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Arrival in Berlin

Rostock and Berlin


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I arrived in Berlin yesterday afternoon after a fantastic hotel breakfast and a completely uneventful 3.5-hour Flixbus journey from Rostock. I relaxed for the rest of the day, intending to begin some sightseeing the next morning.

Potsdamer Platz and the Holocaust Memorial were my first stops. Potsdamer Platz was bisected by the Berlin Wall during the Cold War and during this time became an area of utter desolation. It looks completely different now, but as I walked round and looked at part of the Wall which remains, I got quite emotional.

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This feeling continued as I wandered round the concrete stelae within the site of the Holocaust Memorial. According to the architect, the stelae were designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, though the number of stelae and the monument's overall design has no symbolic significance other than it represents a a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

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From there it was just a little bit further to the Brandenburg Gate.

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The Tiergarten, Berlin's most popular inner city park, lies across the road from the Brandenburg Gate. It started to rain just as I got there, so I didn't linger too long. I was on my way to a really interesting destination anyway, so I didn't really mind...

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...the Musical Instruments Museum!

Amazing - I definitely recommend it. It included a fascinating collection of crumhorns, shawms, dulcians (the predecessor of the bassoon), recorders, cornets, trombones and trumpets which were left to the Church in 1657 in the will of the choirmaster of St Wenzel's Church in Naumberg.

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Amongst a good range of other instruments going up until the first electronic guitars and keyboards, it also had such interesting things as Early Modern Flemish and Italian virginals and spinets, a Stradivarius violin, a serpent, a collection of pochettes (pocket fiddles, used by dancing masters and street musicians until the 18th century) and a 'giraffenklavier' (guess which one of my photos is if that...).

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My last stop before heading back to my hostel was Checkpoint Charlie (the best-known Berlin Wall border crossing, and now a tourist trap with no original buildings left; worth only a brief look).

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On my way back I passed through the Museuminsel, an area with lots of museums in it (a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance), and beyond. I found a small art market next to one side of the river and bought a lovely colourful little picture of an 'Indies Peafowl'. Also got some good views of the Fernsehturm and St Mary's Church, though I didn't go in.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:36 Archived in Germany Tagged germany museum berlin hostel buses berlin_wall rostock brandenburg_gate unesco_world_heritage_site potsdamer_platz Comments (2)

A Moment of Time

Rostock


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Before transferring to Hotel Sportforum I went for another, longer walk round town.

My first destination was the Kröpeliner Tor, the tallest city gate, but to get there I walked through a park with a stream which followed the path of the old city fortifications.

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I also passed an old Franciscan monastery, now a museum - I didn't have time to go in, unfortunately, but was able to have a quick look at the courtyard.

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After looking at the Kröpeliner Tor I walked down the main pedestrianised street, passing part of Rostock University (the oldest university in continental northern Europe and the Baltic Sea area) on my way.

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My next destination was the Marienkirche, which contains Rostock's pride and joy; a 12-metre high astronomical clock, which is the only one in the world still with its original mechanisms. It was built in 1472 by Hans Düringer and is a sight to behold! Carved wooden signs of the zodiac lie around the centre, and at the top, when the clock strikes midnight and midday wooden figures of six of the apostles come out of a row of doors and parade round Jesus. I got to see this as I timed my visit specially on Sunday morning to coincide.

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Underneath the main part of the clock was a fantastically detailed disc which tells people the exact date on which Easter falls in any given year. Each disc has space for 130 years and the last disc expired and was replaced in 2017. I tried to find out when Easter will be next year, but it was so incredibly complicated I couldn't!

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It lies behind the main altar and had handily-placed seats in front. As I took a seat and gazed at it, enveloped in silence save for the low, slow but audible tick-tock of the clock, I was overcome with the sense of history. I could almost see the woodcarver who had carved the signs of the zodiac. Time hung around me, suspending me in the moment. I felt a great sense of calm and peace.

The rest of the church was interesting too. There were more model ships hanging from the ceiling (like at the Petrikirche), an impressively massive (almost) floor-to-ceiling Baroque organ, an embroidery dating from the 16th century and a large gilded triptych of which I unfortunately forgot to note the date and artist.

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The only downside to the who place was that it was freezing cold!

After getting some lunch from a bakery I admired the Town Hall in the Neuer Markt before returning to the hostel to pick up my bags.

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My walk to Hotel Sportforum took a lot longer than it should have done, firstly because another wheel on my big case broke so it became slower and more difficult to get it about, and secondly because I took a wrong turn. Still, although I was knackered by the time I arrived, there was some lovely scenery on the way. These crocuses were the first sign of spring that I noticed on this Central European trip.

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View from my window, Hotel Sportforum.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:42 Archived in Germany Tagged churches art buildings hotel germany museum monastery rostock astronomical_clock fortifications Comments (0)

A taste of Slovenia

Maribor


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The end of a full day in Maribor, Slovenia. I arrived here yesterday after almost a whole day of travel; one Flixbus from Bregenz to Munich, then another one for six-and-a-half hours from there to here.

The following is a series of moments, impressions and experiences from the last two days.

The beauty of the frozen Bavarian landscape muffled in snow; long stretches where every branch and every leaf of every last tree and bush looked as if it had been dipped in snow or heavy frost. Snow as far as my eye could see...

The Old Vine of Maribor; the oldest vine in the world to still bear fruit, it has been producing grapes for 400 years, and even now these grapes produce about 25 litres of red wine per year. The Old Vine grows next to the River Drava, where apparently timber rafting was a big industry in bygone years.

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The streets of Maribor. The colourful buildings with crumbling plaster reminded me a bit of Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

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I can see some Slavic similarity between Slovenian and Bulgarian, though they're not that close. I've recognised a few isolated words; the words for great (as in big), water, honey, milk, ice cream, pancakes, street, bridge, town, Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday all only have a letter or two different, or in a couple of cases are identical.

Standing in the peaceful silence of the beautiful incense-scented cathedral, the only person there apart from a nun who I didn't know was there for quite a while because she was mostly hidden in an almost-screened-off side chapel.

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Maribor Regional Museum, contained within the old city castle. Highlights of the permanent collection included a set of painted fascia boards of beehives, medieval weapons, a mammoth tusk and huge wicker clogs worn by firefighters.

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There was also a great temporary exhibition on the flowering of classical concerts and other cultural offerings in Maribor in the 18th - 19th centuries (apparently Maribor was second only to Vienna, in a cultural sense, at this time). Highlights of this exhibition were the collection of historical musical instruments and the room where Liszt played one of his first international concerts.

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Tucking into some Styrian specialities for lunch - a delicious 'game ragout' which came with local Styrian potato noodles on top, plus 'grits pudding' - sounds unappetising but it was lovely; a bit like thick rice pudding but a type of very small grain instead of rice, with blueberry preserve and another type of preserve I've forgotten on top.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:50 Archived in Slovenia Tagged snow museum buses slovenia bulgarian explorations natural_wonder maribor styrian_cuisine Comments (2)

Hailstorm in the heat of August...!

Budapest


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The morning started the sight of a boat in the shape of a sightseeing bus going down the Danube...

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...it continued with the poignant sight of the 'Shoes on the Danube' sculpture. This consists of lots of metal shoes right on the edge of the river; this is in memory of the Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the river by the fascist Arrow Cross Militia in 1944.

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After I crossed the bridge I waited quite a long time for the funicular up the side of Castle Hill. Once I got to the top, I took some photos of the wonderful view and then went in search of the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum.

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The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is on the site of Budapest's first apothecary, dating from 1681. I found it easily and had a look round - it was small but interesting, with books of medicinal plants dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, an 18th century book about the preparation of medicines, ceramic jars used as water, spice and medicinal plant holders, a preserved human head, a preserved bat and 18th century pharmacy equipment such as scales, a microscope, distilling equipment and strangely shaped glass tubes.

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Then I went on to the Hungarian National Gallery, but before I went inside I noticed an archery stand outside, so I had a go on that; I got a bullseye, which won me five extra arrows. When I finished, the chap in charge asked me if I had a bow at home! For a second I was confused because with his thick accent, I though he was asking if I had a ball at home. I was really hot and sweaty by now so I had a very tasty and refreshing iced coffee from a stand nearby.

There were some lovely views from in front of the gallery.

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The gallery was very big and contained nearly all Hungarian artists' work; 20th century and 19th century paintings, medieval Gothic painted wooden altars, 20th century graphic art including posters, some very old stone carvings/ inscriptions on loan from the National Museum, nude stone sculptures from the 20th century and more. Photos weren't allowed, so I only managed to get one or two.

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When I left the gallery I found that it was a little bit cooler and raindrops were just starting to fall. It was still warm and humid though - just a little less hot than before. I power walked to some shelter beneath a tree and arrived just as the rain got harder. More people joined me and then the wind suddenly picked up and the rain became torrential. The wind started blowing the toilet assistant's outdoor ticket desk across the courtyard so I and one or two others stopped it for her; we then made a run for the toilet to take cover, as the tree no longer provided any shelter.

After twenty minutes or so the rain died down a bit, so I made my way up the stairs and into the funicular building. I travelled down the hill in it, with three other people. Just as we got to the bottom the rain became torrential again... and then ice started hitting the windows! The biggest hailstones I've ever seen. One of the last things I expected to see in August... we remained in the funicular carriage for about twenty minutes before making a run for the entrance/ exit building. There I remained for another decent period of time until the hail and rain died down. Eventually I left and crossed the bridge - the sun had now come out.

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After getting some money out I stopped at Aldi to buy something to cook for dinner. I chose some gnocchi and a jar of bolognese sauce - quick and easy; I was knackered and my legs were hurting, so I didn't want to stand up for any longer than strictly necessary.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:56 Archived in Hungary Tagged art budapest museum hungary funicular fortifications river_danube extreme_weather Comments (0)

Stunning view of Budapest

Budapest


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Today there were two main destinations; the Ethnography Museum and St Stephen's Basilica.

On my walk across the Parliament square to the museum I admired the fountain and caught a small changing of the guard ceremony. I wished I could paddle in the fountain - it was a very hot day.

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The museum had a magnificently decorated interior which was lovely to look at and although the place wasn't quite as big as I was expecting, it had some interesting displays; my favourites were the traditional musical instruments (which included ocarinas, a double flute, bagpipes and a rough-looking folk violoncello that was beaten with a wooden stick), traditional toys and old photos of children playing with them, different costumes worn by mummers at Christmas, New Year, Epiphany and at Carnival, a collection of objects associated with the traditional fairs and a collection of more everyday items such as a bear trap, a bird-catching cage and some wicker and wooden beehives.

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After leaving the museum I had a sandwich for lunch in Parliament Square and then went to St Stephen's Basilica via the Danube. Although I didn't need to cross the river to get to the Basilica, I couldn't resist some photos from the bridge anyway... The views are so beautiful. I got an unexpected bonus on the bridge, as well - I discovered a vent in each side wall that blew out cool air from below! Given the heat and humidity, this was incredibly welcome. I couldn't believe that other people weren't already there. Due to the angle, the cool air wasn't noticeable unless you stood next to the wall and leaned forward a bit, so maybe that was why.

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The streets surrounding the Basilica are very grand and impressive.

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St Stephen's Basilica is named after the first king of Hungary and is the most important church in the country. It is stunning both on the outside and the inside and views from the top of the dome are fantastic. I enjoyed looking at all the decoration and architecture of the interior and lit a candle before moving into a another room - a chapel containing 'The Holy Right', the mummified right hand of St Stephen. It was housed in a very fancy silver and gold, cathedral-shaped container, but was very difficult to see properly.

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After that I took the lift up to the top of the dome. The 360 degree panoramic view of the city was amazing.

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I rested in my dorm for a couple of hours before going out for dinner at an Azerbaijani, Russian and Hungarian restaurant with a Russian girl from my dorm. Azerbaijani soup and stew went down a treat. Following this we went for a walk down the road to get a drink. First we went into a convenience store - I was under the impression we were buying drinks to take back to the hostel with us, but when she saw that I had a bottle of Coke Light instead of something alcoholic, she looked disappointed and said that she had wanted us to drink alcohol together and that since I was only getting a Coke, she wasn't going to get anything at all. Okayyyyy... If they'd had something I liked then I would have got alcohol, but all they had was beer, which I hate.

She was desperate to go to a club, but I didn't feel like it because I was knackered and in any case wasn't dressed up for it. We decided to go to have a drink or two together at a bar instead, so I took her to a place I'd passed on my way back from the basilica earlier. I ordered a cocktail and then asked what she was having... she said that she wasn't going to have anything! I thought she wanted to a drink together...?! Oh well - I didn't say anything about that, I just enjoyed my wonderful cocktail. It was genuinely one of the best pina coladas I've ever had!

We headed back after that as the Russian girl said she didn't fancy staying out any more and I was always going back to the hostel after my drink anyway.

Posted by 3Traveller 00:15 Archived in Hungary Tagged bridges budapest basilica museum hungary cocktails changing_of_the_guard unesco_world_heritage_site river_danube traditional_customs Comments (0)

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