Hofers explore Europe: Germany

October 21st 2015 - October 27th 2015


We were looking forward to visiting Germany, Hofe even taught himself German in prep for the trip. Germany totally exceeding our expectations, so much cooler than we though. I loved it!
We caught a train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, Germany. I was excited to ride on a train for the first time and expected it to be like Harry Potter. It wasn't. Haha but it was still a fun experience and the country side was breathtaking. We double checked and asked people before boarding to make sure we were getting on the right train. Hofe and I even kept track of the different stops to make sure we were headed to the right place. As our arrival time drew closer they made an over head announcement that caused some passengers to grumble. I couldn't understand what was said but I knew it wasn't good. Then the train stopped and everyone got off while we waited a few minutes thinking ours was the next stop. After lots of broken German and hand gestures, we found out there was a problem on the branch of the track our train was suppose to switch to.  So the train was diverted to a different station across town. Normally this isn't that big of a deal, but when you have someone waiting to pick you up at the original station, your phone doesn't work, you don't speak the language, and you have no clue where you are...it gets a little more difficult. Luckily our new German friends came to our rescue..and gave us a little tour of the city, fast and furious style. We just held on for dear life and I tried not to puke.
Michael's sister had the cutest girl from Germany live with them last year as an exchange student, and her family was nice enough to let us stay with them while in Hamburg. They were so wonderful! We are so grateful for all there hospitality. 

There house is gorgeous! Rebecca (the exchange student) has lived there all her life, her mother was born and grew up in the house, and so did her grandmother. It sits on the cutest tree lined street. Their house was pretty much my dream house. I love the simplicity of European style. They guided us all around Hamburg and would prepare the yummiest food. See? I told ya they're wonderful.

Some of the fun things we got to see and do in Hamburg that I highly recommend if you ever go...
St. Michael's Church - We climbed the stairs to the very top where you have an incredible (and windy) view of the city. 

Rathausmarkt - This is there old town hall/government building that dates back hundreds of years and has incredible architecture. Its also across from a lake and tons of tiny streets filled with shops. 

Speicherstadt - Picture Venice. Some of the oldest buildings (and my favorite) in Hamburg are found here. They are old factories and ports that sit between a series of canals. 

Harbor City - Old fish markets have started to transition to a hip new area with lots of fancy restaurants and a fun beach to visit.

While staying in Hamburg we also made a day trip out to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. This is the death camp that Anne Frank and her sister died at. It was an damp, cold, overcast fall day which made the place feel even more ominous and eerie. There were mounds all over in the grass that just looked like small hills, but after reading the plack learn are actually mass graves. Some holding as many as 1,000 people. All the fall foliage was beautiful though, which was weird to think that something so horrible and awful could happen in such a beautiful place. We also got to see the old railroad station where train cars jam packed full of Jewish people were unloaded then had to hike miles down the dirt road to the death camp Bergen-Belsen.

After a few days in Hamburg we caught a train to Berlin where we would be staying at an AirBnB. It was really nice but the outside was not what we expected at all. The graffitied door was a little sketch, but just down the street was the yummiest hole-in-the-wall doner kabab place. 

We spent our first day wandering, exploring, and finding cute little cobble stone streets. Michael got bird poop on his shoulder and I laughed really hard...later that night I discovered I had bird poop in my hair. Now Michael laughed really hard. The next two days were a marathon. We walked the city from dawn to dusk and saw just about everything you could want to see.  We got pretty dang good at navigating the rail system if I do say so myself. Everyone in Germany was so nice! Berlin such a cool city with so much neat things to see and do, and lots of history. This is a rough itinerary of our time in Berlin and some of the things we would recommend if you are ever there!

Day 1:
Start in Alexanderplatz You can see the TV tower, and lots of really neat buildings surrounding the square. St. Nicholas Church is a few minutes walk away and has the cutest cobble stone streets.

Then walk down the street to the Berlin Dome. This cathedral was built around 1454 and now is partially black on the outside from fires that burnt during the war. The tour was worth the money if just for the view of Berlin you get to see from a cat walk around the top of the dome. The inside is amazing as well! 

Next head over to Museum Island. We toured the Egyptian Museum and it was awesome. Its a neat place to just walk around too. After there is a great spot by the river to stop and rest your legs for a minute. Somedays they have street markets too. We checked out an art one while we were there.

From there head to Gendarmenmarkt. This is a nice place to stop and have lunch. Plus there is an awesome chocolate shop. Lets just say we had to work chocolate into our travel budget.

Then you can make your way over to Checkpoint Charlie. Make sure you notice as you walk right over where the wall crosses the sidewalk. The Germans pretending to be American soldiers at the checkpoint are pretty entertaining. 

After tour the Topographie des Terrors. This was an awesome (and Free!) museum that is built on top of the old S.S. headquarters. It lies on the famous Wilhelmstrasse street, across from which are more famous Nazi buildings. You can also see an untouched section of the Berlin Wall. 

Wander through the Holocaust Memorial near Dorotheenstadt. The giant cement blocks represent Jews that were killed and they seem to go on forever. 

Head to Pariser Platz. You can snap a few pictures and watch some of the street performers. 

Take a short cut through the park across the street to get to Republic Square. This is the equivalent to our White House. Also a great place to grab an ice cream!

Day 2:
Begin in Spandau. This cute old town section of Berlin is the perfect place to grab a croissant and hot chocolate for breakfast at one of the sidewalk cafes. There is also a beautiful old church to see. We liked this place so much we came back later that evening to explore some more.

Within walking distance you reach Spandau Citadel. This is one of the oldest and the best preserved Renaissance military fortresses in Europe. 

Take an U/S bahn to the other side of Berlin to see The East Side Gallery. Here you can walk a huge section of the Berlin Wall and admire art and murals that have been painted on it. Lots of places to stop for lunch here as well.

The rest of the day we wandered and explored and revisited some of our favorite spots. We hadn't bought train tickets this day because it came right as we got there and we didn't want to miss it. Hofe and I had a feeling we should but a German native told us "No one buys tickets, I haven't in 4 years." so we didn't think much more about it. But as we were heading back after a day of exploring two very large, very scarey looking German men got onto the train. They looked like hit men with their leather jackets and boots. When they started checking tickets Hofe and I looked at each other and telepathically decided we needed to get off at the next stop. We were as sneaky as we thought though and they followed us off. They asked for our tickets and I pretended to look for them, handing them all our old ones hoping they would see all the ones we'd bought and believe we had them, or get bored waiting and leave us be. Didn't happen, they were patient and intimidating. Unfortunately the pregnancy card didn't work either. We got tickets, about $80 each. Yuck. I wanted to cry. I decided not to let it ruin the rest of our trip though and laugh it off. But lesson learned. Always buy a ticket! After a super yummy dinner, where my veggie burger was actually a giant thick piece of cheese (insert emoji with giant eyes), we travelled back across the city to find a hotel since our AirBnB had already been booked for the night. We woke up super early and caught a flight to Switzerland, for only like $30! Wahoo!

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