Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Adventure #101, #100, #099- The Invasion of Germany

German Space Cow
Both summers that I have lived in Europe, I have tried to take several trips to new places.  This year, I decided that I should visit some relatives in Germany (whom I hadn't seen in 7 years!), a friend in Hamburg, as well as a few towns that have been on the 'must see' list since I arrived abroad, Berlin and Dresden.  I planned the trip and Martin arranged all the tickets on-line.  We decided to leave the day after our friends wedding, August 6.

Our first destination was Dresden (#68).  We had planned a 06.30 departure from Prague but, the morning after a wedding is no time to be up at 4am!  So we hit the 'snooze' button for a few hours, then pulled ourselves out of bed (good thing I paid extra for the open travel tickets) for the 08.30 train. 

For our lodging, we decided to try couchsurfing (#99).  This is a community where you travel to new (or known) cities, and you can contact new people to stay on their 'couches' for a few evenings.  For free.  I had wanted to try it for awhile, but was never sure I wanted to try it for the first time alone.  The first person we stayed with was M.  His profile said he spoke a bit of Czech and he was really excited to host us, he had only hosted once before.  We arrived just before the rain started then went to lunch with him and a friend.  It was pretty cool, because after lunch we went our separate ways (so we didn't feel like we were inconveniencing him at all) but met up again for coffee in the afternoon/evening.  He even helped us find our next couch in Berlin.  Both of these people gave us their beds and slept elsewhere (another room, a spare bed, etc.).  We also had the chance to cook some pretty yummy dinners together and see parts of the cities that we wouldn't have wandered into without a local guide.

Berlin- Alexanderplatz
We had been told by my flatmate, Patrick, that Berlin is a great city to bike around.  I was a bit apprehensive over the idea.  I hadn't really ridden a bike since I was 12 and I wasn't sure that me (can we say clumsy much??) + a bicycle + lots of people and cars would equal a fun day.  But, we found a place that rented bikes for 5 euro/day and so, decided to go for it (#100).  The ride to the center of town was pretty good, we had a straight road, with bike lanes (stoplights and all!) and minimal tourists for me to become used to being on a bike again.  We ended up riding from the far east of Berlin to the southeast and then all the way to the far west.  We then had to ride BACK across the city to get to our flat.  Needless to say, my a*$ was a bit sore by the end of the day, but this was my only injury.  Miraculously though, no pedestrians were injured, I used my bell quite vigorously in order to keep them away!

From Berlin we went to Hamburg, where I tried a fischbroetchen (#074)(bread with raw/smoked fish inside, yum!) and saw Paras.  We also met up with a couple of Martin's friends that he'd met in Australia.  Our hostel was very clean and pretty nice, but we ended up facing a very noisy road, thus decreasing the amount of sleep per night.  Hamburg is a city where they have decided to rebuild a few old buildings, leave a few standing with the bombed parts missing and then completely modernize the rest of the city (Dresden replicated a majority of the city after WWII).  In 2025, they will finish most of the buildings planned.  The whole harbor area will be pretty amazing, with super modern architecture mixed among HUGE ships.

What it will be...
Hamburg Philharmonic, Now

From there, we headed west to see my family in the teeny tiny village of Kolkebeck, population 300 (I think). I met these relatives in 2003 for the first time, well the first time I remember.  The boys were between the ages of 5 and 12.  Unfortunately, we have all aged since then, and 2 of them have started university/internships and the other 2 are in high school (or the equivalent).  It was nice to get to know them again, their personalities were more developed and we were able to communicate much better in English (I can't speak more than 30 words of German, and half of them are numbers!)  We stayed with Erika, the grandmother, in her spare bedroom and had fun with charades, as she doesn't speak English. 

Our 'Welcome Sign' and the artist
In order to keep all of us 'kids' entertained, we went to a rope course (#101).  The first course was about 15ft (5m) from the ground.  The younger boys were running about like mountain goats, each obstacle easier than the last for them.  The oldest took lots of photos and video from the ground (he recently got into a fight, the cow won), Martin, the parents and I all alternated between easy and hard, fearless and fearful.  After the first course, the younger boys decided that 30ft (10m) was the next logical course to do, of course.  Did I mention that it was raining?  In the beginning the trees kept us protected, but as we stayed longer, and higher, the rain made the wooden barrels and steel ropes very slippery indeed.  Good thing we were attached to a guide line by 2 different clips on our harnesses! 

Enjoying the day
All in all, Germany was an interesting adventure.  I was glad to see friends and family and just as glad to take 10 days away from Prague.  It was interesting to be in a country where I spoke almost nothing of the language, and relied mostly on others for translations (I asked the waitress at the Thai restaurant for her recommendation, because sadly, I don't speak Thai either).  I really enjoyed traveling around 1 country though, it was nice to get many different views of the same place.

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