The conclusion of the third day of London is long overdue, and the trip to central Germany hasn't even been addressed- so here it goes:
As our first day of engagement dawned, Ian and I were all smiles. After an almost American breakfast of cereal, peanut butter toast, and coffee, we headed out to the Imperial War Museum. We weren't sure what we would find at this large FREE museum, but from the moment we entered it was obvious that this museum was going to be a favorite. Aircraft, tanks, and bombs adorn the entry with in-depth descriptions adding insight. A maze of history takes you through Imperial England's long and varied history pre- 1900's, in WWI, WWII, and more. Too odd to explore the history of Canada and India in WWII or see these events from an English perspective. The two ends of the museum had been put together to form interactive exhibits. One side had trenches that smelled like earth with mannequins adding a realistic and slightly terrifying quality. A special exhibit showed War time posters and propaganda "Buy war bonds" repeated in a variety of surroundings and creepy "loose lips, sink ships". We could have spent the entire day, but our time was dwindling...
|Ian loves a War Museum|
More pics of the Imperial War Museum in London
Our last hours in the city of London took us to Tate Modern. For the anniversary of the Queen's Coronation a couple of years ago she made all the State Museums free and as of yet they maintain their free status. The Tate Modern branches off from the original Tate Museum which was overflowing with artwork. Now divided into Tate Britain (all British art), Tate Modern (modern art), and the Tate. Entering the building, there is a huge crack running along the cement floor. Ahh, art. We saw installation pieces of wires cutting across a whole room, little black kid holding an AK-47, and a video of a dog running into a man from the angle of the dog, the man, and the opposite corner. One of its best features however, lies just outside the building. On the top floor there is a balcony off the cafe, where all of London is laid out before you and a giant spider. Yes- giant spider. An outdoor sculpture sits on the Thames with tons of visitors staring up at its spiny legs in awe.
With one last wander over a bridge we boarded the Stanstead Express and flew back to the mainland. We will be back, when Ian proposed he told me he had done it here so that we have even more of a reason to return.
Our next excursion was a run through the heartland. After Berlin, other cities can seem a little sleepy and slow. But for my birthday, my parents and Ian had arranged for us to see an FEI event (top level horse riding) held in Frankfurt.
On our way, we stopped in Hamburg to check out Germany's second largest city and most important port. Bodies of water surrounded us once again and Christmas cheer could be seen in the markets and Tannenbaums throughout the center.
The Rathaus was massive and surrounded by these crazy trees with odd balls. We wandered on down to the main terminal on the water and marveled at the classic old ships and the mist rising off the water. A trip by the church also introduced us to a lone trumpet player whose instrument poked out the huge huge bell tower to announce the coming of another hour.
On the other side of town we came across the infamous Reeperbahn in the St. Paulie District. Stripper boots galore! Since it was still 10 in the morning, there weren't many working girls "working it", but I think we got the idea. A little more skeevy then Amsterdam, but fascinating.
|Quiet Morning on the Reeperbahn|
2nd trip to Hamburg: All Night Out in Hamburg
More pics of Hamburg
On the way down to Frankfurt we hopped off the train to check out Gottingen, a cool college town with some old city charm. There was a completely unique marker system of using the planets and the distance between them to map out the town. Pretty ingenious, especially paired with the lights and Glühwein of the Christkindlemarkt.
Frankfurt am Main
Finally- off to Frankfurt am Main. The town is sometimes referred to as "Mainhatten" for its location next to the Main River and its big-city skyscrapers. Though we had come to watch the horses, we took all day Saturday to explore. First- the hotel. The place was close enough & cheap enough, but for a little added flair had an adult bookshop right next door with a neon lady drinking a beer visible from our window- classy!
The city itself truly has a different feel from much of Germany. It is an international city, which has led some to label it as souless. The truth is that the city was able to re-build quickly because of the big revenue the city brings in through finance. This worked somewhat to their deficit in that modern buildings shot into the sky and Frankfurt was left off the tourists maps.
One of our first areas of interest- downtown introduced us to their Christkindlemarkt, a long strip of food stands and shops. Hello commercialism! Skyscrapers, hamburgers, department stores. Tons of young kids drinking in the streets- yea Germany. We wandered the streets hungrily until Ian had found and devoured a sausage and I had found a sandwich at a Woolworths (yes- they have them over here). Ready to relax until the next day of exploring we went back to the hotel and settled in for the night.
The first stop was the historic section of town, admittedly small, but with some impressive history. We crossed by the Church that once crowned each new King, saw one of Germany's first Parliament buildings, and admired the old town Square complete with Christmas tree. We followed the weekend crowds around the market then crossed the bridge for a vibrant Street Fair. Old ladies and young men hawking their wares in one of the largest Street markets either of us had ever seen. An older lady reeled in and tried to persuade him to buy an original version of "Mein Kopf". Enticing to own a but of history, but a but too spendy for our beggar's pockets. A quick look at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and Financial district gave us a better view of the cities disticntive place in Germany. We wandering back to the hotel for a break catching the setting sun over the river Main.
After some crazy German TV we braved the cold and crowds yet again to see the market and city at night. Maybe we just came during a cold snap, but Frankfurt was one of the coldest cities we have been in! Luckily (or maybe not) the crowds kept us insulated as we tried to catch the Christkindlemarkt in action. It was still pretty early in the evening, but people were already getting rowdy on a Saturday night. We squeezed out of the crowd to try a local treat, Apfelwine, and take in the scene. The apfelwine we had was terrible- maybe a bad batch?- but the cup we got was awesome and the night was another exciting adventure into somewhere we had never been before.
The next day was a day I have been waiting for my whole life! A FEI Equine Event. And is was awesome. We arrived just in time to a man from Spain riding a musical freestyle Dressage test. I was in heaven and even Ian had fun.
If you have any interest in horses and are ever able to see one of these events (few are held in the USA, especially the NW) GO!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
My dream finally satisfied, we left Frankfurt with a fond farewell and took the train to a touristy, but lovely town called Rothenburg. We stepped off the train without a place to stay but almost immediately encountered a little old woman sweeping the street in front of a Pension. Sold!! How old school German could it get?
After dropping our bags we entered through the medieval walls. Rothenburg was a prosperous medieval city with an excellent location between the trading routes, excellent farming, and medieval walls to protect the goods. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to insulate the Protestant town from the Catholics during the 30 year war. The city held strong, well prepared for such an event...until one of their own accidentally had a fire in the ammunition room! A huge hole in the wall ended their resistance and the city fell into poverty for many years.
Oddly enough, this poverty became their salvation as the city was stopped in time - and even saved from destruction during WWII - and became a perfect time capsule for what life in Germany was once like. The place is extremely touristy and cheesy and Germans will laugh at you for visiting, but I say go & enjoy!
The torture museum is a popular attraction, as in so many European cities. There are great photo opportunities, information, and cringe-inducing torture devices.
|GO -Nightwatchmen Tour|
|Typical Rothenburg sweet: Schneeball|
More pics of Rothenburg