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Continuation of my German trip report

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Jul 14th, 2014, 01:00 PM
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Continuation of my German trip report

Here's the first part of my trip report on the Goethe Institute in Göttingen and several days elsewhere.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...gontheroad.cfm

Göttingen itself is an attractive city, with a lot of half-timbered houses and some carved facades. The downtown streets are pretty much pedestrianized, and they're usually very busy with shoppers, strollers, and sidewalk cafe sitters. One Saturday there was a lot of political campaigning, and I had to use my brush-off phrase once or twice--"Ich bin Americanerin," with as strong an American accent as I could dredge up.

Back to class. At first I had trouble understanding the teacher, but I soon realized that the problem was that I wasn't focusing, wasn't paying attention closely enough. As soon as I realized this and started paying close attention, it went well. Clearly, I can't zone out and still expect to understand a foreign language.

This was by far the most rigorous Goethe Institute I've attended. We went very fast and covered a lot of material. I assume that is because so many of the students plan on studying at the University of Göttingen and will attend the Institute until they are completely fluent in German. This hasn't been the case at earlier, smaller institutes I have attended.

When time came for me to leave the Institute, it was really a wrench. I had become friendly with so many of the students, especially the two women doctors, Darein and Hana, and the Libyan orthopedic doc, Walid, and I was sad to leave them. We had a party the last day of class Hana asked me if I was coming back, and when I said no, she expressed regret. Walid shook hands with me when he said good bye, which I felt was really special.

So, the session I was attending ended on Friday, May 30, but the day before the end was a German holiday, Himmelfahrt--Ascension Thursday. I decided to take a one-day trip to Goslar, which I had accidentally discovered last year when I got lost.

I made a reservation at the Hotel Kaiserworth a few days prior, and then on Thursday I went to the Bahnhof and bought a ticket about an hour before train departure. I train was jammed at first, but at the first stop, many people got off and it was more comfortable. I took a taxi to the hotel and was really impressed by the exterior. It was a sort of reddish color and was decorated with statues and fancy dormer windows. The picture I'd seen on the internet was a night picture, and didn't really do justice to the facade of the hotel.

I went to my room through various passageways and arrived at a piece of heaven on earth. Well, I'm exaggerating, but after spending a month on a two-inch-thick mattress with a questionable comforter, I was delighted to see the bed, which had a real mattress and a fluffy comforter. The room was quite elegant and very comfortable.

It was raining pretty steadily, so I didn't wander around much. I went up the street a bit to a restaurant called "Butterhanne," which I think means butter churn. German food is a bit heavy for me, so I don't usually order a full dinner. I saw what looked like a chef's salad on the menu, and I ordered that. It was delicious. The beef, instead of a few slices of cold beef such as I would have found at home, seemed to have been sauteed in butter. Then there were various vegetables, also delicious. I ordered my usual drink--an orangensaftschorle, which is orange juice mixed with club soda or sparkling water, as nearly as I can tell.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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good to read Peg
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Jul 14th, 2014, 02:42 PM
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I went back to my beautiful, cozy room and settled down to read and try to find something interesting on TV, since it had been a month since I'd watched TV. There was a program about the Nasca lines that showed promise, but I didn't stick around for long.

I went to bed early and awoke at 6:00 a.m. The rain had stopped, so after breakfast I went out to wander around the winding streets and to admire the great architecture. There was a lot of black or dark gray siding on many of the buildings, including one in the main square, the Marktplatz. I learned that because of various fires that had ravaged the town, builders used slate, which apparently was/is abundant there.

The Marktplatz was really quite stunning, with many half-timbered buildings and a beautiful Rathaus, which is now being renovated. On the opposite side of the square is one of the black sided buildings which I mentioned earlier.

Later I took a tour of the city on the Bimmelbahn, a tour bus tarted up to look like an old train. I never understand everything that's said on these tours, but I had a good look at this wonderful town.

I had lunch at Butterhanne again, but this time it was jammed with people, apparently celebrating Himmelfahrt. Or Vatertag. It turns out that Himmelfahrt was also Vatertag (Father's day). As I understand it, though, on Vatertag the men go off and celebrate with their friends, unlike the States where dads say home and barbecue or something.

If I'm wrong about this, please correct me. It's what I understood my teacher at the institute to say.

Anyway, I had gulasch soup, which had been a favorite of mine in the days when I lived in Heidelberg. With it I had very tasty bread, a couple of pieces of which I stuffed into my purse for later gnawing.

I had left my little suitcase with the reception, so after I had lunch and wandered around a bit more, I took a taxi to the train station. I had to wait an hour for the train, so I settled down to read in the back room of a so-called Irish pub. A group of four men came in, all wearing t-shirts with a picture of King Ludwig II, the "mad" king of Bavaria. Written across the shirt was "Unterwegs für den König,"--"On the way for the king" as I understood it.

I figured these four guys were doing a Vatertag excursion. I was very curious about the t-shirts, but for once I restrained myself from asking what the shirts memorialized.

The train back to Göttingen was nearly empty and made good time, and all I had to do when I arrive home was to pack and get ready to check out the next day.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 02:51 PM
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"Unterwegs für den König,">>

What a shame you contained your curiosity, Peg - perhaps someone else will know the significance of this strange phrase.

I'm planning a short [week or so] trip to the area between Hannover and Bamberg/Wuerzburg in September and am debating whether to go to Goettingen and /or Goslar. So far I've tentatively decided on Quedlinburg, Erfurt and Bamberg as bases [we only have 7 days or so] - what do you think?
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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BTW, I was very interested to read about your experiences at the Goethe Institute. Learning a language with other people is a very friendly experience, isn't it? I have loved going to schools in Italy and would quite like to do the same for my german too.

one day, perhaps.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:17 PM
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The next day, which was Friday, I removed the one food item I hadn't eaten--a can of gulasch soup--and went down the hall to see if I could palm it off on someone. There was a big going-away party being thrown, with lots of ice cream in evidence. People were taking pictures, and they asked me to move in so that I could be in the picture, since I knew some of the party folks.

I thought it would be funny if we did gang signs in a couple of the pictures, so we did that. It was a gas! Here are all these serious students and a white-haired grandmother-looking lady doing gang signs. It reminds me of my great-niece and her clean-cut 14 year old soccer team all throwing gang signs in their group picture. The fact that nobody in the pictures knows the least thing about gangs is beside the point.

I checked out and took a taxi to the car rental place, as I realized that driving to my next destination, Wernigerode, would be much easier that taking the train with its multiple changes. My car was a Ford Mondeo (?) with automatic transmission and a GPS. I have noticed on my last couple of trips that automatics seem to run about the same price as standard transmissions. I can drive a standard transmission, but as long as they're about the same price, I'll take an automatic.

The first part of the trip went very well. It felt great to be out on the open road in beautiful hilly country, and I felt like I had company, since the lady in the GPS talked to me at times. Blue skies, puffy clouds, really a magnificent day.

All went well until I got into Wernigerode when my GPS apparently lost interest. She kept saying that I should take the third exit from the traffic circle. She was lying. Then she said my destination was on the right. However, she neglected to tell me that I should take a right turn on Johann Sebastian Bach Strasse. At last I parked the car and did some exploring on foot, after which I found Johann Sebastian Bach Strasse and my hotel, the Schlosspalais.

My room was pleasant, with a little balcony with a view of the Wernigerode castle on the hill above the town. The hotel was comfortable, with a certain elegance, but was not expensive. It was on the outskirts of city center, an easy walk to the Marktplatz and all the activity.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 03:28 PM
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annhig: I'd definitely go to Goslar rather than Göttingen. It's just a wonderful town. I've been to Quedlinburg and Bamberg and loved both of them. I was in Erfurt for only a short time, so I didn't see much of it.

Attending class with people from all these different nations was a great experience. I highly recommend it.

As I said, I thought Göttingen was more demanding than other Goethe Institutes I've attended. I attended a class in Schwabisch Hall--six years ago, I think. I enjoyed it, except that I had to walk up a quite steep hill and cross the Todes Strasse (street of death) to get to my dorm room.

One of my classmates at Göttingen had attended at Schwäbisch Hall and said there was too much partying going on there, which he didn't like. I thought about going to Munich next year but decided it's too expensive, so I'll just audit German classes at Gonzaga U., which is a mile from my house.
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Jul 14th, 2014, 04:05 PM
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Thanks, Peg. A month at a language school, whichever one, is a real extravagance - so far, i've only managed a week at a time.

I've been looking at Quedlinburg and Wernigerode as places to stay and am undecided, mainly because none of the accommodations for the days we would have in Q'burg appeal to me. We would only be staying 2 nights so it probably doesn't matter much, but given the choice, which would you prefer as a base?
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Jul 14th, 2014, 06:42 PM
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I'm so glad you did this Peg!
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Jul 15th, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Thanks for continuing your report, Peg!
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Jul 15th, 2014, 10:05 PM
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Great trip report, Peg.

annhig - I prefer Wernigerode. Very nice accommodation options there. Plus, it's perfectly restored, while Quedlinburg is only about 2/3 restored yet.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 03:14 AM
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Thanks, Ingo, I was hoping that you would chime in. it was in fact the accommodation situation that was putting me off Q'burg a bit.

is there anywhere in Wernigerode that you would recommend?
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Jul 16th, 2014, 03:59 AM
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My husband and I accidentally visited Goslar many years ago when we got stuck in traffic and could not reach our original destination. I picked Goslar because it had two stars in our Michelin guide, and we really enjoyed our short visit there.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 04:18 AM
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"Unterwegs für den König,">>

What a shame you contained your curiosity, Peg - perhaps someone else will know the significance of this strange phrase.


I think you may have stumbled upon a bachelor party. Guys will get shirts made (the women do this for their hen parties as well) and go out partying. Sometimes the groom-to-be will have a box selling odds and ends.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 10:23 AM
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annhig - two places where I have stayed before in Wernigerode:

Travel Charme Gothisches Haus - upscale, excellent service, very nice rooms, wellness and fine dining.
http://www.travelcharme.com/hotels/gothisches-haus.html

Hotel Am Anger - a nice 3star hotel, rustic and charming, family run, quiet but still central location. Had a room with view of the castle - perfect. Good breakfast, too.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 10:23 AM
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Oops, forgot the website:

http://www.hotel-am-anger.de
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Jul 16th, 2014, 12:18 PM
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This is a very good trip report, you write very well, and with such detail.

I don't think those kids had those shirts made up, they are a common gag item in Germany, I think, eg
http://www.amazon.de/K%C3%B6nig-Ludw.../dp/B004DE2QCE
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Jul 16th, 2014, 12:48 PM
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That is exactly the same t-shirt, but they weren't kids. They were men in their late 40's or 50's. I had the feeling they were on a Vatertag excursion.

At first I didn't understand the purpose of the inscription, but one of the other t-shirts on the website said, " Im Auftrag des Königs," or "On a mission for the king." Okay, now I get it. I didn't get the joke at first.

I'd love to have one of those shirts myself.

I noticed that in the Irish pub, where they sat in the next booth from me, three of the guys ordered beers, whereas the fourth ordered coffee. He was wearing a small gold cross on a chain, which I'd never seen before in Germany.

In the train, I made sure I sat near them, and I saw one of the men pull out three beers and pass them out. Again, the man with the cross didn't have a beer. These men were not drinking a lot. Just the one beer in the pub and another in the train.

Thanks for posting the picture, Christina.

I haven't been to Quedlinburg since 2009, I think, but I absolutely loved it. One of the things I found most interesting was the Fachwerk Museum, which showed pictures of many of the buildings as they are now and as they were during the time of the DDR. They really gave me a feeling for what East Germany was like then.

I've visited numerous towns in eastern Germany since then, but none of them really helped me understand the changes as the Fachwerk Museum did.

Okay, I'm going to continue the last part of the trip report in another post.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 01:51 PM
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As I said, I could see Wernigerode castle from my balcony, and I had intended to visit it; however, I was chatting with two old ladies who told me that the last part of the way up to the castle is a steep walk. Being a pudgy girl, I immediately decided I wasn't going to walk up there. I'd just have to admire the castle from my balcony.

The castle really was really wonderful-looking. Unique. It had various towers topped by extremely steep pointed roofs. It really looks like an illustration from an odd fairy tale. I wish I'd been able to walk up there, but I have to be realistic about my limitations.

And the inability to walk up a steep grade wasn't my only limitation, though I was okay that first day in Wernigerode. It was the day after Himmelfahrt, and there was a lot going on. I strolled down to the city center, admiring the architecture, doing a little window shopping and a little people-watching. The town was very full, as it seemed to be a four-day weekend.

There was a little bit of everything in town that day, with bicyclists, motorcyclists wearing leathers, and men I assumed had been in drinkingfraternities at university, since they were wearing those distinctive little hats that made them look silly.

I heard some country-western music and came upon an international line-dancing meeting in one of the market places. It was fun watching the line dancing and almost as enjoyable watching the spectators watching the line dancing.

The dancers were pretty good. Everybody seemed to have the steps down pat, which really impressed me, since I know I could never have kept up with them, what with having two left feet and all. The only criticism I have (and this is really nit-picking) is that nobody was dressed quite right--only a couple of cowboy hats and one woman wearing boots.

But what do I know? I've only seen a bit of line dancing on TV--never in person.

I made one of my several stops at a pharmacy to replenish my stock of Immodium and be scolded once more by the pharmacist for not seeing a doctor. This time the pharmacist actually was a doctor, and I promised I'd see a doc just as soon as I got home.

Which leads me to an explanation of my above-mentioned "limitations." I'd had colitis, but I'd been okay when I left for Germany. About a week or ten days after I arrived, it came back--though not seriously. Then that final week it roared back, so that I had to be careful to be near a bathroom at all times.

The next day I had planned on going to the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz. I wanted to see it because Goethe set a Walpurgisnacht scene there in Faust (Correct me if I'm wrong about this) but mainly because I'd read that there had been a DDR listening station there during the Cold War, which had been turned into a little museum. I'm very interested in that time period, and I was really looking forward to visiting the museum, which is reached via a steam locomotive, if I understand correctly.

By the time I walked downtown, I knew I was in trouble, and I was afraid to get on the locomotive because of my...ah...digestive difficulties. So I hung around the main market place, which has a wonderful and distinctive city hall with a pointed roof.

I stopped for lunch and ordered a cheese plate. When it arrive, there was more cheese on that plate than I've ever seen in a single place except the Safeway deli. I ate about a third of the cheese, stuffed another third in my purse, and left the final third on the plate.
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Jul 16th, 2014, 02:11 PM
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After hanging around downtown for a while, I walked back to the line dancing. There was a larger group of dancers and a larger group of spectators. I forgot to mention that there were various stands set up selling bratwurst, beer, cowboy hats, etc.

After I'd watched for a few minutes, there was a line dancing lesson. A German (of course) guy got up and taught the steps to a group of wanna dancers. Step, cross, shuffle...

On the way home, I spotted a gambling hell, which I assumed was also a cyber cafe. It was dark and smoky, with a lot of what looked like pinball and other types of machines. I didn't pay a lot of attention to them, but I suspect that money may have changed hands in there. I wanted to email my sister because she gets nervous if she doesn't hear from me periodically.

I really will have to break down and get some kind of electronic gadget before my next trip so that I don't have to hunt down dark and smoky joints to send emails.
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