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21st March - Steiff Bears and Anka

Rayls at the Steiff Museum
Rayls at the Steiff Museum

When this trip was first planned it was a week stay in Europe on the way to the USA. It was to visit just the WWI sites and I wanted to visit my friend Angelika in Germany.

At some point Ryan decided to come along so we added the Netherlands so we could show him some of the family sites, we have done that.

Europe got expanded to 18 days and my beloved USA was still there. For various reasons the USA got dropped and we are now here for 25 days and I have no regrets, we re having a good time.

However, over conversations we decided what we wanted to see and do. We realised we were missing thousands of things but we are doing the trip the way we wanted to do it.

So today we managed 2 more of the must do things.  Rayls got to see the Steiff Bear Museum in Giengen an der Brenz and we all got to meet Angelika (aka Anka) in Mainz.

Rayls loved the Steiff Museum, the presentation was magical for young and old alike and the gift store was very popular. Rayls was very happy to spend an hour and a half there whilst Ryan and I found WiFi to catch up on things.

Gaz, Rayls and Anka
Gaz, Rayls and Anka

It was then 300 K’s to Mainz-Kastel where we met Anka at the Bastion von Schonborn, which is located right on the banks of the Rhine River. We had a table right in the corner overlooking the river, sensational. 

Anka has done a lot over the years helping me with this website as well as a few others, especially the Scott McKenzie web site. We have communicated for many years by email and it was nice to meet her today and chat over a meal. 

Afterwards we pushed on towards France, we did the usual stop at a Maccas to get WiFi and ended up here in….. sorry had to look it up, Forbach which is just a K or 3 over the German border in France. The last time Rayls and I were in France was 11th September 2001 – what a dreadful day that was, not only for us but the world.

Around 630 K’s today, I forgot to put the GPS tracker on until 15 minutes or so into the trip. Highest speed was a sedate 159.31 kph. That was probably me, although Ryan drove most of the time.

The Autobahn in Germany is awesome, very smooth, usually three lanes and a treat to drive on. Not sure we will reach such high speeds in France.

20th March - To Dachau

Today was mainly a driving day, nearly 600 K’s from Berlin to the outskirts of Munich.

We enjoyed our stay in Berlin, nice place and friendly people. You do notice that the German people are not as good at English as the Dutch are. Pretty well everyone in the Netherlands speaks English. Bit hit and miss in Germany but it is their country and we are just visitors.

We had to put the key to out Berlin flat into a letterbox, which we did and then realised that we had forgotten the chain that blocks the car park. Ryan managed to get a guy who came out of the block of flats to walk his dog to use his key to open the gate. We were only delayed a couple of minutes. 

This AirBnb programme we are using is pretty good. People who have room allow it to be rented by tourists like us. You can share or have a place to yourself, we have kept to a place to ourselves but that may change as we get use to the programme.

The drive down was pretty uneventful. When we had breakfast 55 minutes into the drive, Australia was 2/40 off chasing Pakistan’s total. After that we lost internet and a pit stop at a Burger King did no good as it had no usable internet, 70 cents each to use the facilities.

It wasn’t till we got to Dachau around 2:30pm that we found that the Aussies had won. Cool. I never had any doubt in Shane Watson!!!!

Once in Dachau we checked out the concentration camp. The main office area is still there, the gate and even part of the railway. All the barracks have been removed but they rebuilt one in the sixties to show you what it is like.

Our flat is very pleasant; we are the first people to use it. Sadly no Internet so we may need to do a Maccas run for the Wi-Fi so I can load this up.

Wow, we just went very German for dinner at a German Restaurant, the Waldschwaigstuberl. Nobody in the restaurant could speak English and we had a lot of fun trying to be understood. Everyone was very nice. We all had schnitzel. Very German and very nice.

Now at a Maccas to keep my fans updated. 

Tomorrow is a change of pace. We aim to check out the Steiff Bear factory in Giengen An Der Brenz and then on to visit my friend Anka in Ginsheim-Gustavsburg.

19th March - Berlin

Ryan enjoying a German Beer
Ryan enjoys a drink

A day well spent in Berlin.

Ryan rang my Brother in Law Chris to see how my sister Cath is. She is back in the Hospice, our very best wishes and love to her and Chris.

We drove to Tauentzienstrasse and checked out the Berlin Uniqlo store. We were just a tad early for the 10am opening so we did breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Had better donuts, these weren't cooked on the premises but were OK. Ryan had a Bagel.

Uniqlo came recommended by Rayls sister Pat. They sell Ultra Light Down Filled Jackets. Suppose to be very warm, although light. Ideal for travel. So we each got one. We had parked the car in a nice parking area and didn't really want to move it so Ryan walked just over a K to a music store whilst Rayls and I browsed.

We took the car out of parking and drove to Veteranenstraße where there was a Quilt Shop, Frau Tulip. Bit of a bust as it was more a fabric shop than a quilt shop. More linens and heavy materials. They only had two jelly rolls in the whole shop..... imagine that!

Drove back to the apartment where we arrived around 2:30pm. One hour rest before walking to the nearby underground station and catching the train from Platz der Luftbrücke to Französische Straße. We then walked about a K to the Brandenburg Gate one of Berlins best known landmarks. Never dreamt I would make it to here, wonderful experience.

It was just a short walk to The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It consists of a 19,000 m2 site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. Kind of weird, the memorial is on the site of Hitler's Bunker.

We walked over the road and had a lovely dinner sitting outside as the sun went down. Ryan got into the spirit of things and had a nice litre of German Beer with his currywurst and sauerkraut.

Walked back to the station, train back to Platz der Luftbrücke and to the apartment not much later than 7pm.

18th March To Germany

We were up early on the long trek from Hilversum to Berlin, about 600 kilometres.

Nice roads all the way and the Autobahn has mostly unlimited speed limits. At one stage Ryan had the car at 172 kph, which I grizzled about but then when I was driving and the others were asleep I got it to 180 kph. Much of time I was an 155 kph and maintaining my position in the flow of cars.

It was a slow start, heavy traffic in Holland and some fog but after a half hour or so we got going pretty well. No border check when crossing into Germany. We did fuel the car, around $55, similar to Aussie prices. I have to say that Europe is a lot cheaper than I thought it would be.

We got to our apartment in Berlin at 3:30pm and were met by Petra who showed us around and gave us advice on how to get places. We rested a bit before heading to the local underground station and catching the train to the Checkpoint Charlie Stop. Here we checked out the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. The checkpoint still exists as a tourist attraction and you can get your passports stamped there. We had 11 stamps placed on our Aussie Passports, Britain, Soviet, German, US and others, he explained each one as he did them but I forget. We also had our photo taken with the guard. Good fun.

It was then a long walk to a music store for Ryan to check out some guitars, the walk was made longer by Ryan taking us in the wrong direction. It was dark and we were tired so we caught a bus back to Checkpoint Charlie where we caught the train back to our apartment.

Another long day.

Just a though!

We loved our time in the Netherlands. Lovely people and much to see. However the whole country doesn't seem to open till 10am and then closes at 6pm. Some shops even close for a lunch break. We noticed the language probem a little more in Berlin, but at least the place seems to stay open beyond the sun going down. Interesting catching the bus, so often I get people asking for advise and I can get a little testy with them. Today the shoe was on the other foot, I must remember to be less grumpy! I must remember to be less grumpy!  I must remember to be less grumpy!  I must remember to be less grumpy!