For our anniversary, we took a weekend trip to Dresden, a place Herr has been very interested in visiting. We rented a car (we were upgraded to an Audi when the car rental learned it was our anniversary), and drove through a snow storm to get to the Schloss Hotel in Dresden – Pillnitz. We had the second best room in the palace (the first was already booked), but it was really nice. 🙂 Because we got in fairly late, we ate dinner at one of the two restaurants. The food was fantastic, and we had the whole place to ourselves. 😛
We started the full day tour of Dresden at the Frauenkirche. The church was just rebuilt in 2005 after being bombed in the second World War. We did not go in immediately, but rather ran into a little pub and drank some hot chocolate (tea for Herr) to warm up for the strong bitter wind blowing through the platz.
Once warm again, we walked south passing the Kreuzkirche and catching a tram to the main train station. Then we returned to the Frauenkirche to tour the interior, and paid extra to go to the rotunda for a blustery yet clear view of the city.
We ate at a small sushi restaurant before making our way to the Semperoper opera house. They had an english tour that we joined an hour later, after visiting the Zwinger. I really want to go back to Dresden this spring now to see the grotto with the fountains on. 🙂 The Zwinger is mostly a big open courtyard encompassed by a museum. We hung around there until the tour was ready to leave at the opera house.
The opera house was interesting enough, although we were unable to see a performance there due to conflicting schedules with the ticket offices… but we did stop by the Residence Palace to see some of the state treasures. This building is easy to spot at a bird’s eye view due to its massive puffy looking glass dome. 😛
The Residence Schloss was another building razed and recently rebuilt to house the remaining artifacts of the Green Vault (and other museum collections). In order to enter the Green Vault, one must enter at a specific time through an electric airlock after depositing just about everything except your underwear in a locker. Once inside, however, you get to experience how the pieces of art were originally displayed, not the modern style of separating each onto a pedestal with five feet of clearing space.
For dinner, we went to the fancier restaurant at the palace where Herr ordered a full five course French cuisine (we were given a sixth, complimentary of the chef). Admittedly, I was falling asleep watching him eat so much while I only ordered a main course, but the food at both restaurants was excellent. 🙂 We had live music, a fire, and only a few other couples to enjoy the evening.
In the morning, we decided to go to Leipzig for Herr to railfan a bit (at Europe’s largest train station)… yes, it was his idea. 😛 The city was kind of scary though, with parts of it in disrepair. Herr enjoyed a nice romp in the Audi at 230 kph (roughly 140 mph) before we hit another snow storm on our drive back.
Schwetzingen is approximately thirty minutes away from Heidelberg and is best known for its spargel (asparagus), especially weisse spargel (white asparagas). Our friends were leaving in a week (June), and none of us had made it to the palace at Schwetzingen, so we took the opportunity to go together. It also happened to be during spargel season. 😀
Schwetzingen is an interesting reproduction of Versailles. We did not walk through the building itself – it was a rather humorous hodgepodge of eras stitched into one – but we spent many hours walking the gardens. Ken was quite pregnant, so we took our time. It was perfect weather for the leisurely walk, and there was quite a lot to see. We came across a mosque in the southern gardens with a beautiful pond behind it and a wedding taking place.
We took lunch at a cafe built into a beautiful carriage house (or guest suite wing, we couldn’t figure it out), and I had spargelcremesuppe (asparagas cream suppe), made with the white asparagas. It was delicious! I don’t know if I really like white asparagas any other way though. Great with bread. 😉
It is really worth the visit, especially during spargel season.
At the end of March (yes, I know, I have been busy), my parents and their good friend were able to visit us for a week. Since it was my father and their friend’s first time to Europe, we kept them busy. The first day here we had a large barbecue and played some Rock Band. After that, things went much faster. 😉
Day 2: Paris
We caught the 6 a.m. train over to Paris and were lucky to get an entire compartment to ourselves there and back! In Paris, our first destination was the Eiffel Tower. The weather was turning unfriendly as we made it up, so we didn’t go to the very top. We had a nice French lunch right outside the L’Hotel des Invalides, where we saw some very interesting weapons and Napoleon’s tomb. Hopping a metro, we walked around Notre Dame and ate some expensive (but average) ice cream. With not much time left, we crossed the Seine and briefly walked around the pyramid at the Louvre, then caught the train back to Germany. We didn’t return until midnight, but we were able to get up early enough the next day for our trip to Luxembourg.
Eiffel Tower with Peace Monument in foreground
Chapel at the L’Hotel des Invalides
Day 3: Luxembourg
Friday was our World War II history day. We split into two cars and made for the north eastern border of Luxembourg, where Vianden Castle sits. Vianden was a famous POW location, but they did not allow us to see any of the dungeons. After a tasty bite in the town, we drove to Luxembourg City, drove past the huge ruins in the middle of the city, then visited the American Cemetery in Hamm just south of the main city. General Patton is buried there, as well as a very nice war memorial. We thought about stopping by Trier on the way back, but in the end we all just needed sleep.
American Cemetery, Luxembourg
Day 4: Hohenzollern
We had a hard time getting started on Saturday, so we only got down to see Hohenzollern Castle. It was a very cold and wet day, and the castle was like a freezer! It was nice regardless, and we were able to take the puppies with us.
Day 5: Baden Baden
Herr, my mom, and I went to taking a relaxing spa day in Baden Baden. My brother, dad, and friend went over to the technikmuseum to see tons of cars and other transportation fun stuff. Baden Baden is awesome! Highly recommended if you want some pampering done. We got a specialized treatment, but my mom highly recommends the public baths at Caracalla. They looked pretty nice from the cafe we had lunch at. 😀 Definitely a great break after rushing around.
Day 6: Wurzburg
My brother used to be stationed near Wurzburg, so he took us over to show us some of his old haunts. Wurzburg’s palace is worth seeing, even though most of it was rebuilt after being nearly demolished in the war. It was neat to see the meticulous work done to repair it to its original grandeur. We walked around the shopping area and crossed one of its beautiful bridges, ate a lot of ice cream and food… I hurt so much. 😛
Day 7: Heidelberg
On the last day here, we finally took them downtown, saw the river and walked the shopping area a bit. Roo and I hung back while the rest went up to the castle. Had to take them to Vetter, and afterwards to look at the castle from the Old Bridge. We jumped through a few bars on the way back, so they could experience drinking from a boot and a horn. 😛
We packed a lot into a week, but at the same time it was a bit more relaxed than we usually take it. lol We fit a lot into our trip to Scotland a few weeks after, but we didn’t walk nearly as much as we ate. 😛 I was very happy my parents were able to visit us.
The weekend before Thanksgiving we took a night train to Berlin for two days. Again, I didn’t really sleep on the train (I think it is an acquired skill), but we still saw a lot despite lack of sleep!
Our first stop was the Bundestag, or the German parliament building, with its glass observatory dome. Nearby is a two-brick wide line down the road in front of Brandenburg Gate marking where the wall once stood. By the time we reached the gate, the weather turned wet. We decided to take a double-decker to Museum Island.
At the Berlin Dome overlooking the destruction of an East German government building, we made it to the top of the dome to catch the first snow fall. Very slushy snow that made wet feet wetter. The crypt was interesting though, a good cathedral to visit. The Pergamon Museum was worth all the squishy walking, though. Absolutely awesome collection of classical architecture and artwork.
After spending much time in the Pergamon, we went next door to the Bode Museum, which houses Renaissance and Christian art. We were actually looking for the Egypt collection but didn’t make it in time. I would not recommend the Bode Museum, unfortunately. Everything was depressing (it is my least favorite period for artwork).
The second day started in the Kudamm shopping area, where we walked by a Christmas Market setting up underneath the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was bombed out in WWII. We made it to the musical instrument museum just in time to hear an organ performance. Personally, I am not a fan of carnival organs and the musician played everything much too fast, but it was set up so observers could look inside to see its innerworkings.
At my brother’s suggestion, we hopped the metro over to East Berlin for an early dinner at Gugelhof. I could tell it would have been pretty good, but almost everything had alcohol in it and our waitress wasn’t very focused (friendly though). We went back to Kudamm for one last quick shopping sprint before catching our train back home.
Overall, I thought Berlin’s history and museums were awesome. I am still having problems with Germany’s affinity to alcohol and cigarettes though, and Berlin was no exception.