Tag Archives: sightseeing

We did the Münster mash (Part Two)

We left while I could still walk under the weight of all the food and headed for the Altstadt (Old City) of Münster in search of German prettiness. I have to admit, from the area we had been in the night before, I was starting to think that the internet had lied to me about Münster being so scenic.

NEIN!
NEIN!

But, fear not. Yet again, Germany did not disappoint. For those interested in a little extra information – the rest of you can skip this paragraph – Münster is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia and is considered to be the cultural capital of the region. Münster was where the treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, putting an end to the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. Today, it has a population of around 300,000 and is known as the bicycle capital of Germany.

For good reason
With good reason

With Manfredas periodically sweeping me out of the cycle lanes, we wandered around while I took photos of the beautiful buildings. Considering he’s been there umpteen times, Manfredas wasn’t much of a tour guide. Instead, he read the plaques on the sides of the buildings to me which, really, I could have done myself… (Ungrateful much, Linda?) Seemingly, there’s also a Latvian high school but, tragically, we missed that…

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Anyway, after walking around for hours under an hour, we’d worked up a bit of a thirst. We found a likely-looking café and, as it was a mild day, sat outside. Germans and their love of Luft and lüften… as long as it’s not lashing rain or below freezing, you’ll find them sitting outside. I huddled up under a blanket and we ordered some wine.

Don't ask me why I'm looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.
Don’t ask me why I’m looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.

The great thing about being in a smaller city is that you’re really under no pressure to rush around visiting all the “MUST-SEE” sights. We had had a nice stroll and now we were more than content to relax and chat with a few glasses of vino. The perfect day. Until the sirens started.

Me: Oooh, a demonstration! 

Manfredas: Ja.

Me: What’s it about? No more refugees? 

Manfredas: No, the other side. 

So, I dashed off to take a photo of the 20-30 people in Münster who think taking in more refugees is a good idea.

Not a German flag in sight
Not a German flag in sight

With darkness starting to fall, we decided to head back to the B&B for a power nap before dinner.

Clearly, Barbara had been up to her old tricks with the lüften again and the room was like an ice-box. Still, once I thawed out, I managed to get in a bit of shut-eye and, after a quick change, we were off out for dinner. Café Garbo picked up where breakfast had left off and served me my own body weight in Frikadellen (German meatballs) and fried potatoes. This time, I was too in shock at the size of the portion to take a photo… or I just ate it. You decide.

Manfredas rolled me into a taxi, and we drove to Kittys Trinksalon to meet up with a couple of his friends from the night before. Outside Kittys, I spied what is possibly the best invention I have ever seen…

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You dirty-minded bunch of…

This is what it actually was.

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Still pretty cool, right?

They even have their own website –

tail.de
tail.de

Having laughed myself sober, we headed for Münster’s Rock Factory where, I was told, no tourists ever go.

You lookin' at me?
You lookin’ at me?

We were stamped on our way in and didn’t make it out until around 4am. Well, I had to keep the Berlin side up, after all. The next morning, I woke up with a very fetching imprint of the stamp on the outside of my thigh which will give you a brief insight into how I sleep – if you ever wanted it.

We had booked breakfast for that morning so we went downstairs to see the ever-cheerful Barbara.

This is not Barbara
Not Barbara

Scrambled eggs, fruit in Greek yogurt, more bread than you could shake a stick at, juice, and as much tea and coffee as you could drink. I would definitely stay at Barbara’s again.

Barbara: Say “Würstchen”. (Würstchen = little sausage)

Me: Würstchen.

Barbara: (peals of laughter) I love getting foreigners to say that word!! 

Me: WüüüürstCHEN!

Barbara: (hysterics) 

Manfredas was clearly about to crack a smile but then realised that he would have to spend five hours in a car with a potentially annoyed Irish woman so he held it in. Germans are very sensible people.

Once Barbara had picked herself up off the floor, we hugged goodbye and Manfredas and I hit the road again. Luckily for him, I was exhausted after the night before so I slept for most of the first couple of hours. We stopped off at the Marienborn Memorial, the largest border crossing during the division of Germany. A bleaker, grimmer place would be hard to find.

Luckily, there was a truck-stop restaurant and shop nearby so we popped in for a Sitzpinkel and some food. It seems that where Germany depresses you one minute, it instantly tries to cheer you up in the next…

Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

Little did I realise that the best was yet to come…

 

 

 

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Forest Chump (Part One)

Every New Year’s, for as long as I can remember, has been pretty much the same. Different faces, different cities, sure, but the usual partying til the wee hours and then feeling like shite for the next three days. This year, however, I came up with the rather loony idea that if I start 2016 off in a slightly different way, maybe it will be a different sort of year…

This was when I decided to do something a bit Latvian odd, and booked myself a room in a hotel in the middle of a forest in Northern Germany.

As an afterthought, I sent my German friend, Simone, a message:

Me: What are the chances of me being eaten by wolves in a forest in Northern Germany?

(No reply)

Me: Or bears?

Simone: Zero to miniscule.

Me: Oh, OK, good. Just thought I’d check…

And so, armed with my deep knowledge of wildlife, forests, survival skills and all things “nature”, I boarded a bus for Lübeck. I figured I’d be seeing enough trees when I got there so I slept for most of the four-hour journey.

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Welcome to Lübeck!

I was ravenous by the time the bus pulled into the station, so I took a couple of half-hearted photos but was really on the hunt for food. After wolfing (haha) down a sandwich and a cup of tea, I was feeling more human and ready to check out the delights Lübeck has to offer.

As with most German cities, it’s ridiculously pretty and well-maintained. If only all of its residents could get with the programme…

Well, it IS closer to the Baltics...
Well, it IS closer to the Baltics…

The promised blue skies didn’t materialise and it was bloody cold but I wandered around taking in the sights anyway. I was rewarded with what every woman is looking for – a horny little devil…

I'm horny, horny, horny, horny...
I’m horny, horny, horny, horny…

And this one wasn’t all mouth and no trousers either. No, he had a great back story. It seems that when the first stones of St. Mary’s Church were being laid, the devil thought that it was going to be a wine bar, so he enthusiastically joined in with the building project. (Can’t say I blame him.)

But one day, the devil realised what the building was actually going to be and flew into a rage. (Can’t say I blame him there, either.) He picked up a huge boulder and was about to smash the place to pieces when one daring local told him to leave it alone; they’d build him a wine bar across the street instead. The devil was very happy with this so he dropped the boulder and has been sitting there happily ever since. I don’t know if he ever made it to the wine bar…

As I was half-frozen at this stage, I decided a far quicker way to see the sights would be to go up to the viewing tower at St. Peter’s Church and kill all the birds with one stone. (In a figurative sense. I love wildlife.)

Niederegger
The best marzipan in the world

Thankfully, with all of the other tourists crammed into Niederegger Marzipan Café, I made it to the top in no time. It was COLD.

My new look. I call it "The Trump".
My new look. I call it “The Trump”.

For some reason, being truly frozen for a short time instead of gradually frozen over a longer period of time made sense to me. The views were pretty spectacular as well.

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After a quick glass of wine at a cute little bar, I got on what I hoped was the right bus. It was already dark when I got off at what I hoped was the right stop.

Yep, looks about right.
Yep, looks about right.

I tripped over a twig 2.5 seconds after getting off the bus and thought, “YES!! This the rustic, outdoorsy, solitary existence I was looking for!” Then, thankfully, I found the hotel because it was a little scary out there, all alone in the dark…

Adorable, no?
Adorable, no?

The hotel has been in the Grotkopp (yes, that is their real name) family’s hands for generations, and Mrs Grotkopp greeted me like I was her long-lost grand-daughter. There was hand-holding and chuckling, chatting about the weather and my Trump “do”, and I wondered what I’d done to deserve such royal treatment. Then I remembered. She’s German. They’re nice.

It was quite possibly the quickest check-in I’ve ever experienced. I was given my key card, told where to go, and that was it. My room was cosy and well-equipped, had working wifi, typical German beds and no poo shelf. Perfect.

Still funny :)
Still funny 

After spending a few minutes scrolling through the usual dreck everyone posts on Facebook around New Year’s, I decided I’d earned a nap. In trying to find the switch on the bedside lamp, I accidentally touched the base of it. Like magic, it came on.

Me: Ooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter.

Me: Ooooh.

So I touched it again. It got brighter still.

Me: OoohOooh…

Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.
Clearly I should not be left on my own for extended periods of time.

After a very satisfying snooze, it was time to go hunting and foraging for food. But luckily, this is Germany and therefore civilised, so there was an inviting little Italian place down the road.

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As usual, I was the last to leave, so the Italian owner came over for a chat at the end of the night. He didn’t speak a word of English but we still managed to have a fine old chinwag about the breakdown of society and how nobody had the staying power to really make a relationship work these days. Incidentally, he was on wife number three, a Ukrainian, with three kids in total, one from each wife. People never cease to amuse me…

And what better way to start the New Year than on a cliff-hanger. Stay tuned for part two – there will be trees, oh yes, there will be trees. BUT spoiler alert: I lived.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

 

Bedding it in Berlin

I’m always meaning to do more touristy stuff in Berlin but, you know how it is – it’s getting colder, I’m a bit lazy…

Luckily, Berlin has the answer to all of my first-world problems. Introducing (drum roll, please)… Berlin Horizontal.

Genius
Genius

I’d only come across this company last weekend while waiting for a friend at Alexanderplatz – it’s hard to miss a bed on wheels, parked in the middle of one of the busiest squares in Berlin. When I got home, I went straight to the Berlin Horizontal website and emailed the owner to try to arrange a tour for this weekend. We arranged to meet at 3pm this afternoon, he took my telephone number in case the weather took a turn for the worse, and even emailed me last night to remind me about the clock going back – all very well-organised and, well, German.

I managed to rope my friend, Heike, into accompanying me, which saved me putting out a message on Facebook along the lines of:

Does anyone want to go to bed with me – in public – next Sunday afternoon?

I probably would have had a few takers though. At least I like to think so…

We showed up a little early and stood around, waiting for our bed to appear. And, oh! The silly giddiness when it did! We shook hands with Richard, the charming, friendly owner of the company, and after introductions and a little small talk, were presented with little blue surgical slippers to put over our shoes. Seemingly, nobody wants to ride in a dirty bed.

Nice and clean and orderly - the way things should be.
Nice and clean and orderly – the way things should be.

We jumped in, fluffed up the pillows and pulled the duvet over us. Richard took a few pictures and then we were off. I think people could probably hear me laughing in Hamburg…

Getting comfortable
Getting comfortable

We took a nicely winding route from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburger Tor, stopping off at Museum Island, the “Lust Garden”, Bebelplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and Tiergarten along the way, with Richard providing an entertaining commentary as we went. I asked him how he had come up with the idea to start Berlin Horizontal, and he told us that this very special rickshaw had been built for some sort of promotion but, after it had fulfilled its purpose, was left forgotten in a garage somewhere. Richard had rescued it from obscurity and started doing his thing.

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A very happy Berlinda

Aside from being in a bed in the middle of a capital city, what makes this tour so unique, and so much fun, are the reactions from passers-by. Everywhere we went, people were pointing, belly-laughing, taking photos and waving at us. Cries of “Good night!”, “Sleep well!” and “Oh, das ist so geil!” accompanied us around the city. A couple of people even wanted to hop into bed with us, and a bus driver stopped to take a photo of the show. I was grinning like a maniac and, at times, was giggling so uncontrollably, tears were running down my cheeks.

Imagining drivers’ phone calls to their waiting loved ones was enough to set me off in peals of laughter again.

“Hey honey, I’m going to be a bit late. I’m stuck behind a bed on wheels on Unter den Linden…”

Followers
Followers

We quickly perfected our royal waves, but it was a bit difficult to look regal whilst crying laughing under a duvet.

Sleeping beauty
Sleeping beauty

After an hour or so, we arrived at our final destination – Brandenburger Tor. It’s not often you get to upstage one of the most famous sights in the world, but we did just that. People even abandoned taking selfies for long enough to take pictures of us instead. Richard also had one last surprise, producing night caps out of his little bag of tricks. (He also has a reading lamp he can rig up for night-time tours.)

Looking insane at Brandenburger Tor.
Looking insane (but very happy) at Brandenburger Tor.

Alas, our tour had come to an end. To say that I recommend doing a tour with Berlin Horizontal is an understatement. I can honestly say, with no offence intended to the men who have been in my life, that this is the most fun I have ever had in bed. However, I do feel it is important to warn you of the side effect of this tour: the temptation to keep waving and grinning at people long after the tour has ended is very strong.

And probably not appropriate on Berlin’s public transport system.

Let loose in Leipzig (Part two)

Next on the list was the St. Thomas Church – place of “faith, spirit and music”. I hid my horns under my hood and walked in.

Thomaskirche
Thomaskirche

While the church itself, built in 1212, is very impressive, there’s more than a little history behind this building. Martin Luther preached here in 1539, bringing the Reformation to Leipzig…

Not to be confused with Martin Luther King
Not to be confused with Martin Luther King

Bach was Cantor here from 1723 to 1750, Mozart played the organ here in 1789, Mendelssohn conducted the first performance of Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” after the latter’s death, and Richard Wagner was baptised here in 1813. Not bad, eh? It’s also the final resting place of Bach, whose grave was moved here in 1950.

In addition, there’s a prayer cross which I thought was a really nice idea. It started out as a prayer board in 1989, when unrest in the GDR was at its peak, and reflected people’s thoughts, hopes and fears, and was replaced by this prayer cross in 2001.

20150125_140739[1]I didn’t leave a prayer as I’m a heathen now, but I did drop a few euro in the donation box on the way out. Money is money, after all. I then spent another €0.70 on visiting the ladies’ toilet. I used a lot of soap afterwards to feel like I was getting my money’s worth.

After walking around a little more, I decided that it was time for more refreshments, and found a cosy little place that fit the bill.

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I had planned on getting a nice cup of tea, but when I saw that they had Glühwein, that plan went out the window. I flicked to the cakes section. While the first item on the menu caught my eye, it didn’t sound terribly appealing, so instead I opted for the Apfelstrudel.

Shame they didn't call me before this went to print
Shame they didn’t call me before this went to print

It turned out that they didn’t actually have Glühwein either so the menu lied to me. Instead I chose an alcoholic hot chocolate with Jaegermeister in it. While I’m not normally a fan of Jaeger, this was really quite delicious – and very warming.

The couple in front of me looked a little startled when my flash went off. I think maybe they thought I was trying to take a photo of their baby. Seriously. Why would anyone want to take a photo of a baby when they have lovely, photogenic cake on their table?

Feeling ready to face the world, and the rapidly dropping temperatures again, I continued walking around for another while, snapping a few pictures of eye-catching buildings as I went – not babies – until my face started to feel numb and I made my way back to the history museum (or “Das Stadtgeschichtliche Museum”, as it’s known in German).

This was really the highlight of the day. I hadn’t known that much about Leipzig before visiting, but after spending some time in this museum, you get a fantastic picture of the city, from its origins in the middle ages right up to the present day. The only downside was a “phantom farter”, who seemed to be one room ahead of me all the time, dropping little bombs for my olfactory pleasure.

Little Leipzig
Little Leipzig

When you see what the city looked like after the war, it really is remarkable to see it now.

Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0002629_002_Trümmerbeseitigung

You can also sit and listen to Bach’s music, while looking at the only known original portrait of him. Previously, whenever I thought of J.S. Bach, images of Sister Roisin banging away on the school piano invaded my brain. Now I feel that I will have much more positive associations .

The man himself
The man himself

With the museum closing soon and my bus due in around an hour and a half, it was time to get a drink for the road. Having tried and failed to find a proper German Kneipe (bar), I came across an Irish pub, hidden away down a side street close to where the bus stop was. Disappointingly, there were only around four other people in the bar but I still managed to while away an hour or so, reading my book and mixing grape and grain.

A few days later, I met Dietmar for a few drinks.

Me: I was in Leipzig on Sunday. 

Dietmar: Did you see the Monument to Freedom and Unity?

Me: Um, no…

Dietmar: Then you have not been in Leipzig.

Me: Sigh. 

Next time, before I go anywhere, I’ll ask a German what to see and do instead of asking the internet. Stupid internet.

 

Useful links: 

http://meinfernbus.de/ – bus tickets from Berlin to Leipzig from €8

http://www.stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de/index_en.php

http://www.cafewaldi.de/

https://www.thomaskirche.org/