Europe · 15 Days · 86 Moments · October 2017

Prague and Berlin

17 October 2017

Our last full day in Prague. We had a huge breakfast at the hotel. It was a very impressive spread included in the price. After heading to the “Palladium” shopping centre for some shoe shopping we went the Jewish quarter to take in the various synagogues and museums included in the price of the ticket as well as the Old Jewish Cemetery. We probably won’t need to go to another museum for a while. There was a lot of information about Jewish culture and history. It seems to be a very complex religion with so many observances and unusual and strict customs. After a breather back at the hotel we strolled away from the tourist trail and found a Czech pub for dinner. A nice half litre of dark beer as well as a couple of Czech “tapas style” snacks. The waiter talked us into finishing off with a Czech liqueur which was very nice. We couldn’t pronounce the name but Sheridan took a photo of the bottle.
Strolling around Prague for the last time.
The Old Jewish Cemetery.
Inside the synagogue and museums.

16 October 2017

The best laid plans went out the window this morning when we found out our hotel did not take card. We spent all our euros at dinner last night since we were leaving Germany today. So a very quick walk to the nearest bancomat was in order which put us behind by 15 minutes and put the pressure on to get the car to Dresden by 10am. As it was we were about 10 minutes late. We found the underground car park opposite Dresden train station after one false turn and then we finally found the desk at station to leave the key. It was getting close to 11am and the ticket machines weren’t cooperating. We needed to get the 11:08 train to Prague. Finally on the 3rd try I worked out how to use the machine and we dashed for the platform and made the train. Nice smooth 2 and a half hour trip and we made it to Prague. Found our hotel reasonably close to the station and spent the afternoon strolling in pleasant 23 degree heat before checking out some of the shopping.
After cocktails at the hotel we took in the ambience of Prague at night before finding a great little cafe restaurant for dinner.
At the Sicily cafe.
Prague at night.
Cocktails in the hotel bar.
Coffee at one of the markets in Prague.
Photos from the train to Prague.
On the way to Dresden.

15 October 2017

We said goodbye to Tessa and Max today. It was a bit sad. She may be able to come home for a bit early next year but it has to be able to fit in with her Ponderosa commitments now she has a contract. We had a long drive to Meißen in the south east of the country. It took 5 hours with a couple of short stops. We saw some interesting driving on the autobahn on the way as well as so many wind farms. We arrived at our hotel in Meißen and after some interesting communication with the 2 ladies who met us (I think they were the cleaners who spoke no English) we established that we were in room 5 and breakfast was between 8 and 10. Despite this they were very sweet. Meißen is a delightful town and we got some great photos on our walk through the cobblestone streets up to the castle. Amazingly this is our first non cloudy day and the temperature has soared to 23 degrees in Mid October!
We had just over an hour in the Albrecht castle. An amazing Medieval castle on the hill overlooking Meißen that has been really well restored with a museum documenting its history. Once inside we weren’t allowed to take photos but it was well worth the visit. It was so mild we were able to sit outside for tea tonight,
Dinner in the square of the old town.
Views of the castle from below.
Views of Meißen from the castle.
Inside the castle walls.
Meißen on the walk up to the castle.
Food stop and wind farms on the autobahn.

14 October 2017

After walking Max in the morning and after breakfast we joined Tessa and the people staying at Ponderosa at the house for coffee. The place has a nice vibe with 3 work away people, 3 independent artists, Tessa who is a host for the groups that visit and the chef and her partner all staying/living there at the moment. There is also a group of about a dozen German flamenco dancing ladies here for the weekend. The chef, Freya does an amazing job. The food is delicious and healthy. After Tessa’s morning commitments we went for a drive across the border to the Polish markets. Here you could buy anything including pirated CDs, cheap cigarettes, knives and even guns. It was a bit of an eye opener. After a delicious lunch back at Ponderosa and Tessa’s commitments we took a drive to see her friend Lily staying at another one of the properties owned by the Ponderosa group called Betonest located in an old concrete factory on the canal. Then an evening walk around Stolzenhagen village before tea.
Evening walk around Stolzenhagen.
At Betonest.
The drive to Betonest.
Around Ponderosa.
At the Polish markets.

13 October 2017

Car hire day today. We walked several blocks with our luggage to the Sixt car hire office. I had already booked on line so it went smoothly and we had been upgraded to a BMW, the only time I’m likely to drive one. The guy in the office was very helpful and help set the gps for us for our destinations. Things went fairly smoothly getting out of Berlin and the only real hiccup was going through Eberswalde where the road was closed so the gps “voice” had to lots of recalculating as we followed our noses for a bit. We stopped at the Chorin Kloster for a break. A beautiful Gothic abbey that has been restored. Visited the museum (anther one) there. Lunch at the cafe then coffee and cake a little way up the road at the Brodowin eco cafe. We detoured to Lunow and walked around the lovely little village before arriving at Stolzenhagen and met Tessa at Ponderosa. Tessa showed us around but she had to go back to work as she is hosting a couple of groups at the moment. We also met Tessa’s dog Max.
At Ponderosa with Tessa.
Chorin Kloster.

12 October 2017

We had booked our reservations for the Reichstag/Bundestag (German parliament building) today but the glass dome was closed for cleaning. Security was pretty tight to get in but it was worth the visit anyway even though we didn’t bump in to Angela.! We decided to spend the rest of the day close to our Airbnb in Prenzlauerberg. This was part of East Berlin and when the wall came down young West Berliners moved in to the run down apartments and started doing them up. Now the place is has become gentrified and trendy with lots of quirky little shops, cafes and restaurants. Still lots of young families, children and dogs about. Very pleasant neighbourhood indeed.
Strolling around Prenzlauerberg.
More Bundestag photos.
Views of and from the Bundestag.
Views of our apartment building and Korsörer Straße.

11 October 2017

Birthday in Berlin We decided to celebrate Sheridan’s birthday with coffee and cake at the top of the Berlin TV tower and then a river cruise on the Spree. The first part went perfectly. I booked our tickets on line last night and raced to the nearest Internet cafe this morning to print them out. This allowed us to beat the crowd lining up for tickets and we went straight up. Even though it was cloudy the views were amazing. A 360 degree view of Berlin with lots of information about each viewpoint. Then up to the rotating restaurant for coffee and cake with magnificent views. Just as we were getting ready to leave for the cruise we saw the rain clouds roll in. Good thing we hadn’t booked it.
So we decided to go to the story of Berlin museum instead and stay dry. It was very well done and filled us in on some of the earlier history of Berlin as well as some that we had already covered in other museums. We are probably museumed out now! For dinner we found a delightful little Tapas restaurant on Gleimstraße very close to our Airbnb. This was easily our best meal so far and reasonably priced as well.
Tapitas restaurant on Gleimstraße.
Story of Berlin museum.
At the revolving restaurant.
The Berlin TV tower (Fernsehturm)

10 October 2017

Rain was forecast again today so we made our way in our raincoats to the Turkish market which Tessa’s friend Nicola had recommended, on Maybachufer Straße. It is a street market and since Berlin has a large Turkish community it was no surprise to see magnificent food both fresh and prepared as well as all sorts of other interesting things. We were too early to eat but we did sample a Turkish coffee and a snack. We then headed for the Topography of terrors museum on the site the buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. We spent hours there reading and viewing the very detailed information as well as the huge collection of photos. No cameras were allowed inside.
After this we were ready for something lighter so nearby was the Trabi museum. The Trabant (affectionately Trabi) was the East German car manufactured between about 1957 -1990 and remained virtually unchanged during that time with it’s 2 stroke engine and 60s styling. One interesting fact is that in 1969 the manufacturers designed the first European hatchback but were refused permission to build it and had to hand over all the plans to the minister for the economy. A year later the first VW golf was built in West Germany and was indistinguishable from the planned Trabi hatchback which was never built!! Next a quick U Bahn trip and a walk to the Brandenburg Gate just to say we had been there. Then back to our Airbnb.
The Brandenburg Gate
Trabi Museum
The Topography of Terrors Museum.
Turkish Market.

9 October 2017

We said goodbye to Tessa this morning until Friday as she headed back to Ponderosa. We then caught the U Bahn to Alexanderplatz to the tourist information centre for some maps and information. We decided to do Berlin Wall stuff today so a few S Bahn stops later we started off at the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. At the beginning of the wall is the Berlin Wall museum which kept us interested for over an hour. Even though most of the events detailed happened in my lifetime I hadn’t really taken a lot of it in until now. There is some pretty amazing art work along the remaining part of the wall at the Eas Side Gallery.
We then followed the route of the wall until we came to checkpoint Charlie and across the road to the Wall Museum and Panorama. This panorama by Berlin artist Yadega Asisi shows How an autumn day in Berlin in the 1980s looked. The 15 x 60-metre panorama sends you back in time. It is a pretty amazing piece of art which took years to complete. He also has other Panoramas around Germany including one of the Great Barrier Reef. It was raining as we left so we decide to head for “home”.
The Wall Panorama
Checkpoint Charlie.
East Side Gallery Berlin Wall.

8 October 2017

In the morning we went to the flea market at the Mauerpark which was just a short walk from our accommodation. It is the biggest flea market in Berlin and we were impressed with the variety of stuff sold. You could buy just about anything there. The recent rain had left it very muddy and wet under foot and the pumps were out but nobody seemed to mind. It was vinyl heaven for me. I haven’t seen so many LPs on sale since before the days of CDs. Unfortunately there were way too many to choose from so I chose none! But if I ever come back it will be with a bigger case! The food there was pretty amazing as well. We thought that seeing we were in Germany we should have a Bratwurst. Seeing all the shops are shut on a Sunday it seems that most Berliners head to the market as there were so many people about. In the late afternoon we walked to have coffee with Tessa’s friend Nicola from America.
This church whose name we couldn’t locate had a tower that was open to climb and take on some great views of Berlin.
Lunch at the market.
More flea market photos.
Wet underfoot at the flea market..

7 October 2017

Tessa arrived today about 9am. It was wonderful to see her again after so long. So after we fed her we headed off on the tram for the DDR museum. This was one place I really wanted to see and it didn’t let me down. It was fascinating finding out what many aspects of life were like in the former East Germany presented in a variety of interactive ways often with humour. Some of the escape attempts were unbelievable. We spent the afternoon and evening shopping for Tessa and dodging the Berlin rain.
Shopping and dodging the rain.
The DDR museum.
On the way to the DDR museum.

6 October 2017

Prague train Station. Arrived at 9am in plenty of time for the 10:28 to Berlin (or so we thought). Took us ages to sort out the north bound and south bound platforms. Then we had to wait for the platform sign to indicate which platform the train was leaving from. All good until 5 minutes before departure when it was changed from platform 3 to 6. Then there was a mad rush to make the train on time. After all that the train sat on the platform for another 15 minutes. It was delayed!!!
...and that was just the start of our day. As we crossed the German border a conductor informed us our train terminated at Dresden and we would need to detour to Leipzig for a connection to Berlin on a different line. Apparently the storm yesterday had not only killed 7 people but closed much of the rail network of northern Germany. The two connecting trains were packed to the rafters literally nowhere to sit or put luggage. We were kindly offered a seat by a German family in the restaurant car who squashed over for us. So we finally got to Berlin at about 5:15 instead of 3:00 and had to wait about half an hour in a shambolic taxi queue before we were able to find our Airbnb. Our hosts boyfriend who met us was very welcoming and understanding about our lateness. What a day!!
Leipzig Station.
From the train window Prague to Dresden.
Prague station.

5 October 2017

It was raining as we walked our way to Andel to catch the tram to Prague Castle. The rain eased as we walked up the hill toward the castle. This area looked older with many embassies among the buildings. The cobblestones made walking difficult. The Castle grounds were immense and it took us a while to work out where to get tickets and what type. We decided just to do the basic tour taking in 4 of the many sites located in the grounds. Throngs of tourists lined up at the Basilica of St George saw us head to St Vitas Cathedral and then the Golden Lane first. This was where many or the Castle Artisans and workers lived. Tiny little Medieval buildings well restored. By the time we came back to the basilica the line was not existent so it was a good move.
After lunch we saw the Old Royal Palace then explored outside the castle grounds. It started to rain again so we headed back down the hill in search of an auto teller as lunch cafe didn’t take card. After an early tea of Sushi we stumbled upon the Prague cat cafe. Lovely relaxing place with 8 cats, slippers, Wi-Fi, a games room and unlimited coffee, tea and biscuits and muffins. One hour costs 99 CZK (about $5.75) for first timers. Excellent value.
Prague Cat Cafe.
On the way back down the hill from Prague Castle.
Old Royal Palace, Prague Castle.
Basilica of St. George, Prague Castle.
Golden Lane Prague Castle.
Outside Prague Castle.
Walking from Malostranske to Prague Castle.

4 October 2017

According to the Health App on my phone we walked 12.9 km today. The first stop was the metro to buy a day ticket and check out the train station for our trip to Berlin on Friday. This was more complicated than planned because the platform for one of the connecting stations was out of action so we had to go past and come back from the other direction. We worked out a better route for Friday! Finding our bearings from out of the train station was difficult as the map is poor, we don’t have data for google maps and the Czech names are almost impossible to pronounce.
We finally found Wenceslas Square and started our walk towards the old town. Prague is pretty big and following our map was interesting but we started to get used to the names. After much exploring and walking in circles or so it seemed we arrived at the Old Town Square and saw the Astronomical clock in action. So many tourists in this part. Walked to the Jewish quarter and then across the river to Malá Strana. This was our favourite part. It reminded us of Ljubljana’s old town. Back over the Charles Bridge with the tourist throngs and by then it was time to look for somewhere for tea. We found a quiet little Indian place called Kathmandu back off the main drag. Food was delicious but we couldn’t eat it all.
Crossing the Vltava river to Malá Strana.
Jewish Quarter.
Prague Toilet Museum.
Old Town Square and Astronomical clock
Wenceslas Square.
Prague train station.
Admiral Botel restaurant for breakfast.

3 October 2017

After pretty much 20 hours straight on the plane it was good to finally arrive. Waited for ages for our luggage. It had been raining but starting to fine up. Temperature about 12 degrees, not much different to home really. After a quick trip to the ATM we caught the public bus to the nearest metro station then into the city. Took us a while to get our bearings coming out of Andel metro but we finally made our way to the Vltava river and the Admiral Botel. A walk along the river to the old town to stretch our legs and it was time for tea. We found a Czech restaurant tucked away off the tourist trail. Early night ready for a big day tomorrow.
Along the Vltava River