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The first week of unplanned mystery and mayhem has so far gone off without too much trouble. The ferry crossing was good, the first night in a cool campsite was great (even though we didn't actually pitch the tent, hehehe), and our jaunt into and around northern Germany has been loads of fun!
So, Germany. We started our tour with an afternoon in Bremen. We rolled into town at about midday after a rainy start to the day and headed straight for the centre of town to do a quick tour before heading onto our resting place for the evening, Hannover. We managed to land the miracle parking right by the main town square, George Costanza would be proud.
The weather was still rainy and windy, and we managed to turn our sports umbrella inside out within the first 30 seconds of use. Some quick repairs and we were on our way. The main square was alive with some form of festival, or protest, or protest against festivals. All I knew was there was free food and lots of it! 4 cupcakes and several apples later, we wandered around town. We checked out a giant gothic style German church (the first of many I was soon to discover), a huge windmill by the river that ran through town, and some little back alleyways that lead to the casino. All this in about an hour!
On our way back to the car Liz realized that Bremen was the home of Becks beer, and therefore couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a brewery tour! We locked the coordinates into our GPS and were soon at the front door. Unfortunately for us, we had just missed the last English spoken tour for the day (the tour was 2 hours long, so I'm sure there would be something missing from just tacking onto a German tour), so we wandered around the gift shop and 'accidentally' made our way into the bar. Whoops!! The very kind barmaid told us that it was for tour patrons only, but if we sat inconspicuously in the corner, she would bring a few cheeky beers our way. Another stroke of luck for the day! (For all those concerned parties, 1 beer was all we had, and therefore were fine to continue our drive).
From the brewery, we made our way to the car and to Hannover. Back on the road and the rain set in again. Almost full day of driving in the rain from Hooghalen wasn't looking promising for setting up the tent for the first time (that's right, we bought a tent last year and had never used it - how hard can it be to set up a tent?). Fortunately for us, the rain eased about 30 minutes out of Hannover, and the ground was almost dry when we found our site.
The tent went up with little trouble, we ate some dinner, and then headed into the city to see what we could see. Again, a brilliant park job right in the heart of town (nice one me). A stroke of brilliance from Liz saw us following what, to the untrained eye looked to be a red line on the footpath painted by a blind drunk, but was actually the city self guided guide line complete with numbers where to stop and stare at specific historic and interesting things. The down side to this was that we arrived too late for the tourist office, and didn't have the map that accompanied the line, so every now and again were at a loss to figure out what we were looking at. Still, it was all pretty interesting and a whole lot of fun making up the details! Soon enough it was getting dark and was time for us to head home and hit the hay.
Tomorrow became the current day and it was an early start for us. We packed up the tent, said our goodbyes to Hannover and set out to Berlin via a small town by the name of Goslar I had my doubts, but Liz had assured me that the Lonely Planet gave this place big wraps, so, as it wasn't that far out of the way, we headed south. Another stroke of brilliance from Liz, this place rocked!! The park job, although still great - right in the centre of the action - was this time limited by the fact that it was in a paid parking zone. Still, 50 cents an hour is not so bad.
The timing gods were again on our side. As we strolled into the main square (famous for its glockenspiel), the clock struck 12, the crowd peered upwards, and the glockenspiel did its thing. Pretty cool and a pleasant melody too! While here we just wandered the streets checking out the old buildings. The great thing about this town was that the architecture was virtually unchanged since the 1800s, so it gave an insight into what a traditional German town could look like. I also learned (using my listening in to English speaking tour guides without actually being on the tour) that Goslar was a town purpose-built for the emperor of the time, hence all the golden eagles around town (the royal symbol).
After a quick PB&J (peanut butter and 'jelly' to the untrained) sandwich, we were back on the road and on our way to Berlin. Loads of rain and traffic made the day drag on and the trip take forever, but eventually we found ourselves on the Berlin ring road looping around town to find our campsite. The site we had selected was a little out of town (contrary to popular belief there is not much camping in the city of Berlin) on a beautiful lake. We found our pitch between pine trees about 5 metres from the water, and spent the remainder of the evening planning the next few days in the adventure.
The next day we were up early and in to town. We took the train in to avoid the weekend traffic and big city parking prices. Turned out to be a great option. We got into Alexanderplatz, one of the main train stations, and were immediately immersed in culture. We had obtained a map of the city from the campsite, so had a rough idea of all the things to see and where to go. Unfortunately that map did not survive the trip, the wind took it apart with our constant referral, so I can't tell you exactly the places we visited, but the most notable were the old Berlin Wall and 'Checkpoint Charlie', museum island, the Reichstag, Bebelplatz where the first nazi book burning took place, and last remaining gate to the city. All in all, it was a fantastic day in Berlin!
The next day we packed up and headed off on another big day of driving. The first stop on the day's bill was Sachsenhausen concentration camp, just north of Berlin. This was the first concentration camp in Germany and was used as a model and testing ground for all other camps that followed during the war. The whole thing was really a chilling experience. It was (and still is) hard to believe something so terrible and cruel could have gone on for so long in that place. Without going into too much detail (it doesn't really keep with the upbeat nature of the blog) we spent about 3 hours wandering the grounds with a map and an audio-guide. By the end we were both emotionally and physically exhausted!
Back in the car and we were on our way to Schwerin. If you ever get the chance, and dig fairytales, check out Schwerin. There is a Disney-esque castle on the lake that still functions as parliament, has church, two restaurants, extensive gardens, and several other things I can't recall. I wouldn't be surprised if it had a time machine!! We were again in luck with another form of festival going on in and around the grounds. And this is where Liz's love affair with Bratwurst begins. We got German sausage 3 times the size of the bun it was served in, and were in meaty heaven! With full bellies we again toured around town taking in the gigantic churches and cool old buildings.
From here we pushed on to our campsite just out of Lubeck, set up shop and called it a night. This morning we were again up early (it is surprisingly cold overnight, and hard to sleep past 7am) and on our way into Monday morning traffic in Hamburg. For me, Hamburg is not the most exciting of towns. I am not sure what I was expecting, but severe bombing during WWII meant that it didn't have the same old time charm that everywhere else we had been seemed to be able to retain. Still, we managed to see several massive churches and a few old cobbled streets hugging the canals.
A few hours later we were back to Lubeck. It turns out that Lubeck is the home to biggest red brick gothic church in the universe. It is massive. It is also the home of marzipan (which we didn't try). We hit the tourist office, picked up a map with a self-guided tour, and you guessed it, guided ourselves around the city. It may seem like a broken record but there are plenty of churches, charming old cobbled streets, and waterways to keep the senses entertained.
We are now at our campground planning what is happening tomorrow. In summary, Germany is full of massive churches, cobbled streets, Bratwurst, and Germans. Until next time.
To all those concerned or who care, we have a travelling phone number that we can be contacted on at anytime. It is a UK number, but we do not get charged for roaming, so calls and texts cost what they would if we were in London. The number is +44 7799 101 486. Mary B, Liz still has her UK phone number with her, so if you can't get on to us with the new one, we have a back up.