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Jo Travels thru Germany, 2014 Edition

Similar to last year, headed towards Hannover and a visit to Bergen-Belsen. I never see anyone mention this Concentration Camp on this forum and I wonder why? The exhibits here are the most extensive I have encountered and I can highly recommend a visit. There were lots of Germans here, including many school classes. If you go, plan on at least half a day. Cafeteria on site.

Then up to Berlin. Evenings here were a blast, with the World Cup going on and a huge fan mile for partying spread out from the Brandenburg Gate. Light show at the Reichstag on selected evenings and the weather was so pleasant, that strolling around was pure enjoyment. Lots of bachlor and bachlorette parties running around too. Outside cafes packed.

Visited Ravensbruck & Sachsenhausen. Lots of groups from many nationalities at Sachsenhausen, but hardly any at Ravensbruck. Not sure why, but again, no one on this forum talks about this KZ at all. Maybe the fact that it was mainly women, a large percentage of them Polish Catholic slave laborers & Jehovah Witnesses, makes people uncomfortable? I really hope that my mention will awaken some interest to plan a visit here. The housing for the female guards offers an interesting perspective on these cruel perpetraters. All text is in English & German. If you are visiting Sachsenhausen, make sure to go in the cellar of the museum which was once the kitchen. The walls and pillars all have pictures of veggies and fruit painted on them by the prisoners. I found this to be such a contrast with what they were probably getting to eat. The items made by the internees gives one a glimpse into how they tried to bring a teeny bit of beauty into their lives here.

Stopped by the Olympic Stadium, which though interesting, doesn't rate that high on my list of things to visit in Berlin. The films are fascinating if you have time to watch them. though.

Track 17 should be high on your list to visit while in Berlin. Very moving Memorial. Easy to get to with public transportation. Many school groups were here, as well as some buses with seniors from other nationalities. No Americans. Again, I wonder why.

Off to Potsdam. Stayed at a charming little hotel in the Dutch Quarter, Hotel zum Hofmaler. Good price, great breakfast & super friendly staff. Went on a Night Watchmans Tour to get some of the history of the town and the next day did as much of the Sans Soucci park as possible before getting rained out. The Windmill was cool and if you have kids, take them up here. Did both Sans Soucci and the Orangerie Palace. Though I liked both of them, found latter to be prettier. Climbed up to the top of the tower for a grand view of the park. Headed over to the Roman Baths and enjoyed that exhibit too. It was about how they tried to bring nature into their homes and palaces. Stunning porcelain pieces on show. Then, the Chinese Tea House. The tiny, older woman working in there is so tickled to show you where to stand to hear your magnified voice. The combi ticket that gets you in all of the palaces for the day is probably best. I got to Sans Soucci early morning and got in without waiting at all. The park was full, but because it is so spread out, it never feels crowded. I have put Potsdam on my list of one of the most attractive towns I have seen. The architecture is so beautiful. Lots of pastels, with that unique baroque styling, then add in the Dutch quarter with great brickwork, and the town is a winner. Lots of boutiques and small cafes to choose from. Had the best dark choc. ice cream here.

In Dresden now and the rain has just stopped. YAY!!! Walking tour booked with Dresden Walks, and am also going through the Fortress Tunnels at 10:00. Will write more later on my train trip home to Frankfurt. Dresden is gorgeous by the way.

Posted by
502 posts

People have different interests, and you live in Germany, not so?

I may or may not visit a concentration camp one day. They are not on my bucket list. I can think of lots of other things I would much prefer doing. Not that they would make me uncomfortable, but I would rather visit Normandy for example.

Posted by
9044 posts

No where in my post have I said that everyone should visit a Concentration camp, as you seem to imply Ginger. Using the words "bucket list" seems to be an odd phrase to use for something so horrific.

My post had more to do with people who are asking about visiting Dachau, Sachsenhausen, & Auschwitz, but they don't think to go any place else. I have made some suggestions and wondered why they haven't gone to the other ones nor discussed it. It has been brought up many times on this forum that some people do not want to go to these types of places, and so they shouldn't. Who said they should? I certainly didn't. I am a historian, and so I want to learn about this so that I am informed. I have also been to Normandy and was very moved there.

Now, to get back to my trip report.

Dresden continued pouring rain, so I ended up not going on the walking tour. Didn't have a coat either and it gotten kind of chilly. I did make it to the underground fortifications today. Very well preserved. Kids might like this, but I was done in 30 min. and that was stretching it. The audio guides were pretty wordy.

Yesterday, I got a combi ticket for the residenz and spent quite a few hours there. Talk about some wow factor jewelry, glittery gold, exquisite carvings, and well, magnificence. I enjoyed each of the rooms for their special signifigance, but after a couple of hours it was almost an overload. If I had to do it again, would have broken this up into 2 days, to appreciate it more. The Green Vault was simply stunning. The Turkish Cammer was pretty cool too.

Posted by
10358 posts

Very informative, as usual, Jo. Thanks for your reports.

Posted by
10402 posts

Jo, thank you for the report. As always you are very informative. How far is Bergen-Belsen from Hannover? I will be visiting my aunt in Hannover in October and I would be interested in going there.

Is your dad going to come to our meeting this month?

Posted by
9044 posts

Almost forgot the info about the hotel in Dresden. Stayed at the InterCity hotel for 49 € per night. Decent room, with a large bed, and a wonderful shower. Breakfast is an extra 9 €, but with your room, you also get a free transportation ticket for both days. They also loan out bikes. For Dresden, these are both a plus. It is directly across from the North exit of the main train station. The station has a huge Lidl grocery store, open 365 days a year from 8-22:00. It is a beautiful station, one of those massive historic stations.

Loved walking around Dresden, taking photos of all the sculptures and fabulous architecture. Those that want to shop, the Prague Allee is chock full of stores. Stopped several times to listen to musicians. A duo was singing the Hallelujah song behind the Frauenkirche. The acoustics out there were excellent and they had drawn a decent sized crowd. Lovely. Such fun listening to passionate street musicians and it adds a special touch to the atmosphere of a city. The Frauenkirche was beautiful, but it wasn't my favorite church. I liked the Catholic Hofkirche better. Something about the colors, lines, etc. just appealed to me a bit more. Wish I would have had time to visit some more museums and see some of the artwork and more porcelain, though I saw quite a bit of porcelain in the Residenz and also at the Roman Baths in Potsdam.

As a side note, my train stopped in Leipzig and I had almost an hour layover. What a great train station! I believe it is the largest historic train station in Europe. 3 floors of shopping, restaurants, etc. and 23 tracks. I like dead end stations as they have a certain look and feel to them and they are easy to navigate.

Andrea - I think Hannover is about 80 km from Bergen-Belsen. Not sure about my dad and the meeting, but will remind him again. Now that he doesn't have any turkeys or deer to feed, he needs a new hobby.

Posted by
502 posts

I've actually heard people saying "bucket list" to visit one of the camps.

Posted by
672 posts

I co-led an undergraduate study tour to Northwest Germany during Spring Break this past March, and we included Museumsdorf Cloppenburg (Open Air museum), the town of Celle, and the Bergen-Belsen Memorial as "cultural site" visits (all three are worth a visit!). I definitely agree with Ms. Jo about the extensiveness of the Bergen-Belsen Documentation Center. Belsen was the only camp liberated by the British; however, it was among the most photographed/"videoed", and many of the photos and movies were used by the prosecution in the Nuremberg Trials. They are also on display/playing in the Documentation Center, along with personal items of the prisoners (and the Russian POWs who preceded them before the site became a concentration camp), documents, etc. Although the original buildings of the camp are all gone - burned down by the British liberators to help curb the raging typhus outbreak - there are many memorials on the grounds, including markers of mass graves. Anne and Margot Frank also perished there and, although they were buried in a mass grave(s), there is a small monument in their memory. There is also a "House of Silence" on the grounds where one can sit and reflect on the horrors that took place there 70 years ago. It was very eerie standing in the location of the camp's "Main Street", which is now an open field surrounded by forest. My colleagues and I felt that it was important to visit Bergen-Belsen, so that in addition to garnering knowledge relative to our "professional topic" (the German poultry industry), our students could learn about the Holocaust, America's role in the liberation of Europe, and how WWII shaped today's world. They also had a good exposure to these topics in the two days we spent in Berlin prior to travelling west to Vechta (in Lower Saxony), which is the center of Germany's poultry production (similar to Lancaster County in Pennsylvania).

Posted by
259 posts

Hello Jo (and others),

I am headed to Munich tomorrow and see that there are various chances of rain (from 40%-70% for the week). Is bringing an umbrella sufficient? I don't really want to pack a rain coat when it's going to be in the 70s and 80s during the day (20s and 30s for the Celsius fans). For evening, I have a sports coat or suit jacket for theater/opera but during the day I don't really want to add another layer.

Thoughts?

Thanks!

Todd

Posted by
809 posts

Jo, thanks so much! I've saved this report. along with your reports from last year. My husband's ancestors came from Germany [mostly Rhineland-Palatinate] and he wants to visit that region some day - I'm suggesting we add some other sightseeing, too, and your and Tom's reports have given me many great ideas.

Posted by
14580 posts

In light of the World Cup and its results, it's a great time to be in Berlin and Potsdam at his moment...wish I were there.

It's only a guess I can venture on why Belsen is never mentioned here in contrast to those KZ that are mentioned, ie, Dachau, Mauthausen, Buchenwald,

Posted by
12040 posts

Hey Jo, had you visited Leipzig previously? I used it as a stop-over to break up a driving trip up to Rügen. I wished I had more time to spend there. I found it easily the most attractive large city of the former DDR.

Were you also struck by the sharp contrast between the Neumarkt area of Dresden and...well, most of the rest of the city? Especially the area around the Hauptbahnhof?

Fred, I watched the game with/massacre of Brazil at one of those open-air TV events they errect everywhere in Germany. As you can imagine, the fans were pretty ecstatic. But I have to hand it to the Germans. Although they were obviously very happy with the outcome, after the 4th goal, there was almost an air of ... well, shame mixed with pity.

Posted by
9044 posts

Thank you to everyone who likes my Trip Reports. I really enjoy traveling and I get a lot of joy writing about the places I visit with the hopes that my information will be helpful to fellow travelers.

Did not get to see any of Leipzig, other than the train station, but hope to get back up that way some day. The train went through Erfurt too and I so wanted to jump off the train for a quick exploration. Pouring rain, so this wasn't going to happen! My time in Dresden was also very short, and the rain wasn't helping at all. More reason to go back again. Maybe for the Christmas market, just to see how the city looks with decorations.

Posted by
12040 posts

Dresden had some kind of...I don't remember what they called it exactly, either "Wintermarkt" or "Winterfest" when I visited in February. It was on the Altmarkt, which actually looks far newer than the Neumarkt. Their Winter-thingy featured an ice rink, a giant slide, a carousel and various stands for food and drink. Basically, like a small Weihnachtsmarkt without the merchandise. Nice if you're there anyway, but not something I would travel across Germany to visit. But I imagine the Weihnachtsmarkt is probably more elaborate.

Posted by
14580 posts

@ Tom ...I was in Berlin in 2012 when the Italians played Germany, followed it then ....with its disappointing result too What if the Germans' semi final game had resulted in a total blow out, a shut down, instead of the actual score?

It's very logical to assume that one would not see any Americans visiting Belsen as opposed to other nationalities, while one can expect to see Americans at the other camps, such as Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen. These three were liberated by the Americans, whereas the British got to Belsen.

Posted by
32268 posts

Jo,

I enjoyed reading your trip report, especially as I'll be in Dresden later this year. I'd be interested in further information on the "underground fortifications" you mentioned. For some reason, I missed that in my research.

Posted by
9044 posts

It is located right under the terrace and promenade along the river. Sort of behind the Frauen church. Let me know if you need any translations for the information. I thought it was a unique kind of place and the audio guide was all in English. I suppose if you listened to the whole thing, it would take about 45 min. or so. Some of it isn't accessible due to the flooding last year and also from 3 years ago. They are still working on repairs.
http://www.festung-dresden.de/de/festung_dresden/

Posted by
32268 posts

Jo,

Thanks for the additional information. I'll check out the website and add it to my Itinerary.

Posted by
9879 posts

Very interesting report Jo and appreciated your analysis on perhaps why some of the camps are less visited by American visitors. You've given us a lot to consider and it sounds like you saw quite a variety of fascinating places -- all in your "own" country!