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Germany Trip Report Part One - Bremen & Schleswig-Holstein

Germany Trip Report Part One - Bremen & Schleswig-Holstein

Old Jul 28th, 2007, 12:15 PM
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Germany Trip Report Part One - Bremen & Schleswig-Holstein

I recently returned from Germany and promised a trip report. This is my first report, but it is my way to thank all those who helped with planning, either directly or indirectly. I appreciate everyone’s input, especially since we visited places that are not on the standard tourist route. When I started I only had some general interest areas and thanks to Fodor’s I was able to narrow things down and work an itinerary. I hope my trip report will encourage others to take the “road less traveled.”

I’m going to do this report in three separate threads to make things easier for future searchers.
1) Bremen (our first night) and Schleswig-Holstein
2) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
3) Weinstrasse wedding and Köln

Some background
- Travelers – me and DH. We are long time independent travel partners. I do all the planning. He provides input along the way and never complains.
- We traveled with two rollaboards and two personal bags. Since Continental ENCOURAGES passengers to bring bags on board, I wasn’t comfortable with checking bags. I used many of the Fodor’s packing tips!
- I did not order any travel books to use as a guide. All my information came from the internet. I printed what I needed and tossed the paper as I went. Some day I will convert to electrons.
- All rooms were 100Euro or less and all were booked over the internet before departure

General Comments
- We have traveled in central and southern Germany and although we are not “water” people, we loved these new areas, particularly Schleswig-Holstein
- This is beer and seafood territory
- These are areas where people come to spend a week or more enjoying nature. I think it would be a great vacation spot for families with young children and/or family groups with a variety of ages. Lots of reasonably priced apartment rentals.
- Although many people spoke English, many did not, but everyone was extremely hospitable
- Parts of Eastern Germany are still recovering; lots of construction, lots of graffiti, many new businesses, many places still in need of a facelift.

24 hours prior - e-mail from Continental reminded us to check-in on line and we print boarding passes.

Departure - No issues. Food on Continental is the worst airline food we’ve ever had, flight attendants weren’t much better. All the food (except the iceberg salad) is pre-packaged. We both got some sleep and felt rested upon arrival.

Arrival - Köln airport is wonderful; small and easy to navigate. The airport has basic facilities, but don’t expect serious shopping. See www.koeln-bonn-airport.de for everything you need.

First order of business – pick up the rental car. We chose a city pickup for significant savings. It was easy to use public transport to get to the pickup location.

The train ticket machine not working properly. A helpful train employee was there and printed our tickets from a hand-held machine. Our basic knowledge of German helped with the transaction.

Took the S13 to Köln Hbf; takes about 15 min, 2.30 Euro for one. At the HBf we walked out of the Hbf to the Dom U-Bahn station to catch #19 to Neumarkt; took about 10 minutes, 1.40 Euro each.

We booked the car with www.gemut.com who worked through AutoEurope and Avis for $239, manual, 2-door, with a/c for 9 days. We received two free upgrades and got an extremely comfortable 4-dr Audi A3 diesel that was a wonderful, fuel-efficient car. NOTE: Avis had a special for a free GPS, but when we called gemut, the GPS cost extra and could not be guaranteed. We brought our Garmin from home.

With the help of the GPS, we were out of Köln and on our way to Bremen by 1030. We stopped for lunch along the autobahn, at a rest stop with a hotel. We ate on the hotel terrace. It was warm (actually hot) and sunny. You could have been anywhere in Germany – nothing screamed “hotel” or “autobahn.” There was even a couple enjoying a glass of sekt. It was very relaxing.

We arrived in Bremen at about 1500. Found the hotel with no problem. Tough part was parking and getting inside. I was told there was free nearby street parking, but it was no where to be seen. We pulled into the driveway of the house next door and I went to the hotel to get parking instructions. Hmmm…door locked and nobody home. I picked up the phone at the door and got “central reservations.” The hotel is one of a group of hotels owned by the same people. I was quickly connected with a friendly lady who spoke English. She gave me instructions on how to unlock (and relock) the safe in the wall to get our room key. Easy enough, although I kept thinking how this would never happen in the US…especially since it looked like all the room keys were in this same safe. She also told me where to park and I thought I understood…

As with many small German hotels, parking was not easy to find, even with instructions I thought I understood. After driving around the block (a very BIG block) a few times, we re-interpreted the instructions and realized there was ONE hotel parking spot and it was full. We must have blinked too many times. We found free street parking near that spot, just around the corner from the hotel. WHEW!

Our hotel was a wonderful restored old residence overlooking the Wesser River. The street along the river was lined with huge old homes, of various ages, renovated for one use or another, mostly residential, but there was also a church! No one was in the hotel. Our room was two flights up a winding staircase. No lift. The room was very spacious and modern, although it felt very warm, even with the window open. We hoped it would cool off and as the sun went down (it did). Everything we needed to know was in a brochure on the desk. This is not the place to stay if you need the assistance of a front desk clerk or anyone else. Although there is a nifty little bar on the first floor, we never saw anyone until breakfast the next morning. It didn’t bother us, we felt like owners of a huge villa.

Turmhotel Wasserblick - www.hotelgruppe-kelber.de - 83E less 10% by booking via website and directly w/hotel, and paying cash. Included breakfast buffet and within walking distance to the Altstadt. We’d recommend this place, particularly since we did not see anything else attractive during our travels around town, other than the Hilton in the Altstadt.

After “unpacking” and freshening up we ventured out. We walked along the Wesser towards the Altstadt, enjoying the views, and people watching; lots of people out enjoying the nice weather. We meandered around the Markt and saw the city highlights, then looked for Böcherstrasse, the street with the reconstructed brick buildings. It’s a bit touristy, but very interesting. We arrived just in time for the Meissen Carillion to play at 1700; a fascinating 10 minute “show.” In addition to the bells playing, there is a portion of the building that opens to reveal wood carvings of historic points of discovery on water and in the air. I don’t think the show is well advertised. Many people weren’t looking in the right direction and were completely oblivious. www.bremen.de has everything you need including map, and English city guide,

I can’t pass up a chocolate store, so we stopped in “Hachez” and bought pralines. Not as good as Belgian chocolates, but not as expensive either. It was worth a stop. We thought about the nearby Ratskeller for dinner, but it was full of tour groups and it only serves wine. We were on a quest to try the local beers. Nothing else around the Markt looked attractive, so we walked to the Schnoor.

The Schnoor is one long, quaint street (I had the impression it was a whole section of town) of 15/16th century buildings that house bars, restaurants, shops and galleries. There weren’t many people around. We liked the menu and the terrace at Amtsfischerhaus, even if the beers they served weren’t new to us. DH had zander (pike perch) with pesto pasta (that looked like eels!). I had a regional dish that was on many menus during our trip -- Nordsee Krabben (local mini shrimps) with scrambled eggs and brown bread, side green salad. Delicious!!! With two beers, 38 Euro.

Couldn’t leave without having a local brew, so we stopped at Haacke Beck Ausspann, also in the Schnoor, for a Haacke Beck beer before walking back to our room. A decent beer, but too much of a hop aftertaste for me.

Next - the city of Schleswig
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Old Jul 29th, 2007, 07:28 AM
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DAY 2 – The City of Schleswig

Breakfast was the standard German buffet with a few extras – scrambled eggs and melon balls wrapped in Parma ham.

As we drove out of town, stopped to see the windmill in the town wall. The old battlements around the city are now a large park. The windmill (now a restaurant) is in one section. First OOPS of the day – I lost my sunglasses. Thankfully I realized it before we departed and found them along the bicycle path, as good as new.

Near Hamburg, we drove in a tunnel under the Elbe River – interesting!

When we stopped for gas, OOPS number two of the day. DH realized he lost, or left, his money belt. We did not have a cell phone, but all large German rest areas have phone booths. A quick call to the hotel to find they had it and had been trying to contact us. A couple of days later, when we checked our e-mail, there were multiple messages from the hotel. We asked them to send everything back to our home address, and to take whatever they needed out of the belt to pay for postage and expenses. When we returned home, the belt, the money, and receipt for postage were waiting for us. What wonderful people!

We arrived in Schleswig midday and entered the city near the Schloss, the largest in Schleswig-Holstein. www.schloss-gottorf.de We decided to make that our first stop. The huge, free, parking lot had very few cars. A priority was to see the Globe House, available by tour, on the hour, so that was first. We were told it was a 20 min walk across the grounds (really only about 10). We looked around the grounds and just before the 1200 tour, OOOPS #3. DH had the tickets to the museum, but not to the Globe House….check all the pockets, check, double check, triple check. We didn’t really want to spend another 20 Euro, but would, if required. OK, we give up and walk back to the ticket counter. We had dropped the tickets, and someone had returned them. The clerk changed our time to 1300. You absolutely have to love the honest people you “meet” when traveling!

Time to regroup. Jet lag was obviously getting to us, so to the Schlosskeller restaurant for some lunch. Not much of a menu, but quiet, cool surroundings. After lunch, we still had about 45 min before tour time. We decided to “run” through the State Museum and the Archeological Museum. We were not impressed with the State Museum. It seemed disorganized with lots of backtracking and poor displays. We enjoyed the Viking ship in the Archeological Museum.

We loved the Globe House! This is a rare treasure. I have never seen anything like it. This globe is a reproduction, the original is in Lübeck. It is a huge globe that shows the map of the world as it was known in the mid-1600s (quite accurate) and the inside is a mini planetarium. The price includes a guided tour of the building and globe, in German, headsets for English. Our guide did speak some English. Tour size is limited to space available inside the globe. The gardens are lovely, although portions are currently being renovated.

We skipped the Viking Museum and went downtown. We found free parking just down the road from TI. TI has a great map – much better than the one on the internet.

Stopped in the town church to see the hand carved altar piece with over 400 figurines. Amazing! Then we took a short walk through many quaint streets to the old fishing village of Holm – who needs a movie set? This wonderful little place hasn’t changed much in 400 years. There is lovely little church in the center of town, surrounded by a peaceful cemetery, ringed with plane trees. From that central hub, alleys of cheerful cottages (some apt for rent, a few cafes) radiated outward like spokes on a wheel. Absolutely gorgeous!

Our B&B www.hotelhahn.de for the next three nights is on a residential street about a 10 minute walk from the main pedestrian zone. We were welcomed by one of the owners and given a comprehensive tour of the place, including instructions on using the TV, phone (free calls to US and other countries) and free WiFi. Our room (one flight up) was a steal at 85 Euro/night. It is a recently renovated turn of the century building with just 6 rooms. It has only been open just over a year. Our room was huge – a true Queen Size bed, sitting area with an overstuffed chair and chaise and lovely bay window looking to the street and the water beyond. It also has the biggest bathroom I have ever seen in Europe. Breakfast and parking included. No A/C, but there was a lovely breeze and no street noise at night so we could leave the windows open when necessary. We highly recommend this place! The young owners are gracious hosts and deserve to be successful. It was completely full when we were there.

In our quest to try local brews, we couldn’t miss the local brewpub, a 10 minute walk away. It is in a lovely brick building that looks like it may have been the old train station. It looks, feels, and smells like a brewery. There weren’t many people there when we arrived, but many locals wandered in later, including families. We tried three of their beers: 1) Northern Weise, similar to a Bavarian Wheat with no bubbles, less head and more citrus. 2) Pils, few hops, unfiltered and very refreshing 3) Dunkle, a bit sweet, but very good. All served in a very interesting cylindrical glass with a heavy base. I am fascinated by the variety of beer glasses in Europe…

The menu was typical for a pub, with some local specialties. I had the special off the chalkboard, a wonderful seelachs (Pollack) filet with ham on top and bits mixed into the sauce, kroketten and green salad. DH had schnitzel with FRESH mushrooms and salad.
28 Euro, including ? beers – who says you can’t have a great meal with great local ambiance at a great price?

We watched it rain while at the brewery, and now the sun was peeking out. We decided to walk along the Schlei Promenade and take advantage of the last of the daylight. This is my idea of a promenade! It is 3.8km long (we walked just a portion) and not a tourist trap in sight! One path for people, one path for bikes, right at the river’s edge, bordered with Rugosa roses, pavilions and sculpture. We saw kids playing with motorized watercraft (sailboat, jetski, destroyer, etc) and I wanted to join. DH had to remind me they weren’t coin operated…
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Old Jul 30th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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DAY 3 To the West

We started with a wonderful full breakfast, including eggs made to order. Today we went west. Our first stop, thanks to a Fodor’s recommendation, was to Husum. It was market day! We strolled. We smelled. We looked. We looked at the booths. We looked up, admiring the architecture. We smelled some more. I bought. I bought an inexpensive amber necklace. Although this wasn’t the Baltic, it was a great find, especially since I saw very little amber during the rest of the trip.

www.tsmh.info/international/lang_en/index2.htm for town walking tour
www.husum.org/index_2.phtml great interactive map

We left the town center to see the Schloss and walk through the gardens, and then walked toward the water. Here, we found the information center for the Watten See National Park. It’s a mini museum with interactive exhibits and a small shop. I had read so much about the expanse of the “park” and the wildlife it protects. A “must do” is a walk on the mud flats, since this is one of the few places in the world to do it. The park service only does group tours and only in German. They highly discourage unguided walks because the weather and the tides can change quickly and the mud can be like quick sand. I think private tours can be arranged, but I didn’t think of that ahead of time. I was terribly discouraged. The tremendously helpful guide relented, and gave us directions to an area he thought we could walk on our own. Low tide was at 1300, it was now around 1100. Timing was nearly perfect, although we were not exactly dressed perfectly for this adventure.

With the map we received, and very precise directions, we had no problem finding our spot, with one detour. We came upon a small park sign. It didn’t exactly fit the guide’s description, but we stopped any way. There was a beautiful green dike, dotted with sheep. We were anxious to see what was on the other side -- more sheep and the shepherd. And, you could see what seemed like forever. Although the sky was cloudy and grey, it was amazing how you could distinguish between the grey sky, the brown mud and the blue grey water. It was beautiful. It was VERY quiet. You could hear the water being sucked out of the ground. You could hear the sheep chewing. You could smell the sea. We ventured out until we found the mud that felt like quick sand. There was no one else around.

We decided to do some additional exploring and we found the park “entrance” the guide described. He described it perfectly, we just didn’t follow directions. We found the parking area and the “walk way” the guide said we should take. We also saw a few people in the distance. This area was drier and we were able to walk much further on the mud flats. We could have walked and walked and walked if we thought we had the time. It was wonderfully deserted. I wondered how crowded it got later in the summer, or if there would have been more people if it was sunny.

Growling stomachs sent us back to Husum for lunch. We wanted to try the local brew pub housed inside the Best Western Hotel that we saw during our morning walk. We never walked directly past, so we didn’t check opening times. It wasn’t open for lunch, so we went down to find a place by the water. Lunch was Jever Pils (acceptable), fish soup (more like stew – delicious), and seelachs (delicious), a light breeze, a lovely view and a nice mix of locals and tourists. DH was adventurous and tried a “Husumer Bier,” Husum’s version of a Berliner Weiss. It was Jever Pils with strawberry syrup.

With the sea air in our lungs, it was off to St Peter-Ording, to see the huge 2x12 km beach; another Fodor’s recommendation. It was slow going on the B road. I can’t imagine what it would be like later in the summer! Once there, we had trouble deciphering the signs for parking and when we finally figured it out, we were at the end of the beach in Bölt. Since we weren’t going to spend much time there, we chose not to pay to drive to the beach. We later realized that was a mistake. We parked, walked up over the dike and looked around. Not many people around. The tide was out.

We found a tourist map and realized how we missed “the” beach. We doubled back to the “Bad” (spa) end of town. This is where the action is. This is where the shops and restaurants are. This is where the crowds are. This is where the traffic jams are. This is what we should have skipped. It was expensive. It was a mess. They are in the process of putting in a new boardwalk and this was German efficiency at its worst. On this end it cost just to walk to the beach. We didn’t even see a place to drive to the beach. It was time to leave. We’ll see the land yachts another time.

We tried not to be discouraged, there were other options. Instead, off to Tönning, another town along the water and home of Multimar Wattforum, an aquarium type museum that is a part of the Watten See National Park. www.multimar-wattforum.de Tönning is a tiny, walkable town filled with quaint buildings, historic homes and the packhouse which becomes a huge advent calendar in December. Although we skipped the museum, we enjoyed our hour there, and realized later, we should have stayed longer.

Enjoying the long summer days, our last stop was the Dutch village of Friedrichstadt, called the Venice of Germany because of the many canals. Dutch…Venice…how could this not be a great place? We were sucked in by the advertising. Although it’s a nice little town, we much preferred Tönning and/or Husum. We wandered the town, using the map and walking tour I found at http://www.friedrichstadt.de. There is some very interesting Dutch architecture and lots of trinket shops, which all close around 1800. We watched the tourists depart and the locals come out as we ate dinner on the Markt, but we were never really charmed. We decided dinner was very fresh and very local, lamb and schollen (plaice), definitely good, but nothing special. We had some of the worst service ever experienced in Germany.

The sea air wore us out and we were grateful for our relaxing room and the honor bar in the common living area downstairs.

Next -- going North

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Old Jul 31st, 2007, 08:49 AM
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DAY 4 Way Up North

We started the day with another lovely breakfast in the very elegant breakfast room. First stop today was Flensburg, just about a ½ hour away.

www.flensburg.de for town map and walking tour
www.flensburg-tourismus.de interesting background info in English

After finding a centrally located parking garage, first stop was TI. They have a great map, with all the points of interest labeled. To avoid getting confused, we went to the furthest point (#1 on the map) and worked our way back. Rather than walking through town twice, we walked along the water. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a light breeze. We are not water or boat people, but we thought this was a very attractive harbor. It was alive and colorful.

We spent most of the morning looking up at the interesting architecture and soaking up the Danish heritage of the city and tasted the local rum. The walking tour is mostly through the pedestrian area and you can readily see the Danish influence on the city – Danish design stores, the Danish library, Danish bakery, Danish being spoken. I was impressed by the Danish church. It was a simple space, but to me it said “Denmark.” White walls, wood chairs (no pews) with rope seats, brass chandeliers and candle holders, all reflecting the light streaming through the clear windows. Two ship models decorated the walls.

Everything I read said “Rotestrasse” was the place to go in Flensburg for the shops, cafes and merchant houses. If you miss it, don’t worry.

Lunch was at the Alte Senf Mühle (Old Mustard Mill) in a courtyard off the main pedestrian zone. We sat outside although the day had turned cool and drizzly. There were blankets, if we needed them. We were attracted to the starters on the menu – smoked salmon with rösti, mustard cream soup with smoked salmon, green salad and a bruschetta that you put together yourself. Yum! And you can’t be in Flensburg without trying a Flensburger beer, so we enjoyed a Flensburger Dunkle which was very mild and smooth, perfect with the salmon.

Our next stop was the Schloss in nearby Glücksburg. www.schloss-gluecksburg.de
It makes for beautiful photos, but I was somewhat disappointed with the interior. It was nice to wander about at your own pace and there were very few people visiting. The leather wall coverings and tapestries were beautiful. Torture chamber, complete with tools of the trade, was interesting. Orangerie and grounds can be skipped.

The sun was shining and we wanted to see Denmark. Nearby in the village of Hölnis, is about as close as you can get without crossing the water. We drove to parking area on the edge of town and walked to the coast from there, just over 1km. We stopped at the lookout point and then walked down to a secluded and windy beach. Denmark was so close it felt as if you could touch it! Gorgeous views. On the way back, we stopped in “town” for coffee and cake and enjoyed more gorgeous views of the Aussenförde from the terrace.

We were determined to squeeze the most out of this gorgeous day, so we decided to try our luck with another tiny town along the coast. Out came the map and we made a choice, but, finding a road, not a bicycle or walking path, to where we wanted wasn’t easy. Finally success! Contrary to what the tour books say, I decided this was the “fairy tale road.” I think the Grimm brothers had to visit here at least once. Disney would have loved it, even without a castle. That comes in Part II.

There was every shape, size and color of thatched roof house -- some were dark and ominous with huge trees out front; some were bright and cheery with colorful cottage gardens. (OK, there were only about 30 houses total and some were very new) And the gardens, oohh, stuck in all sorts of places, with all sorts of blossoms and some filled with delightful pieces of ceramic and sculpture. And that was just the road. At the end of the road was a wonderfully secluded beach with gorgeous white sand and lovely dunes.

I didn’t want to leave, but daylight was fading, and we were in the boonies, so we got back in the car to start our hunt for a dinner location. Back on the B road we figured we’d find something, somewhere. We passed a few pizza spots, but nothing exciting. A thatched roof place at an intersection was full of cars, so that was the spot. It satisfied, but wasn’t exciting. The fish in my “kufferpfanne” was fresh and good as was DH’s wildschwein (wild boar) but we could have skipped the vegetables and potatoes (usually my favorites!)

Herr and Frau Hahn laughed when we told them of our exploring. They said secluded areas like Hölnis are not popular spots with the locals.

Next Part II - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:06 PM
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I guess there aren't too many people interested in "the road less traveled."

Due to lack of interest, I don't plan to continue the trip report.

If anyone has any specific questions, I'll be happy to try and answer.

Again, many thanks to those who replied to my initial questions and helped me get this trip together. I appreciate your interest and sharing your experience.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:20 PM
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I have been enjoying reading about your trip and I hope you continue posting. Lack of response may not necessarily mean a lack of interest.

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