A friend and I spent 2 ½ weeks in Germany and Austria in May. Our trip included overnight stops in Berlin (8 nights), Bad Steben (3 nights), Munich (3 nights), Hallstat (2 nights), and Vienna (1 night); we had day trips to Wittenberg and Leipzig. Previous trips to Germany/Austria had taken us to Nuremberg, Salzburg, and Vienna.
Both of us are single professionals in our 40’s – one male, one female. I am a WW II/Cold War history fan who had been learning German for about 10 months prior to the trip. My travel companion is well-rounded and enjoys just about any life experience, which makes her an easy person with whom to travel. As an aside, we end each day of travel by sitting together and recording our “really cool thing of the day” and our “travel misadventure of the day.” It helps us reflect on the joys of travel and to chuckle about the problems we encounter.
Day 1 – The fun started with landing at Tegel. I felt like I was on holy ground as we taxied at the airport, which was originally built for the Berlin Airlift, one of the US’s most noble endeavors. My friend and I used public transportation to go straight to our B&B, mittendrin, located in the Ku’damm area. It is easily the best B&B in which we have stayed – spotless rooms, amazing breakfast, great Wi-fi, and a lovely owner who was previously an actress in Munich. Our first day activities included visits to the Gemäldegalerie to view 13th – 18th century art and to the Tiergarten. Our attempt to follow the Lonely Planet “Leisurely Tiergarten Meander” was interrupted by a prolonged deluge of rain. We had no rain gear, so we stood under a big tree. It rained so hard, though, that the tree didn’t provide much shelter, and we ended up completely soaked. We laughed, knowing what the travel misadventure of the day was going to be.
Day 2 – The morning was spent with a guide named Dr. Richard Campbell who was about 80 years old but had worked for the US govt in Berlin from the late 1950’s to the 2000’s. His duties had included cultural outreach, intelligence, and VIP hosting (including 3 US Presidents). He was a very interesting guy who on this day showed us around West Berlin, including the poignant Grunewald Gleis 17, the track where Jewish Berliners were “evacuated” to concentration/murder camps; on either side of the track lie metal grates listing each train, its date, and the number of people it transported. At the end of the tour, we set out on our own to find the former post-WWII US military headquarters and current US consulate on Clay Allee. When we found it, I was pretty much giddy to be standing on the street named after General Lucius Clay, staring at the building where he worked. I raised my phone to take a picture, and… got yelled at by security. I totally missed the “Fotografieren Verboten!” sign directly in front of my face. After trying to sweet talk the security guard (unsuccessful), we walked into a nearby neighborhood to find the school named after Gail Halvorsen, the original “Candy Bomber” who dropped candy to the children of Berlin during his Berlin Airlift missions. Then it was off to the Reichstag/Bundestag to walk the cupola as the sun set (an excellent, informative, free activity).