McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Germany (page 1 of 2)

Days 1 and 2: Berlin and Dresden

Since we landed at 1pm local time after flying all night, we planned a pretty short first day in case we were wrecked. Norah slept about 4 hours, Kegan probably 3-4…and I got maybe 2. lol So, none of us were super peppy. What better way to start exploring a country than by hopping in a manual transmission rental car and driving right downtown!

We had planned to hit a preserved span of the Berlin Wall called the East Side Gallery, but being a beautiful sunny 80 degree day in Berlin, everyone in the city was out and about… and we couldn’t find parking…so we continued on to Treptower Park. A large green space on the edge of downtown with a large Soviet memorial to the fallen Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin. As Americans, we think of D-Day and how American troops “won the war”… but I think we have lost sight of how much the Soviet front assisted with that. The Russians lost 80,000 soldiers in the Battle of Berlin alone…and without their push dividing the German armies, I’m not sure D-Day would have been as successful.

Here’s Norah trying to pretend to not be a zombie. 🙂

We checked into our hotel and took a quick 30 minute nap to recharge and headed out around Berlin on a walking tour.

Our first stop was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. 2,711 concrete slabs on over 5 acres. Underground, the names of over 3 million murdered Jews.

This memorial has a lot of artistic symbolism and a quick description won’t do it much justice, but basically, the blocks are all different heights and sizes representing the varying characteristics of the Jewish people. The stones start off very shallow and get deeper and taller as you walk down into the memorial- representing the despair of the Jewish people as we got further into the Nazi “final solution” or the Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich. You feel trapped as you descend into the memorial, like the Jews felt. You can actually feel like you are being lost from your group or family or unable to find an escape- also representing the Jewish experience.

For concrete slabs, it did a great job of conveying a very hollow feeling and it was worth the visit.

Next, the symbol of Berlin- the Brandenburg Gate. In the 1600s, Berlin was just a star fort… but in 1730 it was expanded out to include some “suburbs” of the gated city. This area became a gate in that way. Brandenburg being the town that the road out of Berlin leads to. In 1788 a new gate was built, complete with the statue of Victoria, goddess of Victory riding in a chariot of 4 horses.

Fun fact, when Napoleon conquered Berlin in 1806, he took the chariot and goddess Victoria statue from the top of the gate back to Paris as a symbol of the victory… but after the Prussians defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1814, the Prussian general Ernst von Pfuel had it sent back to Berlin. Because of this, until 1919, only members of the Royal Family AND members of the Pfuel family (as a thank you) were allowed to pass through the central archway.

The Nazis used the gate as a party symbol, and it was heavily damaged in WWII. Only one horse’s head of the chariot survives in a museum somewhere. Tons of bullet holes and damage from explosions.

Just beside the gate is the Reichstag Building. Built in the 1800s, used by the Nazi’s as a seat of power…it was destroyed in 1945 during the Battle of Berlin

One of my favorite images of WWII was taken in the rubble outside the Reichstag after the war. A bust of Adolf Hitler and a crushed globe lie in the debris of the Reichstag. Such a symbol of the defeat.

The Reichstag the morning after the surrender of the Germans to the Soviets.

Not published in LIFE. Oberwallstrasse, in central Berlin, saw some of the most vicious fighting between German and Soviet troops in the spring of 1945

I just wanted to show the above for context of just what Germany looked like in 1945. Every place we go to visit, the captions read something like “built in 1300. Demolished in 1945, reconstructed in 1980.”  It’s just insane who much damage there really was to everything.

Next we hopped an Uber down to Checkpoint Charlie. Norah was NOT having the walk and I wasn’t super thrilled to walk a mile just to see a parking lot that used to be Hitler’s Bunker. Germany has worked hard to not memorialize Hitler in any way even when they have such a tourism industry surrounding WWII. Until the last few years (I’m guessing due to the number of wandering American tourists asking where the Bunker is) there wasn’t even a sign marking the location. Now, supposedly there is a little plaque noting the location and nothing else. Quite fitting for a man with grand dreams of world domination. In the underground bunker is where Hitler and Ava Braun took cyanide and killed themselves as the Soviets closed in. There are lots of images and some film from the bunker as it was captured, but the Soviets demolished the entire structure.

But… on to Checkpoint Charlie. After WWII, Berlin was divided in half. An American section and a Russian section. Technically the Soviets had taken the entire city…but the Americans knew the importance of limiting the communist government and in conceding that much land to the Soviets, so the decision was made to divide Berlin into zones. From 1945-1961, the border was just theoretical… people could cross freely, but the policies and circumstances were causing a mass exodus from the East into the West (over 3.5 million people fled from the East to the West in this timeframe) and basically overnight, the Soviets rolled out rolls of barbed wire, threatening to shoot anyone who crossed the border and they began constructing the Berlin Wall. After the construction of the wall, there were only 3 border crossings- Checkpoints Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Charlie was where all US diplomats and government officials had to cross, the most iconic and famous of the crossings.

In 1961, shortly after the wall was erected, there was an infamous standoff between Russian and American tanks that started over whether East Germans could inspect documents of an American diplomat that wanted to cross into East Germany to see an opera. It lasted a week and eventually was worked out peacefully, with Robert Kennedy leading negotiations.  You can see the original checkpoint and sign below. What stands now is just tourism reproductions.

I saw the strangest thing and I couldn’t get a good quick picture because it was gone- but you get 2 blurry ones. haha It was like a group bicycle. Everyone was peddling and talking and moving it on down the road. Hilarious! The lady in the headscarf smiled broadly and waved at us. Not sure if it’s something you can rent or if this is just something they own and ride around as a family! So many questions haha

We next walked by the Trabant museum. A collection of “Trabi’s” or Trabant brand automobiles-a vintage East German car. I now have a new old mini car I’d like to have. haha I didnt know these existed, but they are adorable! Turns out there is a little mini industry around Berlin renting Trabis to tour around Berlin for about $125 a day. Not bad considering…

We kept seeing the Berlin Hi FLyer balloon high above the city on our walk, but ended up by the entrance. Norah wanted to go up and I would have taken her but they were just closing it down for the evening when we got there. (darn the luck. ha)

In Currywurst we trust!

Everywhere around Berlin, you’ll find kiosks and small vendors selling Currywurst, a local specialty with blue collar roots. A cheap lunch for the local workers that has now become a famous staple of the city. and you know us, if there is local food that needs trying- we are there. ha

The best way I can describe it is like a slightly softer skinned cut up hot dog covered in ketchup – like you had at about 5 years old- dusted with a very mild but still fragrant curry powder. I felt like a kindergartener again. ha Norah was a big fan. (because: hot dogs) At the time I was very “meh” about it, but I caught myself craving another the next day…so I can see how you get hooked 🙂 Kegan was impressed that you could get a bottle of beer, a coke or a water with your currywurst combo for the same price. That’s a world he likes living in!

We continued on to the Topography of Terror as the sun set. A large section of the Berlin wall remains along with an open air museum regarding the Nazi party’s rise to power. It was interesting. It was all 1932-1933 Nazi progression and how things happened to enabled the party to take complete power from the government. Lots of vintage photographs from around Berlin in 1933. The famous Nazi book burning where the young people of Germany basically organized a burning of thousands and thousands of books they deemed non-German. Anything Jewish, anything communist- but even American authors like Hemingway, or Irish author James Joyce. Anything that showed an upper or upper-middle class view of the world or didn’t fit into the Nazi party doctrine.

Just past the standing section of the wall, this metal memorial runs the length of the street where the wall used to stand.

We walked back to our hotel for the evening looking for dinner-eventually ordering Thai delivery to the hotel.  It was good. or maybe I was just terribly hungry.

We did stumble upon one last thing that I had read about. There is a project in Berlin, the Stolpersteine Initiative. (Tripping Stone Initiative) – Little plaques inset into the stone streets outside of what used to be a house’s main entrance, where Jews were forcefully removed. Before the concentration camps, Jews were deported from around German including major cities and “relocated” to overcrowded ghettos in various places. So, a letter from the government would be received (best case- sometimes the police just showed up and told you that you have an hour to pack your things, that you were being relocated.) Basically they were informed they could no longer own property and that they were being relocated to Warsaw…or Krakow.. They were to pack up no more than they could carry and leave. Can you imagine? The houses would then be gifted to Nazi men of importance or used for housing for other Germans. and since most of the Jews and entire family lines would eventually be hauled out of the ghettos and murdered, no one ever could return to claim the property. I think this project is necessary and I am really glad they have done this as a reminder in their daily lives of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people.

After a needed sleep, we started our Day 2 morning with a great European breakfast. I love the “cold plate” breakfasts available here. They dont hold a candle to Swedish/Norwegian breakfasts- but I do love meat/cheese/croissants and fruit for breakfast. I had a pretzel this morning- just because I could! Norah thought pretzels for breakfast was pretty amazing, too. ha

We drove over to Alexanderplatz and parked to walk another part of Berlin. We saw the Urania Weltzeituhr (World Clock). You can tell the current time in 148 major cities. Built in 1969 during reconstruction of the square.

Behind the world clock you can see the Berlin Fernsehturm (Berlin Needle) – a symbol of the city. At 368 meters tall, its the tallest structure in Germany. It was a TV tower built in the 60s with a rotating restaurant and an observation deck.

We continued walking and came to the Neptunbrunnen (Neptune’s Fountain)- a city fountain built in the 1890s with the Roman god Neptune and 4 women representing each of the 4 rivers of Prussia: Elbe, Rhine, the Vistula and the Oder.

After the fountain we walked to the Berliner Dom- Berlin Cathedral.

Norah showing her love for french fries.

This led us to Museum Island, a small island in the middle of downtown Berlin with multiple cultural museums. We started outside the Altes Museum, but didnt tour it since it’s mainly art from the Prussian Royal Family and we have a 5 year old who’s schedule is all messed up right now ha.

We did buy tickets to the Neues Museum and the Pergamonmuseum- the two main attractions on the island. The Neues museum’s claim to fame is the Egyptian wing and the Bust of Nefertiti – a sculpture of the royal wife of King Akhenaten from 1345 BC. (almost 3500 years old!) The bust was discovered in 1912 by a German excavation. During the bombings of WWII it was moved to a salt mine outside the city, discovered by the US Army and turned over to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Branch (have you seen the movie Monuments Men? A group of soldiers whose only job was to preserve the art of Europe during the war.)

I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside of the room (this still really irks me when large attractions do this… but in this case, I will assume it’s because people can’t turn off their flash and the flashing lights over an over can erode the paint on the statue.) So, here is a close up from the museum website

A couple other Roman and Egyptian items were neat to view as well.

A bust of Socrates

A leader of the Egyptian army

Norah liked the hieroglyphics on this one. “Like really old Emojis” i think she said. ha

The Neues was badly damaged during WWII and some parts of the damage are still visible in the walls.

We came back out of the Neues to find that the Pergamonmuseum had a 2 hour wait just to enter the sites. Yowza. So, we made the decision that the glossy high res photos online of the 3-4 sites I wanted to see would just have to do this trip. Disappointing, but I would find it hard to wait in line for 2 hours for free gold nevermind jet lagged with a 5 year old. haha

So, we trekked it back to the car and headed out towards Dresden. Just in time, too. Just started sprinkling rain on us as we got to the car and it rained almost the entire time we drove to Dresden, but stopped about the time we arrived. Then poured rain the second we got into our hotel room- great luck with the rain showers today!

We ate the local delicacy of McDonalds along the way. ha

Norah was happy. Then she fell asleep eating french fries- poor thing. ha

I caught a little nap myself while Kegan drove and we hit downtown Dresden for a quick tour. My photos are really washed out because it was so grey and overcast.

The Frauenkirche is a famous domed Lutheran church (was Catholic, then Lutheran during the Reformation) built in the 1700s. It’s huge sandstone dome is a real feat of engineering. It is said to have withstood over 100 cannonballs during the Prussian war… and it even lasted 2 full days and nights through the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

Eventually though, the dome fell during WWII. Over 650,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on Dresden by Allied forces- mostly the UK. The church temperature reached over 1800 degrees F and the church collapsed.

The bombing of Dresden is one of the questionable things the Allieds did in WWII. My personal opinion is that it was Churchill’s payback for the bombings of London and the “strategic nature” of Dresden is questionable… it seems to me that we just bombed everything in sight in a city of mostly civilians… but then again- war is war and it’s not pretty and a heck of a lot of civilians died throughout the entire conflict.

The church sat in ruins like you see above until the 1990s. It has just recently been reconstructed to the Baroque design.

We walked along Brühl’s Terrace, or the “balcony of Europe” overlooking the Augustus bridge (under construction) and the River Elbe.

We saw the Procession of Princes- the largest ceramic art piece in the world (if Wikipedia can be trusted). This was designed to commemorate 800 years of Saxon kings and depicts every king throughout the Wettin Dynasty.

Next we walked towards the Georgenbau, an old city gate to the Elbe river.. built with a palace on top.. very ornate neo-classic architecture.

Kegan really liked the guys guarding the main central entrance.

Norah’s highlight of the day: the ice cream. She got strawberry and I got Mango basil which I then swapped with Kegan because he loved it and I thought i was OK. He has ordered a Quince Kefir.. so that’s what I had. ha

We ended our day outside of Dresden in Coswig at a small hotel/restaurant/beergarden with traditional Czech food. We were one of 3 guests in the hotel and the dinner was very good. Menus only in German/Czech… so it was a bit of a guessing game! But we were happy in the end. A great intro to Czech food.

Tomorrow we will be off through the Czech countryside and ending in Wroclaw, Poland.

We did get some bad news from home late into Day 2 that Kegan’s grandmother has had a severe stroke and was undergoing brain surgery to remove a clot. We are getting updates and checking in with the family, ready to come home at a moment’s notice. For now, we feel helpless but know we can’t do anything more there than we are doing here as its just a waiting game now to get more information. Please keep Dave and Sharon Ison in your positive thoughts or prayers and their entire family for comfort and guidance. We saw Sharon as we left for the airport on Saturday- they came to watch Norah’s soccer game and we just laughed at those little monsters running around like crazy. You could tell she had a great time and she looked good, felt good. She seemed better than she had been in months. She gave us bigs hugs and kisses and said how much she loved us and wanted us to have a fantastic time on our trip. I’m thankful for that send off and that long hug now, but hoping that is not to be our final goodbye.

Off We Go Again!

This evening we’re heading out to Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland for a two week trip. I’d call it a “vacation”, but that makes it sound like a great escape that we excitedly planned haha This was just leftover Ireland plane tickets that I was going to lose the value of if we didn’t use them before May and we were limited to Ireland, Berlin or Madrid. Since we just went to Spain and well, Ireland didn’t really want us…I chose Berlin since we’ve never been there.

Really, outside of World War II knowledge, I didn’t know much about Poland or the Czech Republic….I vaguely remember the Berlin wall coming down as a very young kid.. so I went into this trip sort of blind about what we would find to do. I fully admit to a lot of history reading and research for this trip! I was worried this was just going to be a 2 week super-depressing concentration camp/Hitler tour haha but I think we were able to incorporate WWII sites and history with plenty of other cultural things as well. But prepare…WWII touched everything here. More like demolished everything here. So its hard to discuss most things without at least including that context.

Itinerary highlights for this trip: We are flying overnight into Berlin via Iceland, followed by Dresden, then into the mountains known as Saxon Switzerland in the Czech Republic. Cutting into Poland to visit Wroclaw (pronounced something like RO-clawv – Polish and Czech are HARD to pronounce it turns out! ha) then to Prague in the Czech Republic, next- a tour all around Poland: visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp, Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk and back to Germany for a couple towns like Potsdam and Leipzig. All the yellow marks on the map are places we’ll be visiting.

We usually stay in AirBnb houses or apartments but the last couple trips I have had some issues with people cancelling our reservations same day, not being around, the property not really being clean or really even being a rental… I guess just since AirBnb has gotten so big and easily accessible, there are more people using it that just shouldn’t. This trip we stuck to mostly hotels…only one apartment- in Prague that seems like it will be awesome, right downtown overlooking a big historic bridge. Here’s hoping anyway.

We should have a good mix of city, country, history, modern, beach and mountains in this trip and hopefully some great Polish food. This is the first time we will have visited a country with Russian history, so seeing Soviet influences and residual culture will be neat.

There is a little area on the edge on Northeast Poland that is actually still owned by Russia. There is a city there called Kaliningrad that I thought might be neat to visit… so I looked into what it would take to visit. Basically, long story short… as Americans, we cant. They offer a 3 day visa for Canadians and Europeans…but not for Americans….and after the events of the last few weeks with Russia, I think it best to stay firmly in the EU for now 🙂 I’ve never met a Russian person I didn’t like… but I fear their government. But never judge a people by it’s government. haha

While we’re both exhausted from work and house projects-(Kegan built a fence around our house this week and I’ve spent all week in Alabama on a red-alert client issue) I hope the trip is worth the time away. We just got some drywall finished up that will allow us to finally finish our master bedroom and dining room and it’s prime gardening time, so really about the least ideal time for us to pick up and spend two weeks away…but thankful for family to watch the dog and water my plants!

We are currently boarded and leaving Chicago.

Kegan is already disappointed because he thought they said there was an “orgy” on board 🙄 Boys. Haha

They just brought Norah a cute little travel bag with a bottle of water, a padded eye mask for sleeping, headphones and a turkey sandwich. Pretty cool.

I’ll post after Berlin. See ya soon!

Mannheim, Bretten, Miltenberg and small towns

Sorry for the almost two week delay. Technical difficulties uploading pictures on the blog, but I found a work around so here we go!

On Sunday, we were ending up at Tiffany and Mike’s house, so we just drove by a couple places we wanted to see on the first day. The city of Bonn- the home of Beethoven- was nothing much to see other than being a city on a beautiful river. Sort of like the riverfront in Louisville… and I’m sure the Beethoven museum would have been fun…but maybe not with a 4 year old. 🙂

We also drove to the town of Remagen, which is where the Ludendorff bridge was located- the final barrier in WWII for Allied troops crossing the Rhine river during Hitler’s retreat. The bridgehead today isn’t much to look at…and you’d look right over it without knowing the history, but during WWII, as the Germans retreated, they destroyed all bridges across the Rhine to buy themselves time to establish their positions inside Germany. The Nazis had placed over 6000 lbs of charges on the bridge by the time the US troops arrived… and the bridge was heavily damaged but still standing as most of the charges didn’t detonate, so unexpectedly, the US Army had a bridge and began conversion works to allow for truck and tank crossing since it was currently used as a train bridge. This changed Eisenhower’s entire attack plan and he diverted 5 battalions to the bridge to enter Germany and engage German troops about two weeks ahead of schedule, definitely shortening the war and the casualties involved for the Allied side.

But…the German army didn’t leave the bridge without a fight. They dive-bombed the bridge with planes, firing rounds at the bridge, fired V2 missiles at the bridge- that killed troops-but didn’t take out the bridge. They even sent soldiers underwater using breathing apparatus to place charges on the bridge, but the Army was ready and the soldiers were captured or killed.

The Army Corp of Engineers continued working on the bridge endlessly and when military vehicles crossed that bridge, it was the first time troops had successfully crossed the Rhine since Napoleon did it in 1805.

Sadly, after a few days, the bridge finally gave way…while engineers were on the bridge making repairs and many men died or were injured…but by this time, the floating bridges were complete and the bridge did its job, allowing the Allieds to progress, shortening the war and keeping Germany from digging into position.

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The Remagen bridge as it was in 1945

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There is a short 4 minute YouTube clip of of old Army footage that shows the area and the Remagen bridgework pretty well

And if this is your thing, there is even a movie made about the Battle of Remagen:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064110/

We drove through the town of Bitburg-famous for Bitburger beer. They have a fountain dedicated to beer brewing in front of the brewery

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We passed a lot of greenway bridges in Germany. I think they are an awesome idea! Not quite sure how you direct the animals to the bridge… but I guess they just use what feels like the safest place.

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We ended at Tiffany and Mike’s and spent some time with them for Sunday evening and Monday. We had some good German food and spent some time with baby Elliott who is just such a good baby and sooo adorable. Norah really enjoyed a baby being around. She wants a baby sister.  I hate to break it to her….but I’m not sure I’m up for that. ha

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On Tuesday, we headed out towards Mannheim, Heidelberg and Stuttsgart. Just did some driving and touring as it was rainy. I really, REALLY wanted to find construction work going on in Mannheim… (Mannheim Steamroller) but not luck. haha

We drove up the hillside in Heidelberg to the castle. We didn’t get to tour it, but maybe one day 🙂

We ended at a Radisson Blu that was just a chain hotel and had dinner at restaurant that just belonged in a chain hotel. haha Nothing too crazy but this time of year and this area is known for its white asparagus, so I had that.

Wednesday, we drove through some small villages. Found an adorable town called Bretten where we walked a marketplace and found deli meats and sausages, pretzels, a cheese shop and some ice cream.

We made the best spread of pretzels, cheese and meats!

We drove around for a few hours winding through lots of little villages, some of which I don’t even know the names of….

So much of the countryside in this area is covered in Rapeseed (used for Canola oil…as Rapeseed oil sounds..well…terrible lol) Its such a bright yellow, it’s just beautiful.

We drove to Amorbach which has the most fabulous and beautiful Baroque cathedral.

Ended in the most adorable town of Miltenberg

Kegan and Norah went exploring and some older lady ran inside and washed an apple and came back to give it to Norah. haha


We stayed in a suite right on the town square and it was soooo nice.

Ate dinner at a little German cafe, Kegan had some legit Saurbraten

The last day was a short day- buffet breakfast at the hotel and more gifts for Norah. The waitress gave her a little bottle of kid fingernail polish. Haha Norah loved it.

We just drove through a bunch of small villages in the Rhine-Neckar region. Wonderful half-timber houses, cute markets… found a playground along the way and then headed to the airport.

We had a great trip. Loved seeing Germany for the first time. Back to the home remodeling for a couple weeks and then we’ll be headed to Spain for 11 days. I’ll be back shortly with some more sightseeing! 🙂

Trier and Luxembourg

A day of walking today. Walked two cities. Wowza. I am exhausted. Ha Even Kegan’s legs are a little sore, so I feel vindicated. Haha 

Leaving our hotel, the guy had a surprise for Norah. An entire bag of candy. I could write a blog focusing only on all the free gifts this child gets. Haha


We started off the morning with a geology nerd alert. I found an 8 foot wide lava bomb in a little village not far out the way from our route, so a late birthday surprise for the scientist. 

This area of Germany used to have an active volcano about 10,000 years ago… and there are still lots of volcano related features around. In the village of Strohn lies this beast of a lava bomb- lava that flys out of the volcano into the air- cools as it falls and then crashes into the Earth as a solid boulder. I like to imagine there’s a crushed dinosaur under this guy. Lol


We continued on to Trier. Romans!! 

I have to be honest- I didn’t really know about all of the Roman history in this town until I started planning my trip. This town is on par with Parts of Italy! And I found out it was the capital of the Western  Empire. Constantine lived and ruled from here for many years, which explains the extravagant and high class amenities of the city. 

We started our tour at the City gate- Porta Nigra, the only gate still standing of the old city wall system. Absolutely massive and in such great condition. 

What is even cooler though is the fact that it’s all still STANDING 1600 years later. But… this is only due to a couple of things historically. In the 1200s, they used this and turned it into a church, using the side you see in the photos as a side wall…and using the tall tower part as the base of their steeple. It stayed that way until Napoleon bludgeoned through and he demanded they tear the whole thing down. Rumor has it that locals told him of its Roman origins, so he changed his mind and ordered them to return it to its original form. As it stands today is as close as they came. It’s gets its present name- Black Gate from the decades of auto pollution that is turning the stone black. 



We walked on through town through a marketplace to the Trier Cathedral or Dom Du Trier. The oldest cathedral in Germany. In fact, Constantine’s mother gave up her palace so that there could be a cathedral constructed here. Supposedly there is a holy nail from the crucifix somewhere here but I didn’t see it. 


Bought local chocolates at a shop right outside. Oh, and Norah got free chocolates. Haha


Next we headed for the Constantine Throne Room- where Emporer Constantine ruled his empire. But…it was closed. Ha which actually is fine- because it was modified multiple times up through the 1800s, remade “roman” in the 1890s and then burned down in WWII and finally reconstructed… so now, it’s just a building. None of the original stuff- so while cool- kinda just doesn’t do anything for me. 

We continued along through townHad some fun in the very Rococo palace gardens 
Walked along some of the four miles of city walls.

 Norah: “Take my picture with this foot!” HahaThe Roman baths in Trier were meant to be the greatest in the empire- but the empire fell before  they were finished. The ruins of the half constructed baths are still impressive.

We trekked it back to our car on the other end of town, passing the big town market square where we found Norah a “real life Snapchat filter!!!” (There is a filter in Snapchat that gives you a flower crown- it was for Coachella I think… but I couldn’t not get it for her. Haha) 


We headed towards Luxembourg. Crossing the border was nothing- just a sign. 


After checking into our hotel, it started raining so we waited that out a bit then decided we best get on with it and put on the rain gear. We walked to city center where the main attraction is definitely La Chemin de la Corniche – or the most beautiful balcony in Europe. A promenade runs on top of the old city walls that protected the city for hundreds of years. I’m a sucker for some medieval city walls…. but these? These are WALLS. 


Then we went down under the promonade into the Casemates du Bock. The areas used for defense of the city. 

After all of this walking, we deserved more chocolate. 🙂 

We found Chocolate House right across from the Ducal Palace where you select a chocolate spoon from over 50 varieties and make your own hot chocolate. 


After that we wandered on around town.

We walked through the shopping district and I picked out my new glasses from a case by window shopping. 2nd frames back. (Ordering online- definitely didn’t buy them here at this price ha) 

Ended our tour at a little Japanese restaurant across from our hotel because the one item we can’t get in Ireland is sushi… and the restaurants we tried to stop at didn’t open until 7pm and we weren’t going to make it another hour. Ha


I might not post again for another couple days because tomorrow we get to Tiffany and Mike’s and hang out with them until Tuesday morning. Then we have a couple more days of sites before heading back home. 

Zell, Cochem, Koblentz and Adenau

Today was a good first day! I hit snooze a few more times than I should have for someone who had to have all of her sightseeing done by 3pm..but who’s counting. haha

We headed out from Frankfurt Hahn airport around 8:30am towards the town of Zell. It’s a wine town, like most of these little towns all along the winding Moselle River Valley. Mostly Riesling grapes but the vineyards are crazy. They have planted the hills so some of the vineyards are nearly vertical. They had to cut in steps so that the workers could climb the hills to pick the grapes. Some of them even have little rail systems built to transport the grapes down.

Zell has this black cat statue in the middle of traffic circle that made me giggle. I made Kegan make a loop around the circle before exiting so I could get a good photo. haha

Wikipedia tells me its made out of Basalt and was installed in 1936.

Our next town was Cochem. As soon as we came around a river bend, that castle just stands out…. wow.. what a vantage point… and what a status. Towering over an entire town.


We crossed over the Moselle and headed East. We had plans to go to this huge hanging rope bridge… but we could see it from the car where we were driving…and it was like 2 miles away… we didn’t have time today (or the desire really…) so here’s what we missed. Kinda cool, huh?


We continued on to Eltz Castle (Burg Eltz). We knew we weren’t going to tour the castle but I really wanted to see it in person and see just how massive it really was. It was HUGE. So amazing. Norah really liked that one. So much so that when we got back on the shuttle bus to take us back up to our cars, she yelled, “What the hell? We’re LEAVING??” yep. proud parent moment right now. haha




We found a rest area of the highway and Norah was starving so we got her a cheeseburger. It was the size of her face. Literally. Haha

Then we drove through a house. Haha I don’t know what the building was, but it was neat.

We continued on to the town of Koblenz. A strategic town with a lengthy history. It is where the Rhine river and the Moselle River merge together. There was a Roman fort established right where we stood in 9BC (but historians think there were settlements here at least one thousand years prior). Julius Caesar conquered the area in 55AD. It was destroyed by the Franks in 259, held under Charlemagne until the 800s when it was raided by Viking pillagers. Ran by the church through the 1200s as part of the Holy Roman Empire. Occupied by the Swedes in the 1600s, the French through basically Napoleon-when it was held by Russia (**remember this one for down the page just a bit). Granted to Prussia in 1815, then Germany after World War I, then heavily damaged during World War II.
…and now? Now it’s got a 60 foot tall statue of a guy on a horse, an accordian player (that Norah loved and danced around to), and cable cars. haha  All of that fighting over a piece of land and now we park tour buses on it and sell keychains. What a great time to be alive.


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There is one historic building right here at what is called German Corner. St. Kastor’s Church. It’s the oldest surviving church in Koblentz- dating from the 800s. It has a historically humorous fountain in front of it. 


The French, a little prematurely, fully expecting a victory by Napoleon against the Russians in 1812, had the following inscribed in the fountain:

1812 

To commemorate the Russian campaign under the prefecture of Jules Doazan

However, the Russians crushed Napoleon and ended up capturing the town of Koblentz when the French retreated. The Russian commander found humor in the fountain and added the following inscription:

Seen and approved by us, the Russian commander of the city of Koblenz

A Russian officer with a sense of humor. Ha

I only had 1-2 more items planned for today that we didn’t get to do due to my snooziness and my “long-cut” we took on a 3/4 mile walk through the woods to Burg Eltz instead of the shuttle bus. (ggrrr. If you call it a footpath, I will assume it’s just a little shortcut to the attraction, not a 3/4 mile walk through deep forest. This, you call a TRAIL. and I will avoid it entirely like the plague. haha) We’re maybe gonna loop back up this direction in the morning before heading on to see a very important bridge from WWII.

We drove the 40 minutes over to the town of Adenau. Apparently famous for racing… as it is attached to a Formula 1 racetrack. In hindsight, the hotel is called Hotel an der Nordschleife…but I didnt know that Nordschleife was a world famous track, nicknamed Green Hell for its tricky and demanding features….so I guess it’s my own fault. ha

http://www.nuerburgring.de/en/fans-info/race-tracks/nordschleife.html

Right now, they are practicing and testing sports cars. Then they rent out time on the track in the evenings to tourists and locals…200 feet away from where I also have to work for 8 hours. Doh. hahah It wasn’t that bad, and could have been a LOT worse. Kegan and Norah enjoyed the track. They went over and watched some cars making laps. Then they sat out on the patio and enjoyed some sunshine while I made some calls. We had Italian food for dinner that was nothing to write home about, so no pictures taken.


Overall a pretty good first day. It was Kegan’s birthday…and I hate that we didn’t get to do anything fancy or find any amazing food…and that he got to do what he does everyday basically, which is chase Norah around threatening to end her life if she doesn’t stop yelling, singing or running where should shouldn’t. haha Oh well. Such is the case when you turn 31- a birthday is just a normal day in the life. Even in Germany.

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