The last couple of blog posts have been really long, so we’re keeping this one a bit shorter. We’ll let the pictures do the talking.
After our month in England and Scotland, we found some cheap flights from Glasgow to Berlin, and we were happy to get there. We really love Berlin, a city steeped with history and culture. We also visited Leipzig, Hannover, Frankfurt, and Munich during our three weeks in Germany.
Scott worked a lot while we were in Berlin, so I spent a fair bit of time off on my own. I spent my time taking the best free walking tours I’ve been on to-date (via Sandemans Tours) and visiting the major sites the city has in abundance, including the nearby city of Potsdam. The places that I found most interesting were those that have to do with Nazism and Communism:
- Hitler’s bunker, which is also where he killed himself. The location is now an ugly car parking lot, quite intentionally — it’s been left unmarked and unremarkable because the city doesn’t want it to become a memorial.
- The spot, a few yards away from the former bunker, where Hitler’s body was burned by his own men because he didn’t want it to be used by the Allies. This spot is now a children’s sandpit!
- The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; this place is both emotionally and visually striking, although somewhat ambiguous, with each visitor left to interpret its meaning. The designer purposefully chose not to explain it because, no matter what he said, how could he accurately capture what the Holocaust meant to the survivors and descendants of the millions of people killed, imprisoned, watched, relocated, etc.?
- The Berlin Wall that once surrounded East Germany, cutting off the West from the East. The original wall, made of barbed wire fencing, was built in one day, and no one was allowed to cross it without approval from the government.
- The Brandenburg Gate, where Germany’s royalty, as well as Napoleon and Hitler, marched through to take over the city and country. It was heavily damaged during the wars but was left standing and it served as a symbol of division between East and West. Later, after the Wall fell, it became a symbol of unification.
- The square where Hitler’s army burned books for the first time in May 1933.
- The Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany; there, in 1945, the three leaders of the USSR, UK, and USA (Stalin, Churchill, and Truman) met to split up Germany after the Nazis were defeated.
While in Potsdam, I also saw the New Palace, built by King Friedrich II, begun in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War and completed in 1769. It’s considered to be the last great Prussian Baroque castle. I also saw Sanssouci Palace, which was the summer home to Frederick the Great. It was actually pretty small in comparison to many others but was very beautiful.
We didn’t just see the sights, though. We had a really nice evening with one of Scott’s former colleagues from CCP, Andrew Harmon, and his wife April Laws Harmon. After dinner, we went along with them to the birthday party of a colleague of theirs. Andy and April, thanks for showing us the town and letting us be part of your crowd for the evening!
That night, amazingly, Scott was also surprised to meet a fellow London, Ontario, Canada, native who happened to have worked at the same Berlin game company as the Harmons and just happened to be back in town visiting: Stephie Theodora. It turns out Stephie and Scott both know many of the same people among the theatre folks of London. Sometimes it is just crazy how and when and where our circles of friends intersect!
After recovering from our late night out in Berlin, we moved on to Leipzig, said to be “the new Berlin.” It’s also the hometown of Johann Sebastian Bach. We walked around the Old Town, stumbled upon a Journeyman festival, and saw the church where Bach was choirmaster. On my own, I also visited a very cool panorama exhibition of what the Titanic looks like as it sits 3,800 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean.
One of the coolest and cheapest walking tours we’ve done was in Hannover. Just €3 bought us a guidebook that took us throughout the city along the “Red Thread,” literally a red line painted on the ground, directing you to each site, numbered corresponding to the guidebook, which provides information about each. It was a creative and inexpensive way to see the major sites in the inner city, including art installations, the New Town Hall (with models of the city at various points in its history), a delicious market hall, and the Herrenhäuser Gardens.
Frankfurt was incredibly fun, mostly because I got to visit my friend, Andrea Brückl, whom I first met while studying abroad in London back in my university days. We hadn’t seen each other in over a decade, but it was like no time had passed… well, except that she now has two kids and we are both married. 🙂
While visiting Andrea, we went on a walking tour of the city, toured a castle, walked around the Rheingau wine region, ate delicious food, drank yummy wine, and played lots of games with her two sweet boys. I wish we lived closer because we always have so much fun; I laugh till I’m exhausted.
Thank you, Andrea, for a wonderful time! I adore you and can’t wait until we can meet up again. You are one of my absolute favorite people, my single most favorite memory of university, and the very best part of our visit to Germany!
It was a once in a lifetime chance that we would be in Germany during Oktoberfest, so we just had to go. Pauline Bond, Scott’s cousin from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, also met us for this leg of our Germany trip.
The first thing we did when we arrived was to buy our costumes for the fest (and even Scott got into it!). We’d been told that it is practically mandatory to dress up, and the people who said so were right; the vast majority of people we saw there were dressed up in dirndl and lederhosen. We found a secondhand shop and got fully decked out!
The next day, Pauline and I went on a walking tour of the city, which was great. Afterwards we had lunch and then hit up the Hofbrauhaus, a famous beer garden where we sat with some guys from the States and enjoyed a few liters of beer before Scott joined us later on. We stayed out very late, and I paid the price the next day; I rallied that night, though, and we met up with Pauline at Oktoberfest. We went to the Augustiner beer tent. It was a huge party! People and beer everywhere, with a very loud, very fun band in the middle, playing lively music. We had a few beers and called it a night, but Pauline partied like a rock star with some new friends she met there.
The next day, Scott and I went back and found our way to the Old Oktoberfest tents, which are the authentic, original Oktoberfest experience. We really loved this area and highly recommend it for those who want a more traditional, less “drink-till-you-can’t-see-straight” experience. No one mentions it, but Oktoberfest is also a large carnival, with games, rides, and food stalls everywhere, in addition to the massive beer “tents” (which are really permanent structures, not tent-like pavilions). We walked around a fair bit just seeing all the colorful lights and sounds.
A bit later, Pauline met up with us and we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Amsterdam, where my friend Amanda Sperling would soon also be arriving to visit the Gingers for a second time (the first being her visit to Greece)!
More on the Amsterdam leg of our trip in our next blog.
—Connie and Scott