I visited Germany in 2009 and again in 2015. The 2009 trip was to Munich in southern Germany and in 2015, I went to Hamburg and Berlin in northern Germany. Did you know that Berlin is the largest city in Germany followed by Hamburg and then Munich ? Though I did not plan to visit the three largest cities in Germany, I am glad it turned out that way 🙂
Here’s a map to give you an idea of where they are 🙂
I was in Munich for a week in late June of 2009. It is the capital of the state of Bavaria in Germany. Though it was not the time of Oktoberfest, no trip of Munich is complete without having beer in Hofbräuhaus 😉 It was a surprise to me to see that beer in Munich was like water as in , I saw people everywhere in subways carrying beer like water 🙂
I took a bus tour of Munich city and saw some amazing places. Munich was different from the other cities I visited. Its green 🙂 And, because of the following interesting fact..
Fun fact 1: Did you know that no new building in Munich is allowed to be higher than the church Frauenkirche ?
Munich’s Kunstareal (art district) consisting of Alte Pinakothek (the amazing art museum with collections by Titian, Rembrandt etc.), Neue Pinakothek (with one of Van Gogh’s famous Arles Sunflowers) and Pinakothek der Moderne is a treat for art lovers. Also, the Nymphenburg palace, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles and Linderhof Palace outside Munich are a sight to see ! Munich’s BMW Headquarters, New Gothic Town Hall in Marienplatz, Glyptothek Museum, Angel of Peace Monument, Munich Residenz including Königsbau, Alte Residenz and Festsaalbau, Olympic Tower in the Olympic Park built for the 1972 Summer Olympics and many others things are its treasures. One interesting thing to see was the Theatine Church, whose architecture had a Mediterranean influence and apparently, the yellow colors eventually became a symbol of the city. Here are some pictures 🙂
Hamburg, on the other hand, was a different experience. Its a port city but the port is on the river Elbe, around 110 kms from where Elbe meets the North Sea (See the map above). The ships in the port were huge, and it was my first time I have seen huge huge ships from up so close ! My Schengen visa experience to Hamburg was very interesting. I was applying for my visa in Atlanta, and the visa officer was very friendly and it turned out that he was from Hamburg himself. Towards the end of the discussion, he suggested me to visit a place in Hamburg for which it is famous ! It was Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s infamous Red-Light District and apparently its a hot spot for tourists 😉
Similar to Munich, the town hall of Hamburg is beautifully constructed. And, the city center is a wonderful place to spend time just walking by the side of the Alster lake. Its a perfect mix of tranquility with busy city life and a bunch of nice restaurants and shops 🙂
One of the local people suggested us a place to eat, a little far from the Town Hall (Stadt Backerei Cafe) and we had some amazing pastries there. Another unique experience for me was to see hundreds of Syrian refugees near Hamburg Railway station, waiting to be relocated or sheltered by govt. or charity organizations. What a contrast ! But, it was lovely to see people coming to help each other in these situations. It was a lesson of humanity 🙂
We had a banquet in Hamburg’s famous fish market (converted for the night). During our banquet, I had some interesting experiences. Apparently, from some Bavarian tradition, we saw a unique performance in which the performers stood on top of the tables and ‘danced’ with whips on their hands. I also witnessed a game in which any person who can hold their big beer jug on a stretched hand for the longest amount of time without bending the arm, wins the game and gets to drink the beer for free !!
Another interesting sight was the countless ‘love locks’ on the ‘bridge of love’.
Fun fact 2 : If the lock is closed, the key finally seals the love, according to the ritual. The key rusts from that point on down in the water below, out of reach; the lock remains forever connected to the balustrade, inseparable. More details here.
Here are some pictures..
Fun fact 3: Did you also know that the famous clock tower at St. Michaelis Church in Hamburg has been used as a beacon for sailors since 1680 ?
On my last day at Hamburg, I decided to pay a short visit to Berlin 🙂 I was there only for a day. Steeped with history from the period of World War to 1989 when the demolition of the Berlin Wall began, the visit felt like as if I am being brought back to those days. Whether its the story and message behind each of the paintings and murals while you walk by the East Side Gallery, or the Topography of Terror, the Berlin Wall Memorial, Reichstag Building, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie where the Soviet and American tanks faced off in 1961, Memorial of Murdered Jews etc., this journey is bound to raise goosebumps ! Of course, Berlin has other things to offer as well like the Berlin Tower, Cathedral, Oberbaum Bridge, and its Museum Island !
Fun fact 4 : The caption at the bottom of the famous ‘Kiss’ painting by Soviet artist Dmitri Vrubel at East Side Gallery reads : “My God, help me to survive this deadly love affair.“
All in all, it was a trip to remember ! If you decide to visit Berlin, do allow yourself to spend some time and breathe the countless stories in..