The trip started with a visit to Hadamar, a very sad place where the disabled who were unable to work were murdered according to the nazi T-4 program. The site offers lots of information in English and seemed to be busy with many school groups. It is still in operation as a mental hospital with a special section surrounded by barbed wire for the criminally insane. Very creepy. Next stop was Celle, where we stayed overnight in the Fuerstenhof Hotel. Bring lots of euro for this elegant hotel. The food was outstanding here, both the evening meal and breakfast. Wifi was just 5 euro per day. The town of Celle is very pretty with tons of fachwerk buildings. Would have liked to have more time to explore, but we headed off early for a visit to Bergen-Belsen. Though all of the buildings were burned doen here, this was a chilling and emotional stop. I think most people will need several hours to walk the grounds, out past the mass graves, the House of Silence, and the extensive museum. All exhibits were in English. They also are very busy with school groups, most aged 14 and older. They really recommended NOT to bring younger children to these places of death. Since this was their job, educating students, I think their point of view is valid and ought to be heeded. (to be continued)
After visiting Bergen-Belsen, we headed to Hannover to take the train to Berlin. What a huge chaos this turned out to be. From an original train that was to leave at 19:30, arriving Berlin at 21:10, the flooding was causung a delay of 1 hour, which we knew about on the DB website, but they wouldn't let us change our tickets to an earlier train. Our train then was delayed another 45 min. and we finally got to Berlin around 23:15. In Berlin the next day, we headed over to the Olympic Stadium which was kind of interesting, but not something I would recommend spending extra time to go see. Then we headed to Wannsee. This was a lot of reading, but interesting to see all the documents about the Final Solution, mainly the cold and chilling way they discussed it. Again, if you have lots of time, well worth a visit, but I don't think I would go out of my way to visit here. All of these documents can be read online. The next day, we went to Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen. Lots of people on the Helpline ask about visiting Dachau or Sachsenhausen, but no one says anything about Ravensbruck. I highly recommend a visit here. You will need about 2-3 hours. The way these women were treated was shocking of course, but this was the 1st time to visit a camp that was almost exclusively women, with mostly women guards. Visit the exhibit about the guards. A hostel is located here too, for school groups. The place looks almost like a summer camp with a lake spread out in front. This was my 2nd visit to Sachsenhausen. I find the buildings just ooze an aura of evil. The morgue, the prison cells, the barracks, the shooting pit, the toilets, and even the kitchen and cellars. The museum exhibits are excellent. Because the Soviets used this camp after the war, many of the original buildings are still there. There is of course memorials to the Communists, erected during the DDR time.
Even though I had seen many of the main sites in Berlin on an earlier trip and Famous Walk tour with Insider Tours, we re-visited a few. Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz, and all of the Holocaust Memorials. There is a new Sinti-Roma Memorial that is very well thought out, a T-4 Memorial that seemed rather new, and we also went out to Track 17, where the deportations took place. Very well done Memorial. Can't say the same for the Homosexual Memorial. I think this could've been done a lot better. The one in the Netherlands and the one in Frankfurt for example, are far better in my opinion. Have yet to meet anyone who finds the one in Berlin to be meaningful. Hard to believe it took them til 2005 to even create this one. Now it was time for a change, so walked the length of the East side Gallery yesterday evening. Various musicians were playing at different spots, and one group got a kick out of me joining in on a song, but everyone else walking by did too. Lots of laughter. Today was museum day so headed to Museum Island to visit the Pergamon and the Neue Deutsche Museum. Glad I saw the Pergamon 1st, as it was really warm inside. Wonderful to see the Ishtar Gate. After 2 hours, was ready to switch museums and go see Nefertiti. She was beautiful of course. I enjoyed this museum more, due to the extensive Egyptian and Babylonian exhibits. Breathtaking in their ancient beauty. I spent much more time here. On previous visits, have gone to the Jewish Museum, the Topography of Terror and the Deutsche Museum, spending hours in each one.
Interesting to read this after reading some of the posts under Shameful Travel Secrets -- several people have no interest in visiting concentration camps on their vacation. Here you were visiting multiple sites like this. I'm curious what made you take a trip like this. I have not been to any of the concentration camps yet, but would very much like to visit one at least once in my life. I understand why other people don't want to, and I do worry that it will depress me terribly. But I really want to see if for myself; I'm not sure I can explain why.
History is my thing. All of it, the good and the bad and the worst of it. What interests me the most about all of this is the lead-up and the hows and whys, the personal stories of why people were deported, sometimes for the most minor of offenses, what happened to them as they went from camp to camp. The after liberation stories are also very interesting. The history of the camps themselves are also a revelation, as they changed their purposes and eventually becoming displaced persons camps after liberation. Few of these places were a cut and dried prison or death camp. It is perfectly fine for those people who don't want to visit these places and I can understand why, but I don't understand those who criticize them though, like on some threads. That is just rude. I am posting this trip report for those who may also be interested.
Today was tour day, so went over to McDonalds next to the Zoo and joined the "3rd Reich" tour offered by Insider Tours. My guide was an Irish guy named Barry and I thought he did an awesome job. Lots of history, and explanations, and for a large group of 30, he did a great job of keeping everyones attention. It was a pretty international group too. Swedes, Indians, Canadians, Dutch, Aussies and Americans. His voice carried well and it seemed like everyone enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed it enough to tip him 5 euro. The tour lasted about 5 hours including a 30 min. lunch/toilet break, which is a pretty good value for money since it only costs 12 euro. Random Tips about Berlin: None of the train announcements are in English, but the trains have electronic signs in them telling you where the next stop will be. Only validate your ticket once, before your first ride, if you are using an all day ticket or transferring trains. If you validated it twice, it invalidates it. I utilized my map that the hotel was giving out extensively. Berlin is packed with tourists but it never feels full or claustrophobic since the sites are all spread out through the city. Tons of hostels! Seemed like there was one on every block. Visit the Sony Center at night, when the lights are on. Free, clean toilets in the Topography of Terror, as well as A/C. The Hbf. toilets are 1 euro. The best places to eat are down at the far end of the Hbf. Lots of ethnic food in Berlin, lots of tacky places around the tourist attractions.
I almost forgot to post about our visit to Track 17 in Berlin, in the Grunewald. Not quite sure how to get there with public transportation, but am sure it is possible. This was a very well thought-out, meaningful memorial. All along both sides of the tracks are the dates, number of deportees and their "destination" for each deportation that took place there, from the very 1st to the very last. http://www.deutschebahn.com/en/group/history/topics/platform17_memorial.html
On Saturday, we want to Büdingen for their Medieval Festival. What a great fest! Sunny, pleasant weather, tons of stands, all of the tents lining the moat around the city walls, and the people running the stands really get into character. Joking around with each other, getting into spats, yelling, calling each other names, but all in good fun. Lots of music, good food and drink, and plenty of handmade items. Favorites at the fest? The bar set up inside of the biggest tower. So lovely and cool and only candlelight, with the drinks, whether water, juice, or alcohol being served in tall, cool, red pottery tumblers. The owls were a big hit too. Getting up so close to these beautiful birds was a treat. There are lots of medieval festivals in Germany, and pretty much every castle has its' own group, which then invites other groups to their fest. Here is a calendar of these events. Though in German, you can just find the dates and the towns. The town websites should then offer more information.
Jo, thanks so much for your trip report. My daughter is like you, and her dream trip, which will happen as soon as she graduates college (hopefully only another year), is a tour of concentration camps and Holocaust memorials. Your information will help us tremendously in our planning. It is right and proper that we remember what happened and honor the victims, and when I first visited Mauthausen as a college student I was blown away by the power of the experience. It wasn't a good day....but it was an important day, and I have never forgotten it. Thank you.
Back to Büdingen this week, but this time for a walking tour. Train takes an hour, with one easy change in Gelnhausen. The Tourist Info offers tours for a very reasonable 45 euro for up to 5 people. We got a 1.5 hour tour that took us inside the city walls, up onto the largest guard tower in Germany, as well as into and on top of the Hexen Tower. Great tour. http://www.buedingen.info/en/ Some of the fachwerk buildings are the oldest in Germany, and wonderful to see. No tour buses, or souvenir stores here, though there was one large group of German senior citizens wandering around. Lunch was at the Schlosstuben restaurant in the garden. http://www.buedingen.info/buchen/essen-trinken/restaurants/schlossstuben-buedingen.html We had the TI order us a taxi to take us to the Glauberg Kelten World. Cost was 17 euro. Pretty much the only way to get there, as public transportation can take you to the town of Glauberg, but the trek up to the museum and grave hill will take you a good 40 min. If you are interested in the Celts of Germany, this is a great museum. Only 2 years old, it is very interactive, with friendly staff, a nice cafe overlooking the hill grave of a Celtic prince. We spent a couple of hours here, and if it wasn't so hot and we weren't so tired, we would have trekked up to the platuea where a large Celtic settlement was once located.
http://www.keltenwelt-glauberg.de/en/ To get back to Frankfurt, was a long 20 min. down a country road with no sidewalks, but it was pleasant, with tons of wildflowers and plenty of bird song to enjoy. Trains aren't overly frequent, and having left the museum at 1700, it was 20:00 before we were back at the Frankfurt Hbf. This might be a good time to have a car, but still possible with a train. We had a group day ticket that cost 26.70 euro.
What a great, informative essay--loved it, thank you.
Two questions: How in the heck do you know about all of this stuff to know to go scope it out? How in the heck do you remember it to write about it? You're just spoofing us and digging junk up off the Internet and pretending, right? Damn well done, Ms Jo!!!
Question #1 - I have lived here for almost 27 years and spend a lot of time on Trip Advisor where others post about new and interesting places that aren't talked about much on here (except for posts from Tom, Andreas, and Sarah), as well as being a history fanatic. Have at least 100 books about Frankfurt and German history. Question #2 - Have a memory like an elephant. (some of the wrinkles too) Thanks for the compliments, but if you are going to call me Ms. Jo, can I call you Mr. Ed?
Thanks so much, Jo... As you know, Nigel loves his fachwerk. Marburg has now made it onto the visit list. The city webpage even says they are twinned with a town in this part of the world. Thanks, Jo
Today took us to Marburg, a town that has been on my list to visit since ages. Bought a Hessen ticket for 32 €. This would have been valid for up to 5 people, but it was just 2 of us. Direct, Regional trains run pretty often between Frankfurt & Marburg, and the trip takes just a bit over an hour. Got off the train and walked up the Bahnhof Strasse. You can see the twin towers of St. Elizabeths as well as the Schloss, from here, so we just walked towards them. I knew the story of Elizabeth, but hadn't realized this was where her hospital was or that people still make pilgrimages here. She has always been popular in this area of Germany. The church was massive, old (1200's) and interesting. Got a little book in English, so that the next time I go here, will know more of what I am looking at. We just didn't have time today. Then we set out for the Alt Stadt and the Schloss. Everything is uphill and you need to be in some fairly decent shape to manage the steps and inclines, as well as difficult cobble stones. They were all set at various angles for the horses, and are probably helpful in the winter, but they are tough to walk on. Gorgeous fachwerk buildings, many were very unique in design, carvings, and decorations. Lots of wonderful little stores that you could spend hours in, as well as lots of cafes & restaurants. The Schloss is worth walking up to, but the museum was closed due to it being Monday. Must go again! Great views from here. There was the Luther church we wanted to visit, but frankly, my feet and legs told me no way are we climbing up another hill, so this will also have to wait. We did stroll through one of the ancient university buildings. What a delight! Wish I was a student here. We have found a prayer automat, Gebetomat) Christmas market begins 29 Nov. so will head back. I think it will be a beautiful one.
I hope we can meet up Nigel. One of the neighborhoods of Frankfurt, Hoechst, just got accepted onto the German Fachwerk route. The city is overjoyed. We have another neighborhood, Bergen-Enkheim that is also chock full of them.
Marburg, quite simply, is gorgeous. It's one of those places you almost don't want the tourist hoardes to discover, just so all the usual trinket shops don't start popping up. But it hosts a university. That's usually good protection against Rothenburgerization. Jo, did you visit the park on top of the hill by the Schloss? I was there last October when the leaves were changing. It could not have been more scenic. Have you also seen nearby Wetzlar? That's another very attractive town in the area. I visited during Hessentag last year and had a great time. Plenty of well-preserved Fachwerk for you there, Nigel. Marburg, Wetzlar and those two large castles near Giessen would make a great day trip. One more town name to mention, and I'll leave it at that- Fritzlar.
Jo & Tom, Thanks so much for this info. We'll be in the Mosel/Neckar/Rhine region for 2 weeks next month & look forward to exploring the area. I've saved this & many of your earlier posts & appreciate so much your taking the time to share your knowledge & enthusiasm for Deutschland with us. Vielen Danke!
Yesterday ended up in Bernkastel-Keus, traveling with a friend. This area of the Mosel is drop-dead gorgeous. The leaves are just beginning to change, so they all had a lush, but soft tinge of color to them. Right in the middle of grape harvest, many of the vines were heavy with fruit. We also saw lots of apple orchards with the trees simply covered in red fruit. Looks to be a good harvest this year for both grapes and apples. For those who love their Fachwerk (Nigel?) this town has plenty. Took lots of photos of leaning houses, narrow houses and beautifully carved houses. Many unique little stores, and tons of wine. Menus on the restaurants looked wonderful, and I wished we would have had more time there. I think this town will look lovely at Christmas, so may try and do a Christmas market trip on the Mosel. Perhaps hitting Trier, Bernkastel-Keus, then Cochem. The folks at the Tourist Info were helpful and they had a lot of information about sightseeing. Lots of river boats here for short trips as well as a couple of large cruise ships docked here. There were a lot of nationalities here, but English wasn't one of the languages I heard. Seniors seem to be the main demographic, but there were younger tourists too. This is a very, very pretty little town, and seems to offer what many on this Helpline are looking for. No train station here, so we had to take a bus to Wittlich, where they have a decent sized train station. Took us about 3 hours to get back to Frankfurt, with easy train changes in Koblenz and Mainz. With my 50% Bahn Card, my total trip back cost 26 euro. Though we could have opted for a Quer Durch Deutschland ticket, using the Regional trains, it was nice to be on the IC train that went straight from Koblenz to Mainz in just an hour, and with no stops. The train ride along the Mosel was very pretty and romantic looking. Not many castles or ruins, like on the Rhine, but still interesting.
Jo- I enjoy reading your trip reports and tips. It's wonderful that you share it all with us here.
Like others I take notes and cut & paste to create trip files. Your experience does bring you to many small places I'd never consider. You embrace the 'road less traveled' philosophy and it's very uplifting to read.
Originally, I was in the mind set that I didn't want to visit or need to visit any camps from Germany's WWII history. But I love history, too. You shared that one has to engage both the good and the bad history, or something similar to those words. I n 2008 my husband and I went to Dachau. In 2013 I went to Terezin while on my Rick Steves' tour. The actual experience has no comparasion to the books I read or films I've watched about this part of German history.
I am moved when I see the school groups and youth clubs. I have learned more about the tolerance of others, acceptance of individuality, racial prejudice, and religious freedoms more in these visits than I ever did in school or from those books & films.
As I wait for our 12th snow storm of this season to pass by and go out to sea, I looked for some good reading. Danke!
Ms Jo: I have really been intrigued by your trip reports. I hope to visit the Mosel some day. Do you know any history about the "Big Freeze" in this area...I think in the early 1800s. It was said to have forced many vintners and others to leave the area.
The weather report said sunny and mild, so I headed up towards the Rheingau to visit Eberbach Monastery. I have a monthly ticket for Frankfurt, so an add on ticket for me was just 5 €. If you wanted a one way ticket there, it would be 7.10 €. Group ticket would be 26.70 € and be valid for 5 people all day.
Got on the dedicated train that goes down the right side of the Rhine every hour, from track 24 in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Trip to Elteville took just an hour. Got off the train and the bus stop was directly opposite the train station. Bus #172 comes about 11 min. after you get off the train. Extremely scenic ride and the last stop is Eberbach. One also goes through the town of Kiedrich and if you have time, get off the bus and go visit the church here. Well, well worth it. (find times for trains and buses at www.rmv.de)
Eberbach is where they filmed much of the film, "Name of the Rose". Magnificent basilica begun in the early 1100's, as well as many smaller buildings around it. Entry is 6 € and they offer audio guides as well as little English language guide books. Got one of the books for 3 €. Probably spent about 2 hours here, roaming around. One vaulted room is filled with old wooden wine presses, and they offer a lot of tasting events here. The dormitory for the monks will make you shiver when you think they just slept on the floor with no blankets or beds. No wonder they usually died off by age 35. Nice gift shop with a lot of excellent, local wine for sale. There is also a hotel and a well-respected restaurant on site. The setting is in the Taunus mountains and is very beautiful. Would love to spend a night here.
The bus #172 only comes once an hour, but it is sitting there taking a break, so easy to find. Decided to go explore Elteville. Have ridden through this town a 100 times, but never got off the train. Boy, have I been missing a great Rhine town all those years. The Rhine is a quick walk from the train and bus stop, and you walk straight to the tower of the castle. The tourist info is located here and they have a good gift selection and lots of information for hotels, restaurants, events, wine tastings. Entry to the tower is 2 €, but I didn't feel like climbing any steps that day, so will save that for the next trip there. There is a beautiful garden created in the dry moat, and lots of old city walls. Two of their biggest events are a Rose Festival and a Sekt & Biedemeier Fest. I put those on my list of events to visit this year, as well as their small Christmas Market.
Strolling through the town revealed a lot of fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings, with a small pedestrian shopping zone, little boutiques, many wine pubs, B&B's, and German restaurants. Walked down to the river and here you find a nice promenade walk with no cars, but with trees and lighting so that a walk along the river at night would be pleasant and very pretty. The scenery on the other side, though kind of a flat area along the Rhine, is still lovely and peaceful, with lots of trees. A stop in the medieval church was nice too, and it looked like they still had much of their original stained glass. Stunning! Nigel, are you paying attention?
I think if people are short on time, but want to see a pretty little medieval town near Frankfurt, rather than go the rest of the way down the Rhine to Rüdesheim, I would get off the train at Elteville instead. I found it much more charming than Rüdesheim, and there were no tourist buses, or hordes of tacky souvenir stores. With the large number of B&B's, wine pubs and cafes, imagine summer time is much livelier.