Sunday, April 28, 2013

Prague - Stuttgart - Berlin

One week long trip in April 2013 with start and end points in Prague, Czech Republic and visits to Stuttgart and Berlin in Germany.


Day 1:

Day 1 was a long one.  7 hour flight to Paris.  5 hour layover in Paris and then 90 minute flight to Prague.  Left at 6pm from Toronto, arrived next day at 4pm in Prague.  That's long!  

I couldn't have picked a better hotel in the Černý Slon  (Black Elephant)  The building is from the 14th century and it fits with the whole feel of the Old Town area.  Everything from here is a quick walk.  I was going to go on a guided tour tomorrow but after walking around today I think I'll do the whole day on foot.

My hotel on the right, Church of Our Lady before Týn on the left.

This is place is just downstairs from my hotel.  I remember watching the contestants on the Amazing Race bathe in beer and thinking how amazing that was.  Now I'll get to do the same on Tuesday.

The astronomical clock.  Every hour, on the hour, people gather to see the clock do it's thing.

Here's people waiting for the clock to do it's thing.

I'm using a Canon S110 and I think it's great for low light!  I wanted to travel light.  This camera fits in my jeans.

Too many food items on my list of things to try here.  I won't get through it all. But I will have Gulash tomorrow.  And maybe that roast pig.  

I just noticed that the woman in this picture is has done something terribly wrong.  I wonder what happened?

King Charles IV.  The man who started the construction of the Charles bridge.

Day 2:  

Today I spent the day on foot hitting the tourist sites.  I spent a few hours at the Prague Castle complex and spent some time wandering around.  Met a few Americans today as well.

St. Nicholas Church.  Mozart played the organ here which I thought was cool.

The confessional had someone's skull on it.  

St. Vitus Cathedral

I climbed to the top of the tower which was a hard climb.  You can't see how far you've climbed and you can't see how far there is to go.  It's just a long, tight staircase.  But the view was rewarding.  Most people need a breather when they get to the top.  

 Flying buttresses always remind me of Pillars of the Earth

Dark beer and gulash for lunch!  

 Most of the crypts were from 1200-1300AD.

 These stairs lead to the Royal crypt which was closed to tourists.

 Bones in this crypt are neatly displayed at the bottom.
 Old time washroom.  Just like camping!
 Medieval torture devices.

 This is inside a medieval prison.  The chains hold the person up and the hole they are looking down into looks like a big drain.  I guess for bodily fluids and what not.
 I don't know the story behind this guy.  But there were ladies who were posing with the guy and holding onto his penis.  My guess is that so many people have handled this guys penis that they have literally "polished his knob".

Pretty cool garage.

Albino peacock!

I only know what a Golem is because of X-Files.
 Awesome poster.  I might go because of this.   But I'm sure I'll see plenty of examples of communism in Berlin.

And this.....this was dinner.  Pork Knee!  It's too much food for one person.  I made it through most of it though.  It's served with hot mustard and horse radish sauce.

I had 4 pints (2L) of this beer for $8.00CAD.  The bottle of water was $4.00CAD.

Day 3:

On day 3 I didn't have a full day in Prague.  At 6:30pm I had my overnight train to Stuttgart so I had most of the day but wanted to make sure I didn't miss my train.

This was the day that I booked the beer bath at the Bernard spa.  The beer that you bathe in isn't like the beer you drink.  It has the same ingredients but it's not carbonated.  I don't think you'd want to bathe in carbonated beer anyway.  You get 30 minutes in the bath and then 30 minutes on the heated bed for the package that I chose.

On your way out, you're given a bottle of Bernard beer of your choice. I chose the dark one.  You are also given a certificate of achievement.

After the Beer spa I had lunch which included more gulash.  Gulash is great!  It was Gulash, Lasagna and beer in the deal.

The plan after lunch was to go to the Josefov (Jewish Quarter) to see the Jewish Cemetery there.
I also visited some Synagogues as part of the package.

I got lost on the way to Josefov and found things I hadn't seen before.  A pretty nice little detour actually.

 I had to buy a photopass for 40KC to take pictures in the cemetery.

Cheap dinner at Prague central station was a baguette and the original Budweiser, Budvar.

 I'm sure to many travelers  a sleeper train is no big deal.  But this was a first for me!  I've had bed seats on planes a few times before, but never on a trian.

I spent about 12 hours on the over night train.  I watched a movie and then fell asleep for the rest of the night.  The train attendant in charge of your car wakes you up 30 minutes before your scheduled stop.  I used that time to change, brush my teeth and have breakfast which is included.

Day 4:

I didn't show my passport when I entered the Czech republic.  Nobody asked me if I had handled farm animals or if I had any citrus fruit.  No passport check, nothing.  Now I'm in Germany and I still haven't shown anyone my passport.  The only people who've asked for it is the people in Canada when I left, and the hotel desk in Berlin where I am now.  

I had to take a second train to get into Stuttgart.  After leaving the sleeper train I took a normal commuter train into town.  I didn't know at the time, but I had a seat booked for me.

I was the only one in the cabin.  

Stuttgart's subway system is dead simple to navigate.

I only came to Stuttgart for two reasons.  Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz.  

I took many many pictures of cars.  But then I ended up buying souvenir books that have much nicer pictures of the exhibits themselves.  It's like taking pictures at the auto show.  There's no point because whatever pictures you want are already online from the manufacturer. 

Porsche factory

 New Porsche's that just came off the assembly line.

Flagship dealership on the left.  Factory on the right.

I don't know why, but there was a Joe Sakic statuette at the Porsche Museum gift shop.  Weird.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum is amazing.  I spent over three hours there.


 Attached to the Museum is a dealership.  I suspect this it he flagship dealership.  It's three floors of all Mercedes-Benz models.

I didn't plan anything else in Stuttgart because I didn't think I would have time.  But I had an extra four hours to kill.  Today was May Day, a national holiday in Germany.  Many men and women on he S-Bahn (transit system) were wearing traditional German clothing.  There was a festive atmosphere so there was no shortage of things to do once I found the events.  It didn't take much wandering around to find them.

I came across this cathedral and two museums that surround it.  By the time I found them, they were ready to close which is unfortunate.

Crazy organ.

Check out the skulls in the doorway.  I don't know the story behind them because this museum closed before I could visit it!  Next time I will Stuttgart more time.

When I was a kid I busted my front tooth on something similar to this.

Beer in German is expensive.  3x the price compared to the Czech republic.  The hour is not happy here.

This was at the airport. Off to Berlin on a 50 minute flight.

Compared to my hotel in Prague, my hotel in Berlin is more of what we're used to in North America.

Tonight the Leafs play the Bruins in game 1 of round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  I will try and find a bar in Berlin that plays the game.  If I can't find one I'll just watch it on the NHL package I have.  Hopefully the hotel wifi, which has been excellent so far, can keep up with the stream.

Day 5:

The Leafs lost.  I ended up watching only the first period on my laptop and then falling asleep during the intermission.

I spent most of day 5 on a guided walking tour with about 30 other people.  It was a great way to see the city and it was also fun talking to other tourists.  After the tour I walked up to Museum Island visited the Neues Museum and the world famous Pergamon Museum.

The book burning memorial at Bebelplatz. This plaque is part of a memorial for when the Nazi's burned ~20,000 books on May 10, 1933.

The writing on the left is a German quote from Heinrich Heine from 1820, more than 100 years earlier. It translates to :

"That was only a prelude, there
where they burn books,
they burn in the end people."


West Berlin on one side, East Berlin on the other.  The wall stood here.

The location of the Wall is marked by the double brick line.

Check point charlie.  Location of the only time during the cold war where the US and Russia were face to face with tanks.

Check point charlie as it is today.  Kind of gimmicky.  The picture of the soldier is of a fallen American soldier who forever watches East Berlin.  On the other side of the board is a Russian Soldier who forever watches West Berlin.

 The remaining bits of the Berlin Wall.

This is the silhouette of Georg Elser, the man who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

This parking lot is the location of Hitlers bunker.  Fragments of his skull are still kept by Russia.

Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe a.k.a the Holocaust Memorial.

 This hotel is in the same square as the Brandenburg gate, the US and French Embassy and some other government buildings.  It's also the same hotel where Michael Jackson held his baby out the window to the horror of onlookers.
 The Brandenburg Gate

 This man's job was to take the rocks from the barge and put them in the river.  I watched for about 5 minutes until he decided to take a break.

 Currywurst!  A common Berlin food.

 I don't usually take pictures inside a museum because the pictures don't do the artifacts any justice and I'd rather just spend my time taking it in.  But this is the Ishtar Gate of Babylon!

Day 6:

For day 6 I had no real itinerary.  I had visited the major tourist sites the day before so I had a free day.    I had thoughts of joining another tour, this time of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  However this tour is 6 hours long and I had a train back to Prague to catch.  When I originally booked this trip, it was just to Prague.  I added the other cities in later.  Had I originally planned to do a multi-city visit, I would have not come back to Prague and instead just flown home from Berlin.

Today ended up being a great day of just wandering around East Berlin.

This is the TV tower which was my first destination for the day.  Originally it was my plan to go up and take pictures from above.  But it was an hour wait just to get tickets then who knows how long to actually get into the elevator.  I skipped going up the tower, just like I skipped going up the Eiffel tower when in Paris.  Waiting in line just to go up isn't worth it.
 Mobile hotdog vendor!
 When leaving the tower and walking to my next destination, I had a map in my hand and was trying to get my bearings. I came across this street sign which was of no help at all.

This sign however was interesting.  Max Beer!

 I went to the Berlin Motorrad Museum.

Cool old Audi.

 This is the modern Mona Lisa.  Holding her iPhone, taking a selfie with full on duck-face.
 My next destination was Hackescher Markt.  But on the way I found this cemetery that I spent some time in.  There was a map to all the burial plots so I think these were important or historic people.

 Judging by the worn grass, these two were the most visited graves.

 Hackescher Markt

This is an Australian street performer.  She was an amazing singer.

 On the train back to Prague.  This was at one of the stops.  A soldier kissing his wife and kid goodbye.
 I took some pictures from the train.  From Dresden all the way into Prague the train follows a river and there are houses up on the hills.  Some of the areas looked like they were resorts.

 My hotel in Prague.  It's next to the train station and Wenceslas Square which I will visit tomorrow.

Czech National Museum.

Day 7:

Last day.  Today it was steadily raining and I was glad that I wore boots and had a WeatherEdge jacket so I could still walk around dry all day.  I spent most of the day at Wenceslas Square but did go back to Old Town and the Jewish town for a bit.  I'm back at the airport now, waiting for my flight to Amsterdam.   The flight back won't be as bad because the layover is only two hours.  Time to go home, watch some playoff hockey, and plan the next trip!  



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