Friday, August 1, 2008

Weekend #1: Friday July 11 – Monday July 14

Chad had planned an anniversary trip down in southern Germany. We rented a Smart Car and set out on the autobahn. We unhappily realized that Smart Cars max out at 157 kph, just under 100mph. We still got some good speed and passed a number of cars, but how can you drive on the German autobahn and never break 100? Shameless. We drove to a little town north of Munich and stayed in a large castle on a hill top. It was beautiful countryside, friendly people, and delicious food. Not to mention, it was a real (/historical) castle, not something built for tourism. The wooden stairs creaked quite appropriately, and they still used some of the original furniture. The next day, we had lunch in the town and drove up to Nuremburg. We had Google maps to the hotel, but we wanted to catch part of the German National Museum before it closed, so we tried to wing it, figuring we’d just head toward the city center. Hah. We exited way to far south, tried to guess which direction the city was, circled, back-tracked, circled some more, and finally stumbled on it. Always head toward the church, that’s what we learned. We arrived in time to spend a few hours at the German National Museum, one of the largest museums I’ve ever encountered. It sprawls across several blocks worth of buildings. There are exhibits on everything from archeological finds from the Roman period in Germany to typical household goods and children’s toys to secular and religious art. A full day’s guided tour would really be the only way to do the place justice, but we took our audio guides and covered as much ground as we could.

When we left to find our hotel, we got pretty hopelessly lost –again. We tried to follow signs to the autobahn, how hard can it be? We’re convinced the German sign system needs to be updated. You’d follow a sign to the autobahn and not see another sign for 5 or 6 kilometers and then convince yourself you’d just missed a sign, so you pull a U-turn, and try to find some sign. When you do find one, it takes you in a completely different direction and drops you signless again. Turns out you have to be patient and willing to drive 8 kilometers before seeing another sign sometimes. Anyway, and hour and a half later, we checked into our hotel, took a “disco nap,” and headed out to the city center at 11pm. We passed a lot of “gesschlossen” signs before we found a place that would serve dinner. Then we headed to a Mexican cantina for drinks, but we had to finish them quickly since the place closed at 1:30, and the town with it. So the night life was a little sleepy, but we just went home for a good night’s sleep. The next morning we went to a Protestant church and listened to a very eloquent sermon in German, sat near one of the most unruly kids ever (he was running around the altar during service!), and witnessed a baby’s baptism. The service was much like a Protestant service in the US, with a few hymns, prayers, a scripture reading, and a sermon. The congregation was quite small, maybe 50 people in the first 20 pews of a very large, Gothic church. We spent the afternoon wandering Nuremburg. It’s very pretty, with a river running through the middle, cobblestone streets, a large church every few blocks, and groups of café tables curving into the squares. The center is mostly pedestrians and bicycles only, which is great for strolling and less great for finding hotels in a rental car.

We left that afternoon for Leipzig so that we’d only have a short drive into Berlin on Monday morning. Leaving Nuremburg was another autobahn-finding mess, but after an hour, we were finally on our way. We got into Leipzig around 7 pm and drove into town to explore and have dinner. We found what they call “pub mile,” which is an alley way stuffed with rows of tables. There are probably 8 restaurants in the alley way, but you can hardly tell the tables of one restaurant from another because they’re so close to each other. We circled and looked at menus and examined other peoples’ dinners until we found one we liked, but since our waitress was so slow, we had time to look at our guidebook and discover that Europe’s oldest café was in Leipzig, from the 1500’s. And they serve dinner. So we paid our drink tab and left for Café Baum, where Bach, Strauss, Goethe, and Mendelssohn had all been regulars or visitors.

The next day we had just enough time to take quick tours through the church where Bach had served as music minister during his day and Mendelssohn’s house before we had to get back to Berlin. The drive was uneventful, and we were ready for a few days of downtime.

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