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May 31, 2011

Germany Day 4 - Munich

The weekend had arrived! It was Friday afternoon and my husband and I were on another ICE high speed train (reaching speeds up to 255 km per hour, which is 158 miles per hour) and on our way to Munich. We'd be spending the weekend there until our departure to the airport on Monday night.

Our hotel was in Olympic Park - Four Points by Sheraton and we received a free upgrade and were in an executive room. Olympic Park was constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. There was lots to do in the park, but I had a few places picked out that I wanted to see in Munich, so we didn't spend too much time there. After a long train ride, we caught a late dinner, had some ice cream and turned in so we were well rested to begin our day as a tourist on Saturday morning.

Munich is a very large city, and in my opinion, very touristy. It's the Bavaria of Germany. We took the U or the Underground to the city and checked out the Marienplatz or the town center with the town hall. There were people everywhere - because it was a Saturday is one of my guesses, because it was a busy city and because all of the tourists had come to check out the sites! There was also some sort of protest of Nuclear energy going on. We were unable to understand exactly what was being said, but we received a flyer and there were several "people" that went down when the "nuclear alarm" sounded. Sadly it was comical for my husband and I. 

We stopped at St. Peter's Church and I was quickly "sushed" from taking photos (I even had the flash off!). The main areas of the pews were roped off so we entered into one door, and looked at as much as we could and exited out another door. There was a private event going on, possibly a baptism. I tried not to gawk and actually wanted to get out of there as soon as I was spotted and scolded. When we exited, we saw the entrance and payment area to climb the tower allowing us to view the entire city. There were over 300 steps and it was a breeze! Worth the climb for the views!

We stumbled upon the Viktualienmarkt which is similar to an outdoor farmer's market - food, fresh fruit and vegetables, meats and cheeses, eggs, flowers, plants, dried goods, beer and wine. We grabbed some strawberries and a banana and water and headed out to explore other parts of the city. We didn't have a very big to-do list, but had a small map that showed some notable places.

We came upon a beer garden - Hofbräuhaus. The most famous which we both saw and heard was a tourist trap. We walked through the noisy tavern and opted not to get a beer simply for the novelty. It was loud, old and neatly decorated, but I felt like we had to maximize our visit in Munich so stopping for a beer wasn't a necessity.

We then took the U, or underground subway to the Neue Pinakothek museum. My next entry will pick up there. I can already "see" a few of my faithful stalkers rolling their eyes to my continued blogging about Germany!

 

Town Hall in Munich.

 

Nuclear Protest.

St Peter's

 

Steps to the top of the tower. You only travel on about 2 flights of these stairs - which I assume are original - before you begin to climb on more modern wood stairs. 

 

Hofbräuhaus

 

May 26, 2011

Germany Day 3 - Wuppertal

We arrived in Wuppertal to meet another one of my husband's co-workers. Wuppertal is the location of my husband's European head quarters and his American co-worker had been in Germany working for two weeks. He was happy to see us, simply for the English conversation. We checked into our hotel which was a piece of art.

The Art Fabrik Hotel in Wuppertal, Germany was once a factory that was converted into an artistic hotel. When we arrived, we were given two room keys, we were able to view and choose which room we wanted. Each room was decorated uniquely, in an artsy like decor. I will say the hotel was so-so. It seemed to be a little ratty and ragged and needed a good once-over. But it was a fun experience for one night. I didn't get to check out much of the hotel because the next morning I checked out and headed to Düsseldorf. My husband warned me that Wuppertal was very industrial and there was not a lot to do in that city.

The exterior of the hotel - former factory. 

 

Entrance to the lobby.

 

 

The view from our hotel room.

The interior of our room.

My husband loved the plywood floor that was super shellacked. 

We each had our own tub.

 

The city of Wuppertal.

This is the Germany Home Depot - Bauhaus

 

 

Some sort of crazy three-wheel car!

 

I was less than impressed with Düsseldorf, but I will give the city another chance. I think I was tired of walking around alone all day, without being able to talk to anyone, without being able to read the signs or flyers or understand what was coming through the loud speaker when I was on the train. I got a map at a hotel and started walking. I made it to one church and took photos and walked around the inside and outside. Then I headed back to Wuppertal to meet my husband to take a 5 hour train ride to Munich and enjoy the weekend!

I ran into this cathedral and went inside to explore and take photos. St. Mary's Church - Düsseldorf

 

 

 

I lit a candle and said a few prayers. 

The organ was huge. 

 

 

 

May 23, 2011

Germany Day 2 - Bochum

We took a high speed train - ICE, Inter City Express - from the airport to Bochum. We had first class tickets so we were able to ride in luxury. We ate on the train and I took a short nap - maybe 30 minutes and when I woke up, I felt like a million bucks. We were teetering on 34 hours of no sleep.

We arrived at a Park Inn in Bochum. It was a very nice hotel and I would gladly stay there again. I don't know how my husband managed to stay awake a few more hours and send some emails for work, but I crashed as soon as I arrived and was out like a light. I felt amazing when I woke up. We met for breakfast (the co worker was still tagging along) and then I tried the mini gym the hotel had.

The mini gym was great, because I was free. Free to spend as much or as little time in there as I wanted to. No one came in, or interrupted me. There was a sauna, locker and changing room, showers, treadmill, elliptical machine, and bike as well as weights. And for two euros you could use their tanner. I ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes, did 30 push ups and 30 ab movements. I wanted to stay longer but the two English speaking TV channels we had in our hotel room were not offered in the mini gym. And I was in Europe! The last thing I needed to do was spend hours working out!

This hotel was my first taste of European style (aside from IKEA). I liked the circle light switches, the shower head that was in the middle of the bath tub (eliminating your elbows from hitting the shower curtains because you have to turn the length of the tub to shower), the gummy bears on my pillow at night, the Senso 1 cup coffee maker. But I didn't like the location of the toilet flusher. It was on the side of the wall, but I didn't know where it was like on my good ol' American Standard toilet. So when I got up around 4am, I was unable to flush the toilet without turning on the light. And you know how blinding the hotel bathroom lights can be!

That morning, after the gym, I took a shower and enjoyed time by myself. I may have put the robe and slippers on and sipped a cup of coffee in bed, under my cushy white duvet because I could. I may have plucked facial hairs and eyebrows in the ultra magnifying bathroom mirror because I could. I may have stood in the shower for an extended period of time and enjoyed the overly hot water and shaved my legs twice because I could. I may have taken a very long time to get dressed, dry my hair and put on my makeup because I could. I didn't have anywhere to be, anyone to get ready to take to day care, any laundry to get done, lunches to be made or phone calls to answer. It was  F A B U L O U S!

I ventured out onto another 15 minute walk to a mining museum. This walk took me over an hour because I'd get turned around and find myself in a market area and then have to back track and re-read the map and figure out where I was. But I made it! It was a beautiful day for walking and when I arrived, I took some photos outside and then asked about the tour being in English. I was told "no English" by the ticket booth. But the hotel clerk told me it was in English. So rather than waste my euros (the exchange rate stinks) I decided to skip the museum and continue walking.

As I was taking photos outside, I stumbled upon the gardens. My husband told me about these gardens on his second trip. They are plots, owned by the city that residents rent. Each lot has a "shack" type building. I saw these from the train and just happened to stumble upon them while walking outside of the mining museum. Most of them were very well manicured. While I was walking through this park-like garden area, I saw a couple sitting on lawn chairs chatting in the sun.

On my way back to my hotel, I stumbled upon some good photo opportunities including a cathedral that was under construction, but it was still beautiful from the outside! And then I ran into an ice cream parlor, and was in heaven.

Exterior of the Mining Museum - Deutsches Bergbaumuseum

 

Here are the gardens!

 

 

They each had a tiny door as their entrance. 

Some had swing sets and play structures for kids. 

 

I'm thinking this is some sort of pest catcher. 

The Cathedral I stumbled upon. 

 

 

The FIRST semi truck I saw in a city!

The mail man was delivering mail on a bike.

For those who love the television show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

The price of gas! This shows 1.42 euros for 1 liter of gasoline.

If I did my calculations correctly, the conversion is $7.50 a gallon. Maybe you won't complain about $4.00 a gallon next time you are at the pump.

 

Back to meet my husband I went, we had dinner, ice cream and boarded a train and headed to Wuppertal to our hotel for the night. 

May 20, 2011

Germany Day 1 - Mainz to Russelsheim to Bochum

I failed to mention one of my goals while in Mainz was to obtain a cell phone. A few days before my trip we called Verizon and were notified it takes about a week to get a loaner phone for European travel and since I just upgraded, I wasn't about to purchase a new phone. It took a good hour or so, and I picked up my new German Handy with my new German phone number. The men at the Conrad Electronic store were very helpful, but for some reason we were unable to call my husband. We were trying every International Dialing Code to reach him and had no luck. I left the store thinking I would eventually figure it out because I was flustered with the one guy's inability to speak any English and the other guy's broken English. But I really wanted to stay until I was able to call a US number, which was my main goal while in Germany. 

I headed to the train station to make my 3:30 pm deadline to be in Rüsselsheim to meet my husband. I missed my train because I was instructed by my American travel companion to always take the "S" train and the one that arrived at the platform did not say "S" so I did not get on. But there was another train leaving 15 minutes later for the same destination, so I was all set. But, in my fear of not meeting my husband in time and him thinking I was mugged, robbed, beaten, raped and sold into prostitution, and coming to look for me, I thought our paths might cross and he would end up in Mainz looking to save me while I was in Rüsselsheim looking for him. So I asked a German for a favor. I asked him to use his laptop which he clearly had internet access on while sitting outside on the train platform. I was able to email my husband my German Handy number and he was able to read his email on his blackberry and call me back. Ever since that first call, I was able to get in touch with him with my new phone without any problems.

I made it safely to Rüsselsheim from Mainz taking the train by myself. When I arrived, I had to wait for my husband and then wait around a little more because he had a second meeting come up.

Rüsselsheim is an industrial town and my husband was there to work on Opel automobiles. I wandered around the town while he went to another meeting before we headed to Bochum for the night. This tow was quieter, not as busy or loud as Mainz. Not quite as beautiful, but still fun. It was around 4pm and there were kids on balance bikes riding through the streets with their mom, shouting German at each other. I sat and waited for my husband outside of a cafe sipping caffee (coffee) and enjoying a pastry. My biggest complaint about outdoor seating is cigarette smoke. And the Germans LOVE to smoke. I tolerated the smoke and attempted to stay awake as long as I could - at this point, I had been up for 28 hours so sitting down made me want to fall asleep.

So I wandered through the town and took photos. 

This is the Opel Plant

Adam Opel

This little girl was having a blast in the water bubbles that were on the square in front of the Opel plant.

 

Artwork in one of the town squares I stumbled upon.

 

A street

All of the taxis are this color!

 

Once my husband's meetings were over, we boarded a train back to the airport to pick up our luggage and headed to Bochum on the train. 

May 18, 2011

Germany Day 1 - DTW to FRA to Mainz

My trip to Germany began on a Tuesday evening when I boarded a plan from DTW and flew to FRA - Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Germany is 6 hours ahead of us, so when we arrived at 7:15 a.m. local time, it was 1:15 a.m. in Detroit. I tried to sleep on the plane but I must have been giddy knowing I would be in Europe very soon! You see, this Germany trip has been "in the works" for some time. My husband and I talked about Rachel and I tagging along on one of his business trips last summer when she was 6 months old, and that date got pushed back to the fall, then he went on a few shorter trips without us and and finally this spring I was able to come with him. It was somewhat last minute, and I didn't want to get my hopes up in case I wasn't able to go, so I didn't talk about it much, I didn't do a lot of research on where I would be going. I just sat tight until it was official-which was about a week before we left.

First of all, I love flying. I love the IFE - In Flight Entertainment - movies and games on international flights, I love the food and snacks and beverages you get, I even love the bathroom, unless it smells funky. I wasn't so sure about loving a 10 hour flight, but it wasn't 10 hours, it was 8 and a half. My husband and I sat next to each other which is always nice. I watched two movies on the way there and enjoyed my chicken dinner. We even had a breakfast snack an hour and a half before landing.

I spent a little time in the airport at Frankfurt with my husband while we waited for his co-worker to come on another flight from Atlanta. We simply hung out and my patience was wearing thin because I was ready to check out this new continent. I used the bathroom and it had a stink of pit toilets at National Parks, so my first initial impression of Germany was not a good one. The co-worker arrived late, we all purchased train tickets and stored our luggage at the airport and our day began. We hopped on the train to Rüsselsheim. My husband went off to work and I stayed on the train, traveling 15 minutes further to a city called Mainz.

I will admit, I was a little scared. I was in a country without a cell phone, without knowing any German language (not even how to say, "Hello") and I was alone. I exited the train and began following the people to the exit. I realized earlier "exit" in German is "Ausgang" which actually translates to "output." This one word, and two others I will reference later, were very helpful on my trip. 

The weekend before I left, I checked out a few books at the library and did some quick research on what I could do in these cities my husband said I would be near/visiting with him. I knew in Mainz there was a Church called Dom and the Gutenberg Museum. Being a Graphic Designer, I was very excited about this museum!  Those were my two goals, and I really wasn't worried or concerned about achieving either of them. I was just so happy to be in Germany and still in awe I was able to accompany my husband on this trip!

Once I made it outside of the train station onto the city square, I headed to the first hotel I saw  - Hotel Hammer - and asked for a map. I was told the Cathedral was very easy to get to, just a 15 minute walk, and was on my way. I was very conscious of checking my map at regular intervals to be sure I was on the correct street. Navigation wasn't easy because not all streets were named and I was very unfamiliar with the name of the streets or how to pronounce them. Things aren't in a nice grid pattern like I am used to. Plus, I was trying to keep my map hidden, because I didn't want to stand out as a tourist, although my husband tells me that all the Germans can spot the Americans, I'll disagree with that quickly on this trip.

The day was B E A U T I F U L! The sun was warm and shining and my yoga pants and fleece were all I needed to enjoy the day. I passed some great shops and landmarks, most of which I don't recall or even know what they were because I know no German, but they were different and cool and old. There were cafe's strung out here and there, fountains with people hanging out on the brick paved streets and groups of people walking. Twice I was asked something in German while in Mainz (clearly proving I don't look that American) and I simply said, "English only" and the people nodded and went on their way. I truly felt bad when a person would come up to me, or politely say what I thought was "excuse me" and then begin to talk to me as I stared at them like they had three eyes.

I found the church and I found the museum. But I failed to make it into either one. I was somewhat nervous being there alone, somewhat nervous getting off path and making it back to the train station in time - I had to go from Mainz back to Rüsselsheim to meet my husband and co worker at 3:30pm. I failed to remember to exchange money so I had a wad of US Dollars and a Credit Card with me. As for the church, I wasn't sure where the entrance was or if I could go in. So I took some photos from the outside. And as for the museum, I really had no idea where the entrance was. I did make it into a hands on workshop where a drove of kids were on a field trip and having a great time with the letter presses.

Figuring out the train map I was then back at the train station and on my way to Rüsselsheim to meet my husband and continue or day's journey. One of the first things I told my husband was that I wanted to LIVE in Mainz - just for 2 to 5 years.

And now the photos begin...I have over 1,000 of them and it is very hard to pick and choose which ones to post!

 

The Mainz Train Station

 

The City of Mainz

 

I think this is called the Schillerplatz. 

 

Giant wood type outside of the Gutenberg Workshop.

I still don't know what this building is. 

How can you NOT want to live here? 

I quickly taught myself if you ever get lost to follow the "rail" in the street. It almost always leads to the train station. 

 

The Dom Cathedral

 

Ahhh, a familiar site on day 1: The UPS guy was giving those people directions!

 

May 02, 2011

24 hours and Counting

I hate to admit what television show I just finished watching with my husband when we heard the news of Bin Laden being found and murdered. But that's another story, the big story here is that we are both on our way to Germany, two days after the world's number one terrorist was killed. Wish us luck and pray for our safety, short lines and lots of added TSA agents for all of the random searches and travel fun.