A Travellerspoint blog

21: Spooky

semi-overcast 24 °C
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Another early start today as I wanted to try and make it to Prague before lunch time. The drive to Prague was really beautiful. I told the Tom Tom to avoid the toll roads from Dresden to Prague so the sat nav took me along all of the back roads between the two cities which was just great.

Between Dresden and the Czech border the landscape is quite hilly and heavily forested, making my trip quite magical. After leaving the border the terrain became much more flat and was heavily cultivated with what looks like wheat and sunflower fields. Again really nice to drive through. The other thing I loved is the fact that every 5km or so you would come across another tiny town that had clearly been there since the mid-1500s... Just awesome.

Got into Prague and found my digs without too many issues. Plunked my stuff in my room and put my car into a garage (at 20 E per night!!!!) and went for a wander down into the Old Town. Well Prague wipes the other cities off the map for a beautiful Old Town... My gosh it is just incredible and at least triple the size of the one in Krakow (which has been the biggest one I’ve seen yet). I spent the afternoon just goggling at the buildings and snapping pictures just as fast as I could. The centrepiece to the town is the Astronomical Clock. It was built in the 1500s and shows not only the time, but the date, the year and the placement of the moon in regards to the heavens (ala sign of the zodiac). It is absolutely splendid! It also plays music every hour with these cute mechanical men... Really cool!

I signed myself up to go on a ghost tour so I went and had some dinner whilst I was waiting. The ghost tour was just great! Prague is supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the world and so for an hour and a half a guide took us on a tour of the city pointing out some of the dodgier aspects of the city. The thing that fascinated me most was the “underground”. Underneath Prague is kilometres of tunnels, caverns, cellars etc. that have been there since the early 1100s (the city was first built in about 900AD)—some of these can be entered and apparently you often see weird apparitions etc. moving around under the ground.. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we didn’t see anything strange... but it sure is spooky walking under the city carrying lanterns!

I thought I’d put down a couple of the weirder legends that the guide told us about Prague. Firstly, the guy who designed the Astronomical clock in the mid 1500s killed himself by jumping off the top of the clock’s tower. He killed himself after the town’s council had his eyes removed so that he couldn’t go and build a replica clock in another town in Europe. To enact revenge on the council, before he jumped to his death he sabotaged his clock’s gears so that until the mid-1800s the clock actually didn’t work—he then jumped off the tower so that no-one could fix the clock!

Secondly, a child was sacrificed to ensure that one of the palaces in the city could be built without having any mishaps! Apparently, you can still hear the wailing of the child late at night!!! (I couldn’t)

Ghosts apparently regularly appear at one of the old churches in town where many of the old councillors and ruling lords are buried... One of them was even apparently buried alive! (they know this because they put him in a locked mausoleum only to find him out of his casket and dead on the floor in another part of the crypt). At this particular church we were encouraged to take lots of photos because apparently there is often strange lights and effects that are found on your camera (which are supposed to be the energies from the ghosts)... I’d like to say that I got some “energies” on my camera but…………………..

Anyway, really great night and I have to say that walking back to the digs I was more than slightly spooked…………….

Posted by weary_feet 11:09 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

20: Dazzling Diamonds

rain 21 °C
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Spent today wandering around the town of Dresden. Dresden is the city of the Saxon Kings and Queens so the old town is dominated by cathedrals and palaces and is really really beautiful. Its nickname is the Florence of Germany and I can understand why... If Florence is half as good as Dresden then it must be pretty impressive.

Most of the Old Town was damaged during the second world war but has been painstakingly renovated to resemble the town from the 1700s. The key piece to the Old Town is the Zwinger. Today the Zwinger houses two museums and is regularly used for outdoor concerts. Unfortunately today is a Monday so the Zwinger is closed (so I can’t tell you what it was originally used for). Considering the size and shape of the building it had to have been one of the palaces of the Saxon Kings. The Royal Schloss of the Saxon Kings was open to the public today so I spent the day touring the Royal collection. The Schloss was completely destroyed during the war and has only recently been reopened. The Schloss is now a museum and houses the Royal Treasury of the Saxon Kings. The treasury has been on display since the mid 1800s when one of the King’s needed some spare coin so decided to open up a wing of the palace as museum, and dubbed the museum the “green vault” (owing to the original colour of the walls).

The vault has been recreated so that it is a similar as possible to the vault that was originally shown in the mid-1800s. Many of the items from the vault are missing and this is mainly because the items were sold throughout the centuries as the Royal family slowly lost its power and influence. Believe it or not, the items were not in any way damaged, sold or destroyed during the war or the subsequent communist years and are now back on display in their original state. The main centrepiece to the “green vault” is the collection of jewellery that the Saxon Kings used to wear... There is two whole diamond outfits- necklaces, cuff links, buttons, earrings, rings and brooches that are absolutely exquisite… I’ve seen some crown jewels before and have been dazzled at the site of diamonds but these are pretty amazing... The jewellery collection is one I could only dream of owning!

After spending a couple of hours in the Schloss I continued my tour of the Old Town stopping to have lunch and a coffee on the way. Dresden itself is a really beautiful town and is definitely worth a stop if you ever do a Germany trek.

Turned in early tonight as I needed to do some more interneting to work out more of my “Teutonic Tour”. Off tomorrow to Prague in the Czech Republic.

Posted by weary_feet 11:10 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

19: Getting lost even with sat nav!!

sunny 25 °C
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Early start this morning as I was off to discover Germany and the fun of the Autobahn! Picked up my car with limited issues and discovered that it had a sat nav! “Great” I thought... “I’ve gone to all of the effort of finding a German sat nav only to discover my car has one already in it…..” So deciding not to use my sat nav (and return it to the store where I bought it)... I took off with the in car sat nav with a plan of going to Dresden via Potsdam… Two hours later and heaps of swearing I was still somewhere in the suburbs of Berlin and had worked out the in car sat nav was not working! So out came the 'paid for Tom Tom'… Unfortunately it doesn’t speak English (although the controls can be put into English) so after much swearing at the sat nav for “Beaken Zi Reicht and Beaken Zi something up” I finally got myself out of Berlin and out to Potsdam.. a thirty minute drive took me over three hours... By then I had worked out what the words for Right and Left are in German as well as Exit and Round-a-bout...

Potsdam is a city outside of Berlin where the Prussian Kings once lived. It is also the famous city for the Potsdam Conference at the end of the first world war. The city itself is quite small and is dominated by the Schloss. This palace and its surrounds is known as the German Versailles and didn’t disappoint... (not quite as spectacular as the Peterhof in St Petersberg but still pretty specky).

Spent a couple of hours wandering around the grounds and soaking up the sunshine (it had finally come out) before deciding to have a bite to eat before heading off for the couple of hour drive to Dresden. I had planned to spend more time in Potsdam (and see the site of the conference) but after it taking me hours to just get to Potsdam (and knowing I still had a few hours of driving ahead of me) I had to forgo the chance.

Back on the road and now on the Autobahn... Much of it is open speed limit but a surprising amount is speed limited! The best I got to was 160 and I do have to say that there is something pretty good about moving fast with some techno on the radio! It’s funny, but even at 160 I was still travelling slowly!

Made it to Dresden after 7pm so decided to go straight to bed and get up early the following day to have a look around the town.

Posted by weary_feet 10:59 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

18: Nefertiti

semi-overcast 25 °C

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Another early start as I had already booked myself in to see the Neuss Museum (New Museum). The Neuss Museum is another antiquity museum that houses Germany’s Egyptian Collection (amongst other things). I donned my audio guide (I love it here in Germany they are included in the price... I guess it is cheaper than offering free guided tours!) and started my way around the Neuss Museum.

I was not disappointed. The Neuss is home to the Nefertiti Bust as well as countless mummy cases, sarcophaguses, marble, wood and stone statues as well as whole wall friezes from tombs excavated out of Egypt. It’s actually a little disappointing that all of these artefacts are here in Germany and aren’t in Egypt!

On top of the Egyptian section there is a whole section on Troy and the excavation of what they believe are the ruins of Troy as well as a Roman excavation section! I’ve got to say that if you want to see antiquities there are more than enough to satisfy you in Berlin (both between the Pergamon, the Neuss and the Artes – which I didn’t even go into!)

From the Neuss I travelled downtown to see the Topography of Terror (ToT) exhibition about the SS reign of terror during the time of the Nazis. The ToT is housed in a building that is on the site of the SS HQ during the Third Reich. The building itself is directly above the torture chambers (which are thankfully no more). The museum is really an account of the events of the Third Reich as well the rise of the SS. Thousands of people were brought to this location for “discussions”... its probably not that surprising but directly across the street is another museum this time the Stasi Musuem.. that’s right the East Germany Secret Police (the Stasi) were located in almost the same location….

From downtime I decided to catch the subway out to Scholss Charlottenburg which was a castle built by King Fredrich III for his wife Sophie Charlotte. I arrived too late to go into the castle but that was ok as I really only felt like wandering around the beautiful grounds of the estate. One thing I’ve definitely worked out about European royalty is the amount of cash these guys had... Every castle you enter seems to have a good sized park attached to it with complete landscape gardens... And man did they do the landscaping well!

Finished off the day with a subway ride back to my digs. Early to bed as I’m up early to pick up my car for my journey around Germany.

Posted by weary_feet 10:45 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

17: Graffiti Artists!

rain 21 °C
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So after spending yesterday getting the low down and what is worth doing (and after reading my new guide book to Germany) I decided to spend my time today at one of the many museums here in Berlin, the Pergamon.

The Pergamon museum was built by the last Kaiser back in the early 1900s to house many of the plundered antiquities (plundered by archaeologists back before the 1900s—not by the Nazi’s). It is a breathtaking museum with some absolutely spectacular exhibits. You enter the museum and immediately are dazzled by the Pergamon alter. The alter was discovered in Turkey in the mid 1800s and dates back to circa 200 BC. The frieze surrounding the alter depicts a battle between the Greek gods and giants. It is in impeccable condition and it is just astounding to know that this Hellenistic alter is over 2000 years old and yet looks like it was carved from marble only yesterday!

As I continued through the museum I was again and again astonished at the exhibitions. The room after the Pergamon alter houses antiquities dug up from somewhere in Syria—these were housed in a private collection that was almost totally destroyed during the war... the antiquities have been re-pieced together from the rubble found after the collection was bombed.. it has taken a whole team over 15 years to put back together a third of the original collection! You then walk into another exhibit which is a full market square entry from Turkey; it is Roman and circa 100 AD! And then there is the Ishtar Gate and the whole entry way into Babylon! No kidding the museum is absolutely amazing... every room has another whole building facade from antiquity!

What astounds me more is the fact that the whole lot survived WWII (except the private collection that the Pergamon has since purchased). The Pergamon was completely destroyed but all of the antiquities had been stored in bunkers below the museums well before the bombing raids began. In fact it has only been in the last 6 years that the Pergamon building itself has been restored and has been able to open again to the public to show off its incredible pieces. If you are ever in Berlin you have to spend the cash and see the Pergamon...

After traipsing around the museum for a jaw dropping couple of hours I decided to catch the subway to the East Side Gallery. It is the other part of the Berlin wall that has remained standing since the amalgamation of the two Germany’s. It is also the part of the wall that was “decorated” by graffiti artists as the wall was coming down. This area has been preserved and so you can still see today the graffiti paintings that were put on the wall at the end of the 80s. It’s funny but apparently the Berlin City Council asked the artists to all come back to the gallery last year and re paint their paintings (as the paint was getting old and discoloured).. many of the artists are now world famous and so asked ridiculous prices to repaint their work!! I guess the council must have paid up because the paintings are all in great condition.

Spent the evening chatting to a couple of girls from South America and then turned in for a well-deserved sleep!

Posted by weary_feet 12:02 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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