Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Euro Trip : To Paris, and everything since the last one

Thus begins our journey to Paris. Our last early morning rise to catch a 6:30am train from Berlin to Karlsruhe, sit around for an hour or so at noon, then trundle on board another train for the remainder of the ten hour trip.

The last entry covered leaving Venice, and heading for Munich. The thermals came in very handy. On our first afternoon, we went for a wander to a camping store, to pick up some more socks for me, passing by the university and a few monuments. The biggest thing to get used to was organized traffic and cyclists that shared part of the footpath with pedestrians. They wore no helmets, which was a little off putting, but then again, no one was traveling at breakneck speeds and they generally kept single file.

The next day was a bus ride to Neuschwanstein (think new-swan-stone, but replace the w with a v; that is also the literal translation) and Lindehoff (there could be an umlaut in there). This was my second trip to the stein, but is was no less impressive. The tour was with the standard Grayline coach tour, but the tour host was able to off extra information about Munich, Bavaria, the castles and their designer, the "Mad" King Ludwig II.

I tend to think of Ludwig as the Sad king. Bought to power as a king too young (18yrs), his role was a disappointment to him, as he was not a true king (as was Louis XIV, who he greatly admired) and had to share power with a parliament. Already being painfully shy, he set about doing what he really wanted to do, build castles and keep to himself.

Lindehoff was the only castle completed in his lifetime. It was a homage to Louis XIV, and only showed images of the Sun King. It was also quiet small, meaning only to house Ludwig and his servants. I could go on and on, but Google is your friend, and check it out if you have the chance. It seems the rest of Germany view the castles as a place to visit for Japanese tourists.

Ludwig died a "mysterious" death with the doctor that had declared him as mad, before he had met him. My guess is that once the doctor did meet him, and perhaps concluded that he was not mad, they were both killed, but it was made to look like some arranged murder/suicide via drowning (apparently they both drowned, by the side of a lake). Modern forensics could probably deduce a less mysterious conclusion. It was a sad ending to a 700 year rule by one royal family over Bavaria.

Also, while in Munich, I did spy the hotel that I stayed in, some 7 or so years ago. Hotel Stachus was still there, now flanked by a KFC and a department store. The character of that part of Munich seemed to have changed, with a vest increase in tourists, beggars and people going about their business. Or may they just weren't piled in the tents of the Oktoberfest grounds this time.

The next port of call was Bremen. The wad a very nice two day stay, as we stayed with distant relatives of Annika. It turns out that in former times there were three families of Treuels located in the Bremen area on the banks of the river Elb(?), although no link has been found between those families. Also, the actual meaning of Treuel is a little hazy, too, but it is thought that it might be related to the job of pulling ships up the river. Given that Bremen was such a major port, there may be no relationship between the three families except for the job common to them. DNA tests could probably determine any blood relationship, but since the Australian Treuels keep sending fakes to this particular family, it probably doesn't matter. The German pronunciation of Treuel would give Australians even more issue than they already have. Treuel often gets transcribed as Trevel or Truel. If you roll your Rs, and say troil, but with a really short O, you'll get close to how it is normally pronounced. It's almost one syllable.

The Treuel family are wonderful, generous people and showed us around Bremen and some of the surrounding areas. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant at the end of a dyke path, and were treated to a very fun interactive museum of natural history called the Universum Bremen. 

Our next stop was Berlin. With only one full day in Berlin, we aimed to make the most if it with walking tours from Alexanderplatz(?) to the Brandenburg Tor, and side trips out to Sachsenhausen(?) and Checkpoint Charlie. Wombats is a great hostel, but the clientele are quick to forget that not everyone is out and about at 2 and 5am, especially that group of noisy boys staying on level 2. So we has a bit of a late start, but a mostly fine day, exploring some of Germanys grim history. Small tip for fellow travelers. The S1, north, seems to have some track works between Frohnau and Birkenwerder, so you may wish to grab a cheap Sunday all day pass and catch a PEG from Litchenburg(?) to Oranienburg instead. Or, do the bus transfer available, instead. It was a bit confusing for the non locals, like us.

After the grimness of Sachsenhausen, Checkpoint Charlie was not as we had expected. There is a checkpoint still there, with two soldiers posing for souvenir photos. However, the rest is a boarded paneled wall, telling the tales of the walls construction and attempted escapes, blocking what could be construction of a proper memorial. There was no portion of original wall to be seen, but it was dark and perhaps we were looking in the wrong spot.

One tour pamphlet we were reading was saying that Berlin was not pretty, constructed with concrete slabs. Take away the German signs, and we could have been in parts of Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. Maybe it was because of the relative newness of the city compared with other parts of Europe that are still sporting their ruins from older times.

We strongly recommend the Vietnamese restaurant across the road from Wombats. It's top quality and very reasonably priced, with an entree and main coming to about €10 each, excluding drinks.

I'm glad Paris is the second last stop for us, and that we are there for a few days before moving on. All this train travel makes me feel  like I'm moving, even when I'm not.

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