Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wow, a record!

So, apparently I hit an all-time low last month - only 1 blog entry! But oh, I shall make it up to you! Actually, I'm going to be VERY lazy and cut and paste from my travel journal (well, "our" travel journal, especially since my mom wrote a good chunk of it...see if you can figure when the writer changes!).

Europe 2008

Sunday, March 16: Sandy and Dave flew from MSP to Detroit and then from Detroit to Frankfurt. The flights both left a tiny bit late but arrived earlier than scheduled. It was smooth flying with only short naps on the way over…

3894 steps (1.3 miles)

Monday, March 17: Arrived in Frankfurt at 6:50am local time. Steph met us at the airport train station by just after 9:30am. We were very tired but managed to get the rest of our train reservations made before boarding an ICE train to Berlin. More napping happened. Arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof around 4:30pm and then took the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn to the Mercure Checkpoint Charlie hotel. We got a little turned around coming off the U6 so we walked the wrong direction a couple of blocks before we figured that out. The check-in didn’t go smoothly, but at least the staff took our word for it until our travel agent could get things arranged. The room was a 2-room suite and very nice! Steph checked out the “Time Out Berlin” book restaurant section and we selected a place called Honig Mond (Honeymoon), which was billed as a place with French and German food. Sandy ordered a goulash and dumplings, Steph had coq au vin with garlic bread, and Dave had Prussian meatballs and potatoes. We splurged on dessert and had beautifully displayed ice creams with fruit and a citron/mint ice cream with cream puffs. Exhaustion was setting in so we headed back to the hotel.

6485 steps and 2.1 miles (before the walk to dinner – forgot the pedometer after the clothing change!)

Tuesday, March 18:

We woke up early and enjoyed a great breakfast in the hotel. Eggs, cooked breakfast meat, cheeses, meat, breads, yogurt, etc.

Took the S-Bahn out to see Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The guide made a point of letting us know that this was not an extermination camp like Auschwicz. It was a “work you to death” camp. It was also used to kill lots of Soviet POW’s. When the Germans were defeated, the Soviets actually took the camp over themselves. The audio guide was incredibly thorough, and I think we could have easily spent all day listening to it. However, as it was very windy and quite cool, we left after just under 2 hours. Just after noon we hopped the S to go back into Berlin and ended up at the Zoo station and were hunting for lunch. We ended up at a little gyro shop just across from the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church. Next, we got onto the 100 bus, planning to take the full loop to get the lay of the land (except that they make everyone get out at the Alexander Platz). We noticed the Neptune fountain and the Marienkirche church nearby so decided to check that out before starting back. We also say the TV tower just behind us, one of the tallest structures in Europe. On our walk down Unter den Linden, we sauntered past Museum Island and Dave stopped to try on a Russian hat. It was definitely good for a few laughs! The Berlin Dome was next. Dave went in and Steph and Sandy checked out the gift shop and just sat down for a bit. The German History Museum was actually having free admission to commemorate historical event so we went in to check that out for a little while. We passed the Public Library and walked into the courtyard to check out the fountain. The goal was to get back to the Brandenburg Tor (gate) and we made it just as the sun was about setting. We finally caught the bus again and rode as far as the Victory Tower monument with the large gold angel on top. Saw lots of bullet holes around the base and pieces of the fresco shot off too. We think that sometimes you can climb to the top, but it was locked up when we got there. We caught the bus back to the Zoo and then did the S and U back to the hotel. We decided we’d walked enough so asked for a closeby restaurant recommendation. It was Entracote, another French/German place (and also in the “Time Out Berlin” book!) We all had steak and French fried potatoes and a salad of some type. No dessert tonight. Tried a little German beer. It was OK. On the way out of the restaurant, we stepped right into a scene being shot for some German TV show or movie. There were bright lights and the scene didn’t look too exciting. Then it was back to the hotel. Steph enjoyed the bathtub, Dave went up to check out the sauna, and Sandy started thinning out the travel binder.

20851 steps (almost 8 miles)

Wednesday, March 19:

Got up early and had another great breakfast and then it was off to the Reichstag in an attempt to beat the lines. We waited about 45 minutes before we got into security and then it was up the elevator to the rooftop. The dome has circular pathways all the way up to the top and a central column of mirrors. The very top is open. There’s a display at the base which shows the great extent of the damage done to this building during WWII. From the Reichstag we headed over to the Pergammon Museum. We had a little trouble finding it, as Museum Island, is in fact covered in museums! It had huge displays of reconstructed ancient Greek altars, statues, frescoes; Babylonian gates; Islamic art, etc. We had an audio guide, which was very helpful and interesting. We had timed this visit just right too as the line was super long as we were coming out. Then it was back to our hotel area where we stopped for a quick sandwich (Steph’s treat!) and found a grocery store for food for the train ride. We grabbed our suitcases and headed to Haupbahnhof for our train to Rome. We actually traveled to Munich first and then changed trains and got our sleeper car for the journey to Rome. We had quite a job to squeeze us and our luggage into the car! All three of us were stacked on top of each other with our luggage squeezed into any available nook or cranny. We have slept in tents that were larger! Steph fired up her computer and we watched all but 8 minutes of a movie when her computer suddenly died (the power supply from the train gave out). So it was bedtime. We must have been going through mountains at that point because the ears were popping and there seemed to be a fair amount of turning and swaying.

12716 steps (4.2 miles)

Ok, so we had a Pedometer!
At any rate, that was the Berlin portion of our trip. As it will become quite clear, we became grade-A a major way. The pictures I posted are of the Berlin chunk. I figure I will update this post every 3 days or so, and hopefully everyone will be able to see the pictures. If not, you can click on the slideshow to go to the picaso web album online and view them there. Most of the pictures were taken by my mom, as I was lazy.

So, my room was taken up by an airbed for a while but it's now currently being used by a French student's sister who's visiting. Since my room has been pretty much stuck how I put it the first week, I decided to make some changes. Or really, just A change. See, back in September (when I made my first trip to IKEA) I bought a set of three little individually planted cacti. However, as I had no table in front of my window (which is part of the sloped side of my room, which makes it difficult) they have been languishing on the floor for the past, oh, 7 months. However, I took pity on them and figure that since they've lasted this long I might as well try to actually HELP them live. So, with the help of a plant pot abandoned in the kitchen and Sara's potting soil (for her own, identical cacti...) I replanted the sickly things and moved my desk so it sits partially in the light. Now, of course, is their cue to dramatically die on me. We'll see I guess. I am really looking forward to having a living space that is more than my bedroom but not sharing a bath/toilet/kitchen with 7 other people, as nice as they may be.
So, that's it for now...stay tuned!

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