Friday, October 13 was a rare beautiful day in Berlin. And we packed a lot into the day, as it was to be our penultimate day with family in Berlin. Niece Lee had decamped the city for a conference in Scotland (St. Andrews) where she felt she’d learn quite a lot about her doctoral thesis subject, D’Arcy Thompson. We had said our goodbyes to her Wednesday night as Maya and Mark departed after dinner.
We began this day, as usual, thinking about what we might eat. Since we would enjoy only two more evening meals together, and Jack wanted to serve one of his specialties (if we could find all the ingredients to make it): baked scallops over pasta with spinach. A visit to the local posh grocery store yielded most (but not all) of the ingredients, so Jack made do and fixed a lovely meal for us.
But I get ahead of myself.
Speaking of food, Page and Jack had enjoyed a Pavlovian discussion of oysters on the half shell, and so we determined to head over to the most famous seafood place in the city: Rogacki. This place is a seafood warehouse of selections both cooked to eat there (or carry out) and raw to purchase by the pound. I was not interested in oysters, so while the boys stood at the counter to eat oysters and sip wine for lunch, I wandered around the place and took photos.
Old pix show the longevity of this institution.
They have a spokes-crustacean
I really loved all the signs around, so you could easily see over the crowds (yes, crowds!) the area you should go toward to find what you were seeking.
Brined (soused) or pickled fish, especially herring
But fish was not the only thing you could get. There were salads, sausages, meats, chicken, and of course, desserts and breads.
This is pretty self-evident
Someone had ridden up on his bicycle to purchase something to fix for dinner. He was waiting in the shellfish section with us.
Our walk back to the apartment.
After our seafood adventure, we linked back up with Ini to head over to the Garden House again, since Jack had not been there yet (see this post for more about Ini’s Garden House).
Ini and Jack discuss gardening.
She is having some trouble with her apple tree, and Jack consults on possible pruning.
The Berlin Blow knocked this mobile from my mother’s house around, and Ini and Jack replaced one of the wooden weights to set it back to rights.
I wanted to photograph some of the many whimmy-dingles and “pretties” she had placed around the garden, and there were many.
The house from the front fence.
Enjoying Prosecco and pretzels on the sunny front porch.
As we walked back to the apartment, we stopped by a lovely cemetery and spent a good deal of time admiring the calmness and beauty of this space, trapped on all sides by urban life, but so quiet and serene inside.
At the end of the day, we enjoyed a delicious meal of scallops and all of the prepared food was consumed and enjoyed mightily by all. I was on clean-up detail, so I was pleased not to have to put any food away this night.
(For Part 1, click here) From the hilltop with the churches, we climbed higher still to the Petersberg Citadel – a mostly abandoned walled military site. We did not discover much about its current purpose, although while there, we noticed a gaggle of children arrive in a van, and niece Lee read one sign that said there was a dance hall? studio? inside one of the buildings. She also said that records on citizens and other items of interest created by the Stasi (East German police) are kept here. I tried to find some info on the fortress and/or its current uses, but the only material I found was in German without option for translation.
In any case, we walked around the site for a long time and there were many things to photograph, notably including a barracks building with boarded-up windows, on which photographic artworks were displayed. It was a pretty cool “gallery.”
The views from the fortress were pretty spectacular, and I included several of them in the Erfurt 1 blog. But here are a couple more.
The last thing we saw before heading back downhill was this memorial. I photographed its setting because, from above, it looks like a firing squad or some sort of pillars to which the condemned might be tied. In actuality, it was a memorial to deserters from the army, who would not do as the Nazis ordered them to.
Off the high hill again, we began walking through the town. Page reported that he’d seen a statue of Sponge Bob somewhere, and he thought that would be a mighty fine place for us to take a group photo. So we started on the Trail of Sponge Bob. We were not at all sure where, exactly, Sponge Bob was, so with Lee’s map, we simply figured we’d re-trace our earlier steps to find it again.
Needless to say, our navigation was not great, and in any case we wanted to see new parts of town rather than the same-old/same-old. Jack was lobbying to sit on the main square to watch the further dis-assembly of the Ferris Wheel, and at about 3PM, Ini was looking ahead and lobbying for her 4PM “kuchen” or cake-and-coffee (we discovered that one could easily set one’s watch by Ini’s “kuchen” call). Lee was trying to figure out the map, and I was merely trying to keep up (Page walks really quickly).
Our trail to find Sponge Bob was winding, to say the very least. And took quite a long time. But we did (intentionally or not) see some new areas of Erfurt, so I have some more photos.
Finally, Jack, Ini, and I lost Lee and Page completely. We wandered some more, with Ini (who would not know Sponge Bob from a hole in the wall) and I having a good laugh about the way we’ll remember our trip to Erfurt in decades to come — “yeah, that was the day we set out on the trail to find Sponge Bob! Now, explain to me again: Who is Sponge Bob?”
Just as Jack found the target cartoon character statue (Ini and I had also lost Jack at this point) Ini called Page and Lee, who reported they were at a cafe and ready for a cake-and-coffee break. Ini and I had wandered past a shop whose door had been closed earlier, but this time the craftsman was working in his puppet shop. We didn’t stop long, however, in favor of finding our fellow trekkers, but I liked the photos so I include them below. Shortly, we gathered Jack and headed over to the cafe and sat down with beverages and sweets. The setting of the cafe was truly glorious, right beside the river, behind the houses flanking the famous quaint street, where we discovered the river goes UNDER these houses/shops and the road. We also found more children’s cartoon character representations near the cafe.
The thing about puppets, is that Erfurt is known for its puppet-makers. The non-commercial children’s TV channel tells its stories with animated puppets. There were two stops we made along our wanderings at which you could insert a coin and animate a “stage” behind a window, and the puppets would tell a story. One began as a wicked witch and when the coin started the animation, a curtain pulled from her “magic mirror” and small figures in the “mirror” told the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was really difficult to get a photo behind the window, but I think I got enough for you to see the second little puppet show we watched.
I mention all this to get to the whole Sponge Bob thing.
When I saw the character Jack had found, I knew immediately that, while it did, indeed look a bit like Sponge Bob, this guy didn’t have any pants on. I have no idea why, exactly, I know this, but the second half of Sponge Bob’s name is Square Pants.
It turns out that this Erfurt TV channel for children has a square character quite similar to Sponge Bob, except the German version is a loaf of bread. Here’s what I discovered after the fact about Bernd das Brot:
From WiKipedia: Bernd is a depressed, grumpy, curmudgeonly, constantly bad-tempered, surly, fatalistic, melancholic loaf of pullman bread speaking in a deep, gloomy baritone. He is small, rectangular and golden brown with hands directly attached to his body, eye circles, and a thin-lipped mouth. According to himself, he belongs to the species “Homo Brotus Depressivus.”
His favorite activities include staring at his south wall at home (to learn the pattern of his woodchip wallpaper by heart), reading his favorite magazine The Desert and You, and enlarging his collection of the most boring railway tracks on video. Bernd sympathizes firstly with himself. His favorite expression is Mist!, used in much the same way as the English “crap.” His other favorite sentences are: “I would like to be left alone,” “I would like to leave this show,” and “My life is hell.”
Bernd’s backstory includes a failed advertising gig for the Soyuz Space Program. After that, Bernd was forced to apply for job at KiKa, which is the reason for his permanent scowl. Bernd himself does not want to appear on television and thinks it is a “dirty business.”
He interacts with two co-main characters. One is the chatty Chili das Schaf (Chili the Sheep), a yellow ewe with flaming red hair. Chili, the show’s Gastgeberin (hostess), is a Stuntschaf (stuntsheep) who finds it exciting to have close calls with accidents. The other main character is the show’s technical expert, the always-pleasant Briegel der Busch (Briegel the Bush), a green, bespectacled bush with flowers and leaves in lieu of hair. Briegel is an inventor who loves to build complicated devices that almost inevitably explode of their own accord. In contrast to Bernd, they enjoy adventures and the excitement of life. Bernd doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t think much of his colleagues, refusing to call them by name while they treat him as their best friend, even giving him nicknames such as “Bernti.”
The first show starring Bernd, Chili and Briegel was the 2001 pastiche Tolle Sachen, die einzige Werbesendung auf KiKa (Great things, the only advertising show on KiKa). While the actual show is a public, commercial-free channel, in this send-up episode, Chili and Briegel would advertise an object that would be tested by a “randomly” chosen tester that would invariably turn out to be Bernd. Shows with Bernd, Chili and Briegel also include pastiches of Robin Hood, Star Trek, American Westerns and fairy tales.
When I relayed all this to Ini a couple of days later, she exclaimed, “He is so German!”
Now I know you’re dying to see this Eyore-like character, so here’s what we found at the end when we followed On the Trail of Sponge Bob.
We still had a few hours before our train, so we did some more wandering, had a beer at a hotel bar near the train station, and rode home late, and tired. What a great day it was.
We traveled out of Berlin on Monday, October 9, to a highly recommended town called Erfurt. Page was especially keen to go there, because this had been his first stop into East Germany on his photo excursion Beyond the Wall back in 1989. He and his fellow photographer stayed only one night in Erfurt, and he took only one photo of the city, from a tall block hotel then called the Inter-City Hotel (now the Radisson).
We were not in a position to reproduce Page’s photo exactly (we did not go to the Radisson), but here’s a pic of a very small part of what we saw on Monday.
Simply for context (and because I find it compelling) I’ve unearthed a bit of history of the city that I’ll include here, and then I have multitudes of photos to share—thus the break into two parts. We spent over 7 hours there, during a day with changing weather—although we did not get rained on and it was what the weather forecasters would have called mostly sunny. It was a grand excursion in an amazing place that is not (yet) overrun with tourists. We don’t regret a moment of it, although I’d recommend that, if you can possibly arrange it, try to choose a day that is not a Monday, when all the museums are closed.
Erfurt (pronounced “ear-fort” or “air-fort”) is the capital and largest city in the state of Thuringia, central Germany, in the wide valley of the Gera River. It is located 100 km (62 mi) south-west of Leipzig, a two-hour ICE train ride south-west of Berlin, and about 250 miles north of Munich. Combined with neighboring cities Weimar and Jena, Erfurt forms the central metropolitan area of Thuringia (approx. 500,000 inhabitants).
Erfurt’s old town is one of the most intact medieval cities in Germany, having survived World War II with very little damage. We visited several of the many, many churches in the city (including one that was left un-reconstructed after its destruction by bombers), and also Petersburg Citadel, one of the largest and best preserved town fortresses in Europe. Its economy is based on agriculture, horticulture and microelectronics, and its central location has allowed it to become a logistics hub for Germany and central Europe.
Erfurt hosts the second-largest trade fair in eastern Germany (after Leipzig) as well as the public television children’s channel KiKa (something like our non-commercial PBS Kids channel) shortened from der KinderKanal (the children’s channel). KiKa’s mascot is the puppet character Bernd das Brot, a chronically depressed loaf of bread. (This note will become more relevant in the second half of this post: Erfurt 2: On the Trail of Sponge Bob.)
The name Erfurt was first mentioned in 742, as Saint Boniface founded the diocese. At the time, the town did not belong to any of the Thuringian states politically. But it quickly became the economic centre of the region. It was part of the Electorate of Mainz during the Holy Roman Empire, and later became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1802. From 1949 until 1990 Erfurt was part of the German Democratic Republic (DDR or East Germany).
A notable institution in Erfurt is the University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule Erfurt) founded in 1379, the first university to be established within the geographic area which constitutes modern-day Germany. It closed in 1816 and was re-established in 1994, with the main modern campus on what was a former teachers’ training college. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) was the most famous student of the institution, studying there from 1501. He either stayed or returned to teach in Erfurt, and his translation and reproduction of the Bible in the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the common man. This had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. In addition, his hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches.
Other famous Erfurters include the Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), the sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920), and Gunda Niemann (1966- ) three-times Olympic speed skating gold-medal winner.
So. There was/is plenty of history in this lovely small city, and we hit the highlights. But all four of us (Page, Ini, Jack, and I) began early by catching the S-Bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof to meet Lee in time to catch our ICE (high-speed inter-city) train by 8:20. At about 10:30A we stepped off the train in Erfurt, and walked toward the center of town. Our return tickets dictated that we get back to the Bahn for embarkation (with a train change heading back) by 6:30P, and our day ended (after parting with Lee at the Hauptbahnhof) with our usual walk from the S-Bahn station to the apartment at about 10:30-ish.
Without further adieu (except for comments in the captions) here are half of the scenes and sights from walking along the Trail of Martin Luther.
We enjoyed a lovely day at the International Garden Exhibition in the community of Marzahn on October 3. They were exhibiting special displays of organic and sustainable living choices—not to mention the acres and acres of plantings and landscaping that are there year-round. The area had really imaginative play areas for children, a display of a water reclamation and cleaning project that used African catfish (which have a lung!!) to get munge out of water, leaving it good for human consumption.
The best display, however, was one all about the use of bamboo—a fast-growing, renewable, and versatile plant—for construction projects, especially in third world countries, but not exclusively there. It was quite fascinating.
Another display showed how trash, especially plastic trash, can be re-used as a building material, especially on rooftops for waterproofing.
In addition there were garden styles (Japanese, Chinese, English, etc.) and plant-focused gardens (rhododendron, mushroom, rose, herb, etc.). We wandered a long time, and even had to take refuge in a display when the rain came down with serious force for a little while. But generally, the day was bright and lovely in between showers, and it was a marvelous walk-about.
Near the exit was an enormous greenhouse with tropical plants from all over the Southern Hemisphere growing lushly in pots and in the ground. The orchids were legion.
On Wednesday, October 4, we didn’t do much of anything except read, catch up with correspondence, plan our week, and rest. During our walk at the gardens, Jack’s cold seemed to either relapse or he caught another one, so giving him a rest day was much appreciated and we all enjoyed the downtime.
This tour ended with an enormous “bang” as we had great weather and a beautiful, excellent ride to finish this Czech/German cycling adventure. We rode out of the “hill country” leaving Schmilka headed to Dresden. The group actually broke into two parts, four riders and one guide (Milan) for the group that would ride the entire way to Dresden; and the larger group that would cycle about 15-20 miles then catch a paddleboat the rest of the way along the Elbe, north to Dresden.
We began by heading through Bad Schandau, and enjoyed some lovely paths, sights, ferries, and pauses along the way.
We pulled into the lovely little town of Pirna, definitely a spot to which we must return. Its lovely square sits high-ish above the river. Really pretty. A nice local lady, whose bike was on the rack next ot ours, was asking Jack about his rear-view mirror, attached to his glasses temple. That conversation evolved into Milan doing some translating for her, and then answering her question about our destination for the day—which led to the discovery that our intended path was blocked (under construction), and she recommended a detour to keep us out of the urban traffic. So we unexpectedly ended up re-crossing the river and heading north on the left bank for a while. The detour might have added some miles, but hat addition it was of no consequence.
We stopped for a late lunch about 3 miles outside of Dresden, and enjoyed brats and beer at a lovely old beer garden, soaking up the sun, and savoring our final cycling day.
Quite frankly, arrival in Dresden was anticlimactic. Jack and I were astounded at the progress in rebuilding the city that has been accomplished since our last visit, some 10 years ago.
Milan, Jack, Craig, Mary and I waited for the others outside of our hotel (the QF Hotel), located directly on the main Old Town square of Dresden, and had a celebratory beer. I forgot to mention that we finally reached a full complement of riders on this day. Allen had emerged from the van on Day Three, John on Day Four, and Michael—who, behind our group, elected to ride with Vlasta from the boat all the way to Dresden—on day Five. At least he got one day of riding in — and what a glorious day it was, too.
Our closing celebratory dinner was held at one of the oldest taverns in Dresden, Kurfurstenschanke, founded in 1708. During our meal we met our guide for our exploration of Dresden by night, an actor playing the part on the city’s King Augustus II.
After dinner, we gathered for our tour, and our guide was engaging and funny, articulate and knowledgeable. It was quite a fun tour, although most of us were very tired by this time. It was, however, a good launching point for our free day in Dresden tomorrow.
This was an intentionally short day, so that the hikers among us could stretch their legs and see scenery to leave the viewer breathless, after our arrival in Schmilka.
Schmilka has been a part of Bad Shandau since 1973, although it was first recorded as a community in 1582. The Ilmen Spring rises nearby and is the most powerful water source in Saxon Switzerland. The stream resulting from this spring drives the Schmilka Mill, built in 1665, and restored in 2007 as a functional mill with lodging (this is where Jack and I and a few others of our group stayed). At this mill, they make beer (good water), bread, and other delicacies that are all locally-sourced and organic. Schmilka offers very limited wifi service (only at the tourist information center) and even a hand-drawn map. The Mill where we stayed is the blue highlight to the middle-right of the drawing.
Along the river ride, the sides of the mountains rose up on both sides of us, high into the sky, leaving us dwarfed. It was truly spectacular, and our route took us out of the Czech Republic 3 times as we crossed its border with Germany (once was on a ferry ride in the middle of the river).
Our last stop for the tour on Czech soil was a very popular village called Hrensko, a border town situated at the heart of the “Czech-Saxon Switzerland,” also a National Park. We stopped along here to exchange some currency and Vlasta bought a couple of bottles of Czech beer, as the price skyrocketed once we had crossed into Germany.
The group ate lunch at the mill, then settled into our rooms. Jack and I elected NOT to go on the organized hikes, though many of our group did so. I stayed in our room to edit photos (no wifi necessary) and Jack took a ride to get a few more miles in, up to Bad Schandau, around that spa town, and back.
Just a quick post about yesterday. It’s a 4+ hour drive from Munich to Cesky Krumlov, so the group and gear in 3 Sprinter vans got to the halfway point, Passau, Germany, for a little break. We stretched our legs, took a bathroom break, visited the cathedral, and ate Strudel from Anton Hoft, a bakery that’s been operating since 1890.
I must say, this visit to St. Stephens was the first time I’ve ever been thrown out of a church. St. Stephens has an organ that is the largest Catholic Church organ in the world and Europe’s biggest (17,974 pipes and 233 stops). We got there just in time to hear the organist hit a few keys, when our translator explained that the docents told him the organist doesn’t like to rehearse with people wandering around in the church, so we had to leave. The truth of the matter is that, if we’d bought tickets to hear the rehearsal, we could stay, but otherwise we were kicked out.
Anyway, it was a lovely town and church, excellent strudel served by wonderful staff with much patience. I only got a pic of the organ, one of a painted dome, and one altar while we were inside the church. I also took a couple of pix from the courtyard to which we were banished, and a few from the town before we re-boarded the vans to continue to C.K. So here are a few pix, plus one of an enormous man-made lake (25KM?) we passed along the way from Passau to Cesky Krumlov, which is the one at the top of this post, taken from the van by Jack.
En route to Copenhagen for our connection to Malmo, our stop for the night, and our first “official” night of our Baltic Adventure. We should arrive in the early afternoon, and be able to rent a bike for a bit of touring.
Seen fr the train:
Four cranes in a dewy pasture – gray with (I think) a strip of red on the heads
Went thru Lubeck (w/an umlat over the ‘u’), Germany, for which Lubbock, TX is named; thought about Bob & Bretza Mooty
8:21: first sighting of the Baltic Sea
A buteo (buzzard? redtail?) sitting on a fence post)
A thatched-roof house
HUGE wind turbines
Crows in the stubblefields: I’m looking forward to flying CJ again
A deer in a stubblefield
Puttgarden, last stop in Germany; next, we ride the train onto the ferry, leave the train for the 45 min. crossing (hoping I don’t get seasick), then re-enter the train for the rest of the ride to Copenhagen
Re-board the train and exit the ferry at Rodby, Denmark (there’s a Danish slash thru the ‘o’ in Rodby) – should be lots of water to be seen during the 2-hour ride to Copenhagen
A half-buried building, like a bunker, with the sea-facing side totally underground, and the train-facing side half-exposed
Acres and acres of small greenhouses, or maybe big greenhouses with small roofs – covering rows and rows of plants, reminiscent of Netherlands
Not a bad flight across the ocean at all. Took about 8.5 hours. Business class allows individual seats that can fully recline, so there is lots of room and a little bit of privacy.
Watched Admission with Tina Fey. Cute flick.
Reclined after the “dinner and a movie,” and I slept about 2 hours. Even though lying flat, it was hard on the knees and hips, and even with earplugs and eye covers, it was difficult to sleep.
I finally got up and started my day, about 3.5 hours out of Munich (probably about 4:30a Munich time). Jack was also awake so we decided to watch Anna Karenina. I really liked it, but Jack had some issues with the unusual staging.
Breakfast service started about 1.5 hours out of Munich, and the coffee helped start my engines. I’ve got to say, the Delta folks were superb customer service peeps. They were helpful, prompt, capable, cheerful, and watchful. The lead flight attendant went to every person in the business class area and thanked each of us for being there.
Landed in Munich around 7:30a local time, at about 55 degrees. No long lines through passport control, and the bags came up pretty quickly (and without damage, thank goodness).
We muddled our way to the central airport area (extraordinarily busy place) where we found the Deutsch Bahn folks to validate our rail passes, and we booked a couple of seats on the 9a ICE train to Hamburg. Had to take the S-Bahn (subway) to Munich’s Hauptbahnhof (central rail station) to catch the ICE.
We had a bit of confusion trying to find car 27, and at last figured out that the train will split somewhere along the way, so we had to be careful which end we boarded. Finally found our reserved seats (8 euros), and settled in for the 6-hour ride at about 120-140 mph.
I managed to get some sleep on the train, and awoke to watch the scenery change from relatively flat in the Munich area to hilly nearer Hamburg. We saw lots of wind generators and many roofs totally covered in solar panels. There were even entire fields filled with solar.
Finally made it to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. Wandered around the entire train station (it felt soooo good to just stretch our legs a bit!) before finally finding the Hotel Graf Moltke Novum, our bed for the night. Again, before leaving the BahnHof, we arranged our final train leg to Malmo, Sweden. It leaves at 7:20a, but we’re not far, and breakfast shouldn’t be any issue before we take another 6-hour train ride. At least tomorrow, we won’t be so jet-lagged, and we shall be headed nearer and nearer the coast.