My trip to Berlin was mainly to catch up with Klaus – a very good friend ever since we first met at the Roskilde Festival about 13y ago. While the Guns n Roses concert we attended was only average, it was still good fun to hang out together. I also enjoyed travelling back into the 80’s with the wall panorama of Kreuzberg. Short, but sweet time in Berlin. Need to come back one day for a little longer.
Beer somewhere in Pankow
Panorama & Berlin wall
Prior to the concert there was some time to explore a little bit of Berlin. For me it’s always a bit special to be here with quite a few memories ranging from partying at the love parade to high-end business trips. What i had actually never done properly was to visit the Berlin wall (or the leftovers). The memorial site is located close to the northern train station on Bernauer Strasse. While it is not the only place in Berlin where you can see the wall itself, the whole area (including death strip) has been preserved and gives a pretty realistic impression of how it used to look like.
Another great way of going back in time is the 360 degree “DIE MAUER” panorama by artist Yadegar Asisi – an artist who spent a lot of time in my hometown Dresden where he studied architecture in the 70’s and thus knows the East first hand himself. His work depicts fictious day in the 1980’s looking from the suburb of Kreuzberg to Berlin Mitte. The way the work is done makes you feel that you are standing right in the scenery and hence feels a bit like travelling back in time. Really recommended. In addition, there is a photo exhibition of wall stories and a making-of movie for his panoramas (lots of work!).
Guns n Roses
I have to admit that the acoustics (and also Axel’s vocals) didn’t match the big name by any stretch and was certainly not on my top end of concert experiences. Still, it’s always great to see the guys and rock away to some of their classics. You’d just expect a bit more at a venue such as the olympic stadium in Berlin. It turned into a long evening anyway, as transport issues prevented us from leaving after the concert – some more time with Klaus, Laura, Stefanie & her friend. Arguably, that didn’t make the journey to Barcelona next morning any easier … close call at the check-in ;o)
Today I travelled some 90min south-eastwards to Nijmegen. Partly to see the oldest city of Holland (more than 2,000y – competing for that title with Maastricht & Voorburg), but mainly to go hiking nearby through forests, villages and the Rhine embankment (or Waal in Dutch). The sun wasn’t too hot today making for a pleasant 23km relatively easy stroll including a well deserved German lunch & beer just over the border in Zyfflich (what a fitting name for ascension day celebrations).
I arrived just after 11am in Nijmegen central from where I took a bus further east of the city, as I had read about some decent hiking there along the N70. Initially it was pretty much all forest. It was fun to be out in the fresh air, listen to music and some Russian audio class. After less than an hour I reached the town of Beek, which still remembers to date how it was liberated by US troops. After Beek you get pretty close to the German border. Only during a phone conversation did I realise that today was ascension of christ day – a day we traditionally celebrate in Saxony by going for a walk with friends (call it an open air pub crawl). So I quickly made a decision to treat myself to a German meal & beer (sorry Holland, but German beer remains the best).
Halfway of todays hike I got to a village called Zyffich – best name possible for such a day the German speakers will agree. They even had life music there … everything cheesy you can imagine including Roland Kaiser’s “Joana” (couldn’t help myself but to put it on while writing this). After an asparagus soup and a Königs Pilsner I continued back towards Nijmegen. You cross picturesque villages, grasslands, cattle & sheep (and again a fresh milk machine!) and as you get back to Nijmegen – the mighty Rhine & large bridges.
I ended up spending little time in Nijmegen itself. The inner city has some older buildings around the main market place, which was nice. But no appetite today to head to a museum etc. History around here is rich though and dates back to the Roman times (under its first name Oppidum Batavorum) who erected a military camp in the city’s current place in the 1st century BC. It was in particular important for the Roman empire after they lost to the Germans in the Teuteburger Forest (9AD) after which the Rhine remained the ultimate border and Nijmegen was further strengthened on this backdrop.
Well, enough history now. It was fun going for a hike again.
Christmas in Germany kicks off pretty early on the 24th in the evening (usually with the closest family), followed by two bank holidays that are usually spent with either set of grandparents (mum’s side and dad’s side).
Striezelmarkt: Before we even got to the delights of this years’ xmas, we enjoyed a day on one of Germany’s most famous xmas markets in Dresden. 8 degrees plus didn’t really give it an authentic xmas feeling, but heh. First up a long overdue catch up with Sandra, a former fellow Commerzbanker. She was part of the insane group of people to offer me a job many years ago ;o) Then straight into mulled wine, snacks and shopping with Alex, mum and sister. Good times. Even had the time to catch up with my cousin Denise and the family of her better half. Great evening!
Take me to church: People from Saxony are mostly not religious. Those that are tend to be protestant – a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) underlines that. Our family has always been protestant yet we didn’t visit Church all that often and usually only on Dec 24th. Could be a byproduct of anti-religious policies in East Germany (the central government disliked competition) or that freely available schooling made a lot of the wanna be believers i meet in London redundant (‘pay or prey’ to get your kid into a good school). Who knows. Anyway, after a brief stop in my home village Naundorf and granddad Kaiser, we made it to church in Struppen and enjoyed this year’s nativity play. Always good fun.
Kartoffelsalat: Most of my fellow students in Russia will remember my praises for my mum’s potato salat. A tradition in Germany in most families. Each mum has her own recipe passed on from previous generations. Add a few frankfurters and you have a basic yet tasty meal … and afterwards its time for presents. Dominated by lego sets this year. I got 5 finger shoes … as inspired by ‘Born to Run’. Lets see if it helps me reducing running related injuries.
Stollen in Dresden: After our family trek to the Barbarinea, we visited granddad in Dresden. Like the one in Naundorf, he lives by himself and so we usually just swing by for coffee instead of a full festive meal. Part of any coffee that time of the year has to be Stollen (Stollen is a cake-like fruit bread, see here). And there is none better than the one from Dresden! Taaaaasty!
Goose & green dumplings: Traditionally the 2nd bank holiday is reserved for dad’s side of the family. Originally we picked that day due to them being busy on the first bank holioday serving xmas lunches to guests in our restaurant, while they closed the 2nd. Now I guess it’s a routine even though the restaurant is just a B&B by now. A lot of the lot i hadn’t seen for a year (and some like Steve’s new girlfriend Anastasia not at all really) and so we discussed a bit the Lhotse adventures and future plans. Food is always excellent including tasty & tender goose, dumpling (Klösse) made with raw potatoes giving them a slightly green-ish colour and red cabbage. Wine is also never in short supply teaditionally kicikng off with a glass of Pinot as aperitif. Its tradition in Thuringia where my grandma is from … and tradition matters (and is super tasty).
The tradition to meet up with former classmates from Pirna’s Rainer-Fetscher high school has been around for some time though, depending on family commitments and how the calendar around xmas comes out, it is not always possible for all to join. For me it was the second time and first time with Alex. In total we were 26, if I counted the group picture well, dominated by loads of young-guns. A productive vintage! Go Saxony!
My silent protest: To unite both of Pirna’s high schools is fine by me and was probably underpinned by ever fewer babies. HOWEVER, to rename a long standing institution like the Rainer Fetscher into ‘Schiller’ is either a very dark form of humour or plain stupidity. I strongly suspect the latter.
We met up in Stadt Wehlen and hiked along the Uttewalder Grund. Kids found to each other quickly and i guess alex got one or the other free german lesson. There is a little creek along the way, which proved tempting for most kids and got some of them a pair of wet shoes. Life! After about 1:20h we reached the inn ‘Waldidylle’ for some well deserved refreshments.
Geocaching: Along the way the Schill family located a geocash. A little tube hidden in the rocks where you can record yourself in a little logbook. Theses cashes were new to me, but are a global thing that can lead you to nice places. Read here for more.
There was plenty to catch-up on. A clear trend seemed the drive for folks to move back home – be it Anja, Schmitti or Jens. I guess a global phenomenon once kids are about or the right job comes along.
On the way back we had torches and lampingnon’s for the kids as well as a few fire crackers supplied by us. It was dark already by the time we got back to the ferry in Wehlen. Mum already waiting on the other side for our bowling night – she hates being late (while i have a somewhat larger tolerance by now).
What a fun afternoon! Alex almost in tears as we concluded the event … given that we didn’t have anymore wristbands to give to his new friend Valentin. I promised to fix that via mail. Let’s see.
More posts about my home region Saxon Switzerland
Thanks go to Heiko (aka RAUMSTATION) for putting this together & to everyone else for attending of course. His email is clear evidence that sometimes democracy ain’t the right thing, but we need dictatorship. Just like the Roman’s did in their days.
When travelling around the world it is all too easy to forget all the nice places back home. Having spent some time this summer in Saxon Switzerland, we took a family stroll to digest all the festive & heavy food such as my mum’s tasty potato salad and homemade sausages.
The hike up the Pfaffenstein offers fantastic views of the surrounding rock formations such as Königstein castle and Lilienstein as well as the Elbe valley more general. Especially the Barbarine (the rock that looks like a needle) is as iconic as can be for my beautiful home region.