A Travellerspoint blog

Culture and history and pandas

And reallylongwordswithoutanyspaces

sunny

I had a bit of a lie in the next morning, a bit weary from a couple of long days, but I eventually got moving and got the S-bahn into town.

My camera charger was one of the things in the missing bag, and the battery was now starting to run down, so the first thing I did was go to a camera shop and attempt to buy a new charging machine. They didn’t have the specific type, but tried to sell me an all-in-one type of thing for a ridiculous amount, which I later found out wouldn’t even have worked.

I walked up Tauentzienstraβe, as one does, and unfortunately found the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche closed. The famous zoo next door, which includes such international celebrities as Bao Bao the panda, didn’t really tickle my fancy when there’s so much else to do, but I did have a look at the Tiergarten, a huge park right in the city centre.

The Tiergarten

The Tiergarten

A stroll through the delightful tree-lined paths took me to the musical instrument museum (de Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin), where Tom works as a conservationist. It was really good – there were grand pianos from the 15th Century decorated with grand scenes of nature on the inside of the lid, quarter-size violins that were used by dancing teachers to catch the attention of their students, a gigantic organ, and some weird and wacky horn instruments. If I was any good at music I’m sure I could have appreciated it even more.

The musical instrument museum

The musical instrument museum

I wandered through the Kulturforum and had a look at the giant gold building, the Philharmonie, and the various galleries. I stopped at Potsdamer Platz, another of Berlin’s big squares, and one that retains a small section of the wall that once ran through it.

The Philharmonie

The Philharmonie

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall

I walked back up once again to the Brandenburger Tor, stopping at the Holocaust Denkmal (memorial), a huge field of concrete blocks symbolising the murdered. I’m not quite sure what the significance was, but there you go. The museum/information centre underneath the ground level was very impressive and very moving, telling the stories of individuals as well as emphasising the size of the destruction.

The Holocaust Denkmal (memorial)

The Holocaust Denkmal (memorial)

Near the exit was a computer connected to a database of those killed in the Holocaust. Out of curiosity, I searched ‘Liebhold’, and to my slight surprise found eight or ten Liebholds from Mannheim listed. I’m not sure whether they were relatives, but there’s a reasonable chance. Plus, their names were submitted by sons and daughters from the US, France and Israel, meaning we might have some unknown distant, living, relatives scattered around.

I stopped at the incredible German Parliament building, the Reichstag, for a quick photo, before taking another look at the Brandenburger Tor and taking the S-bahn home.

The Reichstag

The Reichstag

Tom had prepared a traditional and delicious German dish, a bit like gnocchi, and I got home just in time to have some as we discussed his museum.

Posted by sammyhez 02:58 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (0)

Chagrin in Berlin

I lose another vitally important item but begin to explore one of the world's great cities

semi-overcast

I left fairly early the following morning for Berlin. There didn’t seem to be any seats available, so I sat in the corridor for the entirety of the five-hour trip. We certainly covered a fair distance in those five hours, though, reaching speeds of up to 200km/h.

I had to navigate the S-Bahn and U-Bahn systems to get to the Australian Embassy, where I needed to obtain my emergency passport to get home. I’m not allowed to travel home on my British passport with an Australian visa, apparently, because as an Australian citizen it’s not possible for me to get a visa.

They were incredibly helpful there, from the security guy who didn’t make me unpack my rucksack and then brought me a glass of water, to the consulate guy who guided me through the process. All done in half an hour, and I could collect it the next day.

Back on the train, and I caught the S-Bahn out to the Berlin suburb of Wilhelmshagen, where the Lerch family was waiting for me. They’d very kindly agreed to let me stay for the four nights I was in the city, giving me their daughter’s bedroom. This was fitting, because she was in my room back in Melbourne – she’s been staying there since early in the year.

I met the father Tom, brothers Noah and Vali, and later mum Ina, who all spoke brilliant English (in stark contrast to my absolutely useless German), and made sure I settled in well.

Ina even drove me most of the way into the city the following morning, and gave me her yearly transport ticket to use. I used it to get to the Jewish Museum, a particularly striking building with sharp, jagged edges and the use of some very interesting architectural motifs.

The basement of the building is broken up into three corridors, or ‘axes’ – the Axis of Exile, the Axis of the Holocaust and the Axis of Continuity.

The Axis of Exile shows some artefacts from those who fled, and an explanation of why they did. It leads out into the Garden of Exile, which is comprised of a number of high concrete pillars, out of which grow birch trees, and is constructed on a slight slope. High concrete walls prevent you from seeing the road. This was supposed to make you feel slightly confused or disorientated, like exiles would have been upon arriving in new corners of the earth – lots went to the States, but many, like my family, went to Australia, and others went to South America or even India.

The Axis of the Holocaust tells moving stories of those who were killed, and leads to the Holocaust Tower. This is a single room, surrounded by high concrete walls, which block out all light other than a small strip, and do let some sound in from the road outside. The feeling is supposed to be similar to a concentration camp, the same sense of entrapment, and it certainly works.

The Axis of Continuity, as its name suggests, continues, and traces the history of Jews in Germany and elsewhere the start of the modern era. Mostly, unfortunately, it’s a tale of repression and anti-Semitism, but a very interesting and insightful story, with occasional tales of people who rose to the top of their profession despite prejudices, and also explaining some of the customs, such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and weddings.

A pomegranate tree (not real pomegranates) in the Jewish Msueum

A pomegranate tree (not real pomegranates) in the Jewish Msueum

About halfway around this trip, I checked my pockets and discovered that I no longer had the yearly ticket. I checked again and again, and still couldn’t find it – to this day, I still don’t know how I lost it. But I did.

Trying not to panic, I went out of the museum, found an internet café and looked up Tom’s number on the email. I gave him a call using a payphone, and he told me that it only had a week left to run anyway, and not to worry about it. That was a huge relief. I suppose I would have gone to the police and made a report, but I don’t know how the system works or even whether they could have done anything about it. As it was, I just left the money for a weekly ticket when I departed.

So, panic mostly over, I went back to the museum and finished it off, as it were. It was strange thinking that many of these German Jews were potential distant relatives. And I’m sure I’ve thought of this before, but it still strikes me as weird – without the Nazis, I wouldn’t exist. The Liebholds wouldn’t have moved to Melbourne, and so my grandparents on Dad’s side would never have met, and that’s generally bad news for one’s existence.

I went back to the Australian Embassy and picked up my passport, then walked to Alexanderplatz, one of Berlin’s biggest squares. It’s also located at the east end of Unter den Linden, quite possibly the city’s grandest street, with a disproportionate number of incredibly grand buildings.

Alexanderplatz

Alexanderplatz

The Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom

The art gallery

The art gallery

A big blue box

A big blue box

A university and a second hand book store

A university and a second hand book store

I stopped at one of them, the Marienkirche, or Mary’s Church, and took in the statues and altar. The fountain just next door was incredible, too, with crocodiles and angels spurting water in all directions.

Marienkirche

Marienkirche

The awesome water fountain near Alexanderplatz

The awesome water fountain near Alexanderplatz

I saw the university, the Berliner Dom (Cathedral), the art gallery, some modern building, and then finished at the best of the lot, the Brandenburger Tor (gate), once part of the Berlin Wall and before then a gate for the city, I presume.

Brandenberger Tor

Brandenberger Tor



There was a ‘room of silence’ to one side, where you were invited to sit down and hear nothing. It was quite interesting – my brain kept up a bit of a hum, as if in disbelief that there was absolutely nothing to hear. Then someone’s phone went off.

I caught the S-bahn back to Wilhemshagen, where I joined the men of the family at the dinner table for a bite of pizza. Ina had gone off to a conference in southern Germany, but she’ll be in Australia visiting Marie when I get back so I’ll see her again soon.

Posted by sammyhez 02:47 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin Comments (0)

High time for Mannheim

I've been back in Australia for nearly two months now, so I'm sorry for the delay. But I am determined to finish this, even if it nearly kills me...

sunny

I got off the train at Mannheim, a relatively small industrial city in Baden-Württemberg. It’s not in many travel guides, being mainly a business city, but it was one of my two stops in Germany because of its significance to the Heselev family.

My grandma grew up there in the 1930s, before she and other members of the Liebhold family came over to Australia.

I wasn’t expecting much of the town itself, if I’m honest, but it really surprised me. Wide, quiet streets, friendly locals, lots of green space, and the Wasserturm, or water tower, a major site in the town – it was a great place to wander, and a really pretty place.

The Wasserturm, or water tower

The Wasserturm, or water tower

The_skies_darken.jpgMannheim is now a fairly major business hub

Mannheim is now a fairly major business hub

Looking_do..to_town.jpgThe_wasser..t_night.jpg

I had a look at Nietzschestraβe, the street where their house was, and tried to find the Bettengescheft, the bedding business that was sold in 1938 (and has since, of course, been built over numerous times). I also had a stroll in the city centre, which has an interesting grid system, which, in a very organised German fashion, has streets labelled with letters and numbers (e.g. E4) rather than names.

The_street..grew_up.jpg

I had dinner at an Italian restaurant – but don’t worry, I had penne with wurst (sausage), so there was a German element. I also had the local soft drink, Spezi (not pronounced speh-zee, but shpet-si), a curious but delicious mix of Coke and Fanta.

The following morning I walked again to Nietzschestraβe, Nana’s street, and managed to find the house that she grew up in. I imagine it didn’t look like this apartment block when she lived in it, though.

The house where my grandma grew up, though I daresay it now looks very different

The house where my grandma grew up, though I daresay it now looks very different

Another short walk took me to Luisenpark, a great park that charged an admission fee, but made it worthwhile, with animals, huge open spaces, multiple playgrounds for kids, cafés, kiosks, fountains, themed gardens, and best of all, a minigolf place. Awesome. I had to have a game.

I spent a good two hours taking it all in (not minigolf, the park) before I moved on to my next stop.

The_budgie.._camera.jpgPenguins_i..senpark.jpgPart_of_th.._garden.jpgMinigolf_i..senpark.jpgMACAW_.jpgBUDGIE_.jpgA_stream_r..senpark.jpgLooking along the lake to the TV tower

Looking along the lake to the TV tower

It was a fair walk across the river to the Jüdische Friedhof, the Jewish Cemetery, where some of my distant relatives are buried. I found one straight away (well, she might not be a relative, but she has the surname ‘Liebhold’), but had no idea how many there were or where they were. After wandering around for what seemed like hours, I found a small, elderly man, who didn’t speak English, but I managed to get my message across and he dug out a list of everyone buried in the cemetery, including four Liebholds. I managed to find three before the cemetery shut – whether they are relatives or not I’m entirely sure.

The river running through Mannheim

The river running through Mannheim

One_of_the..latives.jpgDefinitely THE Karl Marx

Definitely THE Karl Marx

I walked back into the centre of town, on another quest, this time to find the site of the old Liebhold Bettengescheft. I had been told that it was now a fast food shop, but I made an important discovery – while the site is next to a McDonalds, it is actually now an optometry store, one of those chains. Still, better than Maccas.

The optometrists which was once a Beddengescheft - my great-grandparents bedding store

The optometrists which was once a Beddengescheft - my great-grandparents bedding store

I bought myself a pretzel and walked back to my accommodation, munching into a schnitzel for dinner. German food is cool.

Leg before bloody wicket

Leg before bloody wicket

They've even got a shop named after Mike Gatting

They've even got a shop named after Mike Gatting

Posted by sammyhez 02:41 Archived in Germany Tagged mannheim Comments (0)

Not just Lyon around

I complete the trio of France's three biggest cities and also say goodbye to the country. Well, 'au revoir' would be more appropriate than 'goodbye', really.

semi-overcast 21 °C

The train trip to Lyon (which has a lion as a city symbol, which is cool given the name) was delayed, but pretty easy once it got going. I had to change trains to get to Lyon Perrache, from where my hotel was just a minute away. I checked in, dumped my bags, had a look at the world news and then went off on a quest, looking for a coin laundry and something to eat. I eventually found both, and while the laundry was closed, I remembered its location for future reference.

I was up and about the next morning, ready to see the sights of the city. I used the very efficient Metro system to get to the Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the third Notre Dame ('our lady') I’d visited in as many French cities. This one also afforded great views over the city, and again, was a pretty good church in its own right.

The_third_..in_Lyon.jpgInside_Lyo..re_Dame.jpgThe view from behind the Notre Dame

The view from behind the Notre Dame

The weather was looking iffy, though (for the first time since I’d left the UK, I might add), so I went back on the Metro to the Old Town. When I got there, it really was raining, so I ducked into another church, St Jean, and had a look around.

The rain quickly gave way to perfect sunshine (was this Lyon or Melbourne?) and I went to a museum, quite an interesting one but not exactly French, in the Miniature-Cinema Museum. It had sets from a couple of little-known Hollywood films and plenty of costumes and props from blockbusters (there was a raven from Harry Potter, Ro).

6One_of_the.._museum.jpg

They had a room or two showing how sets were constructed, and I learnt that in many cases, they’ll make a miniature, very detailed model, then have the actors put in front of a blue screen. They had some original miniatures, too, such as a bombed Berlin, a couple of spacecraft and even a few model actors for stunt scenes.

Most impressive, though, were the incredibly detailed and numerous miniature rooms by French artist Dan Ohlmann – all were very intricately detailed and realistic, and I’m not even sure that they are used for anything.

I had a sandwich in the delightful Old Town, which was now bathed in sunshine, and caught the vernicular up to the Roman Amphitheatre. This should be called the Really Old Town – it was built just after this bloke Jesus was born. Other than the two amphitheatres, the largest of which could seat around 20,000 in its day, there are also blocks that were probably once houses or government buildings, a series of drains and another great view of Lyon.

Lyon's old town

Lyon's old town

The amphitheatre in front of the town

The amphitheatre in front of the town

The housinge in the Roman ruins

The housinge in the Roman ruins

The second amphitheatre

The second amphitheatre

What I think is a doorway, or perhaps a large drain, in the Roman ruins

What I think is a doorway, or perhaps a large drain, in the Roman ruins

The vernicular and Metro took me to the Deportation Museum, open for the last time before it was due to undergo renovation, and so there was a big crowd. Unfortunately, that meant they weren’t letting anyone else in, so I decided to walk back to the hotel, grab my dirty clothes and give them a good laundering.

With the clean clothes safely in my room, I grabbed my Metro ticket and took the train (which even runs regularly on a Sunday evening) to the Park de la Tete, a huge park in the north of town. It was a bit of a shame that I didn’t get a chance to go there during the day, because while I could just make out the deer, the pelicans and the other exciting animals, it was too dark to see much.

My last stop was Place Bellecour, a big square that looks up towards the Notre Dame, and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. Again, it would have been nice to go there during the day, but with only one day in town, there’s not much you can do. I grabbed something for dinner and walked back to the hotel to pack.

Place_Bellecour__Lyon.jpg

The train trip the next morning was a long one, and I had to pay for a reservation on the fast train from Lyon to Paris, and then catch the Metro across town to the Gare de l’Est, from where the international trains to Germany depart. It was a bit of a rush to make the second train, but I managed it, even if I couldn’t get a seat and still had to pay a ‘supplement’.

I left France for the last time, entering Germany for the first.

Posted by sammyhez 23:04 Archived in France Tagged lyon Comments (0)

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