6,500-kilometers from our home in southern France to the top of Germany, back down to the bottom with many stops in between, then home through the French Alps.
We were happy to be back in Deutschland where we lived and worked for many, many years. We saw old friends. We made new friends. We visited old haunts and new places. And, we enjoyed culinary favorites – great beer and wurst.
The down side: weather (mainly gray) and traffic. We moved to France for sunshine, and after a month of mainly depressing, grim weather, I think we made the right decision—despite sweltering last summer. On those legendary autobahns with sections where there is no speed limit, we encountered too many “staus” (traffic jams).
First stop: two towns in northern Germany from whence my ancestors hailed long ago: Cloppenburg and Vechta. We were not overwhelmed with either. We could not even find a Gasthaus for a beer and bratwurst in Cloppenburg, only pizzerias and all manner of ethnic restaurants. Unfortunately this seems to be the trend throughout the country.
On to Bremen which is overwhelming with its fairytale perfect Markt Platz. We stopped in Bremerhaven to check out its famous Emigration Center and fascinating museum. We used their computers for some ancestor research. One could spend hours, days, on this project.
We moved on to Hamburg which has grabbed headlines worldwide with its glittering new landmark, the Elbphilharmonie, an astonishing structure which has been in the works for more than 13 years, grossly surpassed cost estimates with a final price tag of $843 million, and has sold out the 2,150 seats for each performance in its Grand Hall for more than a year.
Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and largest port, is all about water. The open waters of the North Sea are 65 miles from the maritime city, but it’s water that imbues the city with a distinctive, enticing flair. We took a harbor cruise, and a cruise on the city’s two lakes, the Binnenalster (Inner Alster) and Aussenalster. (Outer Alster).
To experience the North Sea, we traveled on to the coastal resort, St. Peter Ording. I had hoped we could bike along the dikes. Rain. Downpours. No biking for us. However, between the deluges we managed a few invigorating beach walks. The North Sea winds make the Mistral seem like a gentle breeze.
Wismar and Stralsund, two cities on the Baltic in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (part of the former East Germany), were next on our agenda. Both are medieval treasures which were about to crumble before reunification. They are now restored
jewels. “But, it is thanks to our (western German) money,” a friend in Stuttgart reminded me. Wismar’s ancient churches are a marvel. Stralsund has a wonderful new Ozeaneum musem, in addition to its antique structures.
I will be writing articles for the magazine German Life on many of the places we visited, including an article, “Lodging in Noble Homes.” These are homes still occupied by royalty, friendly nobles whom you can meet, even dine with. We stayed at three such homes/castles, and had delightful times with the owners, all of whom encounter monumental expenses to keep their royal residences intact. Income from tourists helps with expenses.
More photos from Germany below:
Coming soon, the Maldives and more on Germany’s noble families and castles. If not already a Tales and Travel follower, sign up (upper right). Your address is kept private and never shared.
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