Destination #4: Germany (Berlin, Stuttgart, Garmisch)
Germany was one of my favorite places throughout my 4 months abroad. My reasoning? In a nutshell, Berlin, the Autobahn, the Alps and the food are 4 good enough reasons. Oh! And good company of course!
One of my good high school friends lives in Germany now, and we had plans to meet up the next morning on Becca and I’s second day in Berlin. On the way to Germany, I leaned over to Becca and asked, “do we have any clue how we are getting from the airport to our hotel?” “Ummm nope!” was her reply! We had planned on taking an airport shuttle but had found out just before our flight took off that the shuttle was not an option for us. So when we landed around 11:00 pm, we were desperately trying to find the information booth when someone behind me said, “Hey stranger, you looking for a taxi?” Dakoda had surprised us at the airport and THANK GOODNESS! I’m not sure I had ever been so happy to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place! He had rented a car for the week, and so we jumped into the car (which was a great feeling and something I hadn’t been able to do in several months) and took off to our hotel for the night.
For those of you who want to scroll through the pictures, you’ll be happy looking just below! If you want to read about everything I did, keep scrolling!
Photos from the trip
The Victory Column
Pieces of the Berlin Wall
Longer stretch of the remains of the Berlin Wall
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
Inside of the Berlin Cathedral and the massive organ
View of Berlin from the top of the dome (of the Berlin Cathedral)
Me driving the Autobahn (and going very very fast)
Waiting to enter Neuschwanstein Castle
River full of water running straight from the Bavarian Alps
More glimpses of the Bavarian Alps
View from the top of the Zugspitz, part of the Bavarian Alps
The top of the Zugspitz, the highest point in Germany
More pictures of the Alps in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Above: Jägerschnitzel and Spätzle
Below: Currywurst and German beer
Above: Trying a little bit of everything (And it was sooooo delicious)
Below: Pictures from the Austrian Countryside as we drove through Austria
Since we flew into Berlin, we had the chance to drive and walk around the city the next day which allowed us to see the Brandenburg Gate (symbol of division of Europe during the Cold War), the Victory Column and the Berlin Wall. We first saw a display with pieces of the wall, and then later came across the longer stretch of the wall and one of the few parts still standing. It was a somber thought that anything like that ever existed, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall didn’t take place until 1989. Even more mind boggling was that 136 people died just trying to climb the wall, most attempting to get to West Berlin. Right next to the wall is what remains of the Gestapo Headquarters, and just beyond that is a building with a new exhibit called the Topography of Terror. The exhibit has an extremely extensive timeline of Nazi Germany with all kinds of artifacts, papers, etc. I think my biggest takeaway was the information about the concentration camps.
Below: Remains of the Gestapo Headquarters
After that, Dakoda insisted we needed to try some currywurst, so that’s exactly what we did before we walked a short ways to Checkpoint Charlie, where the USA and USSR tanks had a face off and where the world was on the brink of World War III. Checkpoint Charlie is pretty touristy now, and I can’t even begin to imagine the tension that must have been in the air in the very place I was standing. From there we went to the panoramic representation of the Berlin Wall – very realistic and gives you a new perspective on what life was like on both sides of the wall.
One place that wasn’t on our list of things to see was the Berliner Dom (the Berlin Cathedral). In fact, we were about to drive by it when we decided maybe we should just check it out after all. We were all glad we did when we stepped foot inside. What a marvelous place. It turns out the Berliner Dom is known for its ginormous, 7,269-piped Sauer organ. A service began while we were inside, so we had the opportunity to hear the rich notes being played (also yes, the service was in German so we had no idea what they were saying). We explored a bit more, found a staircase that kept going up, and before we knew it, we were on top of the dome! We were so surprised because we had no clue what we were going to find, and we found some awesome views of Berlin.
After dinner and discovering that German food is now one of my favorites, we had one last stop to make – the Reichstag Building at night. The Reichstag is their parliament building and if you sign up beforehand, you can go in and up to the impressive glass dome in order to get great views of the city and also learn about the German government. The best part? It was free. Music to my ears!!
Below: picture taken from the roof of the Reichstag Building’s dome lit up at night
Our second day we were up and at ’em early to head to Stuttgart which was where we stayed the night on our way to the Alps. BUT, the best part of this day? The Autobahn. Yes, I drove the Autobahn and yes this was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I thought it would be way more scary than it actually was, and I most definitely wish we had this back in the States.
The morning of day three was spent at Neuschwanstein Castle (it was pretty foggy that day but the castle was nonetheless massively impressive). As you can imagine, the name of this place comes from the fact that the guy who wanted it built really really liked swans. As you can imagine, there are swans pretty much everywhere on the inside. This was one of those places that they are very adamant that visitors are not allowed to take photos. So unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from the inside. Guess you will have to visit for yourself if you want to find out what it looks like! Around noon, we finished the drive to Garmisch. Once we got close, it was soon one of the most jaw-dropping scenic drives I have ever been on. With the Alps drawing nearer and nearer, the road took us along a stream full of light blue-green water, which led up to a lake of the same color. This was some of the most pure water I have ever seen. The river flowed straight from the top of the Alps, so what did all three of us do? We had to taste it. And the verdict? I could definitely bottle that up and sell it – it was that good and that clear. (Ok maybe not exactly, there might be some more to the process). Dakoda drove through the mountains as I stared out the window with my mouth hanging wide open because one of God’s most beautiful creations was towering above us.
That afternoon and evening was spent taking a walk through the tiny town of Garmisch, exploring a path that took us through small farms on the outskirts of town, and finding the 1936 Olympic Ski Jump. The snow was mostly melted but I could still picture the stadium packed and the Olympians preparing for one of the biggest moments in their life. If you have ever seen the movie Eddie the Eagle, you will recognize the name of the town of Garmisch because this is where Eddie ‘the eagle’ Edwards came to learn to jump and train for the 1988 Olympics.
Below: Where all the magic happened for the 1936 Olympics
And finally, the part you all have been waiting for… the time when Rachel skied the Bavarian Alps! Prior to skiing in the Alps, the last time I had skied was 7 years ago with my friend Sarah. Lets just say, if you are planning to ski the Alps, I highly recommend you try skiing somewhere else before for practice and safe measure. Dakoda and I geared up that morning as he got ready to snowboard and as I was mentally preparing for skiing. I was nervous to say the least… maybe a little scared too… but there was no way I was going to let my fear of breaking a limb stop me from this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We chose Garmisch as the place we wanted to ski because of the Zugspitz, which is the highest point in Germany which is in the Bavarian Alps. As we were riding in the cable car on the way to the top of the slope, all I could think about was how God is so awesome, how much I hoped I didn’t injure myself, and how thankful I was that I rented a helmet. The cable car took us to the ski lodge on the slopes, and from there you could see out above the clouds that were gently kissing the mountaintops. The skiers below us looked like ants sliding down the mountainside and you could barely see the tiny little ski lift. After taking some of the most beautiful photos I have ever captured, Dakoda said it was time to get to it. So, with my heart pounding, I said okay and we were out the door. As far as my first pass down the mountain goes, it was pretty rough. No lie. But the important thing was that I was determined, and Dakoda (who is a much more avid snowboarder) made sure I didn’t die. The second pass down the mountainside went much, much smoother, THANK GOODNESS. I was finally getting into the groove of things and getting some of my techniques back and even surprised myself a little bit with how well things went. I was feeling good then until my last pass down the Zugspitz, which is where I ran into some difficulties. There were so many expert skiers on the slopes zooming around me and I am sure they could tell I was struggling hard. Hopefully I at least provided them with some entertainment because let’s just say my helmet was necessary and I may have gotten some bruises from this go around. As I was nearing the end of the slope, I was feeling pretty defeated but decided I couldn’t quit unless I finished without falling again. But I was SO determined and I can satisfactorily say I accomplished what I set my mind to. As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. As I rode the ski-lift back up to the lodge, all I could do was admire the beauty all around me and wish I never had to leave.
Becca and I originally planned on spending more time at our Destination #5 which was Vienna, Austria, but we decided to stay longer in the Alps instead. Dakoda was kind enough to drive Becca and I through more scenic routes of Austria on the way to Vienna, from which we had a night train to catch to Auschwitz in Poland. He dropped us off in time for us to get dinner and relax before we caught the train. Although I really didn’t get to see much of Vienna and would love to come back someday, I am still counting it as one of our countries and destinations. Which leads me to our final destination, Poland.