Heidelberg and Munich…for real this time.

July 21-23

So my plan yesterday was to write about Heidelberg and my bus trip to Munich, but then some jackass had to go murder 9 people and interfer with my plans.

Thursday was my final day in Heidelberg and after getting semi-lost in the woods the day before I decided to stick to the city streets. The morning started out cloudy and just as I got off the tram in the old town it started to rain. At first lightly then quite heavy. Can’t let a little rain stop me, so out came the umbrella. I walked through old town looking in store windows, visiting a few stores, going in and out of churches and just exploring all the little streets. My plan was to try to stay busy until 2:30 when there was a free walking tour. I went into one of the churches and there was a concert/rehearsal going on of a pianist, cellist and flutist, so I sat in there for more than a half hour staying dry and enjoying the music. Soon that ended and back out into the rain I went. After killing time in a few stores and checking out the old bridge the rain let up and it was nearly 2:30. The tour was a walking tour of the old town and guided by a student from Heidelberg University. The young woman who was the guide on my tour is a history major. There ended up being about seven people on the tour. She walked us around old town and stopped along the way to talk about different historical buildings or sites. She took us to the university library, it was absolutely stunning architecture on the outside. Also amazing was the number of bicycles outside of the library, probably hundreds; I thought to myself you would never see that in the US. We, especially Americans, are so dependent on our car but partly it is not our fault. Here in Germany and in many European countries people are much more reliant on their bicycles and public transport, but they can be because their infrastructure is set up that way. Unlike most places in the US who’s infrastructure is built for the automobile and has little to no focus on alternate transport methods. Sorry, I had to get that off my mind…I have been thinking about it this whole vacation.
So that was pretty much how I spent my final day in Heidelberg.

Yesterday, Friday, I was up and ready to board the bus to Munich at 9:55. I had received a text message from the bus company about an hour before departure, but the message was in German! I hadn’t a clue what it said, couldn’t even guess. Good thing for Google! I copied the text into my google translate app and learned that a yellow colored bus would be picking up passengers instead of their normal green bus. The bus ride was long. I had too much time to look out the window and think. Thinking can be dangerous at times and by the time I got to Munich I wasn’t very happy. And then all hell broke loose(if you don’t know what I am refering to, read yesterday’s post) and that definitely didn’t help my mood. I have to say seeing everyones concern for my safety made me realize that maybe I mean more to people than I ever thought and that many people care about me more than I thought. I sincerely appreciated everyones concern. I know I said it in my facebook post, but thank you for your kind words. On an unrelated but happier note, during the bus ride I finally had the chance to listen to the entire Hamilton soundtrack from beginning to end and it is awesome. I loved it and only wish I had had the opportunity to see the original cast on Broadway. If you haven’t heard it I highly recommend it, especially if you like history and want to hear a great story.

Today I was planning on hiding in my hotel room if the gunman had not been found but I woke up to the news he was dead. So, I decided I would go to Dachau, a concentration camp about 20km from Munich. I was going to do it on my own but decided last muinute I would go with a tour. I kind of felt like I needed some human interaction after yesterday. There was a tour that was leaving from the main train station at 10 am and would take the train to Dachau, guide you through the camp and take the train back…about 5.5 hours long. I am so glad I did the tour. The guide was very good, knowledgable and friendly and the people within the group were all so nice. There was an older couple from Australia who I met and talked to a lot, they were so funny and could have been a stand up comedian act. Married 49 years and you could see how in love they still are with each other. There were some other Aussies, some English and a Belgian couple, all were very friendly.  Dachau was pretty amazing, not as much so as Auschwitz but a close second. Most of.the buildings are gone but like other camps there are foundations to show where the buildings were. The craziest thing is that the gas chamber and crematorium is still there, while at most other camps they were destroyed by the Nazi’s on the brink of liberation. It was creepy to go into the gas chamber and know that people.had been murdered there. The only downside to taking a guided tour is that you don’t get the chance to really check out all the exhibits, which I would have done if I had time.

Tomorrow I am going to spend the day in Munich. I read somewhere that all of the state run museums only charge 1euro admission on sundays, so my plan is to go to museums tomorrow.

Heidelberg and Munich

July21-22

Let me start with the fact that I am safe. I am not in the neighborhood where the shooting took place but regardless it is in the same city where I am at the moment.  It is a few kilometers from where I am, if you are familar with Boston it would like me being in downtown and the shooting taking place in Kenmore square.

So, I arrived in Munich at about 3:30pm, an hour later than I was scheduled to because of traffic. After checking into my hotel a little after 4pm, I rested for a few minutes and caught up on happenings on social media. Around 5:30 I decided to go for a walk and explore the area. No sooner did I leave did I notice a lot of sirens but I chocked it up to being a big city. I headed for the main pedestrian shopping street which leads to Marienplatz, a major plaza. As I walked down the pedestrian shopping street I started to get a nervous/ anxious feeling. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I was feeling this way, it could have been just the sheer number of people in the area and that I started thinking how it was a soft target. I didn’t hang around there long because I was feeling uneasy. I started back towards the hotel and stopped into a grocery store to pick up a few things.  Again, as I got back to the hotel I noticed helicopters in the air and continued to hear sirens. It was once I was back in my room and looked at my phone that I realized something was happening. I have to say this is the most uneasy, anxious and nervous I have ever been on vacation. I was in Paris the summer of the liquids scare that shut down major airports in Europe and led to us not being able to bring liquids on the airplane. That event didn’t make me nearly as uneasy as this. I am staying only one block from the main train station and there has been a large police presence on the street where I am staying. I have looked out the window and watched people hurry down the street with a fearful posture. This is not exactly the way I had planned to spend my time in Munich, but for now and until the police give an all clear I will be hanging out in my hotel room.
I can’t thank everyone enough for their concerns and check-ins on Facebook. This is when I truely appreciate social media. A decade ago it would have been so much harder to assure everyone of my safety without going to an internet café and sending out emails. Social media and wifi has made comunication so much easier. 
I am not in much of a mood to write about yesterday in Heidelberg, so I will do it tomorrow and post some pictures as well.

Heidelberg

July 20

Okay, before I tell about my day I need to share a few things/observations…

First, and sorry if I offend anyone but the amount of people who smoke is driving me crazy. I definitely think more people smoke in Europe than in the states. I am so disgusted by it, I think being a non-smoker makes me that much more sensitive to the smoke and I want to puke everytime I am near someone who is smoking. Thank goodness that it is not allowed on public transport, in most hotels and in restuarants!

Second, the whole pokemon thing needs to end. Today, as I walked down the street there was a younger woman in front of me and she suddenly stops and I see her tap some pokemon thing on her phone. I nearly collided with her then had to dodge her so that I wouldn’t have to walk behind her the whole time while she is hunting for non-existant computerized images. If only she looked up she may appreciate the beauty of the old city in Heidelberg. If you insist on playing this stupid game at least be aware of those walking near or around you so you don’t trip them up.

And finally, this is more positive than the others…Germans love their ice cream! I have seen people eating it as early as 10am. I actually looked it up on the internet and found out that Germany produces and consumes more ice cream that any other European country and Germans 55 and older consume 40% of the ice cream!

As for my day…today was very hot! It is still 95 degrees and it is after 7pm. Luckily it wasn’t humid, otherwise it would have been miserable. But with all the concrete in the city the sun radiates off of it making it feel even hotter. I really only did one thing today, I went to the castle.  The castle is on the side of a large hill, small mountain. You can either walk up to it or take the funicular railway and the funicular has three levels, lower castle, a mid way point and a upper castle.  I bought a one way ticket that would take me to the upper castle. I stopped at the first level and visited some of the castle grounds. Then I continued on the funicular to the second level, where you catch the old/original funicular to the upper castle. I was not aware how high the upper castle was, there was no warning! And actual there wasn’t anything to see, other than the view of Heidelberg from the highest level. So, I figured I could buy a ticket at the top to take the funicular back down, nope!  So, I had to hoof it back down the mountain(I guess better down than up!), when I started the sign said 6km to Heidelberg or 4.2 to the lower castle. There wasn’t really a marked route so I began walking down the only road I could find! Please picture this now, 90+degrees, I am wearing a skirt and sandals and I am hoofing down a road that is so steep I could have rolled down it! I had to be careful not to get hit by any cars coming up or down the road…there wasn’t a sidewalk. I kept crossing from side to side to be on the shady side, finally about 1+ mile down I got to a place where the street went left or right or there was a path through the forest. I had no idea where I was, there was a sign that said 2+km to the lower castle pointing to the right and a boulder pointing to the forest that said Heidelberg. So, I chose the forest. Keep in mind I have now been walking for close to a half hour and not seen a single human other than those in cars!  I had no idea if there were animals, deadly bugs or crazy people hiding in the forest, all i knew was i wanted the qjickest route back to the city. I think the path in the forest was for mountain bikers but I took it anyways. Luckily, the forest was well shaded which made it cooler and more bareable. As I walked down the path the lower I got I started to catch glimpses of the city. 3+ miles and close to 1hour 20 minutes later I was back in the city! It was a beautiful walk through the woods but I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it, unless maybe you are on a mountain bike! By that point I was sweaty, dirty and tired, I stopped in a grocery store picked up a few items, jumped on a trolley/tram back to the hotel. I immeadiately showered and turned up the AC and within an hour I felt like a new woman!  What I learned from this….don’t try to save yourself a few euro, instead by the return ticket!
Tomorrow I will stick to the city roads and then Friday I am off to Munich.

Lutherstadt-Wittenberg, Leipzig and onward to Heidelberg

July 18 -Monday – July 19 tuesday

Yesterday, Monday, I took the train to Lutherstadt-Wittenberg for a short visit. This was the home of Martin Luther, the religious reformer. I wanted to go there because I teach the Reformation every spring to my freshmen and we talk about Luther and his action of posting his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Since Leipzig was less thsn 40 minutes by train I decided that it would be a good day trip.  Turns out it wasn’t much of a day trip more like a two hour trip. Upon arriving in Lutherstadt I walked from the main train station to the old town, about 15 minute walk. It was so quiet, barely a person on the street and hardly any cars, and it was after 11 am so it wasn’t that early. When I got to the old town there were more people but far from the crowds of other places I have been. I saw the site were Luther burned the papel bull demanding he recant his grievences with the Catholic church, today there is a tree and a small park on the site commemorating Luther’s actions. I walked passed Luther’s home and made my way to the church where he posted his theses. The church is being repaired so most of it was covered in scaffolding.  The inside was also being redone so only a small part of it was open to visitors and it was nothing special. Then I walked back through the old town and visited the church were Luther had done much of his preaching. And that was it, pretty much nothing else to see in the town and it was barely 1pm! So I walked back to the train station and happened to arrive only minutes before the next train to Leipzig.  One thing I did notice while in Lutherstadt was the population of people that I saw on the streets outside of the touristy old town was quite old. I almost felt as if it was a retirement village!

Back in Leipzig I visited the Nikolai Church, which happened to be gathering place for many of the 1989 protests. The church was absolutely beautiful inside. It was not huge but the design itself made the church stunning. It had huge columns and at the top of each column were these huge leaves(not the word I am looking for but works). The entire interior was a soft white, pale pink and pale green and it just made it feel so peaceful. There was also a balcony that ran along both sides as a second floor seating area. You were not allowed to take picture but trust me it was beautiful. Here is their website in case you want to see it for yourself http://www.nikolaikirche.de .

And today, I woke up to see that there had been an axe attack on a train in Germany. Not a great feeling when you are suppose to get ln a train for an almost four hour journey.  The first thing I checked was the location of this attack and luckily, for me, it was nowhere near where I was heading today. I was expecting to see a stepped up security presence at the train station, because that would be typical protocol at home, but I didn’t notice anything different at the station. I was a bit weary of dozing off on the train and only allowed it to happen once. I made it to Heidelberg with no issues. It is really hot here, 87degrees and tomorrow is going to be in the mid-90s! This is the first really heat I have experienced on this trip so I guess I have been pretty lucky. My hotel is right next to the main train station, I can look out my window and watch the trains come and go. It is an Ibis Hotel, same as I stayed in Berlin, but it is a very old building. The rooms have been updated a bit but definitely not as nice as the one in Berlin which has only been open for a short time.

Tomorrow marks the half way point of my trip and it is flying by!

Berlin-Leipzig

July 15-17

Friday was my final day in Berlin and I used it to walk around and see a few more things. Yet again, the weather was chilly, overcast and ocassionally drizzling not making for the best sightseeing weather(of course today since I am leaving Berlin it is beautiful again!).  My first stop was the Holocaust Memorial. This is an entire city block of concrete blocks of varying heights. Below it underground is a small museum/exhibit about those murdered during the Holocaust. I appreciate that they use the term “murdered” when refering to what happened during the Holocaust. We often see the use of the words died, killed, exterminated but don’t often see or hear the word murdered and that is exactly what happened to the Jews, Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, mentally ill, political and religious opponents…they were MURDERED! The whole memorial inside and out was very moving.  From there I walked south to Potsdamplatz, a huge plaza and crossroads of the city that was completely divided by the Berlin Wall but has since been modernized and built up. There was a small portion of the wall still there on exhibit, plus some explanation of its effects. Then it was off to, probably one of the biggest tourist destinations in Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie.  It was super crowded with tourists and you could pay money to take your picture in front of the checkpoint with some guys dressed like soldiers.  I didn’t , instead I took a selfie! There were lots of people selling souvenirs and I found a guy selling Russian nesting dolls and i bought the one I wanted when I was in Russia…the Russian leaders nesting dolls! Oh history nerds,  you are going to love it when you see it!  Stalin is big and Putin is tiny!   After that I walked around and saw a few other famous plazas, etc.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped by the French Embassy where a memorial for the victims in Nice was growing. It was crazy to see the amount of news media gathered nearby and sad to see some French citizens mourning. I have some pics that I will post separately.  The whole thing just boggles my mind; not sure if I should be sad or angry or both. I am kind of glad I am traveling right now because the news this week  has been aweful,  more police shootings, attempted coup in Turkey, Nice, etc. Being here in Europe I am much less likely to turn on the news and watch it for hours making myself crazy.

Saturday was a travel day for me. I took the bus to Leipzig, where I am staying for three nights. I am not really sure why I chose Leipzig as one of my stops when planning my trip, but I am glad I did.  The bus ride was almost three hours long and the scenery along the way was nothing special. Though, I did notice they have a lot of wind turbines throughout the country. I first noticed them flying into Berlin and then saw a large amount of them on the ride to Leipzig. Good for them looking for alternate renewable energy sources.  Upon arrival in Leipzig it took me less than five minutes to get to my hotel, it probably would have taken less time if I wasn’t so blind and could have read the street sign on the opposite side of the street without having to walk up to the lights wait for them to change and walk back to the sign to read it! But at least I was on the correct side of the street at that point. My hotel is located right in the old city center, perfect location and on a pedestrian way with restuarants and stores. After checking in I decided to just go walk around, as it turns out the main city center is very compact- maybe a kilometer north/south and another km east/west. It was super busy in the city center because there was some festival going on in the market square; I think it was a gay pride festival. So I walked up and down every street, went in and out of some stores and really just meandered around.

Today, Sunday, I again spent the day in the city center, but today was a very different day. No festival and most shops were closed and the city was quiet. I went to a few small museums. One was on the effects of being part of the GDR/East Germany and then the reunification process. I was not aware of the role that Leipzig and its population had on fighting to end Soviet rule in Germany. Many of the early protests in the late 1980’s grew out of Leipzig. The other museum I went to was the Stazi Museum. This was in the actual building and offices of the former secret police force. It was interesting to learn about their techniques and history. Besides those two museums and visiting a church, I really spent most of the day walking around taking pictures and just enoying the peacefulness of this city. I definitely need a visit to a small city after the last three cities I had been to. The pace of life is so much slower here. This is my type of city, while I like the big cities I prefer cities like Liepzig.

Tomorrow I am going to Lutherstadt Wittenberg to post my 95 Theses on the door of a church(history nerds and maybe protestants understand this reference!). Then Tuesday I am off to Heidelberg and my journey will be half way over.