I’m Dreaming of a White Easter

Well, we had the gall to invoke the gods of spring in our last post and they rewarded us by dumping six inches of fresh snow on Berlin. The city just might be in for a white Easter. Rather than hide from it, I donned my snow boots, grabbed my camera, and headed out to Potsdam’s Sanssouci to wander around the palace gardens for the day.

The ponds and streams were frozen over and the side trails were covered in deep powder. The deserted back trails and snow-frosted hedges felt eerily reminiscent of the final scene Continue…

Germany: What a Dollar Can Buy You

It’s funny how perspectives can change so quickly. Looking back at our previous What a Dollar Can Buy You posts in Asia, I remember that we were operating on a very different wavelength. I called Malaysia “downright expensive” and I whined that the Philippines could “break the bank.” Now that we’re back in Europe, I only wish we could do so much for so little money.

But I shouldn’t complain. Despite Germany’s economic success (at least that’s what Frau Merkel tells us), prices here are still relatively affordable by European standards. Many other EU countries are far more expensive. And bizarrely, Berlin is one of Germany’s most affordable destinations! Even 24 years after the fall of the wall, Deutschland’s capital is still cheaper than most other cities in the country (or the continent for that matter.) So basing ourselves in Berlin, where we can maximize our experiences while minimizing costs, makes total sense. After all, we are budgeteers at heart.

I have to admit it was a little more challenging to compile this list. Although one-dollar items or services do not abound, there are still some things you can get for 0.77 euro cents Continue…

Mr. Wowereit, Don’t Tear down this Wall!

In a staggering act of stupidity and self-sabotage, the government of Berlin is allowing portions of the last significant remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall to be removed for – we’re not making this up – luxury apartments. That’s right, luxury apartments. Playing off of the famous Cold War quote by Reagan, Berliners have responded to the mayor, “Mr. Wowereit, don’t tear down this Wall!”

Known as the East Side Gallery, the stretch of wall runs for over a kilometer and is covered with some of Berlin’s most famous street art. The site commemorates the sense of survival and rebelliousness that once defined Europe’s edgiest city. Damaging the site is no less than an attack on the spirit of the city itself.

Ironically, construction crews literally had to tear down signs declaring the East Side Gallery a nationally protected historical monument. Visitors are repeatedly warned that any damage to the wall is punishable under German law… unless, of course, you’re a wealthy property developer. Impromptu protests sprung up on Friday challenging this act of overt corruption and temporarily halting the assault on the wall, but police quickly swept in to ensure that nobody got in the way of “progress.”

We’re not sure just how much of the wall will eventually be removed, so we walked the length of the wall this weekend documenting the latest layer of wall art. We’ve added twelve images to our Berlin Wall Art pictorial.

100 Years of Nefertiti in Berlin

The world famous bust of Nefertiti is perhaps the single most recognized piece of art in Germany. Like the Mona Lisa in France or David in Italy, the 3,300-year-old limestone bust has become a major part of world pop culture and commemorative kitsch. It is also, perhaps, the ultimate symbol of the debate over colonial-era removal of art pieces from their countries of origin. In fact, Time magazine placed Nefertiti No. 2 on its list of “The Top 10 Plundered Artifacts.” Ouch. Of course, it’s also on everyone’s list of must-see art pieces.

To celebrate their “acquisition” of Nefertiti and to highlight Continue…

Der Mensch Bezwingt den Kosmos

Sometimes, it feels like the German government is in a rush to erase all signs of 20th century history. It’s a shame because one of the coolest aspects of being in East Germany is wandering around and discovering Cold War era memories hidden in the parks and architecture.

“Man Conquers the Cosmos” by Fritz Eisel, a series of mosaics built into the facade of the old Datenverarbeitungszentrum in Potsdam, is one of the best. Extending along the exterior of the ground floor, the panels document the socialist side of the space race. It’s a pretty amazing work of art as well as being a priceless piece of history. Unfortunately, there are ongoing plans to demolish Continue…

Neuschwanstein Castle

Since I mentioned Neuschwanstein in our post on Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I thought I’d share it on the blog. Germany’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein is said to have been Walt Disney’s inspiration for the castle at Disneyland. And, just like Rothenburg, Neuschwanstein is firmly on the tourist trail, so you’ll have to share it with a few other people. (Unless, like us, you are willing to wait until the castle is snowed in and then hike through knee-deep snow.) But seriously, where else can you find the archetypal castle next to a beautiful waterfall backed by the Alps overlooking Bavaria’s snowy foothills. Ludwig II of Bavaria may have Continue…

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most touristy places in Germany. It’s also one of my favorite places in the world. The town is the spokesmodel for medieval German cute. In a country that often shuns tourist kitsch, the people of little Rothenburg ob der Tauber unapologetically embrace everything fairy tale. And I love them for it.

From the beautifully restored half-timbered houses to the traditional, deep-fried snowballs, the town is just a little more Continue…

Merry Deutsches Christmas

Merry Christmas from Germany. I had a feeling last year that this year would look a little different. No palm trees or tropical beaches. Instead, hot glühwein, gingerbread, half-meter bratwursts, and Christmas markets galore. Hope everyone is having a happy holiday season.

Erfurt Christmas Market

We officially declare Erfurt’s Christmas market our favorite Christmas market in Germany – and we’ve seen a lot of them. With its twin cathedrals, well preserved half-timbered houses, and the amazing Krämerbrücke, a monumental market bridge which just might outshine Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, Erfurt qualifies as one of Germany’s most attractive cities.

Strangely, despite the fairy tale atmosphere and some of the friendliest people in Germany, the Erfurt Christmas experience remains untouristy and very good value. The market is an enormous event overflowing with all the traditional goodies. Keep your eyes peeled Continue…