April In {Not So Much} Travel

Good morning! It is the end of the month, which means that I will be wrapping up the travel that we did throughout the month. The only problem is that we didn’t do too much travel, which then led me to want to touch on something a little different (but still related) in this wrap up post. I’ll start with the travel/cultural events that we did experience and then touch on the rest.

Real quick, before we get into April- I wanted to touch on what we did the last weekend in March. I said in my previous Month in Travel that I would, so here we go. The last weekend in March we headed over the Walhalla (Valhalla) for the day. It was such a beautiful spot to spend the afternoon, and my only regret was that we didn’t have a little picnic while we were there. There is a little bit of park area where you can play, eat, and soak up sunshine. The temple itself is really beautiful with the interior containing busts of famous Germans and the exterior being very reminiscent of Roman temples.

We only traveled twice this month, the first being just me and the boys for a day and the second being a family weekend away.

With Easter being this month, the Germans have Easter Markets just about everywhere. I’ve been wanting to make sure that I attend/participate in as many cultural events as we can while we are here. I have always wanted to learn, understand, and absorb the culture of this area and others that we visit. The first experience we had was the Fasching Parade, and now we had the chance to attend an Easter Market. Markets are a very big thing here (from Farmers Markets all the way to large Christmas Markets, you can pretty much find one every week) and are an opportunity for small, home businesses to show off and sell their wares and for people like me to buy them (obviously…).

I also decided to go to the market during the week, hoping that it would be slightly less busy (I was right), which meant that it would be the first bigger, more crowded event,  that I would do with both boys by myself. I was a little apprehensive, but all went well and we had a blast! We attended the Easter Market in Nuremburg which was one of the bigger markets in our area. There was a wide variety of vendors, from mugs/plates/kitchen goods to clothing, to jewelry. There was also a variety of food carts and drink options.

4661331643373811845_IMG_2023.jpgThe second travel trip that we took was to The Netherlands for, basically, the Tulip Blooms. This was an absolutely incredible trip and one that I will remember for a long time yet.It was such a good little get away and was just what we needed to finish out the month. I’ve got a post coming up this week detailing our trip, so keep an eye out for that. A little spoiler/sneak peek was that we absolutely loved this trip (everyone did, including the husband), and it was so incredibly beautiful from the flowers, the location, and the weather. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

 

What I wanted to touch on in this post is the reality of our month. While it was, on the whole, a good month, we did have a couple of rough spots. The beginning of the month was the first time that my husband was actually going through his first rotation of his new job and we didn’t know what that would truly entail until we went through it. We also are still in our hotel, which can be a trial sometimes and my patience, positive attitude, and just general mental health was tested a couple of times this month. While I’ve had a positive outlook from the get go, and have, for the most part maintained that positive outlook, that doesn’t mean it has always been sunshine and rainbows, or as exciting as trips every weekend.

I want you to know that while I post all of these exciting trips that we have taken and will take in the future doesn’t mean that we don’t also have down time. Not every month, or long weekend will be spent away. We will have just as many weekends at home, or staying local, and those are just as fun, just as important as all the trips that we will take.

I want you to know that we are not taking our time here for granted, and that while we intend on traveling as much and as far wide as we can, we are also going to be spending time at home (whenever we get a home). Not every month will be as exciting as these first few, but every month will have something.

So that was our April. Not so much travel, but still just as fun as previous months. We are still loving being here and are finding this new area to be incredible. That “honeymoon” phase of a new place has not worn off, but rather has grown in a way. All that is missing is a home, which will hopefully be rectified in the coming months!

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.

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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.

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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.