Travel Germany and Berlin between Markets and Castles

by - June 08, 2018

For some time I wanted to travel to Germany and now seemed to be the moment. In this travel diary, we tell you the main points of our stay in Germany. This trip took place started in the second half of September, when began the Oktoberfest, the beer festival, to which I wanted to goat. My stay was until the end of December, allowing me as much to enjoy the cultural and historical wealth of Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg as its many Christmas markets.

Two months before the date of the trip, it was an odyssey to find hotels that would be good, pretty and cheap. Apparently, the reservations begin at the beginning of the year and by now we could not find anything and what little we found had exorbitant prices.


Day 1 - Hamburg

We flew directly to Hamburg, on the first flight of the morning, with the aim of having breakfast on German soil. Flying over the Alps in clear weather is already a gift for the eyes! At the airport, we took the metro to the central station, next to which was our hotel. It is the most economical we had found on the Internet in the month of August.

After arriving in Hamburg in the afternoon, we are entitled to Schmuddelwetter. There are a strong wind, drizzle and a temperature that reaches just 24 degrees. We start our discovery with a guided tour of the center. The guide presents his city with humor. Without a guide, we would not have thought of wandering around Kontorhaus, the business district.

We visit a classic market with vendors of vegetables, flowers, clothes but no fishmonger. The market is glued to the Elbe river. We have a choice between the tourist ferry and public ferry which follows the same route for much less money. Our choice is on the second and we are not alone. All the tourists seem to have given the word. The boat makes a loop to the northwest, allowing us to admire Hamburg from another point of view. We approach the cranes of the harbor and even observe the beach of Elbstrand. Yes, there are beaches in Hamburg!

We descend to the terminus on the jetties of Landungsbrucken for a stroll along the water. The beach is not particularly beautiful with neighboring cranes but the relaxed seaside atmosphere is there. We motivate ourselves to take a bath and we demotivate with the first wet toe! An unexpected charm emerges from the slow coming and going of freighters on the river. We are ants at the foot of these giants. We take the pretty Ovelgonne pedestrian street that runs along the beach in front of an array of old pretty houses.

In a bus ride, we go to the small town of Blankenese, still further on the right bank of the Elbe. The lower district, near the water, is a former fishing village with the well-chosen name of Treppenviertel, meaning stairway district.

We then visit the old tunnel under the Elbe, built more than a century ago. What is amazing is that vehicles that want to cross take the elevator. It is a very big elevator as you can imagine. Back on the north shore, we walk to the district of St. Pauli.

The difference with the center that is all clean and all perfect is obvious. Here, graffiti covers the walls, weeds line the sidewalks and empty bottles pile up in the corners. We then go to Karolinenviertel, our favorite district. The streets are as roguish as in St. Pauli, but they are more alive and have more charm, with many trees and still as many frescoes on the walls.

Always on foot, we reach the popular Sternschanze district filled with large terraces. It's so nice that all Hamburgers spend their afternoons outside! Precisely, our next destination, the Park Planten un Blomen, is crowded. And it deserves it. After a tour in the Japanese garden, we discover a beautiful lake, surrounded by tufts of plants and wildflowers and, especially, solid wooden chairs.

While in the city center already visited, we savor our chance to have the company of the sun. It is striking how the red brick is depressing in gray weather and cheery in good weather. With such a light, we want to go back for a walk in the warehouse district. We observe the magical power of the sun in action!

The half-height terrace is freely accessible and represents the best place to enjoy the sunset over the city of Hamburg and its harbor. To end this busy day, we visit the Miniatur Wunderland, a fun tour for young and old. A group of crazy model-makers has been hard at work recreating some of the world's cities and regions in miniature. Rome and Hamburg are particularly successful, especially when the artificial night falls (every fifteen minutes) and the buildings are lit up.

Further on, we fall in love with other architectures in brick. Even more impressive are the old port warehouses in the Speicherstadt district. The highlight of the show comes at dusk when the buildings are illuminated. It's worth the detour!

Berlin Germany wallpaper

Day 2 - Berlin

We set the alarm clock at dawn to go to the fish market. The incredible atmosphere is worth the trip. In the big hall, pop rockers shout in front of a conquered public and the beer flows. Only Germans can drink moss so early in the morning.

From here our itinerary continues towards the mythical Berlin. It is a unique, exciting, vital city, where the past is still present and the future is already on its doors. We arrive in Berlin late in the morning. To find the route to follow to our hotel, we go to the public transport site.

To start our stay in Berlin, we decided to go for a walk in the Kreuzberg district, known for its street artworks. After this first walk in the streets of Berlin, we eat a hamburger at the legendary Burgermeister. We taste their Meisterburger hamburger, made of bacon, fried onions, mustard, and barbecue sauce.

Rejuvenated, we continue our discoveries of street art on the other side of the Spree, in the Friedrichshain district. This walk on both sides of the wall is very pleasant despite a large number of tourists. The only catch is that the best-known works are now protected by fences, making them hard to photograph.

We visit the Jewish Museum. We keep a mixed memory of this visit. Some parts of the museum are much more interesting than others. We continue on foot to Checkpoint Charlie which is one of the best-known frontier posts during the Cold War era. This marked the territorial division between West and East and the political division between capitalism and communism.

It is here that we find the emblematic sign that indicates in part "YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR". It is a highly symbolic place to visit even if we have a little regretted the circus of extras to bait the tourists. We walk along the Unter Den Linden Avenue. Here we stop on the way to admire the university buildings and enter a shop of "Ampelmann", emblematic figure of Berlin traffic lights.

We then take a bus to the Tiergarten, the largest park in the city. In the middle of it stands the Victory Column. The bus finally takes us to Zoologischer Garten from where we return to the hotel to pick up our luggage before heading to the airport. We have a short tour by the modern Potsdamer Platz, with a glance in the beautiful courtyard of the Sony Center. Nearby, in the Mall of Berlin, we indulge in some shopping.

We head towards the Berlin Wall Memorial. The tour begins in the corridors of the Nordbahnhof metro station where the history of the ghost stations is explained, those which were crossed by East-West lines but in which the metros stopped no more.

Portions of the wall and an open-air exhibit along the Bernauer Strasse show the division of Berlin between 1961 and 1989 and how border posts were managed to prevent people from going from one side to the other. What shocked us was the ingenuity of the leaders of the time to stop people from crossing the border. In the middle of the lawn, a stele takes again the name and the photographs of the victims who tried to cross the wall.

After this visit, we take the direction of Alexanderplatz whose Television Tower is remarkable from any place in the city. We eat succulent burritos in a small trendy restaurant. To digest, we go for a walk and have a little window shopping at the Alexa shopping center.

After that, we take a public bus to stop at the Berlin Cathedral, located on Museum Island. At that moment, the setting sun illuminated the building with all its rays, giving it all its beauty! Since buses pass through the main attractions of the city, we decide to take this means of transport that continues its way on the Unter Den Linden.

We stop at the Brandenburg Gate and admire the sunset and the lighting on the door at dusk. It was a superb memory! We take a picture from every angle. We then walk towards the Parliament to visit its glass dome. We were delighted with this visit. The architecture of the dome is breathtaking and the 360-degree view of the city is splendid!

For dinner, we eat a delicious Kebab and currywurst. We have to wait at least 30 minutes before being served, but it was worth it! Tomorrow we will go to Dresden.

Dresden Germany wallpaper

Day 3 - Dresden

We leave Berlin with a bit of nostalgia. After breakfast, we head towards Magdeburg. We arrived at the city at a bad hour. We parked right in front of the cathedral and, without losing time, we go straight there. When we try to get through the door they close it in our noses. They just closed. We were interested in seeing this cathedral since it is the first cathedral of French Gothic style on German land. In short, not everything has to go well.

We return to the car to head towards Wernigerode, a city that preserves many historic buildings and narrow streets. In the square, decorated by a fountain, is one of the most beautiful half-timbered buildings in Germany, the Town Hall. Around the village, Goethe set the stage for Walpurgis night in his play called Faust and was also the setting for the Hansel and Gretel story. For these reasons, it is easy to meet some witch on his way to Mount Brocken, his meeting place, at the foot of which is the city.

Strolling through its narrow streets we reach the smallest house in the city, only 3 m high. The town is small and needs little time to see it. We say goodbye to the witches and we go to the car park to pick up the car and head towards Quedlinburg, a city declared a World Heritage Site. Small, flirty, with many half-timbered houses from the 15th to the 18th centuries, it is truly a captivating city. We continue towards Leipzig, the economic capital of Saxony, a small and small town that, even on a historical level, closes the circle of this beautiful journey.

We reach Moritzburg around 4 in the afternoon and head towards the castle, a beautiful Renaissance palace. The ocher and white colors dominate the facade. It is also under construction. It has beautiful gardens in which it is a delight to walk. We do not entertain ourselves too much since we want to go to Dresden.

The first thing we see when leaving the parking lot is a huge mosaic that is 102 meters long. It is decorated with Meissen porcelain tiles that represent a procession of the Saxon princes on horseback. This monumental mosaic already gives us an idea of what the city can be. We were surprised by its churches, theaters, palaces, museums and the life of the city. Only a mural reminds us of the Soviet control of the city.

It starts to get dark and we head towards the hotel. Today we have done almost 550 km but we are satisfied because we have taken advantage of it very well and, although we did not like Magdeburg too much, Quedlinburg and Wernigerode have far exceeded our expectations. After dinner, we sleep and dream about these little story villages.

Dresden Germany wallpaper

Day 4 - Nuremberg

It starts to dawn. We found a huge queue on the highway. Near Dresden, it is even more difficult. It takes almost an hour to make a little more than 15 kilometers. So, as soon as we can, we get out of the traffic jam and continue on the road. We go through the Eckberg castle, which houses a luxury hotel. We continue through a very green landscape to Hohenstein and Bad Schandau, a small spa town. The day is frankly bad and cold.

We arrive at Pirna, the gateway to Saxon Switzerland. About 25 km from here is the Festung Konigstein, an impregnable nest of eagles. It was built at the beginning of the 13th century for the King of Bohemia and later transformed into a fortress. From above there is a magnificent view, at least this is what is said. We did not go up due to bad weather.

From here we move to Nuremberg, the favorite city of Adolf Hitler and that was totally destroyed by the Allied forces. Meanwhile, we observe the cars around us and we see that there are still many legendary cars from the former GDR, such as the Wartburg and the Trabant. The mythical trabi was a modest car whose body was made from a mixture of cotton, resin, and sawdust. It was the most common vehicle in the German Democratic Republic as it was one of the few car models that East Germans had access to because it was the cheapest.

We start with the points of interest to visit in Nuremberg. The perfect wall with 80 towers surprises us. It is practically a reproduction of the original, but it is more pleasant to think that a beautiful medieval city awaits us inside. Although the medieval town has rather little, as during World War II it was destroyed. So all the places we walk are reconstructions following the original plans.

Right there is a very nice area, which is something like a small nucleus with small craft shops. It is known as the Handwerkerhof. We go through the center with houses with the typical German facade. We get to Lorenzer Platz, with the Church and a very lively pedestrian area.

The walled city is divided into two parts thanks to the Pegnitz River. Thanks to this, we have a few bridges, with postcard images. Crossing one of the bridges of the Pegnitz River, we arrive at the square that has a huge market with red and white awnings. During December it also hosts the famous Christmas market.

In this same square is also the Schoner Brunnen fountain. It looks like a church tower or something like that, but it's pretty. At this moment, we are really enjoying the visit. We see that it has been a good choice to have stopped to meet her. All the surrounding streets have charm, such as Weissgerbergasse. In addition, there are booths where they sell my favorite sausages!

We visited the courtyards and the viewpoints of Imperial Castle but did not go inside. Very close to the Castle is the house of Albrecht Durer, the Renaissance painter. For me, it is one of the most beautiful facades in the center. Bordering the wall is another of the walks we did. So in one of the areas, we find booths and small gardens!

I then go to the Toy Museum! It was very funny and original. Did you know that Nuremberg is considered the city of toys? It's getting late and we should go home. We first went to a supermarket to buy dinner and returned to the hotel. The hotel is not worth anything for the price. The dinner has been fine.

Day 5 - Munich

Today we move towards Munich to the south of Germany. The route left me in awe. Munich is a really beautiful city. It is elegant and stately, with a well-preserved old quarter, in which stands out the Neo-Gothic town hall of Marienplatz with its dancing sculptures. It is the neuralgic center of the town. It has nothing to do with the cosmopolitan and ultra-modern Berlin. In Munich, the Bavarians walk around in their traditional costumes without having to be festive in broad daylight.

It is time to visit the city when the most emblematic festival in Germany, the Oktoberfest, is celebrated. In addition to this, the city has several interesting attractions, including the BMW Museum. But eventually, we realize that life in Munich really revolves around beer. I will not go much into the theme because I have an exclusive Oktoberfest blog for it.

We ate in a central and famous place, on the main street, along with a beer. We order a delicious knuckle and some typical Bavarian white sausage called Weisswurst with puree. For dessert, we have an apple strudel! In the evening, we make a visit to the Hofbrauhaus, the largest brewery in Germany, founded in 1591. It is a traditional place with a history, where there is the beer of all kinds and textures.

If you order a beer (normal) they will give you a liter jug. I always asked for a "small beer", and they serve half a liter. The charming Biergarten unfolds in the parks. Ideal for the sunset, it is an impromptu outdoor beer garden where they set up beer stalls and typical food such as sausages, to enjoy at long tables with wooden benches. It serves as an excuse to engage in conversation with the locals. They are all over Germany. And, to finish, we travel by train to Dachau, the one that was the first Nazi concentration camp, preserved as a Memorial.

To say goodbye to the Bavarian capital, we have one last walk and a refreshing beer in a Biergarten.

Neuschwanstein Germany wallpaper

Day 6 - Fussen

We rented a car and set off to the south of Bavaria on the edge of the Alps, very close to the Austrian border. Leaving the Bavarian capital and leaving behind the busy highway, the real Germany begins. It gets green and greener. There are meadows with cows and horses, farms where they sell milk and fresh cheese, and continental forests. Our goal is the so-called Castles of the Mad King, built by Ludwig II of Bavaria, next to the beautiful village of Fussen, in a dream landscape. It is perched on a cliff in the foothills of the mountain, between forests and waterfalls and at the foot of a glacial lake.

The visit to the castle of the father, Schloss Hohenschwangau, and then to that of Louis II takes a whole day. For the ticket, fortunately, we only wait fifteen minutes in line. Both are spectacular, but it is Neuschwanstein that takes the cake. Inspired by Wagner's romantic operas, it recreates in a fantasy world of medieval legends, with rooms covered in tapestries painted with princesses and nymphs of story, typical of the romantic era. It inspired none other than Walt Disney to create the castle of the Sleeping Beauty.

Late in the afternoon, we took a walk through Fussen, a town as beautiful as it is quiet. On a terrace, we had a beer and a salad, before going to rest from the long day. As for accommodation, we booked in Hohenschwangau itself, at the foot of Neuschwanstein, a village ski resort with only hotels and shops. From the balcony of the room, we slept with the glare of the lights of the solitary castle shrouded in fog.

Day 7 - Lake Constance

We said goodbye to a Neuschwanstein wrapped in the mist in the morning to get to Lake Constance. But first, we decided to stop at the university city of Ulm to see its famous cathedral. Its tower is presumed to be the highest in the world, rising 167 meters above ground level. We go up and I can only say it is not suitable for those who suffer vertigo! In Ulm, we have snacks and go towards Lake Constance.

Known as the Bodensee, this huge lake, besides being the largest in Western Europe, borders Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. We glimpse the blue in the distance. Bodensee, more than a lake, looks like a small sea from the south, whose cities look splendid on its shores. There are stately and ancient cities, bustling and happy.

We arrive at Lindau. After a splendid time, we went through its cobbled streets of houses with a colorful facade, elegant and flowered. We bought bread, sausage, and fruit and had a very pleasant lunch in a park on the edge of the lake, with the background noise of the jingling of beer steins in the Biergarten. After lunch, we went to Meersburg, an adjoining city and as beautiful as the previous one. There are cobblestone streets, toy houses and a stone castle with a drawbridge just like in the movies.

In Meersburg, we had enough problems to find accommodation. It was a very touristy place! Luckily we found a little hotel on the outskirts that just had just one room. It was a little out of our budget, but there was no other! After this trance, we toured the charming city and even took a refreshing swim in an area of the lake, taking advantage of the pleasant ambient temperature of about 20 degrees. To end a perfect day at the Bodensee, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the pier.

Day 8 - Schaffhausen

The day dawned as sunny as the previous one and we had a quick breakfast with the idea of arriving that same day in the Black Forest. But first, we take a small detour to neighboring Switzerland and stop in the medieval city of Schaffhausen. Here the Rhine passes with all its power and plummets vertiginously and noisily into spectacular waterfalls.

We descent a hundred steps with incredible views of the water, where it is almost impossible to stop getting wet. In Schaffhausen, we took a walk and have a coffee that was costly. We ran back to the "affordable" Germany. An hour later we finally arrived at the Black Forest, named after the Romans because of the dark and impenetrable wooded thicket that perches on the slopes of the mountains.

It is a place of legends of fairies, elves and naughty goblins who go out to wander through the forest on full moon nights. The entrance to this vast extension from the south is through Titisee, a small town with a beautiful lake of the same name.

We found accommodation in a Gasthaus. The owners, who did not speak a dash of English, offered us a spacious room with terrace and bathroom including breakfast. We have lunch in the sun on a terrace full of German tourists. We order goulash with meat and beer. For dessert, we have coffee and tart from the Black Forest, made with cherries and chocolate. It is a delight for the sweet tooth! That night a tremendous storm fell, reminding us the arrival of autumn.

Day 9 - Freiburg

In the morning, the weather was much cooler than the day before and much more cloudy. Even so, we do not stop taking an alternative route to reach our next destination. Freiburg is the capital of the Black Forest. The previous day they had recommended to us in the town that, instead of taking the main route, we take an alternative that consists of going up and down Feldberg (1,493 m), the highest peak of the Black Forest.

We did it and despite the fog, the landscape captivated us. It is a winding little road between trees and waterfalls. It is a trip between pure nature! We continue to Schlossberg one of the most important convents in Germany. It is an authentic walled city. We do not entertain ourselves too much. We see the Romanesque basilica and we return to the lower city.

We look for a place to eat and find an Italian restaurant. With a view of the beautiful square, we see the movement of people while we wait for the pizzas to be served. Around afternoon we arrived in Freiburg, in the heart of the Black Forest. We found accommodation in a gastehaus on the outskirts of Schwarzwald Straube. We were treated by a lady who did not even speak a word of English. We stayed with the idea of visiting the university city without hurry.

We spent the whole day walking through the charming city. Its Romanesque cathedral made of pink stone is the oldest in Christendom. It is worth the visit, walking among its lonely walls. The medieval stained glass windows donated by the guilds back in the 13th century, project on the floor the colors and shapes of their rose windows.

The square of the cathedral is also the center of the city, surrounded by ancient and emblematic buildings, such as the Archbishop's Palace. Here the statue of Emperor Maximilian and his son Philip stand out, recalling the glorious times of the Empire when Spain and Germany were related by means of matrimonial and political alliances. In the Munsterplatz, in addition, the central market is there. It is a pleasure to walk through it, among flower stalls, crafts and the delicious smell of the sausages sold in the stalls.

In the Jewish quarter, we see plaques with the names of the people who were deported from there to the extermination camps. We see the towers that were built to cross its entrance, the old and new town hall, and the St. Martin's church. For dinner, we have a delicious bratwurst. We buy a beer from a little street stand, taking advantage of the good weather!

Day 10 - Triberg

In the morning we dive again into the sea of trees on our route crossing the Black Forest from south to north, to reach one of the wildest areas. Triberg is the small towns famous for handmade cuckoo clocks, which have been manufactured since the eighteenth century. Our first stop is Schonach, a small town. Here we admire the one recorded on the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest cuckoo clock. Although they later built another little bigger in the neighboring Triberg.

Just a few kilometers down is Triberg, a village next to which is located a leafy natural park with the highest waterfall in Germany. After having lunch and looking for accommodation, in a brand new wooden gastehaus by the river, we enjoyed a lovely walk in the park, surrounded by the greenery of the trees, the moss and the refreshing sound of the waterfall.

At the entrance, we bought a bag of peanuts to feed the squirrels. They were jumping and playful. It was impossible to get them to remain still to immortalize them in a snapshot. In the afternoon the town was totally dark and dead! There was not a single bar to have a beer. With this lively panorama, we bought food in a supermarket that was on the outskirts and we had dinner in the room.

Day 11 - Baden-Baden

A foggy morning awakes us without taking away the desire to continue north, to the spa town of Bad Wildbad. In Gutach we made a long stop to visit the Black Forest Open Air Museum. It is a set of traditional farms from several centuries ago. Here they recreate what life was like in this corner of the map before TV and other modernities connected us to the outside world. It was very interesting and illustrative!

At noon we arrived at Bad Wildbad. We only found a small restaurant for lunch that was expensive. At the top of the Sommerberg mountain, among the forest, is a pretty guest house, with flowered balconies and beautiful views. We enjoyed a pleasant stay. The owner told us about his picturesque life in this isolated village of the Black Forest, where in winter his children go to school on skis.

In the afternoon we go to Baden-Baden, the famous spa town. Although pretty, I found it somewhat expensive and artificial. Actually, I had heard wonders and was a little disappointed. During the night, we are back to Bad Wildbad. We tried to find a bar open between the lonely streets and to our surprise we found it. Filled with locals, they were very surprised by our arrival. It is not there in the tourist guides. The hospitable owner ended up talking with us and inviting us to shots of homemade cherry liqueur!

Frankfurt Germany wallpaper

Day 12 - Frankfurt

We left the Black Forest and took the highway back to Frankfurt. A whole morning of travel awaits us, although on a good road. The urban legend is true. On German highways, there is no speed limit! We quickly get to Hemsbach, near Heidelberg. Frankfurt does not have the charisma of other German cities such as Munich, Cologne or Berlin but it does have a wide variety of museums that entertain us.

The main attraction is the Dom, or the main Cathedral dating from the fourteenth century. This was where the emperors, of what is now known as Germany, were crowned. In addition to the Cathedral, we visit its famous cider houses that are located in the Sachsenhausen district. After Frankfurt, our stop is Cologne, the fourth largest city in Germany, preceded by Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. It was a city that I was looking forward to.

I had been told very well about it and it did not disappoint me. The first thing we see is its Cathedral, which is one of the most recognized in Europe for its architectural style. Walking through the old town we see that it includes more than two thousand years of history, from the arrival of the Romans to the reconstruction of the city after the World War II.

In this pleasant walk we find places of historical interest, but when we reach the Cologne Cathedral, we had to stop and see its majesty. Its official name is Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria and is the most famous cathedral in Germany. It is one of the largest churches in the world, being the largest Gothic church in northern Europe.

Finally, we try the Kolsch, the beer that has been produced in Cologne for more than 700 years. It is a clear, light beer with a high fermentation. All the surroundings are what is known as the old part (Altstadt). We see several old buildings. We visit a brewery and order a Kolsch. We sleep well as our flight is next afternoon.

After traveling more than 5,000 km we have returned enchanted. The Germany that we knew, many years ago, has nothing to do with the Germany that we have met. The people, in general, are friendly and sociable, very different from the trip we did years ago. We have seen charming villages, little touristic places of great beauty and monumental cities.

It was a deliberate choice on our part to leave at this time of the year to alternate visits but miss the atmosphere of the Christmas markets. We did not regret this choice. The reputation of the German Christmas markets was up, making a lighter atmosphere on another trip after our cultural or historical visits.

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