Frankische Schweiz and Pottenstein – A Day Trip

***As a note before we begin, some of these photo’s (in particular the cave one’s) were taken with my cellphone, not my nice, good camera. Between the cellphone camera and the dark nature of the cave, the photos did not turn out in the best way that I would normally feature on my blog. My apologies***

This past Sunday we decided to do a very special Sunday Funday trip and take a Steam Train Ride and explore a cave in a region somewhat near us. Our local post has an Outdoor Recreation Office that organizes a variety of trips for the residents assigned to the post. Sometimes it can be a little more cost effective to go through them for the trips they offer and sometimes they will offer up experiences that you hadn’t otherwise planned or thought about doing. A lot of times they are organized for group numbers and can therefore be offered at a lower price point than if you were to book it on your own.

This was not the case with this trip (I think our pricing was just standard pricing as if we had gone to get tickets ourselves), but they organized the whole day from start to finish. It did mean a very early start to our day (alarms set for 5 AM, to make sure we were ready, with a leave time of 7AM), but it was so incredibly worth it. A real dream come true. If you have the option to go through a group travel or through your own Outdoor Recreation office, you should totally do it! We love to travel on our own but doing it in a group was really fun as well.

So, we started our morning off with a beautiful, scenic drive to Frankische Schweiz area to a little train station (you can view the website for the train HERE, but you’ll want to use a google translate as it is only in German). We did end up blowing a tire not far from the station (thankfully it was that close, and we were moving at a slow speed so no real loss of control or anything like that), but it gave us a fun memory to go along with the experience. Our guide from the day was very informative, talking us through not only the day, but cool spots to come back to in the future.

Once at the station we got to take a look at the train itself, watch them bring the steam engine up and connect it all before boarding the train. Our boys LOVED  being able to watch the steam engine pull forward, backwards, and hook up to the train car. It wasn’t too long after we boarded that we were slowly starting to move. The Steam Train itself is from the 1930’s and still runs really well. The full ride was an hour, or two long and we got to lean out the windows, which the boys loved, and get out at the halfway point to watch them move the engine car to the other end. And, of course, they sounded the whistle anytime we were coming through a station or crossing.

If you get a chance to take a steam train ride, wherever you are, I would highly recommend it. Not only do you get that nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, but it is also just such a slower, prettier, more relaxed way to see the countryside. The steam trains can only go so fast, so you really get a chance to take in the towns and landscapes around you.

We then stopped for lunch at a little restaurant along the Wiesent River where three families with 4 toddlers and 2 infants managed to have a full calm no fuss meal. It’s a miracle! The restaurant was called Bruckla and I had a lovely tomato soup and a sneaky little slice of cake. (No pictures this time though!).

Once we finished lunch we boarded back on to the bus to head over to Teufelshohle Pottentstein (Devil’s Cave). This is a naturally formed limestone cave that features several different formations and can be trekked about a mile through. You climb about 400 steps during the course of the tour. It was discovered in 1922 and was extended/ dug through for the following 10 years. It is the longest cave in Germany (sitting at just under/around one mile) and the largest in Franconian Switzerland. You can read about the Cave/Visit the Site HERE, but again it will be listed in German so Google Translate will be a good option.

-8860795516321174899_IMG_2798

There are several “landmarks” of the cave, the first being Devil’s Hole. This is the first hall and features some of the equipment used to dig through after a cave in and some natural formations on the ceiling. Walking past here we can see several natural limestone formations before reaching the next “landmark”, Bears Grotto. This features a complete skeleton of a cave bear. Per the cave the bear was approximately 900 pounds and stood at 12 ft high. There are also some pretty cool formations staggered around the hall.

One of the other “landmarks” that we saw within the cave was a large cavern that was covered in stalagmites and stalactites. Called the “Colossal Hall” It is 42 ft high and features the two oldest limestones of Devil’s Cave. These two formations are suspected of being over 300,000 years old. Then finally we saw the Candle Hall and headed through some very (and I mean VERY) tight quarters to find our way to the exit.

IMG_0831Upon exiting the cave, you come out to this beautiful rock formation and a lite gorge hike to reach the exit of the park. When we walked into the cave we had some light cloud cover, but when we stepped out it was full sunshine and a blue sky. What a wonderful way to come back to ground!

IMG_0846

IMG_0830

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, this was one of our most memorable Sunday Funday’s and a day trip that I am not likely to forget anytime soon. If you have the chance to do a group travel through your own Outdoor Recreation program I highly recommend it. It was a great way to get to know a couple other families (we knew one of the other families) and you get to experience these things together which is always a fun addition.

946F35A3-A52F-461D-B493-BBA89926293C.JPG
Sunset at the end of Sunday Funday

 

Dachau Concentration Camp – A Day Trip

***Disclaimer at the start of this post, there may be content in here that is painful to view . Please be cautioned***

We recently did a very hard, but very important trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. We plan on going to several Concentration Camps during our time here in Germany and originally I had wanted to do one post talking about each of the camps and our overall experiences and feelings. Now, having been to one, I don’t think it is possible to do only one blog post. Not only is there just too much to share (and yet no words to share it, but I’ll get into that), but each camp is different and each camp (I’m assuming here) will bring with it different feelings. How can that be, you may be wondering…Well, not every camp was intended to be a death camp and each camp, while designed the same, holds different information and experiences.

I am going to touch very briefly on the history of the camp itself as I feel like it is important to note, because while many died at Dachau (I think 41,500) it was not originally intended as a death camp. I am focusing on the camp itself, NOT what happened within the camp. There is a much {much} longer history and I you can take a look at the site HERE for a full timeline breakdown.

Dachau was the first camp to exist and was originally created for political prisoners in 1933. Later on, it was used as the model for other concentration camps, and many of the soldiers that lead and worked at other concentration camps received their training in Dachau. It was considered the cream of the crop. In 1935 they started sending larger amounts and different prisoner groups to the concentration camps. In 1937 they re worked the camp and “expanded” to create space for a larger number of prisoners. This is when the number of prisoners start to rise drastically, conditions start to go downhill, and many prisoners start to die. In 1943 they started creating “subsidiary camps” where the prisoners were forced laborers. The camp was liberated in 1945, a little over 12 years after it was opened. In its time it listed 200,000 prisoners total in the main and subsidiary camps.

One more thing before I get into my own experiences, pictures, and such- this memorial and preservation was done in part by the survivors of the camp. The survivors of the camp banded together and worked with the Bavarian government to turn it into a Memorial Site. I feel like that is important to note.

I quite honestly did not know what to expect. I was raised with the faith and practiced for quite a long time. I consider being Jewish as part of my heritage and as part of who I am (even though I don’t practice). When I was in Middle School/Jr. High School I was obsessed with reading and learning everything I could about the Holocaust. I read a fair amount of books about the Holocaust, still do, watched documentaries and tried to comprehend what happened. My husband is a WW2 fanatic and has seen his fair share of documentaries and together we’ve watched almost all of the WW2 and Holocaust documentaries that are out there. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect.

Let me say this, it is one thing to read about these places, to watch documentaries, to see footage, to listen to survivors’ stories and it is a COMPLETELY different thing to actually be there. To actually walk through a place that held so much terror. So much pain. So much death. There are no words to describe it. Not a single word would do justice the feelings that I, and I’m sure others, experienced walking through the steps of the prisoners. No words.

So, I’m not going to give you words. A picture paints a thousand words and I am going to let the pictures tell the story. I encourage you to look through the pictures (each will have a brief description of what it is), try and imagine yourself walking the steps as you look at the pictures. Take a moment out of your day to just sit with the pictures, to honor the memories of those that walked here, that suffered here, that died here.

 

 

 

 

 

***WARNING. Some hard images are going to be coming next. The crematorium, gas chamber’s and execution area’s were some of the hardest parts to walk through. Even though Dachau was not intended as a death camp, many still died and executions happened and the gas chambers were used. I debated whether or not to actually post these photos. Standing there was unreal, sobering, heartbreaking, and intense. Even looking back at the pictures elicits the same reactions. This is a cemetery of sorts for so many who died here and in a way it felt wrong, BUT it is too important not to share. You have been warned.***

Some final images and remembrances to leave you as we exited the camp. Sculptures that represent the Victims and Survivors, A memorial Plaque, and the full look at the administration building turned museum.

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man”

Things You Should Do and Tips For: A Stay in Berlin

Whenever we do a longer/extended trip to somewhere new I will try and try and do two separate posts, one detailing out what we did and the second detailing out things I recommend and tips that we learned. You can read about our long weekend in Berlin HERE. If you are interested in what I actually recommend you do and my tips if you decide to travel there keep reading.

Recommendations

Recommendations are easy and hard to do as each person is interested in different things and there are different factors that can play into decisions on where you go/what you do. For example, we have two very active and loud toddlers. As much as we would like to go to museums and read everything, we also don’t want to ruin the ruin anyone elses’ experience either. So, while we go to museums, we don’t go to all of them and we don’t necessarily read every single word, rather perusing them all and picking and choosing which ones to fully focus on. So, my recommendations come from a bit of a bias for what we were interested in, found interesting, and worked for our family.

Berlin is a city full of history revolving the Berlin Wall. As we are very much interested in history and artifacts/locations specific to history we stuck with the big items. I highly recommend going to the Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Center. They are right across the street from each other and you can get a really comprehensive look at the pre cursers to the Berlin Wall, life during the wall, and the wall coming down. There is also information on how the Documentation Center came to be and how they fought to save portions of the wall. I also highly recommend going to the East Side Gallery. This highlights the wall in a different way, showcasing beautiful works of art on a mile long piece of the mall. It is a monument in its own way and sits right along the water so after you walk along the Gallery side, you can walk back along the river. IMG_0352The last history spot I would say to go to is Checkpoint Charlie. The checkpoint itself isn’t very big and usually has quite the crowd prior to the picture actors coming out, but the museum that goes along with it is a wealth of knowledge of the escape attempts, the people on both sides, and the different tactics of the governments.

IMG_0363Another sight I would recommend going to is The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe/The Holocaust Memorial. This is one of the most sobering visual memorial I have seen as of yet to the victims of the Holocaust. It is cold and eye opening in its own way. I would only advise you to be respectful when visiting this memorial. You can walk among the slabs and while pictures are ok, don’t do anything beyond stand and smile (or walk through if you want that IG pic). Climbing, posing, being goofy, anything beyond that is beyond disrespectful and I did see a couple people doing that.

-3894708180345114520_IMG_0604

If you are interested in animals/zoo’s (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then I would recommend Tier Park. This is the animal park that we chose to visit rather than the Berlin Zoo. I go into our reasoning in the What We Did post, but I absolutely LOVED this place. It is so spread apart, and has more of a park feel to it than a zoo. Almost all of the exhibits are open air (save for the few that the animals may need to come in frequently) and they have some of the widest variety of animals that I’ve seen at a “zoo”.

The last three spots I will briefly touch on are Brandenburg Gate, Fernsehturm, and the Victory Column. The Brandenburg Gate is the biggest tourist spot that we visited, aside from the East Side Gallery, and it was packed both with tourists, the odd street performers, and some folks petitioning. I would recommend going just to see the massive gate, but not staying too long. The Fernsehturm is the tallest structure in Germany and it is quite impressive. You can see it all throughout the city and you are able to go up to the viewing platform (although be sure to read my tips if you want to do this). I would also highly recommend going to the top of The Victory Column. This is an open air viewing platform that you climb a lot of stairs to get to, but the view is incredible-opposite the view from Fernsehturm.

IMG_5619

Finally, I am going to recommend one food spot as it was one we found on Trip Advisor as a “must-go” and after having gone (twice) to it, I highly recommend it. I spoke about it in our what we did post, but it is the Zeit Fur Brot café. They make some of the best cinnamon rolls right in front of your face. It does get crowded on the weekends and the later in the morning it gets, but the wait is never long (seriously- they in and out), the staff are incredibly friendly, and the food is completely worth it.

 

Tips/Tricks

I’ve got a few tips to share with you about visiting Berlin in a tourist to tourist way. Some of these may be rather obvious and common sense, and can be applied to just regular travel, and some are specific to Berlin.

Tip #1: List your 3-5

A rather obvious tip that you can apply to any trip, but one that has been essential for us on these short whirlwind trips. We are going to be doing a lot of 4 day weekend traveling and listing out 3-5 spots that we HAVE TO see, do not want to miss, helps us stay semi on track. For us for Berlin this was Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial, Fernsehturm, and The Berlin Wall and/or East Side Gallery. Once we arrived in Berlin, we looked at how everything was laid out and figured our days out around that making sure that we hit those spots.

Tip #2: Public Transportation (the most important tip of them all!)

Berlin has an amazing network of underground metro, streetcars, and buses that work really well for tourists. In fact, we parked our car at the hotel on Friday and didn’t touch it again until we were leaving on Monday. We relied solely on walking and public transportation and it was really easy to navigate. Depending on how long your stay is, Berlin has transport cards that you can use across all three public transport options, but if you are going for up to a week, they have a Welcome ticket that also will give you discounted tickets to some of the attractions in Berlin. It is a great option and I think this might be one of my most important tips in all of my Berlin tips.

Tip #3: Fernseturhm

If you want to go to the Fernseturhm/TV Tower then this tip is for you. First off, an obvious part, verify that you are going to have good weather for the platform. You don’t necessarily want rain (although you will still be able to see most everything) and you definitely DO NOT want fog. When we went up the fog had started to set in at the end of a very rainy day and we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to. My other tip would be to be prepared to wait. There are some shopping centers nearby as well as the Berlin Cathedral, but if you get there at any other time than early/first thing in the morning, you will have a wait time of around 2 hours before you can go up. This is to help control the numbers of people at the top at any given time. They have a service that will text you 30 minutes prior to your number being called to go up, although we didn’t know about this until after the fact (our lack of knowledge= your gain!).

Tip #4: Off The Beaten Path

I usually suggest this with any trip, but when you are looking for food find the little hole in the wall restaurants. Yes, sometimes the bigger restaurants will speak your language, be more palatable for youngsters, and be more tourist friendly, but you’ll get a more authentic feel at the little hole in the wall spots. The bakery that we went to one morning was tiny, one table inside, two outside and had some really tasty food. The barbecue place we went to the first night was the same. Of course you can stick with the bigger options, but then you won’t be getting that full experience and that is part of the fun of travelling.

I think that pretty much sums up everything I wanted to recommend and the tips that I wanted to share! Please let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them AND, if you have been to Berlin, please chime in below with any tips or recommendations you may have J

March In Travel

Good morning! We have reached the end of March, say what?!, and it is time to recap our travel over the past Month! It has been a month of exploration for us, both “close to home” and a long weekend away. All of it exiting and full of new adventures!

The first weekend we ventured out to a semi nearby town called Amberg. I think that at this time this is probably my favorite city that is near us. It is just so quaint and has the perfect combinations of olde world and modern, crowded but still quiet with cobblestone lined streets and little shops and bakeries. There is so much to just explore by walking through the streets and a wide variety of shops to be found. We spent a lovely day here.

The next weekend we decided to stick to somewhere that we already ventured to for two reasons: 1) We needed to pick up some things and knew that it had the stores we needed and 2) It gave us a chance to experience the train system. The train system is really user friendly here and is fairly straightforward when you are making those easy commuter trips. We boarded and road for about 30-40 minutes in to Regensburg. Didn’t have to worry about finding parking, paying for parking, or navigating in and out of the city. Once we were done with our shopping and exploring (because we did still head over to a couple spots we hadn’t been to yet) we simply boarded the train back home.

The third weekend in March (St. Patricks Day weekend), we headed to Berlin for the weekend! I’ve already done a whole post breaking our trip down to inredible detail, chock full of pictures that you can read HERE and I’ll be do a recommendation/tips post in the next couple weeks for Berlin. I won’t touch on it too much, but I really loved this trip. It was a last minute decision and whirlwind 72 hours, but it was so much FUN. I think this is the way to travel and I can’t wait to do more of it in the coming years.

This past weekend we made a very important, but very difficult visit to Dachau Concentration Camp. I am not going to go into too much of it here as I have a full blog post prepared to post about it, but I’ll just say this-No words. There are no words.

We do have plans for the upcoming weekend, but I don’t know how they will all end up working out. Whatever we do end up doing I will share over on IG/Facebook, and will try to remember to include in my April Travel Wrap Up.

Round the Kettle Ep 10: An Unplanned Reality Check?

How are you? How have the past couple weeks treated you?

We’ve been…keeping busy over here to put it lightly. But, I’ll be completely honest with you, I don’t really know what else to share about the past couple weeks that I haven’t already talked about in previous blog posts. You can read about our Berlin trip HERE and catch my most recent Friday Morning Cups post HERE. These two posts kind of sum up the biggest bits from the past couple weeks.

No, today I want to talk about something completely different than what I thought I would be. I thought I would be touching on what we’ve learned from travelling with two toddlers, our must haves, and just general thoughts, but I just don’t feel like talking about that right now. I may do a full blog post on this later on, but I wanted to go back to something that I heard a couple weeks ago.

There is a lot of conversation around where we are at. The area that we are, the goods, the bads, work schedules, lack of work, etc. I hear both ends of the spectrum, the love, the hate, the ambivalent. I’ve tried to see different perspectives on each situation and conversation I’ve been in and have tried to be understanding to others, as we are all going through different things in life and that affects how we handle things. I know this is all very vague- I’m sorry!

BUT honestly, I feel that we all need a bit of a reality check. Maybe a couple…bear with me for a minute as Reality Check 1 is one that applies to my specific situation, Reality Check 2 is the one that applies to life as a whole. Honestly I’ve been seeing some negativity going around, and not only just here where I am at, but across Social Media as well.

Reality Check #1: How many people would dream to have the opportunity that we have?

Yes, it may not be ideal all the time. There may be times where we miss family, where we miss some of the amenities that we have grown accustomed to and sure there may be times when we just want our family to be together (to be honest, when the work schedule is free it is free, when it is booked, it is booked solid), but we are in Europe. I NEVER dreamed in my wildest dreams that this dream I had held on to for so many years would actually get to come true. Even if Europe was not a dream of yours, it is an absolutely incredible opportunity. Travel here is so much easier and accessible. The number of things to do, history to see, places to go is endless.

Also- this could apply to anyone, not just myself. Think about the good in your life, think about the opportunities that you have been blessed with. I guarantee you there are some. We’ve all been blessed, some more so than others, yes, but we’ve all had some blessings.

Reality Check #2: Your Life and Your situation is what YOU make of it.

Here’s the big life altering piece of advice that is coming in this Round the Kettle…We get one life to live and WE get to choose how to live it. Yes, sometimes there are situations out of our control, yes sometimes there are hiccups, but WE get to choose how we respond to those situations, we get to choose what options we make and where we go from there. If you go into a situation thinking of all the things that could go wrong, thinking of all the negatives, you are setting yourself up to be miserable and to fail. If you go into a situation thinking of the positives, the doors that can open everything changes.

Now, none of this is new or anything like that, but I can’t help but remind myself of this all the time. There are always positives and negatives to any situation, but it is what we choose to focus on that determines our outcome/life/lifestyle/attitude/whatever you want to call it.

Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox now. I just get so aggravated when I see the constant negativity. I know that life isn’t all sunshine and daisies, hell I had a moment this week where I got annoyed because we were in a little hotel instead of our home and we didn’t have all the toys for the kids, and I didn’t have access to some things, yada yada yada. Yea, I had a moment, I GET it. I just don’t dwell in it. I don’t focus on it. I will share about the frustration sparingly, because as much as I believe in sharing the good AND the bad, the moment you let it fester- the moment you give it more than the initial frustration- is the moment it starts to take over. So, I’ll share every once in a while and in sharing, I’ll put a little reminder at the end that the situation is what we make of it. While life isn’t always perfect and things aren’t always happy, that doesn’t mean it can’t be.

If you only take one thing away from me/my blog/my life it is that our attitude, our thought process, our mind controls 75% of our life and outcome.

What do you think? This Round the Kettle went completely sideways from my initial intention and honestly this whole post should either be scrapped or a totally separate post, but I am keeping it as it is. Round the Kettle isn’t intended to be like my regular blog posts, rather just a catch-up chit chat style post. This is just something that I’ve been chatting with others about and has been weighing heavily on me over the past week or so. I wanted to share and chat about it because it is something that even I need to be reminded of from time to time.

In other, more light and fun news, I am taking a couple steps forward in turning this into a proper Podcast! I am doing some research, learning how things work, what is best to do, reading, etc. I hope that I can get things really up and going shortly after we get a house (which we still have no clue on haha).

 

 

Berlin – A Long Weekend

Good morning! This morning I am going to talk {A LOT} about our recent long weekend trip to Berlin. My husband had his first 4-day weekend through is work and we felt as if it would be remiss to not go SOMEWHERE for the weekend. We debated between going to Berlin and Munich and Berlin ended up winning (obviously…). We did this a little bit last minute (although we have a bucket list of places to choose from, as well as a breakdown of potential amounts of time that we would need to feel comfortable traveling those places), but we booked the hotel and such only a few days before we actually left. I won’t go on too much longer as I have A LOT to tell you. I’ll be doing a whole “Things We Learned” post separately, so this will just be what we saw/did…which is still A LOT.

I will say, it is currently mid-March. This means rain, cloud cover, occasional snow and 40-50Farenheit temperatures. We had planned for this to happen and while the weather didn’t impede us from doing what we wanted to do, it is definitely a factor.

We left for Berlin early Friday morning and had decided to drive there, but then park the car and rely on public transport while we were actually there. It’s about a 4.5-5 hr drive for us (including stops) and that was a decent distance for both us and the kids. They were able to be occupied for most of the drive by everything outside and they napped for a little bit. It was a pretty easy drive, just a hop on the autobahn and away we went.

IMG_0279

My husband had done a bit of Expedia shopping around and settled on the Kastanienhof Hotel. This was such an incredible hotel to stay at. A little on the pricey end, but it’s also Berlin, so it could be a more inexpensive option. We got a “suite” option which had a separate little bedroom set up for the boys that we could close the doors on at night for sleeping. We had a good-sized bathroom and a little minibar set up. The best part is the hotel is right next to a pick-up point for the Streetcar, so it works perfectly.

We spent Friday afternoon/evening at the Berlin Wall Memorial. This is a notorious spot in the wall, which bisected an apartment building, park, and was one of the original crossing points, the wall has portions that are still intact and portions that were picked at when it “came down”. This is a running theme throughout quite a bit of Berlin. There are portions of the wall still up in a quite a few areas, both museum/historical and just regular spots. Across the street from the tower/wall you can head in to the Documentation Center and up to the overlook. The overlook gives you a good look from above at what the wall was like. There is an exterior and interior portion, with a tower in the middle.

IMG_5373.jpgOnce we finished there, we headed out for dinner at a local hole in the wall barbecue joint, Chicago Williams BBQ (which was delicious) and then back to the hotel for some sleep. I will say- just on this first day we had walked just over 2.5 miles, and this was our “light day” (we walked a total of around 20 miles through the whole weekend and I don’t know how many flights of stairs).

IMG_5413.jpg

The next morning, we woke up somewhat early after a night of…”sleep”…amongst the city sounds of Streetcars, Bikes and regular cars outside our window. I am not opposed or even mad about this, it was just something that we had to spend that first night adjusting to. Saturday morning, we decided to head over to another hole in the wall restaurant, this time a bakery for a quick breakfast before heading out for a day of exploring. We had lofty plans for the day and even the forecasted rain wasn’t going to stop us.

IMG_0352.jpg

We started at Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie is probably about the only crossing point you’ve really heard about in terms of crossing at the Berlin Wall. It has seen demonstrations, stand offs, escape attempts and was demolished in a full formal ceremony. Now they have the building for the checkpoint where you can take pictures (they even have a couple actors that you can pay to take pictures with) and a full museum across the street. The museum covers a brief history of the wall, but focuses mostly on different escape attempts, including vehicles and such that were actually used, and people that are closely tied to the Berlin Wall. This was a must see on our list.

The second must see on our list was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe/Holocaust Memorial. I had heard about what walking through this memorial was like and let me say, words cannot begin to describe it. The site is filled with concrete slabs of varying height and there is an underground area that lists out the names of the murdered Jews of the Holocaust. It has a cold, sobering almost inhuman affect as you walk through it. It feels like a cemetery, but the slabs do not have any notations (like tombstones would) which I think adds to the sobering affect. It can be a bit overwhelming when you think about the actual facts and numbers, but this is one of the most well-done memorials I feel.

Since we were in the area (and needed a bit of an uplifting view), we headed over to one of the biggest tourist spots in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. It certainly did not let us down as we fought around people, street performers, and cars to take a look. It was totally worth the fight. From there we decided to walk down the road a little bit and take a look at The Soviet War Memorial. This commemorates the Soviet soldiers who fought and died at the Battle of Berlin in Spring 1945. You can walk through the memorial and into the Tiergarten on the other side. With the Tiergarten you can walk the paths and head over to the Reichstag Building Deutscher Bundesta- Plenarbareich Reichstagsgebaude). This building has a long and storied history of being built, fires, wars, divided country and reunification. It currently houses the Parliament of Germany and if you would like to tour the inside, you will need to purchase a pass/ticket and go through background, etc. Think of it along the lines of The US Capital or White House. It is an official government building.

 

1231152903949824964_IMG_0581.jpgThe last place we stopped at on Sunday was the Fernsehturm Building (or the TV Tower). Built in the 60’s and at 368 meters, this is the tallest structure in Germany, and it serves a couple of purposes. It serves as the location for TV and Radio, but also has a viewing platform at 203 meters up and a restaurant at 207 meters up.

IMG_0434

We picked the very wrong day/time to go up to the observation deck as the fog was coming in just before we went up, but we still enjoyed a decent view. The longest part of the timeline was waiting to go up. We finished the day with dinner at a restaurant right near our hotel and then headed almost straight to bed afterwards.

Sunday started out as a beautiful day. We wanted to make the most of the sunshine, so we headed out early for breakfast and then planned to go over to the East Side Gallery. For breakfast my husband had found this little bakery on Trip Advisor that he decided we needed to go to.

Called Zeit Fur Brot it had the most delicious variety of Cinnamon Rolls I’ve ever had. They are huge, heaping with both icing and cinnamon, but not too sugary sweet, baked right there in the shop fresh throughout the morning (you can watch them do this as well which is really cool). This is hands down a MUST stop place (in fact my husband went and got them to go on Monday morning for us).

After a delicious breakfast we hopped on the underground (and then a bus) and headed to see the East Side Gallery. This is a mile-long portion of the wall that has been painted by various artists. It showcases artists from around the world and some of the paintings are quite moving.

It was so beautiful and truly showed how you can take something that is such a horrid piece of a history and turn it into something good. The way this has been repurposed is wonderful. It also sits right on the water and once we were done walking (and while we were trying to figure out our next stop) we sat and watched the water, the birds, and the storm come in. It was so relaxing and a nice little moment.

Noting the incoming rain storm, we decided to head over to a museum, this time The Topography of Terror which (I think) is the only museum dedicated entirely to World War 2. The landscape has both Berlin Wall remnants AND WW2 building remnants which was very interesting to see. This site was where the most important institutions of the Nazi’s were located. It served as the headquarters of the Gestapo, the Leadership and Security Service, and the Reich Security Main Office. The museum goes through the specifics of the command and people that were involved in these offices as well as facts about the Nazi rise to power, their actions, and their downfall. You can walk through portions of the build site on the outside.

7297860356480843521_IMG_0542Our second to last stop we made on Sunday was to the Berlin Victory Column. This is actually not the original spot of this particular monument; the Nazi’s had moved it from its original location to where it now stands. At 66 Meters (almost 67) the open-air viewing platform is dizzying, not to mention the thin circular stairs that you climb to get to the platform itself.

 

-1694393697050839084_IMG_0549

From the platform you can see all across Berlin and we got a much clearer view of the city. There is also a lower platform (much much lower) that gives a nice all-around view as well. As terrified as I am of heights (and the almost panic attack I had on the tiny platform), I really think that this is a spot to visit! The view was unforgettably beautiful even on a cloudy day.

3040987143947964619_IMG_0563

We stopped over at the Berlin Cathedral to take a peak. I really enjoy seeing cathedrals, with their massive domes and bells that ring every hour. We weren’t able to go in due to a service starting and dinner rapidly approaching, but we were in awe of what we did see.

-3894708180345114520_IMG_0604.jpgOur final morning in Berlin we decided to make a last-minute decision and head to one of the animal attractions that Berlin boasts of. We figured this one would be solely for the kids (although we got a lot out of it too) and it would be a good energy release before the long drive back home. We didn’t go to the Berlin Zoo, rather we opted for Tierpark. We had several reasons for this, I think this one is the bigger more spread out option and it took us out of the city a little bit. We picked the right spot.

Let me be clear, we spent 3 hours here and didn’t even see a fraction of the animals that they have. Not only do they have a large {mostly} open air zoo, it also serves as a park, and they currently have several baby animals. We saw so much mother/baby animal bonding going on it was too much for my momma heart to take! I can’t even begin to tell you how incredible the little bit of time we spent here was. Not only do I highly recommend it, but I would caution you to budget a whole day for it.

That about sums up our Berlin Weekend!I know this was a LONG post, but we just did so much, and I wanted to share some information about each of the spots that we went to. I’ll be sharing my own recommendations and tips in a separate post coming soon. I also have a video up on Facebook that shows some clips of our travels. I hope you enjoyed seeing Berlin through our eyes.-1279016770161338670_IMG_0552

Nuremberg – Day Trip #1

The last weekend in February we decided to take a little day trip over to Nuremberg. While the list of things to do in Nuremberg can be extensive (depending on your interest), we had picked out two history related places to go and check out. We figured we would spend a few hours in the city, walk around quite a bit, and then head back home. Happily, we were completely wrong.

Both my husband and I are very much interested in World War 2 history. I tend to read a lot of historical books (both fiction and non) that are based in this time period (honestly I go in between WW2 and Tudor/Elizabethan England) and my husband watches A LOT of documentaries from that time period. In fact, so much so that if you named one we’ve probably read or watched it. So, not only is being in Germany such a blessing for culture reasons, it’s also ripe with history (not only WW2, we can’t wait to explore ALL the histories that Germany has to offer).

So, on this first trip into Nuremberg (as we will be taking several) we decided to head to the Nuremberg Courthouse and the Reichsparteigelande (or the Nazi Party Rally Grounds). We figured that this would be more than enough for one day trip, and boy were we right. We started our day with a hearty hotel breakfast (seriously the food here is amazing) and then headed out to start at the Nuremberg Courthouse.

Let me start by saying that being in these spaces is incredible. I don’t know that I truly have the words to describe, but I’ll try. It is breathtaking and surreal, cool, but at the same time somber. A sobering experience to be in the same places where so much hatred was spewed and then where those same people spewing hatred were brought to justice. Standing in these same spaces that have become so entrenched in history is a completely different experience to just seeing it in a documentary. Walking through the exhibitions attached/within these spaces is full of so much information and I can say that I have come away with a whole new understanding that documentaries just can’t give.

IMG_9472For the courthouse, you are given a little handset that relays the information about the trials and the various parts of the exhibit in your native language so you can get a full understanding. Not only do the handsets detail out the rise, fall, and trials from the Nazi Party, but it also goes into testimony and audio accounts from the trial.

IMG_9457 There is something to be said for listening to the audio of the trial while sitting in the gallery of the courthouse.

The exhibition upstairs is extensive and contains artifacts, a layout of the courtroom, as well as a little mock courtroom that would show exactly what it looked like during those days (the upstairs gallery was converted to the exhibit which is the only difference).

A tip if you are going- the courthouse is still actively in use, so plan accordingly. If they are having a trial in the courtroom you will not be able to go in, but you may (or may not I’m not entirely sure) be able to peek in the upstairs windows to still see the courtroom. The cost is reasonable (especially for what you are getting), but like many other places in Germany you will want to pay in Euro.  We spent around an hour and a half at the Courthouse but could have stayed longer. If you have young toddler age children, I would recommend a)bringing a small umbrella type stroller, and b) be sparing with what you choose to listen to in the audio upstairs. The audio at the Courthouse is quite long and not all toddlers may want to stay still for the length of time that it requires. I still suggest going as you do not want to miss it.

Overall, a MUST SEE in Nuremberg.

IMG_9598Our next stop was the Reichsparteigelande. This is about a 20-minute drive from the courthouse and is truly a site to see. We started at the Documentation Center, which is the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall. The cost is incredibly reasonable and once again, you are given a headset to detail out the exhibit information in your native language. Some of the headsets have a mechanism that starts the translation of  the various videos that are shown when you walk within a certain distance of the video screen. My husband’s headset worked like this, while mine did not, so it is very hit or miss on that.

When you enter the museum and exhibit, you are walking through the very walls of the hall. That in itself is eerie, but everywhere you go there are either artifacts from his time, or from the war. The floors in the first room have boxes within them with pamphlets, war displays, and other relics. The walls are lined with information. The information is much more succinct than the Courthouse, but still just as powerful.

IMG_9526 2

As part of the exhibit you can walk a walkway out to the interior of the hall (where it was not finished). This is an overlook of the grounds that would have become the hall if completed. You are also able to walk the lower grounds when you leave the museum.

IMG_9555

IMG_3280Once finished with the exhibit, we headed out to walk the trail that would take us over to the main highway street, the stadium, and the parade street at Zeppelin Field. This is a very pretty, paved walkway that follows along the outer edges of a man-made lake. At each point of interest there is a large information board/sign that breaks down what you are seeing and where you are at on the route in both German and English.

IMG_9593
The main street is about halfway between the Congress Hall and the Parade Street/Stadium. The main street cuts through the two lakes (on each side of the street) and walking on it was another surreal experience.

Towards the end of the path around the lake you are able to enter the Parade Street at Zeppelin Field. IMG_9609

If you watch any documentaries on Hitler, this is a space that you will most likely see. It is the overlook where he would review the troops, speak to his followers, and such. Most of the parade grounds have now been converted to use in everyday activities; a soccer field, American Football field, and some other sports are played and there are carnivals, and such held all along this route. However, the original outline and different buildings/stands are still there and intact. You are able to climb up the stand and look out at the parade route in the same manner as the Nazi Party Leaders.

IMG_3365Our day ended with starting to watch the sunset on the lake, which is always a beautiful sight to see. There are a couple of restaurants and places to stop and eat nearby, but we decided to head back to the hotel as we had two very tired little boys that were reaching the end of their ropes.

A tip if you are going to make this a trip, which I highly highly think you should, make sure to wear comfortable, breathable clothing. You will be walking a few miles if you choose to go to all the spots and while the trail is paved and easy to walk, you will want to make sure that you don’t get any blisters or sore feet at the end. Along with that, an umbrella stroller or the like for younger kids is a bonus if you do not want to carry them most of the route. Our oldest ended up riding on my husband’s shoulders most of the way.

Overall, we had such a wonderful first trip into Nuremberg. There is so much to see and do that I know that we will be back to do more. When we do, I’ll do another post detailing out what we’ve seen.