our car. Connor fell asleep pretty quickly once we started driving. We drove a little less than 2 hours to the town of Ulm for yet another cemetery adventure. Charlie waned to see the grave of Erwin Rommel, a German field marshal in WWII. We couldn’t find the exact address of the cemetery because it was such a small one, but while we were stopped for gas in Ulm, I finally found a street name that lead us to the cemetery. Thankfully there was a sign that directed us to Rommel’s grave once we walked into the cemetery! After another 3 hours in the car, we were finally home.

Next up…Thanksgiving in Freiburg, Lucerne, and Basel!

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Bonn & Koblenz (October 11-13, 2014)

Saturday
Charlie had a concert the night before and didn’t get home until after midnight, so he slept in and we left around lunchtime. We drove about two hours to Schloss Stolzenfels in Koblenz, a castle overlooking the Rhine River. After a short hike up the hill to the castle, we meandered around the grounds until a guided tour of the inside began. The tour guide only spoke German, but we had some information printed in English to read during the tour. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you’ve probably realized that I don’t retain much historical information about the places we visit…if you want to know any of those details, just ask Charlie :).

Views of the Rhine from Schloss Stolzenfels
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My two favorite boys at the castle
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Schloss Stolzenfels (I found this photo on the internet when I realized we didn’t even take a picture of the outside)
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Next, we took a short drive to the center of Koblenz and walked to the Seilbahn (cable car), then enjoyed an incredible ride across the Rhine River! The cable car dropped us off at the entrance of Ehrenbreitstein, a huge fortress on top of the mountain. We walked around the entrance area for a few minutes before taking the cable car back across the river. A few moments later, we arrived at the Deutsches Eck, the point where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers meet. It was an amazing view, and one of my favorite parts of the weekend. After walking back to the car, we drove another hour or so to Bonn, checked into our hotel, and walked to a nearby pub for a late dinner. You would probably be surprised to hear that we shared a burger, pizza, and jalapeño poppers. Not exactly local specialties, but it hit the spot after a long day!

Ehrenbreitstein in the background
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Cable car ride! You can see part of the fortress on top of the hill.
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Incredible view from the cable car of the Deutsches Eck, the corner where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers meet.
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Sunday
With full bellies after our hotel breakfast, we walked about 10 minutes to the Beethoven Haus and arrived a few minutes before it opened. Touring the house was one of the highlights of the trip for Charlie and me. It was so meaningful to actually see some of the musical history that we had learned about in college! After touring the house, we tried to watch a special interactive light show set to music from Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. However, the lady in charge was getting more and more nervous about Connor walking around and touching things, so we decided to make a graceful exit before we were asked to leave :).

Beethoven Haus
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Next, we walked around the old town area and saw a famous Beethoven statue, the Rathaus (town hall), and the Bonner Münster (one of Germany’s oldest churches). We couldn’t go into the Münster because there was a Mass, so we continued towards the train station. After figuring out which tickets we needed, we hopped on a train for just a few stops to reach the Haus der Geschichte. The museum showed the history of Germany from 1945 to the present. Connor had fallen asleep on my back at the train station, but when we got to the museum we were asked to move him to my front. I was so upset that I had to bother him while he was sleeping, but Charlie and I managed to rearrange him to my front and he stayed asleep through the whole museum! (Apparently it’s a liability rule that you can’t have anything on your back at the museum because it’s easier to knock things over or bump into things…?)

Beethoven statues
(The left is just a random statue outside of a hotel, and the right side is a famous statue in Bonn)

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Connor woke up in time for the train ride back. We got off one stop earlier than where we had started and saw some beautiful buildings that were part of the university. We took an absolutely beautiful walk down a street that was lined with trees and stunning row-houses, ending at the Poppelsdorfer Schloss. After admiring the outside of the palace for a few minutes, we began our trek towards our hotel area. As we walked, Connor pretended to march in a parade with Mickey Mouse and waved huge leaves as if they were flags. Never a dull moment in the life of a 2-year-old! We walked into the Münster for a few minutes, then found the Sterntor. The Sterntor is part of an old city gate, and it would have been a great photo op if there wasn’t a huge pizza sign visible through the big arch!

Connor’s parade in front of the Poppelsdorfer Schloss
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We decided to go to the same restaurant for dinner since there were plenty of menu options, and the weather was nice again for outdoor seating. I had gnocchi with beef strips and a curry sauce – once again, not a local specialty, but at least it was something unique that I hadn’t had before. Connor shared with me, and Charlie had a burger. We got a cup of frozen yogurt with toppings to share as we walked back to the hotel. Connor enjoyed his first taste of M&Ms, and kept asking for more bites of ice cream with “beans.” Our last bit of entertainment for the night was when Connor locked himself in the hotel bathroom. He probably could have unlocked it himself, but Charlie immediately noticed that he could unlock it from the outside with a coin. Daddy saved the day before anyone could even think about panicking!

Monday
Connor decided to wake up way too early, so he and I went for a walk outside while Charlie slept longer. Once the three of us were ready for the day, we had breakfast at the hotel, then walked to the Beethovenhalle. It’s a concert hall and turned out not to be much to look at (and we couldn’t go inside), but there was a really impressive Beethoven statue out front. The Rhine River was just on the other side of the hall, so we took a look before heading back the way we came. We walked to the Friedhof (cemetery) and saw the grave of Beethoven’s mother as well as Robert and Clara Schumann.

Statue in front of the Beethovenhalle
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After walking back to our car at the hotel, we drove just over an hour to Marksburg Castle, south of Koblenz. We waited in the car for a little while until the little man woke up from a nap, then walked up to the castle. Connor enjoyed watching the street-sweeping tractor while we waited for our guided tour to begin. It was another German tour, but we had an English guidebook. Construction of Marksburg began in the 12th century, and it is the only hill castle on the Rhine River that was never destroyed. After the tour, we enjoyed some German snacks at the café: currywurst for Charlie, and sausages with a pretzel and sweet mustard for me…and some of everything for Connor. About an hour and a half later, we were back at home and ready to plan our next adventures!

Marksburg Castle
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