Posts from the ‘Travel Planning’ category

Plugging 19 UNESCO Heritage Sites Around the World

I’ve been fortunate to experience significant travel since 1995: first as a green graduate student on my first (of many) trips to Chile; followed by the opportunity to live and work in 3 countries on 3 continents inside a span of 10 years. I didn’t give much thought about their relative importance at the time, but I’m lucky to have visited a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS).

I’ve written previously about 5 UNESCO sites in Germany with a future upcoming post listing another five in the country. But here, I list and briefly describe here 19 additional UNESCO Heritage Sites from around the world.

  1. Australia: Blue Mountains (Katoomba)
  2. Australia: Sydney Opera House
  3. Argentina: Iguazú Falls, Iguazú National Park
  4. Brazil: Iguaçu Falls, Iguaçu National Park
  5. Brazil: Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves (Curitiba)
  6. China: Historic Centre of Macao
  7. Czech Republic: Historic Centre of Prague
  8. Czech Republic: Kutná Hora
  9. Denmark: Kronborg Castle (Helsingør)
  10. France: Historic Site of Lyons
  11. Italy: Cinque Terre
  12. México: Historic Centre of México City
  13. México: San Miguel de Allende
  14. New Zealand: Te Wāhipounamu (South Island)
  15. Spain: Alhambra, Generalife, & Albayzín (Granada)
  16. Spain: Spain: Cathedral, Alcázar & Archivo de Indias in Seville
  17. Sweden: Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm)
  18. United Kingdom: Old & New Towns of Edinburgh (Scotland)
  19. USA: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island)

Australia: Greater Blue Mountains Area

After moving to Chile in 2006, I traveled across the southern Pacific to Australia several times over the subsequent five years. My friends in Sydney were very kind to take me on the drive west from Sydney for a weekend in Katoomba and the Blue Mountains National Park. Surrounded by the eucalyptus mist, there’s good reason why there’s a big blue aura.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Katoomba, fotoeins.com

Kedumba View: Three Sisters and Kings Tableland, Katoomba (HL)

Australia: Sydney Opera House

I have to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge (a.k.a., “The Coathanger”) whenever I’m in Sydney. They’re not going anywhere, but whenever I’m in the city, I always take the train to Circular Quay, because when I disembark onto the station’s platform, the view immediately assures me they’re still there

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Morning on the Opera House and the Coathanger, Sydney, fotoeins.com

Good morning to the Opera House and the Coathanger (HL)

Argentina: Iguazu National Park

Personal tip: spend at least two days, with the 1st day on the Brazilian side at Foz do Iguçu (Iguacu Falls), and the 2nd day on the Argentinian side at Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazu Falls).

•   UNESCO WHS listing, Argentina

Cataratas del Iguacu, Iguacu Falls, Argentina, fotoeins.com

Near the Devil’s Mouth, Iguazú Falls, Argentina (HL)

Brazil: Iguaçu National Park

Personal tip: spend at least two days, with the 1st day on the Brazilian side at Foz do Iguaçu (Iguacu Falls), and the 2nd day on the Argentinian side at Las Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazu Falls).

•   UNESCO WHS listing, Brazil

Foz do Iguacu, Cataratas do Iguacu, Brazil, fotoeins.com

Iguaçu Falls, Brazil (HL)

Brazil: Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves

Visiting portrait-and-fashion photographer and friend Paula in Curitiba in southern Brazil, I’m taken on a drive east from the city into the Atlantic rain forest next to the Serro do Mar mountains to Santuário Nhundiaquar and Morretes for an easy day-trip.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Santuário Nhundiaquara, Serro do Mar, Paraná, Brazil, fotoeins.com

Santuário Nhundiaquara, Serro do Mar, Paraná state (HL)

China: Historic Centre of Macao (澳門)

It’s less than one hour on the ferry from Hong Kong, and I’m in the other former European colony bordering China next to the South China Sea. In Macau, I see signs in Chinese, English, and Portuguese. Called 澳門 (“Oh-moon”) meaning “gates to the bay or inlet”, Macau is the other Special Administrative Region of the P.R.C.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

South view from the Ruins of St. Paul, Macau, fotoeins.com

South view of the city from the Ruins of St. Paul (HL)

Czech Republic: Historic Centre of Prague

I’ve visited this open-air museum of a city over a dozen times. When I’m away for too long, I ache for her, like a lost lover, and it’s why I wrote this love letter to Praha.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Morning moon over Prague Castle, Prague, fotoeins.com

Morning moon over Pražský hrad (HL)

Czech Republic: Kutná Hora

It might surprise some to know the famous “bone church” in Sedlec is not included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for Kutná Hora. The listing includes the Church of St Barbara in the old town’s centre and the Cathedral of Our Lady in Sedlec (shown below).

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, Chrám Nanebevzetí Panny Marie, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic, fotoeins.com

Cathedral of Our Lady (Chrám Nanebevzetí Panny Marie) in Sedlec (HL)

Denmark: Kronborg Castle (Helsingør)

In the Danish town of Helsingør (Elsinore), Kronborg Castle keeps watch over the narrowest portion of Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, and is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, which gives this castle its unofficial name of “Hamlet’s castle”.

•   UNESCO WHS listing.

Kronborg Slot, Helsingor, Denmark, fotoeins.com

Elsinore’s Hamlet castle (HL)

France: Historic Site of Lyons

Lyon is a home of French gastronomy and the historical home to French cinematography with the Lumière brothers. As an introduction to southern France, I’m completely charmed by the city, her people and their neighbourhoods, and traditional French cuisine.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Fourvière, Louis XIV, Place Bellecour, Lyon, France, fotoeins.com

From Place Bellecour, Louis XIV looks over to Fourvière (HL)

Italy: Cinque Terre

After a week-long workshop in Rapallo on the Ligurian Riviera, I have the entire Saturday to travel along the Cinque Terre route and coastline by train and on foot. I’m at all five key stops: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore; I easily envision spending a few days in each of the five villages.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy, fotoeins.com

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre (HL)

México: Historic Centre of México City

By all accounts, there are as many people packed into the metropolitan region of the Mexican capital city as there are people in all of Canada. It’s something to wrap around in my brain, until I realize there’s no other place I’d rather be when I think of Mexico, her living history, and satisfying early-morning munchies in a taquería in the city’s Coyoacán.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Ciudad de Mexico, Distrito Federal, Mexico, fotoeins.com

Zócalo, Plaza de la Constitucion (HL)

México: San Miguel de Allende

Thanks to my friends in the D.F., we take off northwest from Mexico City for a weekend in this historical town with beauty, charm, and a lot of expats from both Canada and the US.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Jardin Allende, San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico

Jardin Allende (HL)

New Zealand: Te Wāhipounamu

Te Wāhipounamu (Māori for “the place of greenstone”) is located in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island, and includes Westland National Park, Mount Cook National Park, and Fiordland National Park. For me, this place is pure magic, especially under clear skies, with her unbelievably deep blues and greens. Even now, I hear from afar her calls with anthems in both Māori and English.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Harrison Cove, Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South Island, New Zealand, fotoeins.com

Calm waters at Harrison Cove, Milford Sound (HL)

Spain: Alhambra, Generalife, & Albayzín (Granada)

One of my first introductions to Spain and Andalucía is Granada. What better way for me to see this place is the Alhambra illuminated in the golden hour with the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. I followed this view for some special magic with a nighttime tour of the Alhambra.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Alhambra, Sierra Nevada, Granada, Andalucia, Spain, fotoeins.com

Alhambra, Sierra Nevada

Spain: Cathedral, Alcázar & Archivo de Indias in Seville

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Cathedral, Sevilla, Spain, fotoeins.com

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede: largest gothic cathedral in the world (HL)

Sweden: Skogskyrkogården (Stockholm)

I’d been reading about Great Garbo, and it felt like a special moment to visit Stockholm’s forest cemetery and to pay silent respect at her final resting place.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Skogskyrkogarden, Forest Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden, fotoeins.com

Stockholm’s forest cemetery (HL)

United Kingdom: Old & New Towns of Edinburgh (Scotland)

Were 2 days in Edinburgh enough time? The answer is a big no; I want a full week to explore more of the little side alleys, nooks, and crannies in the old town.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Calton Hill, Canongate Kirk, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland, fotoeins.com

Calton Hill from Canongate Kirk (HL)

USA: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island)

This was once parkland. This was once a paved highway. Now, it’s all covered by pahoehoe from a recent eruption and lava flow. It’s real, it’s happening; the Big Island is still getting bigger through powerful internal forces from inside our planet.

•   UNESCO WHS listing

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, fotoeins.com

Sitting on the pahoehoe lava, waiting for the afterdark glow: Ka Lae Apuki (HL)

Do you have a favourite or must-see UNESCO World Heritage Site? Please leave your comment below!

Sunday TravelerI made all of the photos above between 2007 and 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-nr, and is part of the Sunday Traveler series.

How to read signage at German rail stations

You’re excited – you’ve finally arrived in Germany.

You’ve decided to travel the country by train, but you’re not familiar with the German language, and you may find the signs puzzling and difficult to read.

The following is a short visual descriptive guide to signage at German rail stations to help get you on your way. Examples below are taken from Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof (central or main train station). The general descriptions should apply everywhere throughout the country.


Where’s my train? The departures board (Abfahrtstafel)

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

In most medium- to large-sized German cities, every Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) or central train station will have a large departures board in the central hall and/or over the information booth. The photo above shows the departures board in the middle of Frankfurt’s station with the message:

“Herzlich Willkommen in Frankfurt am Main Hbf – Welcome to Frankfurt am Main Central Station”.

Information on the departures board appears as white block lettering on a dark blue background. From left to right in the photo below, there are six primary columns of information:

  1. Departure time (Zeit)
  2. Train number
  3. Intermediate stops (Über)
  4. Final destination for train (Ziel)
  5. Platform number (Gleis)
  6. Additional information

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

The departures board above shows Regional Bahn train RB 15231 leaving at 830pm (2030h) for Aschaffenburg from platform 12, with stops at F-Ost (Frankfurt Ost) and Maintal Ost. There’s no additional information which means the train is scheduled to depart on time.

Abfahrtstafel, departures board, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

The other departures board shows InterCity Express ICE 773 leaving for Stuttgart from platform 6 at 905pm (2105h), with stops at Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen) and the city of Mannheim. There’s an additional note that the train is about 15 minutes late, putting the departure time to about 920pm.


What’s my train? Train destination signage (Zugzielanzeiger), by day

Above every platform are overhead digital signs to confirm what travelers might see on the central board. The signs also appear as white lettering on a blue background. Occasionally, two trains will share the same platform which the signage will also reflect. Highlighted sections will correspond to the appropriate train; take note that you board the correct train.

The following are examples of daytime departures from platforms 8 and 9.

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

From platform 8, InterCity Express train ICE 76 leaves at 1158am for Kiel Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), with stops in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, Göttingen, Hannover, and Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. There’s a five-minute delay, pushing the departure time to about 1203pm.

Every platform is “divided” into sections, which are also labeled with overhead signage (A, B, C, etc.) indicating where you are along the platform. The electronic sign also shows how the train itself is divided. 1st-class cars are in section A, the dining car is in section B, and the rest of the train consists of 2nd-class cars from sections C through E.

Zugzielanzeiger, Train destination signage, Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof

From platform 9, InterCity Express train ICE 595 leaves at 1150am for München (Munich) Hauptbahnhof, with stops in Mannheim, Stuttgart, Ulm, and Augsburg. The sign above shows that first-class cars are along section A, the dining car along section B, and the rest of the train consists of second-class cars from sections C through E.


What’s my train? Train destination signage (Zugzielanzeiger), at night

The following is an example of a nighttime departure from platform 8.

Zugzielanzeiger (Train destination signage), Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

It’s 917pm, but the 910pm train from platform 8 hasn’t departed. I’ve labeled the train ICE 526, overhead signage indicating platform sections ‘A’ and ‘B’, as well as the familiar red and blue Deutsche Bahn ticket machines. It’s preferable (and often cheaper) to purchase a ticket before boarding the train; the ticket machines have multilingual options and sell tickets for regional and long-distance trains.

Zugzielanzeiger (Train destination signage), Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

In fact, ICE 526 heading to Dortmund Hauptbahnhof is approximately 5 minutes late, which means this train is about to leave at any moment. The train makes stops at Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport and in Köln (Cologne) at Messe/Deutz station. Note that 2nd-class cars are located along sections A and D, dining cars at sections B and E, and 1st-class cars at sections C and F


Where’s my coach? Coach sequence signage (Wagenreihungsplan)

If you’ve purchased a ticket with assigned seating in a specific coach or car, you have to locate the correct coach for the train. Every station platform has a large sign “Wagenreihungsplan” or “Wagenstandsanzeiger”, describing how coaches are sequenced for each train leaving from that platform.

The labeled columns shown left to right in the photo below are for trains leaving from platform 12:

  1. Departure time (Zeit)
  2. Train (Zug)
  3. Information, notes (Hinweis)
  4. Direction, destination (Richtung, Ziel)
  5. Coach sequence (Wagenreihung)
  6. Signage location, “where am I?” (Standort)

Wagenreihungsplan, Gl. 12, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, fotoeins.com

Coaches in green are 2nd-class cars, coaches in yellow are 1st-class cars, and coaches in red are dining cars. Every coach is labeled by a number. The short black arrow next to the train engine indicates the direction leaving the station. In other words, coaches next to platform sections C, D, E are at the “front” of the departing train at Frankfurt station.

Where is this “Wagenreihungsplan” signage located? (“Where am I?”) The red dot and red vertical line indicate the sign’s location between platform sections B and C.

For example, train IC2297 leaves platform 12 at 820pm (2020h) for Stuttgart. However, there are three rows for the same train number, indicating different coach sequences for different days of the week. The train indicated by the white asterisk or star is assigned for departures Monday to Wednesday (Montag bis Mittwoch) inclusive. Where the red vertical line intersects this row shows that the “Wagenreihungsplan” signage shown here would be located opposite 2nd-class coach number 6.

At times, you may hear a public announcement and/or see a notice on the overhead track signage about changes to the coach sequence: namely,

•   “umgekehrte Wagenreihung”: coach sequence is completely reversed.
•   “abweichende Wagenreihung”: coach sequence is different than scheduled.


Schedules for departures & arrivals

You’ll also see printed-paper displays for arrivals and departures. Arrivals are always displayed as black text on a light grey background, and departures are always displayed as black text on a yellow background. The lists of arriving and departing trains are ordered by the time of day.

Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof, fotoeins.com

The Deutsche Bahn website also provides an updated to-the-minute online version of an arrivals and departures board here in German or here in English. Up-to-date information is given two hours in advance from your present time, including information about the assigned platform for arriving/departing trains and whether trains are early or late. Just like the printed-paper displays, arrivals and departures are shown on light grey and yellow backgrounds, respectively.


Questions or comments about trains in Germany? Please leave them below!

I made the photos above at Frankfurt am Main Hauptbahnhof on 10 October 2009 and 20 November 2014. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6k7.

Saving money with German Rail Pass, Nov-Dec 2014

It’s full on fall, and it’s time I’m in Germany once again.

To continue my streak of visiting the country every year, I’m “home” for the 13th consecutive year with the following itinerary over three weeks in November and December (2014):

  • Frankfurt am Main Airport to Köln (Cologne)
  • Köln to Heidelberg
  • Heidelberg to München (Munich)
  • München to Bielefeld
  • Bielefeld to Berlin
  • Berlin to Leipzig
  • Berlin to Frankfurt am Main

I’m very enthusiastic about the train, and my attachment to Deutsche Bahn’s cross-country trains remains. I’ve purchased a 2nd-class rail pass for ten days (within a one month interval) for USD $345, which includes a promotional 25% discount for this year’s 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.

Bahnhofshalle Fernbahnhof, Flughafen Frankfurt : by Martinroell (Wikipedia)

Long-distance train station, Frankfurt Airport : photo by Martinroell (Wikipedia)

Wartehalle Fernbahnhof, Flughafen Frankfurt am Main : by Heidas (Wikipedia)

Departures hall, long-distance train station, Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport : photo by Heidas (Wikipedia)

Am I saving money?

It’s a question everyone asks, and the following comparison will show that the answer is yes.

In the following table, I’ve listed point-to-point fares. I checked fares for the individual “legs” for specific dates on the Deutsche Bahn website, taking note of the lowest and highest 2nd-class fares in both “Sparangebote” (save offers) and “Normalpreis” (normal price) categories. The last farecheck occurred on 23 October (2014). I estimated distances using “Route” (road distances) values returned by the Luftlinie distance calculator (in German). “Hbf” is the abbreviation for “Hauptbahnhof” or “main train station”.

Route, Nov-Dec 2014 Distance Sparangebote Normalpreis
1. Frankfurt(M) Flughafen – Köln Hbf 180 km € 19—45 € 46—67
2. Köln Hbf – Heidelberg Hbf 250 km € 29—55 € 54—82
3. Heidelberg Hbf – München Hbf 340 km € 29—65 € 73—86
4. München Hbf – Bielefeld Hbf
(via Hannover)
740 km € 81—111 € 142
5. Bielefeld Hbf – Berlin Hbf 390 km € 29—49 € 73—84
6. Berlin Hbf – Leipzig Hbf 180 km
€ 19—39
€ 40-47
7. Leipzig Hbf – Berlin Hbf 180 km
€ 19—29
€ 34-47
8. Berlin Hbf – Frankfurt(M) Hbf 540 km € 29—79 € 110—123
9. Frankfurt (M), Hbf – Flughafen 10 km € 4.35 € 4.35
TOTALS
(€1 = USD $1.3)
2810 km
€ 258—476
USD $335—619
€ 576—682
USD $749—887
10-day German Rail Pass
(25% off promotion included)
USD $345 USD $345
Money saved < USD $274 USD $404—542

The Rail Pass does not restrict the passholder to a specific train on a given date and time. To save the most money, purchasing individual Sparpreis fares ahead of time would be the way to go. I could save money by purchasing individual “Sparangebote” fares well in advance. Otherwise, there are generally available “Normalpreis” fares, which are less restrictive but more expensive. The price difference between Sparangebote and Normalpreis fares is much larger with long-distance rail journeys over 250 km; that’s always been the case whenever I’ve visited Germany and I’ve had to cross the country by train.

I want the schedule flexibility, and that’s why I purchase a Rail Pass in advance. If I decide to stay longer or leave early, I can’t change a “fixed” ticket without incurring extra fees. My 10-day Rail Pass allows me the freedom to take a train on any day at any time (up to the maximum of 10 days. My desire for this versatility will save me at least USD $350.

Deutsche Bahn lists the following conditions for their two categories.

Sparangebote: Preis für alle Reisenden. Bei Aktionsangeboten und regionalen Angeboten gelten besondere Konditionen. Zugbindung, d.h. Ihre Fahrkarte ist nur in den auf Ihrer Fahrkarte aufgedruckten Zügen gültig. Umtausch und Erstattung 15 EUR; ab 1. Geltungstag ausgeschlossen.

Normalpreis: Preis für alle Reisenden. Volle Flexibilität (keine Zugbindung/unabhängig von der angegebenen Verbindung auf der gewählten Strecke). Umtausch und Erstattung kostenlos, ab dem 1. Geltungstag 15 EUR.

My rough-and-ready translation is:

Savings offers: price for all travelers. Conditions apply to special and regional offers. Your ticket is valid only as printed for the specified train. 15 EUR charge for exchange or refund before the first valid day; no exchange or refund afterwards.

Normal price: price for all travelers. Full flexibility (no specific train / regardless of specific connection on the chosen route). No charge for exchange and refund before the first valid day; 15 EUR charge afterwards.

Koeln Hauptbahnhof, by Remon Rijper

Photo by Remon Rijper on Flickr

Berlin Hauptbahnhof #XII, Alexander Rentsch

Photo by Alexander Rentsch on Flickr

Previously, on German rail and rail passes

•   German Rail Pass, July-August 2013
•   German Rail Pass, late-2012 RTW
•   Yet another trip with German Rail (2011)
•   Across the country with German Rail
•   Saving money with a German Rail Pass
•   Flexibility with a German Rail Pass

The first two photos are from Wikipedia, and the last two are from Flickr. All photos are used with the generosity of the Creative Commons license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com, and is part of the Sunday Traveler series.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).

Germany: back home to visit this fall (2014)

… nicht nur Fernweh, sondern auch Heimweh …

In late-fall 2001, I moved sight unseen to the university town of Heidelberg, Germany, equipped with only three phrases in German. When I departed in 2003 to the U.S., I learned some things about myself and about Deutschland; I had also left a big piece of myself behind.

When I’m away for too long, it’s more than possible I’ve a yearning to go somewhere (“Fernweh”), accompanied by the simultaneous longing for home (“Heimweh”). It’s in Germany where I miss friends throughout the relatively compact country, and I miss the little things which are always specific to the big D.

Great Circle Mapper, YVR-FRA

Approximate path for YVR-FRA (Vancouver – Frankfurt), courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

I’ve gone “home” to Germany at least once every year since 2003, and the streak continues for the 11th consecutive year this fall. With flights in and out of Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport, I have the following itinerary:

  • 20 November : arrival in Frankfurt
  • 20-24 Nov. : Köln (Cologne)
  • 24-26 Nov. : Heidelberg
  • 26-28 Nov. : München (Munich)
  • 28-30 Nov. : Bielefeld
  • 30 Nov. – 9 Dec. : Berlin, with an excellent chance of Leipzig
  • 10 December : departure from Frankfurt

“Only” 8100 kilometres (5000+ miles) separates Vancouver (YVR) with Frankfurt (FRA). I’m looking forward to catching up with some very good people around the country, as well as the following ten of many things:

  1. Back to K-Ehrenfeld, “mein Kölner Kiez” (my Cologne `hood)
  2. Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkt) begin the week of 24 November
  3. Seeing my old “hometown” HD, squeezed on the Neckar between two hills
  4. American Thanksgiving, with some fine people in Bielefeld
  5. At long last in L-Stadt, for Bach, Mendelssohn, & largest train station in Europe
  6. Reopening of C/O Berlin, my mecca of photography in the B
  7. Days in Berlin nowhere enough to do all the things I’ve planned
  8. Number of Bratwurst, Currywurst, Döner, Kartoffelpuffer (Reibekuchen) consumed
  9. Number of Glühwein, Kuchen, Plunder, (Obst)Schnecke, (Quark)Tasche consumed
  10. Moments of anticipation, reflection, & loss on Deutsche Bahn’s InterCityExpress trains

Over these three weeks, I’m on trains crossing the country “yet again”. In between gleeful bouts of stuffing me gullet with food and drink, I’ll describe in the next post how I’m saving money with an advance purchase of a 10-day German Rail Pass.

Flughafen Frankfurt am Main, Terminal 1, Halle A : by Sven Teschke (Wikipedia)

Flughafen Frankfurt am Main Airport, Terminal 1, Halle/check-in area A : by Sven Teschke (Wikipedia)

The latter photo is from Wikipedia, used with the Creative Commons license. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com, and is part of the Sunday Traveler series.

Germany’s urban G-E-M-S: Berlin

A travel writer once asked me: how would I describe Germany? Start with geography: lush forests, lakes and rivers, jagged Alps to the south, and open seas to the north. But that’s only the surface, where deep underneath there’s rich artistic and cultural heritage; and critical lessons from times of unimaginable ignorance, cruelty, and tragedy.

Her cities also form a large part of the German picture, and I’m very fond of her five largest cities. For every city, I have a selection of G-E-M-S: one Green space (G, Grünanlage); a place to Eat (E, Essen gehen); Museum (M); and something Special (S, Sondertipp). I’ve already written about Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt am Main. The German capital city of Berlin marks the final part of my series.


Berlin : Germany’s “Hauptstadt”

Brandenburg Gate, Pariser Platz, Berlin

Morning light on Brandenburg Gate (HL, Instagram)

The “Hauptstadt” or capital city is approaching four million people, the largest city in Germany. Berlin is admittedly not exactly one of the world’s pretty or scenic cities, but Berlin is one of the most energetic and self-aware cities in the world. With scores of immigrant experiences, influences, and flavours from around the world, one often hears: “Berlin is not Germany.” It’s both slight and compliment. But they’re also correct, that there’s balance, complexity, and discord for a fitting depiction of the capital region. Berlin isn’t Germany; she’s much more.

“Berlin ist eine Stadt, verdammt dazu, ewig zu werden, niemals zu sein.” (It is Berlin’s destiny never to be, but always to be in the process of becoming.) -Karl Scheffler, “Berlin: Ein Stadtschicksal” (“Berlin: A City’s Fate”), 1910.

Present-day Berlin provides an astonishing variety of things to do, see, sample, eat, and drink. Visitors with a limited amount of time in Berlin will surely begin with sites like the Brandenburg Gate (above). Summarizing Berlin with just a handful of attributes seems almost impossible, but what are some of the other places that can deliver an unexpected, unusual, and thoughtful glimpse into Berlin?


Green space : Tempelhofer Freiheit

Former military runway, Tempelhof Park, Berlin, Germany

Down the runway (HL)

Walking down the former runway, I can almost hear the engines’ roar, feel the vibrations go through my body, as visions of big hunks of wing’ed metal chug down the asphalt surface. Turning my eyes away from the afternoon sun, I’ve returned to the present. Here in the middle of Berlin lies Tempelhofer Freiheit, a park on the land occupied by the former airport.

I’m aware of Tempelhof’s importance to the city’s history (e.g., Berlin Airlift of 1948-49). But it’s a little difficult to think much about history, when my senses tell a different story. I hear the laughter of children, I feel the slight breeze against my skin, I smell meat and vegetables grilling from some distance away. I see bicyclists, joggers, rollerbladers; people walking their dogs, some flying kites; a mini-golf course, an abandoned plane, art displays; and the presence of community gardens. It looks like an ordinary day.

Tempelhofer Freiheit is a big part of many Berliners’ lives, and despite the crunch and pressure to build housing on the site, Berliners have recognized the possible loss of Tempelhof as a green space. On 25 May 2014, the people of Berlin voted to keep the former airfield as green space.

Details: Tempelhofer Freiheit, no admission charge.
Transit stop/station: U-Bahn Tempelhof (U6), U Platz der Luftbrücke (U6), U Paradestrasse (U6), U Südstern (U7), or U Boddinstrasse (U8). Alternatively: S-Bahn Tempelhof (S41, S42, S45, S46).

•   Lead-up and FAQ to the referendum, in German.
•   Complete coverage on Berliner Morgenpost, in German.

Multiple modes of motion, Tempelhof Park, Berlin, Germany

Multiple modes of motion (HL)


Eat : Berliner Currywurst, at the 36 or the 66

Curry 36, Berlin Kreuzberg

Curry 36 : Kreuzberg (HL, Instagram)

It’s one of those things people either love or hate; there’s not much middle ground when it comes to currywurst. Surrendering to my curiosity on a prior visit to Berlin meant I was hooked on the snack that’s loaded with carbs, fat, and awesome sauce. Do I care? No. It’s about grilled sausage swimming in a ketchup sauce mixed with curry powder, crisp fries topped with ketchup-mayo for the familiar “Rot-Weiss” (red-white) appearance.

For some, Berlin is currywurst, and currywurst is Berlin. Some might disagree with anything said about currywurst, while others argue about currywurst’s true origins (Berlin versus Hamburg).

Curry 36 (Kreuzberg) is conveniently located next to Mehringdamm U-Bahn station. The place remains busy with steady lines of hungry people arriving, feeding, and leaving. I’ve found their curry-ketchup recipe a touch on the sweet side, but it’s all good. Over in Friedrichshain, Curry 66’s “scale of spice” will either inspire you to further heights of glory, or plunge you into depths of fear. Regardless of your tolerance to the heat, a good kick of spice is a mighty good way to say “hello” to Berlin’s currywurst.

Curry 36:
Transit stop/station: at street level, next to U-Bahn Mehringdamm (U6).
Curry 66:
Transit stop/station: S-Bahn Warschauer Strasse (S5, S7); U-Bahn Warschauer Strasse (U1), or U Frankfurter Tor (U5).

Curry 66, Berlin Friedrichshain

Curry 66 : Friedrichshain (HL, Instagram)

Museum : Jewish Museum, Berlinische Galerie

Schalechet (Fallen Leaves), Juedisches Museum, Jewish Museum, Berlin, Germany

“Shalechet” (Fallen Leaves) : Jewish Museum (HL)

There are an extraordinary number of museums (170+) and galleries (300+) in the capital region. With a little time on hand, I think these two in close proximity will do very well.

The Jewish Museum Berlin describes the historical importance as well as artistic and economic contributions by the Jewish community to Berlin and to the country. You’ll read about how Berlin became home to the largest Jewish community in the country, the near annihilation of the community in the 1st-half of the 20th-century, and what projects both community and nation are undertaking. One of the most moving and unsettling exhibits is the interactive sculpture called “Shalechet”, or Fallen Leaves.

Located just 500 metres from the Jewish Museum is the Berlinische Galerie (BG), a museum of modern art, photography, and architecture. Their exhibitions provide reminders about how “modern” ideas about expression, design, philosophy, etc. took shape and thrived in the opening decades in the 20th-century. The post-war period not only meant recovery, but also faced treachery, forgiveness, and justice in the art world, as in other facets of German society. The BG is where I saw photographer Nan Goldin’s retrospective, “Berlin Work. Photographs 1984-2009″. Honest, bold, and courageous, she lent a passionate and perceptive eye on the hopes, dreams, demons, and addictions in people’s lives.

Details: Jewish Museum Berlin, and Berlinische Galerie.
Transit stop/station: U-Bahn Hallesches Tor (U6) or U Kochstrasse (U6). Alternatively: S-Bahn Anhalter Bahnhof (S1, S2, S25).

Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Germany

Letters : Berlinische Galerie (HL)

Special : Spandauer Vorstadt

Hackescher Markt, Spandauer Vorstadt, Berlin, Germany

“Perlen in Berlin” (pearls in Berlin) : Hackescher Markt (HL)

Every time I’m in Berlin, I always find myself back in the Spandauer Vorstadt.

Spandauer Vorstadt was built up outside of (17th-century) city walls and the city-gate known as Spandauer Tor, near today’s Hackescher Markt at the intersection of Oranienburger Strasse and Rosenthaler Strasse. The area is often mislabeled as the Scheunenviertel (“Barn Quarter”), occupying roughly the eastern third of Spandauer Vorstadt (east of Rosenthaler Strasse).

The area was home to the largest Jewish community in the country by the early 20th-century. One visible reminder of the community’s near destruction is the Alter Jüdischer Friedhof (Old Jewish Cemetery), which to an extent is now a hollow memory. However, the reconstructed Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) on Oranienburger Strasse is an important place for learning and gathering (Centrum Judaicum) for the Jewish community.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, artists swept into the area, creating small art workshop and exhibition spaces. Some of that early spirit remains with surviving galleries, as well as cafés and bars, going along with the recent injection of money and development. Hackesche Höfe, Sophie-Gips-Höfe, and the Heckmannhöfe are three examples of courtyard complexes with small specialty shops and boutiques. In addition to strolls along Oranienburger Strasse and Rosenthaler Strasse, I recommend the side streets, including Auguststrasse, Grosse Hamburger Strasse, and Sophienstrasse.

Details: Spandauer Vorstadt, in German.
Transit stop/station: U-Bahn Oranienburger Tor (U6), U Alexanderplatz (U2, U5, U8), U Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (U2), U Rosenthaler Platz (U8), or U Weinmeisterstrasse (U8). Alternatively: S-Bahn Alexanderplatz (S5, S7), S Hackescher Markt (S5, S7), or S Oranienburger Strasse (S1, S2, S25).

Oranienburger Strasse at Friedrichstrasse, Spandauer Vorstadt, Berlin Mitte, Germany

Spandauer Vorstadt at night : Oranienburger Strasse at Friedrichstrasse (HL)

Mapping the G-E-M-S

The map below shows where the G-E-M-S are located:

  • G: Green Space (Grünanlagen) – Tempelhofer Feld;
  • E: place to Eat (Essen gehen) – Curry 36, Curry 66;
  • M: Museum – Jüdisches Museum, Berlinische Galerie;
  • S: Special (Sondertipp) – Spandauer Vorstadt.

With the exception of Curry 66, the G-E-M-S lie along the U6 underground transport line, which I’ve indicated by the thin purple line in the map. From the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station, indicated by the train icon in the map), take the S-Bahn (S5, S7, S75) east to Friedrichstrasse station, and transfer to the U-Bahn station of the same name to board U6 trains.

Despite the enormity of choice, I’m more than happy to continue seeking out even more examples for G-E-M-S. It’s no different for anyone who’s also fallen in love with Berlin.

Local transport authority: Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg (VBB), also available in English.

With trains to Berlin, a trip lasts about 5 hours from Frankfurt am Main, 2 hours from Hamburg, 4.5 hours from Köln, 6.5 hours from München, 5 hours from Prague, and 5.5 hours from Warsaw.


How much do I love Berlin? A lot …

•   Celebrating Berlin’s (Cölln) 775th anniversary
•   Christmas Eve: a calm city under a blanket of snow
•   ‘The Crier’, from Berlin Germany to Perth Australia
•   Currywurst & conversation, at Curry 61
•   Fall (autumn) colours in the capital city
•   Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe
•   “Fallen Leaves”, at the Jewish Museum
•   Festival of Lights, the 2012 edition
•   Gleisdreieck station, the summer & winter view
•   Former Jewish Cemetery in Spandauer Vorstadt
•   Quartier 206: an exercise in geometry
•   Berlin Wall, at over 50 years
•   Former East German watchtower, standing in the Mitte
•   Where the Grimm Brothers are buried
•   Wittenbergplatz on a foggy fall night

“Berlin is more a part of the world than just a city.”

Germany’s Urban G-E-M-S

  1. Berlin, 3.5 million
  2. Hamburg, 1.8 million
  3. München (Munich), 1.4 million
  4. Köln (Cologne), 1 million
  5. Frankfurt am Main, 0.7 million

(population source, Deutsche Städtetag)

I made all of the photos above. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com at http://wp.me/p1BIdT-4It, and also appears as part of the Sunday Traveler series.
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