Tuesday, November 13, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - BERLIN

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

Coming from Poznan we arrived in Berlin late afternoon. Before checking in our hotel we made a tour through Berlin with our bus, to give us an overview of the city.

During World War II, large parts of Berlin were destroyed in the 1943–45 air raids and during the Battle of Berlin. The Allies dropped 67,607 tons of bombs on the city, destroying 6,427 acres of the built up area. But I want to focus on Berlin of today. The history of Berlin you can read in Wikipedia.

I was quite impressed when I saw how it was now rebuilt with an obvious sense of creativity, keeping reminders of the past a little bit everywhere but fitting into the modern Berlin which apparently has a vibrant culture to enjoy, (you can read more about Berlin today here)

Most of the pictures I have taken from our bus or from a sightseeing bus. The city is so huge that in such a short time to get the best overview of the city is by sightseeing bus ! We even had to take two, because one showed the western part and the other the eastern part.





Brandenburg Gate a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. A former symbol of the divided city, it drew visitors who used to climb an observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain, on the other side of the barren "death-strip" which separated East from West Berlin, geographically and politically.

When Germany was reunified following the fall of the Berlin in November 1989 Brandenburg Gate quickly reinvented itself into the New Berlin's symbol of unity. It was officially opened to traffic on December 22, 1989 and 100,000 people came to celebrate the occasion.

Today it's full of tourists from the whole world. I honestly was a bit disappointed I had imagined this gate much bigger, as I had always compared it to 



the "Cinquantenaire" in Brussels, which had been built for the 50th anniversary of Belgium. I haven't visited the inside of the Brandenburger gate, I thought anyway I want to come back.









Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. At the height of the Berlin Crisis in 1961 U.S. and Soviet tanks faced each other here.

It is a reminder of the former border crossing, the Cold War and the partition of Berlin. The barrier and checkpoint booth, the flag and the sandbags are all based on the original site.

Checkpoint Charlie also was the setting for many thrillers and spy novels, from James Bond in Octopussy to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

Today as an interesting tourist attraction this dark past seems so far away. 



Just south of the Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, with its two thousand, seven hundred and eleven gray concrete slabs, or stelae. They are identical in their horizontal dimensions (reminiscent of coffins), differing vertically (from 20 cm to more than 5 m tall), arranged in a precise rectilinear array over 2 ha  (4.7 acres), allowing for long, straight, and narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates. The installation is a living experiment in montage. The text in question is the title of the memorial: in German, Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas - a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Without that title, it would be impossible to know what the structure is meant to be. I walked inside these concrete stelaes and waited for my usually so blooming imagination, but I just felt nothing, I was only thinking how do I get out of this maze with my inexistent orientation sense.

Here you can read how and why it had been created by the New York architect Peter Eisenmann, because I still cannot understand this creation, in my opinion it would have been better to create something understandable to everybody ! 



I saw people walking through with question marks in their eyes, some laying on the ground to take pictures looking up into the blue sky. I saw some people reading leaflets explaining the site, looking around and didn't understand either. Others took it for a hide and seek place, which was really shocking or climbed on the blocks and made selfies. Of course there was a sign to behave respectfully but apparently people can't read.










The Berlin wall was a barrier that surrounded West Berlin and prevented access to it from East Berlin and adjacent areas of East Germany during the period from 1961 to 1989. In the years between 1949 and 1961, about 2.5 million East Germans had fled from East to West Germany,the wall followed a 154 km (96-mile) zigzag path, but only 43 km (27 miles) of the wall divided East and West Berlin; the rest of the barrier separated West Berlin from the surrounding East German countryside.

Nowadays there’s almost nothing left of it. The remains of the Berlin Wall today make it one of the top things to do in Berlin.

An interesting way to know where the wall was is to follow a walking or cycling route through the city. This way you make sure that you’ll see all the remnants of the Berlin Wall. This road network is named ‘Berliner Mauerweg‘ and has become one of Berlin’s major attractions since its opening in 2005.

I saw the quite a lot of the remaining wall out of the bus and some pieces had nice graffiti, others were left as it had been, or replaced by sticks or lines on the ground.  If you want to learn more about the Berlin wall here is a link.

History of the Berlin Wall







more participants here


Monday, November 05, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOURS - POZNAN

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

We had a long drive this day, from Warsaw to Berlin. Therefore we made a longer stop in Poznan, halfway in the middle. At least we had the opportunity to see the city through the bus windows, but then we had some free time to explore the city. It looked very warm and welcoming.

Poznań is a city on the Warta River in western Poland. It’s known for universities as well as its old town, with Renaissance-style buildings in Old Market Square. It was nearly the end of our 5.700 km trip and we wanted to save some energy for Berlin where we should arrive in the evening. Therefore we concentrated our visit on the old city and the old Market Square, which seemed to us the most interesting and beautiful place.

We strolled towards the market













The architecture of the houses and buildings were beautiful. There also were a lot of souvenir shops



and then we entered the huge square







With lots and lots of restaurants, we choose a very nice one, just opposite of the Town Hall





The houses looked all so cheerful in their pastel colors



Poznań Town Hall houses the Historical Museum of Poznań, with exhibits on the city. The town hall's clock features mechanical goats that butt heads at noon. Of course we wanted to see this event, because the legend sounded so funny. We were lucky sitting opposite the Town Hall and waiting for our meal while we too made necks like giraffes to see the goats ! Everybody had his head in the air !

Fighting goats of Poznan legend



and then they came out ! It was really worthwhile that we had waited. This video is not mine, I couldn't upload it to the post, but I found this one on YouTube. (they start to fight in the middle of the video)





When we had had our lunch and seen some of the souvenir shops, we slowly walked back to the bus.



There were so many statues on the square too, I liked this one.

It's certainly a town I would recommend to visit.





more participants here


Monday, October 29, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - WARSOW (Poland)

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

When we arrived in Warsaw the capital of Poland, I could see out of the bus windows the varied architecture from Gothic churches and neoclassical palaces to Soviet-era blocks and modern skyscrapers. It looked very modern and not at all as I had imagined. To be honest I had very mixed feelings. I had heard so much about Warsaw when I was a child, which had impressed me, like the story of my great grandma who died on the street in a trench fleeing from the Russians. My grandpa's family had a farm in Poland. I don't know very much about it, but it was enough. Today apparently the farm is still there.

We made a sightseeing tour around Warsaw with a Polish young woman as a guide. What we saw looked all very modern and charming, nothing reminded the dark times of WWII. Finally I asked the guide where the Warsaw ghetto had been. First she faked that she hadn't heard me, but as I insisted she pointed behind her where houses stood and nothing special and said it was there. I understood she didn't want to talk about it.

The fact is that 90% of Warsaw was destroyed in WWII and the population dropped from 1.3 millions in 1939 to 162.000 in 1944. Poland suffered the most in terms of percentage of the population (17% of the population died) during WWII !


Warsaw in 1945

and of course there were lots of memorials only I haven't seen them.





This house is still standing as a reminder


Warsaw is a wide spread town. Rather than being centred on an old market square, the capital is spread across a broad area with diverse architecture: restored Gothic, communist concrete, modern glass and steel.



When I saw this I couldn't believe that I was in Warsaw !



Nice old houses along a wide boulevard and not old cars but very modern once



The buses were yellow and the whole city looked welcoming and friendly.



shops, shops and shops !



and even palm trees



All these photos I took out of the bus,



Except this one it was the view I had from my hotel room in the Radisson Blu

Our bus stopped near the Lazienki park and we started to walk through the city. 


Chopin Monument

The park was very beautiful and well entertained

We learned that almost half the area of the city is green. There are as many as 95 parks with Łazienki on top of the list. In the summer, the famous Chopin Concerts take place in a unique outdoor setting.



The Warsaw Uprising Monument is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unveiled in 1989 ! It was enormous ! 



Panoramic photos from Wikipedia



Palace of Culture and Science  was a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland, the tower was finished in 1955. It is the tallest building in Poland by architectural height (237 m) with theater, sports field, and 30th-floor terrace.



The St. Alexander church was built in honor of Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1825. The church itself was designed to be similar to the Pantheon in Rome and was hit by 9 bombs during the first nazi bombing. Reconstructed with most of its similarity, it still misses two of the original towers.

When we arrived at the old town I was delighted ! It was so beautiful and looked so old, I couldn't believe that it had all been destroyed and rebuilt exactly as it had been before. 

A labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets, ornate  facades and picturesque squares with plenty of charm, I could understand why the Old Town is Warsaw’s top tourist area.

A window into the ‘once-upon-a-time’ of Warsaw’s golden days as one of the country’s architectural pearls in addition to being its cosmopolitan capital, the Old Town represents much more to Warsaw’s citizens than UNESCO accolades. They had rebuilt it entirely after the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 ! Therefore the Old Town is also symbolic of Warsaw’s rise from the ruins of WWII.  Varsovians’ can be proud of what they have achieved, it's really a wonderful job they have done. 





Honestly I was so surprised that here too on a market I could pay with my bankcard ! I didn't need local money !



The Warsaw mermaid, symbol of the city ! It's standing on a fountain where people refreshed their feet (it was very hot) birds and dogs drank the water.



Everywhere you could see shops selling Amber. Here was even one who had a Titanic model in Amber !



We ate in an old restaurant, nicely decorated and what I found so nice was that the Goulash soup was served in an emptied bread !





Little streets leading to the market square





The pastel colored houses looked beautiful



We had a drink here on the terrace



and listened to the Beatles



Then it was time to leave. The next day we would drive to Berlin.



more participants here

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are my four cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.

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