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Published: February 20th 2006
A Tale Of Two Germany’s
Like any classic fairytale Germany’s story includes hero’s, dark villains, dramatic scenery and a hopeful ending. It is a land of majestic castles surrounded by enchanted forests and quaint villages. A story that also includes mad kings, bleak times and sinister rulers.
Before we get too poetic or educational on you, we just want to add…WE LOVE GERMANY (we may have been influenced by the large portions of the best food we’ve had in Europe.
A great example of one of Germany’s charming villages is Garmisch. We wanted to be sure to visit it for sentimental reasons. Back in the dark ages, the US government gave J’s family a free trip to Germany. Well, okay… the Army had a few strings attached. J’s dad was stationed in Germany for 3 years. For years we have all heard the story of their trip to Garmisch and Neuschwanstein Castle. The road to the castle is straight uphill for almost a mile and takes at least 45 minutes to walk it. J’s parents love to retell the account of how they carried a whining 4 year old most of the way to the castle. In honor
of that momentous occasion we decided to reenact the past and have A carry J. That lasted about 5 seconds, but it was really the horse drawn carriage that took us up there! So much for total re-enactments!
While we were at Neuschwanstein we learned of King Ludwig II, sometimes called Mad Ludwig. It’s really a sad story, because as the castle was almost finished his body was found in shallow water in a nearby lake along with his psychiatrist . His death is a mystery to this day. The facts leading up to his demise lead many to believe it was murder. He had been declared unfit to rule by a commission in Munich by reason of insanity. Even with his dark moods and extravagant spending he was the most popular Bavarian King in history. Although the Neuschwanstein Castle is but one of several King Ludwig built it is probably the most famous. Walt Disney used Neuschwanstein as his inspiration for Cinderella’s castle. The interior is spectacular and includes detailed wood cravings, tapestries and gorgeous murals. The throne hall has marble stairs, paintings of the 12 apostles and a huge chandelier in the shape of a crown that
can hold 96 candles. All this and the throne Hall was never used.
Just below Neuschwanstein is Hohenschwangau Castle. It was built in the 12th century and later restored by Maximilian II the father of King Ludwig II. Who actually spent most of his time there. The golden yellow color and romantic style made it feel warmer than most other castles. Inside there are beautiful murals covering nearly every wall.
The village of Garmisch is unlike any place we have been before. It is surrounded by remarkable mountains. The buildings are covered by beautiful folk paintings and flower boxes are everywhere. Side walk cafes, beer gardens and ice cream shops compete with Christmas shops, cuckoo clock stores and souvenir shops for the tourist’s attention.
As we left Garmisch for Berlin A enjoyed another chance to drive whatever speed he wanted on the Autobahn. No worries about tickets! We drove around Munich and saw some pretty amazing structures. We also saw the Olympic Village area.
Speeding on to Berlin, which took us by surprise. We all agreed that Berlin is a very pleasant and intriguing city. We stayed in a very nice Marriott that
is located in Potsdamer Platz the new center of Berlin. Once a no man’s land now the largest building sight in all of Europe. Sony Center was right next door to the hotel. The atrium is a large sail-like structure. At night it becomes like a work of art with changing colored lights. Potsdamer Platz was the former location of the People’s Court where the Nazi Party tried and convicted enemies of The Third Reich and over 5000 people were executed.
One afternoon we walked from our hotel to Checkpoint Charlie, where a tense standoff took place between American and Soviet tanks in 1948-1949. It was referred to as the Berlin Blockade. The Wall Museum overlooks the checkpoint. It tells the history of the many attempts East German’s made to escape. There are displays that describe ingenious plans of escape including tunnels, home-made airplanes, balloons, submarines and hiding inside of things while crossing the border. Outside at the checkpoint two large pictures are posted, when standing on the west a Russian soldier looks back at you from the East side. On the other hand when standing on the east side an American soldier is gazing back at you.
We took a city tour and saw the Berlin Cathedral, the largest protestant church in Berlin. It was built in 1894 but was damaged during WWII. The repair and restoration was in 1993. It is the final resting place of royalty included King Friedrich I and Queen Sophie Charlotte. Another sight included The Brandenburg Gate A massive Gate that was once the pride of Imperial Berlin. It was left in an eerie no man’s land when the wall was first built. It is the sole remaining gate of 14 built in 1788.
We walked to Reichstag is the seat of the German’s federal government it was built in 1884. The inscribed words Dem Deutschen Volke mean to the German People. The building was badly damaged during WWII but was reconstructed in 1961 in a more simplified design. Since the reunification the German Parliament has used Reichstag. The Glass Dome was added to the structure and completed in 1999.
Our last evening in Berlin while walking near our hotel we saw a group gathering near one of the sections of the wall that has been left standing. A filming crew was there with a group of dancers and
acrobats. We watched as they performed jumps and flips on and around the wall. What a great visional symbol of the new freedoms the German people are experiencing today in Berlin. We had to think…This gives a whole new meaning to Jumping The Berlin Wall. It seems like this is a hopeful ending to our fairytale story of Germany.
We are now on to our last stop …… Norway!
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