Thursday, April 9, 2009

Berlin - What can I say...

I begin this blog from CityStay Hostel in Berlin, Germany. I have about 2 hours till my train leaves so I thought I would begin my record of traveling through Berlin. Why sit at a computer the last little bit you say? Well my feet hurt, my brain hurts from information overload and I am lacking from sleep. So what can I say about Berlin...The people are unique and it shows in very many different ways. Through the clothing, actions, art, and everything about them. Considering the history of this place, being torn apart by different governments, people being separated from loved ones for 30 plus years, and having to rebuild the city with little funding (I heard they are 60 million € in debt) they have come a long way. There are still signs of struggle either through torn down buildings or expression of thoughts in art; it is a different atmosphere than I am used to I guess.

Brandenburg Gate: City gate to Berlin, symbol of Germany history

But I do applaud the courage these people have. It would not be easy to stand up against some of the most powerful leaderships in the world and eventually come out on top. And it is not 100% victory yet. That is evident in the empty lots or building faces made of scaffolding and posters.

Besides the constant sewer smell and the 'european smell' of the spring Berlin does not stink. Its been an overwhelming trip but I have enjoyed seeing and learning more about the culture and history here in Berlin. I have been able to experience and see many different spots that were crucial in the World Wars and Cold War. I have walked along parts of the Wall that divided this nation. I have seen Bebelsplatz where the Nazis burned 22,000 books from Humboldt University that did not coincide with their philosophies.
Then...

Book burning: May 10th, 1933


Now...Bebelplatz: place of book burning
Humboldt University is also a place where the Brothers Grimms went to school and Einstein taught (but only for a short period of time). I have walked in buildings where people feared their lives daily because of injustice. I have stood where people watched other people be shot at and could do nothing to save that person. I have walked through Checkpoint Charlie, where thousands of people risked their lives and lives of loved ones so that they could be reunited. I have had a reality check. And I wonder if I was there what my actions would have been...

Checkpoint Charlie

Part of the Berlin Wall still standing near Checkpoint Charlie

Berliner Dom: church, cool building

Just another creative door on the streets of Berlin.

Also as I have walked and biked (yes I took a bike tour) the streets of Berlin I am really amazed at the continual pull these Berliners have to reconstruct their city and lives. There is enough housing for 11 million but only 3 million live there. The unemployment rate is extremely high and many buildings have yet to be rebuilt from bombings in WWII. In parts of the town you have to look close because you may think you are looking at a new building but it is just scaffolding holding up plastic that is a picture of a building. There is not enough money to build these buildings so they just fill in the empty space with fake buildings. That was very interesting.
Does the building with the green roof look familiar? Maybe you remember seeing it when Michael Jackson dangled his child over the balcony for the crowds?

Bikin' the streets of Berlin

But Berlin was not all wonderment of the past and hope for the future. I did see a little bit of sunbathing "European style." I just don't know why the dude picked a 'shady' spot though...?!?!?!! I had lots of fun on the bike tour, which I highly recommend if traveling to a big city. Berlin is flat so it was an easy ride and why not give your feet a break eh? Check out "Fat Bike Tours" if you what a good time.
Schloss Cecelienhof: Place where Potsdam Conference took place in 1945. Stalin, Churchill, and Truman where present.

Orangerie in Park Sansoucci, Potsdam

Schloss Sansoucci: Summer Palace of Frederick the Great in Potsdam, Germany

Dear ol' Trabi car


Jess, this one is for you! - Ampelmann: new symbol for safe walking in Berlin


Well, that's my thoughts and maybe someday more on Berlin because believe me, there is so much mor to Berlin... Take care, Steph.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Neuschwanstein - my new home...

AMAZING!! I don't even know how one could build this castle high in the Alps let alone even IMAGINE such a beautiful creation! King Ludwig II may have been diagnosed mentally insane but he sure could have put Martha Stewart in her place. She has nothing on that man!! The only sad thing is that Ludwig never saw the completion of the castle due to 'dying' a.k.a. probably committing suicide in a lake near Munich 7 months before its completion. (3rd floor has never been completed).

I still can't believe I saw this beautiful, breath-taking structure (inside and out). I just thought it was a 3-D puzzle. But no; it is 3-D reality. Now I know why Walt Disney used the castle as inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle. (I just want to know where Prince Phillip was today...) Due to the lack of flat land, it was hard to take a picture of the whole castle once you where up there. The only other option was to step off the side of the mountain and that castle would be the last thing you saw in this life so the pics come in bits and pieces. I'm going to let you enjoy the pics without much 'commentary' from me. The pictures speak for themselves.

"High on a hill lived a beautiful castle,
La-dee-o-a -la-dee-o-a-a-lay-dee-who"


Entrance to the castle

You are not allowed to take pictures of the inside but you are able to take pictures out the windows so here are a few views from the windows. Oh and the kitchen you were allowed to take pics (or at least I hope-I was in bewilderment of the beauty of the castle and not listening to the tour guide.)
Faucet in the kitchen



Call me the "bag lady"!



Picture in 'front' of the window. If you look at the bottom of the pic you get a little view of the wall decor that is throughout the entire castle. Oh and did I mention lots and lots of gold leafing?

Ms. Mitchell, 1st grade teacher, who accompanied me up the mountain.

Oh before I end this I must mention that it was a beautiful day! I could not have asked for better weather but also it is quite the climb to the castle. Luckily there is a bus that weaves around the mountain but you still have to walk 10 minutes or so to the castle. I recommend water! The view from the mountain is breath-taking with the Alps on one side and a snow-spotted valley on the other with the town of Fussen below. I seriously thought I was walking in a painting because everything was so crisp and aw-mazing! On the walk back down the mountain I thought it would be easier to just roll down. (I do think they should rent out little hot wheel bikes, with brakes of course, to ride down the mountain. It would be AWESOME!) But along the way you have mini water fountains from the snow melting on top of the mountain. Just a little bit more heaven here on earth. For now, Auf Wiedersehen from Germany.

Friday, April 3, 2009