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Trip Report Trip Report: Central Germany, 2013

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This is the first of three trip reports. The first part in each report will include all of our prepaid items such as flights, car rentals and room reservations. In most instances, the process of making reservations (and paying for them) started three to four months ahead of time, which may be why some prices may appear low (the early bird ...)

To prepare for the trip we consulted the Michelin Green Guide for Germany and Fodor’s and took into account some recommendations made on this forum.

Our airplane flights were the following:

open jaw SFO to Frankfurt Heathrow to NYC ($2033-all prices for two)
We then purchased separate tickets NYC to SFO ($345), Berlin to Paris on Easyjet (110€), Limoges to Stansted on Ryanair (178€).

The train fare from Paris to Brive-la-Gaillarde was 30€

We rented three different sized cars which turned out to be the following:

a Seat Ibiza in Germany from May 10 to May 24 for $385.

An Audi A3 2-door TDI in France from June 3 to June 28 for $567

A Fiat 500 in England from June 29 to July 8 for $180

In all instances the cars had standard shift and the Fiat did not have AC in the one country where we could have used it. For those thinking of a lease, I checked the price for a lease that would cover our time in Germany and France, and it would cost twice as much as our two current rentals and the airfare from Berlin to Paris ($2300 vs. $1100). In other words, if one is willing to live with the uncertainty of having the credit card carry the CDW when permitted, renting is cheaper than a lease.

The only reservations we made were for one night in Bath and for our stay in London, although our friends in England reserved the cottage in Lyme Regis. Through Expedia we obtained a room in Bath for $118 at the Oldfields House. We used Airbnb for our July 7 to July 11 London stay which cost us $385. We are fortunate in that the only other direct housing expense was from May 10 to May 24 when we traveled in Germany and for our week’s stay in Lyme Regis (300 GBP). Otherwise we stayed with friends, relatives and our place in the Dordogne (for which we pay utilities, taxes and upkeep every year, whether we use it or not).

Our other expenses, including our share of the Lyme Regis rental, averaged $1100 per week for everything that was not prepaid. However, we undoubtedly spent more per week in Germany and England than in France because we did not travel as much in the Dordogne and ate mostly at home.

I mention prices because I find it frustrating to read about “reasonable” prices without seeing the actual price. What is a reasonable price for one person might be for unacceptable accommodations for the next or might be expensive for someone else.

We flew on U.S. Airways, with a layover in Charlotte, and arrived in the morning in Frankfurt. The food on the airline is barely acceptable for dinner and inedible for breakfast; but I do not expect much more than that when going steerage. No problems with immigration in Frankfurt, and there was basically no customs control, we just walked through the “nothing to declare” passage. It is quite a walk to the rental agency, but it had our papers, and within ten minutes we were headed to the garage to find our car. We got a Seat Ibiza, which was fine with us, with enough space in the trunk to hold all our luggage: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9302670895/in/set-72157623094971409

Our intention was to spend the first night in Würzburg, visit the Residenz, and then go on to Bamberg. The drive to Würzburg took longer than anticipated because shortly after leaving the airport we got stuck in a 1 hr stop-and-go traffic jam on the autobahn.

Driving in Germany: My take on the autobahn is that when there are two lanes going in the same direction, one stays in the right lane except to pass, and when passing, one should accelerate as much as possible and not drive like some individuals who will stay at cruise control speed of 70 mph when passing someone going at 65 mph. I drove on the autobahn between 120 and 140 kph. If there were three lanes in the same direction, I stayed in the middle lane, and everyone in that lane seemed to be going within that range, passing trucks and slower cars on the right and letting the lead-footed ones pass on the left. If needing to pass, the same rule applies--as quickly as possible. One should make sure that there is no speeding demon in the rear-view mirror when changing to the fast lane.

Non-autobahn driving is slow. For one thing, there is a slow down to 50kph (or is it 30?), at every intersection no matter where it is located, even in the middle of the countryside. It is as if the authorities do not trust an individual to use his judgment when warned that there is an intersection coming up (as in France). On the other hand, towns or villages are not well advertised, nor is the slowdown, as in France (I use France as my example because I am most familiar with its road signs); and the end of the low speed is not well indicated.

In Würzburg we drove to the middle of town (after going by mistake to the fortress above the town) and parked in one of the underground garages. The tourist office told us that there was no room available in the city because it was a special weekend of some kind, but found us a room 10 km. out of town. The system worked well generally throughout our travels: The tourist office registers us, prints out the rental as if we had a prepaid agreement with our name, the establishment’s name and address, and the price we are to pay for our accommodations. The facilities are invariably clean, although in some instances we did not get an en-suite bathroom which is much preferable at our age.

We walked some in the center of Würzburg, found a large bookstore near the market square where we picked up a Michelin map of Thuringia and Saxony. We drove off to to the Hotel Vogelsang in Retzbach Used the same establishment for dinner (105€ for room and evening meal ); this was one of the few places where breakfast was extra. Went early to bed. I do not think that I ever felt any jet-lag the next day.

We drove back to Würzburg and parked this time in the parking structure next to the theater which is located between the market square and the Residenz--we could have parked on the large square in front of the Residenz. Had breakfast in a café and picked up picnic items at the open market in the center of town (and a small bottle of local Kirsch that simply did not match Black Forest and Alsatian productions), and walked back toward the Residenz. The Residenz can only be seen on tour with the exception of the chapel. No photography is allowed inside, presumably because it is too disruptive to the tour and its schedule. Yet no photography is allowed in the chapel where there are no tours. The Residenz is known for its Tiepolo frescoes, but it is more than that. One room has incredible plaster carvings on the ceiling, and there are fake marble columns--definitely worth a visit. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and ours had a sense of proportion--he pointed out that while we may wonder at Empress Maria Theresa traveling with her own bed, President Reagan apparently did the same, and the 10 support planes for Air Force One under Obama surely match the 50 wagons or more of support for the empress’ retinue.

We had a bench lunch in a quiet area of the Residenz gardens, one of the few picnics we had because the weather was generally rainy. Toured the garden.

We visited what we intended to visit in Würzburg, although the Michelin Green Guide also recommends the fortress. We left to go on to Bamberg.

We arrived in Bamberg in the late afternoon, parked the car in an underground garage and walked around looking for the tourist office. We found it with no problem, but the closest room they had for us was 20 km. away because there was some type of special weekend in Bamberg (this is apparently common throughout Germany in the month of May, so travelers not making reservations should take that into account). Rather then taking the Tourist Office’s recommendation, we drove back to Bürgebrach (about 10 km.) in the vague hope that if we found a room there, someone in the Wirtschaft might recognize the people in the photographs, for reasons explained under the photographs: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157623729292655/. No luck on that account although we stayed in Bürgebrach proper; and since we arrived on a Saturday evening, the photography studio and city hall were closed for the weekend. The Hotel-Gasthof Hirsch was clean but in the low end motel style, and the food was plain. The room cost 46€ (cash) and the meal cost us 20.70€ for the following menu items: Rauchbier, Flasche Soda, Kirchwasser, kleine Salatteller, Bratwurst (2 links), Zigeunerschitzel. Breakfast was included in the price of the room.

The next day we returned to Bamberg and obtained a room through the tourist office. The “office” for the room was in a large restaurant, and one of the personnel had to walk me to an ATM to get the cash to pay for the room--they insisted on payment in full ahead of time. We also ate in one of the larger brewery restaurants, and that was cash only--something to keep in mind for those who expect to travel on their credit cards. The one restaurant meal for which I have a record (they accepted credit cards) was the Hofbrau Bamberg, which, if I recall correctly, claimed to participate in the Slow Food movement. The meal was of traditional food (pig’s knuckle as a main dish for me) and it cost us $62.39. We have no absolute price for the hotel room which was very small (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9373242459/in/set-72157634933220494 ), but we think that it was 70€ per night with breakfast at the restaurant down the block.

The tourist office directed us to the cheapest overnight parking 5€ or less, which was a private parking lot but with a meter box. It is close to the Schillerplatz, off the Richard-Wagner-Straße

Internet sites (other than WIFI): They still exist but are not always easy to find. In Bamberg there is a copy place across the street from the tour boat dock that has computer access. In Leipzig we saw one going to the center of town from our hotel, and found one located between the train station and the town center, off the Brühl Straße (it’s identified as Intertelcafe on Google map). In Görlitz there is a bookstore a few doors down from the tourist office that has one available computer, and a video arcade on the Heilige-Grab-Straße also has Internet access.

In Bamberg we visited the standard tourist sites, the museum in the old city hall had an interesting history of porcelain, and we also visited a museum of truck farming, something for which Bamberg was apparently known; the farms were within the city boundary.

We took a side trip to Veste Coburg and Vierzehnheiligen church. The former was very interesting, although most of the furnished rooms represent a Wilhelmine idea of castle life, there is also a fantastic hunting room with walls having hunting scenes made out inlaid wood, another set of rooms devoted to Luther who lived there for some time (I do not know if the Cranach portraits were copies or not), and three different armories and a carriage hall. The carriages were interesting as they preceded the leather suspension technique so that even the lord was essentially riding a gussied up hay wagon. We saw two armories: the knights in armor and a hunting armory that included two rifles with revolving chambers built around 1700--one wonders why the system did not really develop until the 19th century (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9373269347/in/set-72157634933220494 ). We did not visit the third armory. Veste Coburg itself has a self-serve café, which means two vending machines in a large room, one for liquids and one for snacks. Neither offer a very good choice. There are two restaurants nearby, one facing the castle and the other one close to the off-site parking lot.

In my mind, Vierzehnheiligen does not match Wies or some other Bavarian churches, but in the case of Wies I may have a faulty memory. If short on time, I think that it can be skipped. On the other hand, it is a logical stop between Bamberg and Veste Coburg.

Pictures of Würzburg and Bamberg are in the Franconia set, which begins with pictures of Rothenburg seen on a previous trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634933220494/show/with/9375959720/

We revised our itinerary and instead of going to Leipzig we decided to go to Erfurt. Those thinking of taking a driving tour in this area might consider visiting Veste Coburg and Vierzehnheiligen on the way to Erfurt.

Erfurt:

This is where we stayed for 44€ per night: http://www.herberge-am-moritztor.de/herberge-am-moritztor.html . As usual, obtained through the tourist information office. It was half way between where we had parked the car and the center of the old town. We found the room very attractive. It was on the top floor of a pre-19th cent. building that had been completely renovated with the exception of a patch here and there to show what it had been like before the renovation. It opened as a B&B 4 months before, so it really was brand-new. The negatives: hauling the suitcases to the top floor and the bathroom was shared with the other two rooms on the floor. Here are the photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9373331431/in/set-72157634820731156 and the next one. Paid parking will be available next to the B&B as an old granary (the brick building seen on its web site) was being converted into a parking garage. We declined breakfast because our car was parked near a Greek restaurant that was advertising breakfast, and we figured we could get a good Greek coffee for our breakfast--big mistake--the coffee was Nescafe and the pastries were unappealing.

Driving into town was confusing. We followed signs to parking structures and suddenly we didn’t see them anymore. We were obviously on a ring road, so I turned off and parked on a nearby street which had no parking limits. It took 20 minutes to walk back into town, and completely disoriented, we stopped in a café that obviously was making its own baked goods in an very attractive open kitchen will all its copper pots hanging from hooks (no photography allowed). We had a coffee, asked for directions; it tuned out that we were facing the outside of the famous Krämerbrücke and were close to the tourist office.

Würzburg and Bamberg have more to offer to visitors than Erfurt, but for some reason we really liked this town. There is a heavy tourist area--the “bridge with houses on it” --which has the resemblance of a bridge only from the exterior and otherwise is a street with lots of tourist shops, where we picked up a little glass chicken (Christmas ornament?) as a gift. But the old town has three distinct areas: The oldest part with the Rathaus on the Fishmarkt as its center. There we found a shop that specializes in (expensive) craft products by local artists. My wife picked up a pair of earrings for 75€ (cash only). They also had some beautiful cloth that was apparently inspired by the Japanese indigo blue folk cloth. The second area is the Anger that contains late 19th cent. building and modern ones which are department stores. Finally there is the Domplatz at the base of the cathedral. The town is lively and seemed to have activity that was not related to tourism.

We had a nice meal Zum Goldenen Schwann for 45€. It included a shared salad and dessert, two drinks and two main dishes.

Here are the pictures of Erfurt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634820731156/

When we left Erfurt we took secondary roads to pass via Naumburg on our way to Leipzig. The ride to Naumburg was longer than anticipated because of Umleitungen which are well marked at the starting point but generally badly marked when one arrives at an intersection (joke: a French couple driving through the German countryside before the days of GPS devices and the driver asks the navigator: why can’t you find this damn town of Umleitung? and in fact directional signs to towns and the Umleitung sign are both yellow). We arrived in Naumburg around noon, visited the cathedral and then walked to the main square. Picked up an overpriced wurst for lunch. The cathedral is well worth a visit, with interesting carvings, statuary and stained-glass windows, but the town appears to be just an ordinary middle sized town with no special appeal--see the cathedral, skip the town.

The pictures of Naumburg are in the Saxony-Anhalt set, this being the case that political geography does not match the logic of physical geography as I perceive it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634933295930/

When we arrived in Leipzig we turned of the what appeared to be an inner ring when we saw the train station, figuring that it must be close to the center of town. We found street parking on the Brühl Straße, found the tourist office that was a 5 minute walk, and got a hotel room that was 4 tram stops from the train station. As in Berlin, and perhaps other German cities, the public transportation system has a dual single ride fee system (leaving aside the issue of multiple ride tickets): one for a full ride and one for a short ride. 4 stops was at the outer limit of the short ride fare.

We probably were lucky to get a room for we happened to arrive on Leipzig’s annual Goth weekend which attracts thousands of participants from all over Europe, if not the world. The hotel Vivaldi was a modern structure (post 1989), quite ordinary as a hotel, with long corridors and decent clean rooms. Its buffet breakfast was probably the most copious of the trip, It was our most expensive stay of the trip, costing 89€ per night and the dreaded DCC was applied, which I realized after I signed the credit card slip, paying an extra 3.7% on the bill. This was the only time we were not asked about how we wanted to pay the bill--local currency or dollars. Parking was not a problem because there was across the street a whole row of post-W.W.II abandoned apartment houses, facing a well-kept row of Wilhelmine apartment houses (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9414340101/in/set-72157634926912599 ). While striking, an August 2013 NY Times article mentioned that empty housing was a problem in many cities and towns in Germany because of a general decline in population. However, it may be more severe in the former DDR because of its original population flight after 1989.

We were not impressed with Leipzig. It has a large square in front of the Rathaus reminiscent of Krakow in terms of architecture. The old town was severely bombed, although a great deal was rebuilt. Guidebooks mention its passages, but they are nothing compared to Paris’ or to the gallerias in Italy. We felt that the Fine Arts museum’s collection was underwhelming and a look-at-me building with a lot of wasted space (cubes, some just open space, within a large cube). The St. Thomas boy’s choir is offered as a musical attraction, but in fact, the Friday evening event is not a concert but a religious service (sermon from the pulpit included) with limited singing of modern hymns; not to our taste. The use of the train station as a shopping mall is not great, especially since most of the stores are to be found at any ordinary shopping mall. But it does have a Nordsee restaurant with very good seafood--I am partial to herring sandwiches. We had a nice meal at Auerbach’s--the beer hall, not the Continental restaurant at the same general location (60€). I would skip Leipzig as a town to visit.

But if looking for a place to do laundry, here’s an address: Arbeitsamt, Bothestr. 1, Waschsalon. The hotel sent us to another place much farther away, but it did not have self-serve machines and the return time on the laundry was 2 weeks; they gave us the correct address.

We used Leipzig as a hub for day trips. We visited Dessau for its Bauhaus buildings. We joined two tours, a third is available for the main buildings but there is no time for three tours in one day. The professor’s houses were interesting, with some hint of mis-designs in that all of them added cast iron stoves in their studios. More interesting for us were the apartments and row houses built for workers of the local industries. Some of the features were absolutely rational, as having a bathroom (for bathing and laundry) as an adjunct of the kitchen (no privacy when bathing), and having dry toilets. These latter devices functioned as intended, since the house we visited had the original one--the house had a single inhabitant for its entire history who donated it to the city in her will, she died at the age of 95. But most people changed the windows and the toilets as soon as possible. The change in the toilets meant that the sewer lines had to be replaced because they had been intended of rain and kitchen run-offs exclusively and did not take into account flushing toilets. The windows were replaced because the Bauhaus architects had function follow form in this instance. They wanted smooth façades and installed single pane windows in a country that had double windows to protect from the cold. The professors could afford a stove in their north-facing studios, the inhabitants of the row houses replaced the windows to save on energy.

From Dessau we drove 10 km. to Wörlitz to visit a well-known 18th century park. It was perhaps the least interesting park in our travels. The saving grace is that there was a restaurant at the edge of it that offered home-smoked trout as its specialty; it was very good and not expensive (about 10€ per person for a a whole trout and salads, plus drinks and coffee, with a free liqueur thrown in at the end of the meal).

The second day trip was to Quedlinburg and Wernigerode. The former town is more picturesque but less lively than the latter, perhaps because there was a market in front of the Rathaus in Wernigerode. Our opinion of Quedlinburg was undoubtedly affected by the rain, the fact that the upper town toward the castle was closed unless one wanted to pay to wander around a Renaissance type fair, and the Lyonel Feininger museum was temporarily closed. We much preferred Wernigerode even before we got to the market (we found a couple of gift items), perhaps because the rain had stopped.

While Leipzig is part of the Saxony set, the day trips were to areas that are in Saxony-Anhalt.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634933295930/show/with/9417037946/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634926912599/

We continued our travels in an eastward direction, stopping for the day in Meissen. We visited the castle whose interior was reworked extensively after it stopped being a porcelain factory--to maintain the secret of porcelain the castle was transformed in the 18th cent. into a factory where the workers had to live; essentially a prison factory although it was not explained what happened to them once they got too old to work. We then visited the current Meissen factory where we took the tour that leads to various demonstration of the decoration process and ends in the factory store. Apparently everything is still decorated by hand whereas other manufacturers often use transfer patterns to maintain uniformity in the design.

We decided not to stay in Meissen, nor wanted to stay in Dresden, so we found the Hotel Deutsches Haus in Radeburg am Markt (the room was large: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/9414663019/in/set-72157634926912599, the courtyard restaurant filled with locals) for 82€ including dinner (25€) and breakfast. Our intent was to drive through some of the Saxon Alps on our way to Görlitz.

We drove through some of the Saxon Alps, visiting the Barockgarten Großsedlitz, which must be a pale reflection of what it was originally. For one thing, the castle itself no longer exists, and the large building overlooking the garden probably was the orangerie. For another, what is now grass filled basins probably were water basins, so the play between water and greenery is not there anymore. The gardens, in their formality, are pleasant enough, but are not essential in terms of seeing that area, and are difficult to find--the road signage lacks continuity. We probably should have seen the Bastei instead. We continued to the Festung Königstein which gives a wonderful view over the countryside (for those with mobility issues, there is an elevator to get to the top of the fortress).

Görlitz was recommended to us as a small city that survived W.W.II almost untouched. So we were surprised at the number of run-down buildings even in the center of the tourist area. The Michelin Green Guide and Fodor’s speak of Görlitz’ housing stock, but the effect is simply not as remarkable as it is claimed in the guidebooks. The tourist office (where we obtained a room) had a colored map of the housing stock in the city with each period a different color. We went looking at what was mapped as the Jugendstil row of houses, and we found that they hardly differed from the standard Wilhelmine housing. On the other hand, around the corner stood an apartment building (not in the colored area) through whose entry door one could see a Jugendstil glass window, but we could not enter the building. We went to a restaurant that was away from the center, and walking back passed a series of mansions, half of which seemed abandoned, some cut up into several units (the mailboxes give it away) and some serving as offices for what appeared to be NGOs. But the overall effect is that the city has a long way to go in terms of rehabilitation, something that is not certain if the NY Times article mentioned above is correct. Finally, there is a building that is the only Jugenstil style department store left in Germany, but it is closed. There is a jewelry store under its front arcade and one can go in and see the staircase of the department store through a window; but it does not come close to the image presented by the Green Guide.

We enjoyed Görlitz, it’s just that we feel that its architectural qualities are over-hyped. But if one forgets the hype over the architectural treasures of Görlitz, the town is pleasant to walk around. It has an interesting mix of buildings and in that respect it is not set in amber like Quedlinburg. We also were disappointed by the Museum of Cultural History--I think that between this year’s minor cultural museums (including the Sorbian Museum in Bautzen) and the Basque Museum in Bayonne on another trip I have learned that they may be less than they appear to be. On the other hand, the merchants 17th cent. mansion farther down the street is well displayed and explained, and it has the plus of giving viewing access to an old library. The Dreifaltigkeitskirche of what had been a Franciscan convent is definitely worth seeing.

We had interesting eats in Görlitz. One was a very good meal in a Slow Food restaurant located in what I think was a large mill complex along the Neiße river and was part of a boutique hotel: Obermühle, An der Obermühle 5. The walk there to make a reservation (we wanted to see a menu and the location) was more than anticipated, which gave us the opportunity to see different neighborhoods, but we drove for our evening meal (our hotel had free off-street parking which made the use of the car less of a hassle). Our meal consisted of Spargelsuppe, Spargelsalat (it was asparagus season). Gegrillte Haxe, Konfiertes Lamm, Blechkuchen, 2 glasses of wine, a mineral water and a Edelbrand for 65€. My wife is still trying to recreate the asparagus salad. The other interesting restaurant was the Kartoffelhaus, Steinstraße 10 , where we ate for 37 €. One late afternoon we walked across a footbridge to Poland and sat on a river bank café for drinks. No control on either side of the border at that point, although I am sure that some controls exist farther into the Polish town--but we did not see any obvious German border control in the area.

We took a day trip from Görlitz with the intention of seeing Löbau, Bautzen and the countryside in the direction of Zittau. We only got as far as Bautzen with a small detour to Obercunnersdorf--non Autobahn driving is slower than expected. In Löbau we visited the König-Friedrich-August-Turm which is a cast iron tower built in 1854 giving a very nice view of the surrounding area. But the treasure of Löbau for those who like modern architecture is the Schminke house which was built in the early thirties by an architect who had no connection with the Bauhaus and yet many Bauhaus design features are in the house, including large single pane glass windows (affordable by the noodle magnate), and an enlarged Frankfurt kitchen. There is an English audio tour which is excellent. This is not to be missed. From there we went to Bautzen and visited the previously mentioned Sorbian Museum. After that it was time to go back to Görlitz.

We left Görlitz in the direction of Cottbus. Within 15 km. a red light came on with a message that the water was low. We stopped at a gas station, added water to the radiator and drove off. The problem kept on occurring about every 30 km, indicating a leak somewhere in the system. Whenever we stopped, we had to add water to the radiator. We visited the Muskauer Park right on the Polish border, which is a parc à l’anglaise, similar but better than the park in Wörlitz. There is a footbridge allowing visitors to walk across the Neiße to what was the other part of the park. We then drove to Cottbus, stopped in the center of town and got our hotel reservation from the tourist office, and then drove out a few kilometers to visit the Branitz Schloß und Garten, which again is a very pleasant English garden with an interesting castle interior. The 19th cent. owner traveled to and was inspired by the Middle East when he redecorated some rooms of the castle. Refilled the radiator with water and drove back the 5 km. to the hotel.

By the next morning the water was below the minimum allowed and I called Europcar in Hamburg. Eventually a tow truck came to take the car away, but Europcar had no replacement for me. This was the day when we were going to return the car in Berlin. So it was agreed that I would be reimbursed for the taxi ride to the train station and the train ride to Berlin. I was warned that I probably would not be reimbursed on the spot but it turned out that the Europcar agent in Berlin could only give us cash rather than reimburse us via our credit card. We accepted. The experience turned out to be more expensive than driving the car back to Berlin because Europcar charged me their outrageous rates for refilling the car (we always refill a car before returning it) and my cousin’s phone ws not working so that we had to pay for a taxi from the train station to his house--the irony is that he is a taxi driver.

Car problems aside, Cottbus was a pleasant stop. The Hotel Ostrow (68€ with breakfast), within walking distance of the center, is more like a motel around a courtyard. They were very helpful with all my telephone calls to Hamburg and back, but I did have to pay for the calls. Cottbus has a pleasant old square with a very good Italian restaurant--Ristorante Amarone where my wife had a whole grilled sea bass for 17.50€ (70€ for the entire meal) and a very interesting pharmacy museum, covering 2 centuries of pharmaceutical practices, including a room set up as a pharmacy under the DDR. We were the only two for the guided tour in German that morning, which might be why we enjoyed it so much (I understand 90% of what is said in standard German, and can get by on tourist German: getting a hotel room, ordering a meal, asking directions, with an accent good enough that someone asked me if I had emigrated as a child from Germany).

Cottbus pictures are in the Brandenburg set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634927002595/show/with/9417903728/

Berlin was mainly family, with a rainy outing to Potsdam and another outing to see the new Museum Berggruen (mainly Picasso and Klee with some Matisse) in Charlottenburg (definitely worthwhile). On our own we went to the Pergamon and took the boat ride on the Landwehrkanal and the Spree, starting at the Jannowitzerbrücke (sp?). Most of the changes are along the Spree, with some wild architecture, and the Landwehrkanal ride is becoming greener and greener. We tried Currywurst on the Alexanderplatz and were not impressed. My cousin said that next time he’ll take us to a good purveyor. Most of the other meals were of a private nature and therefore of no tourist interest. On our way out we stopped to see the Hufeisensiedlung in Berlin-Britz. This is 30s housing that is well maintained--an example of a modern solution for the housing crisis of that time.

Pictures of Berlin, combining several trips, are in this set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157623174831107/show/with/4310304995/

Potsdam pictures are in the Brandenburg set. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157634927002595/

These are my pictures from Germany: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/collections/72157623099783809/

From Berlin we flew to Paris. That will be another trip report.

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  12. 12 Versailles-How Long to Plan for a Visit to Trianons
  13. 13 Suggestions for Munich in early December
  14. 14 Trip Report Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice with 4 teenagers, 1 kid, 19 days perfect!
  15. 15 December vacation help, 2 weeks - southern Italy or Spain or other?
  16. 16 Careful now in train stations even after security
  17. 17 Amsterdam + Alps + Tuscany in 2 weeks
  18. 18 St Germain
  19. 19 When to go to Sicily
  20. 20 Wengen to Torino?
  21. 21 Suggestions for places to stay on Madeira, but not Funchal? And driving?
  22. 22 Lakes District UK
  23. 23 Vicenza and Padua (Palladian villas) without a car
  24. 24 50 and Fabulous in 2015---need help planning my trip to Amalfi, FINALLY
  25. 25 Trip Report Chilling in the Cyclades May 2014--Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Santorini, Athens
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