A Travellerspoint blog

Germany

Munich, Germany

More than just Oktoberfest

sunny 75 °F

We met up with Emily and Stephan (who we met in Singapore back in January) for a traditional Bavarian meal. It was nice to hear how the locals still love Oktoberfest and its traditions. This made us really excited for the festivities to begin! The vibe was incredible, it was a blend of families, bachelor and bachelorette parties, old dressed up German couples walking hand in hand, and of course drunk tourists. It is unbelievable how many people attend and how large of a space Oktoberfest really is. There were carnival rides, games, ½ meter long wursts (see below fight to finish the wurst), humongous pretzels (see kid in below picture), people watching and much more.
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Even during the day, the infamous Oktoberfest beer tents were packed full and it was clear that getting into one of them was going to be a challenge. Lucky for us we were with our German speaking friends from Switzerland (David and Karin). Dressed in her Dirndl (female lederhosen) Karin miraculously convinced a security guard to let the four of us into not one, but two different tents! One was a small hip tent set up with a kitchen while the other was the Spatenbrau tent, a classic beer hall that we snuck in through the side door.
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Even on a regular day, the city of Munich is filled with amazingly large Brauhaus beer halls. The Hopbanhaus is the largest in Munich, and the upstairs hall seats up to 8,000 people (note: is this was in the USA, this would be THE place for our wedding)! Here is Kevin in the VIP section:
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The city streets are packed with people wondering through Marion Platz into old cathedrals and window shopping. Although it was tempting to buy a stein and some lederhosen, we opted for the less main stream ‘wurstsalat,’ which could arguably be the worst salad we’ve ever had.
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On a more ‘sober’ note, the first concentration camp in Germany was built just outside of Munich in Dauchau. To say it was a chilling experience would be an understatement. It is one thing to go to a museum, read stories and see pictures, but it is quite a different experience to walk around the camp, step into the barracks that housed thousands of prisoners, and walk through what was once the Verbrennungsraum (incinerator room) and the Hinrichtungsstätte (execution site).
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 21:38 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Bamberg, Germany

Warming up for Oktoberfest

sunny 70 °F

The historic UNESCO town of Bamberg hosts more breweries than any other city in Germany (9 directly in town brewing over 50 different types of beer). Seeing as we were on our way to Oktoberfest in Munich, we decided we should make a pit stop in Bamberg as a warm up. There are two rivers running through Bamberg making for many picturesque bridges. The most famous is called Altes Rathaus, and has a little house in the middle of the river.
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Bamberg was 100% awesome and we could have spent a lot more time exploring all of the small streets, markets and paths along the river. We started our self-guided beer tour at a bratwurst stand in square full of people enjoying the sunshine. After a nice .5L stein and a double foot long brat, we headed off on a mission to visit all of the breweries.
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The German brew houses are a bit intimidating at first since they are always jam packed with open seating at long picnic style tables. Squeezing us into a few seats with some of Kevin’s high school German phrases (enshulegung bitte, ist hier noch frei?) was easy compared to navigating through the big German bar maids plowing through the crowds with fistfuls of steins! One thing that was a little unusual for us was the enormous amount of foam that is served on the beers. Sometimes, it looked as though we might only have been served a half liter in a liter stein! Luckily all of the euro glasses and steins are marked out with strict volume measurements and if full the stein would probably hold about 1.5L :)
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With steins that big, it was impossible to sample all the varieties of “smoke” ales, Heffeweizens, and Bocks and be able to walk away with a favorite. What we do know is that the schnitzel is fantastic! Next time we’ll have to prepare some kind of tasting card and a few weeks to get through them all!
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Sad to leave Bamberg behind, but excited to get to Munich, we boarded an early morning train surrounded by lederhosen and ‘weg beers’ and people of all ages flocking to Oktoberfest.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 06:49 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Berlin, Germany

Hipsters, weg beers and street art

sunny 75 °F

We wanted to find a way to drive on the legendary autobahn, but we couldn’t find a sporty enough rental car ;) So, we created an account on Carpooling.org (a carpooling website across Europe) and hitched a ride from Mainz into Berlin! We went just over a top speed of 200 km/h (aka 120 mph) but like all good legends, this one had a hard time meeting our expectations. Newton’s relativity law kicked in and we didn’t actually feel as though we going so fast when everyone else was going the same speed or faster!
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Once we reached Berlin, we met up with our hosts Jannes and Seri who live in the hip district of Prenzlauer Berg. They updated us with the local knowledge including the most important “weg beer” which translates to “roadie.” Although it was extremely fun to be able to walk down the street with a beer in hand, it was unfortunate to see all the broken glass throughout the city and made us uneasy on our sweet Prenzlberger orange rental bikes.
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Jannes and Seri gave us some good ideas for exploring abandoned buildings including the old East Berlin airport and the Teufelsburg Tower (an old listening post by the English and USA forces from 1950 to 1992. Since they shut down official activities at Teufelsburg, there has been little done with respect to maintenance but major work done by the locals creating some epic street art. We were invited to join a tour by an American (who actually worked at tower) for a group of people from a war museum, and they shared their history stories with us.
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The old abandoned airport grounds is a free for all and was totally amazing to ride bikes through. The locals have turned it into a park, where people go to bike, skate, walk, run, and some folks have even started little gardens in the grass between the runway strips.
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It turns out that the Doner sandwiches that we had so much loved in Turkey were actually invented in Berlin! One other local delight we enjoyed was currywurst with mayo french fries (they drown ‘em in that shiz), and another (one of Kevin’s favorite dishes as a kid) is called spätzel, so having a spätzel making party with Jannes one night was a dream come true! Berlin is filled with so many different things to do that we didn’t have a chance at exploring everything we wanted and could only describe it as trying to see all of New York including the top tourist sites, museums, the local secrets of all five boroughs and a big whacky event like a roller blading marathon in only 5 days. We loved all the alternative ways to enjoy Berlin and totally recommend it with a big hug and a kiss. . .
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:47 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

The Rhine Valley, Germany

Germany’s wine region

overcast 70 °F

We were surprised to learn that Germany had a wine region that can be compared to that of Napa Valley. In fact, the town of Mainz is listed as one of the nine “great wine capitals” of the world! We started our journey up river in the town of Cologne, famous for its large “Dom” cathedral. We were told by the locals that this building requires so much cleaning that once is finally cleaned, the cleaning process starts all over (sounds like the Golden Gate Bridge!).
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We headed down river via train and boats towards Mainz. We went to Oberweissen and then to the small town of Bacharach where we hiked up the top of a hill to a castle called Burg Stahleck that had been converted into a hostel. While walking through the town we stopped at one of the wine shops and sampled a young wine straight out of the tap. It was an early season harvest that is still fermenting called Federweiβer and it was sweet with a yeasty bubbly essence.
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Our next port of call was the town of Bingen, where we found a great walk through the vineyards with a view of the famous Mäuseturm on the water just behind the Basilika.
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After we reached Mainz we met up with Tom and Leah, where we learned that it is typical to have the Federweiβer with onion cake. Apparently the sweet wine compliments the stringent, sour taste of the onions, and all over the town we saw little kiosks where people stop in for a glass of fresh Federweiβer and onion cake. The typical German breakfasts that we were served included lots of strange meats (think liverwurst) and cheeses; it is very different from the typically sweet breakfasts that we have in the States.
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Excited to be in one of the top wine capitals of the world, we were ready to go wine tasting! Unfortunately it was a huge shock to find out that “wine tasting” as we know it does not exist in the city or in the surrounding wineries. The standard thing to do here is to call a winery and set up an appointment or go there for dinner and order a bottle. So instead we opted for the second famous thing to do in the area… skinny dipping! Across the Rhine River from Mainz, is the city of Weisbaden, famous for its Kaiser-Friedrich Therme (German spa). We decided to pay a visit for Kevin to experience his first spa, and to have a little relaxation. Spas are a bit different in Germany in that they are completely naked, with mixed genders. Although a little intimidating, we had a wonderful hour of pampering in saunas, steam rooms, heated rooms, cold pools, warm rooms, and of course, an ice dunk.
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Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 23:25 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

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