Richard and Anita Dyck left Vernon the morning of September 10, 2008 for the Kelowna International Airport. We first met Marjorie at her Kelowna home and she then drove us to the airport and had agreed to “baby sit” our car during our absence.
Our trip to Germany was first a visit with friends from our complex where we live in Canada who divide their time living half the year in Canada and the other half in Germany. They had requested numerous times that we come visit them and so we planned to on this trip. Second, we had booked a 12 day Trafalgar Bus Tour that we would embark on following the visit with our friends.
This segment will cover our 12 day Trafalgar Tour, “Best of Germany”. This Tour was by escorted motorcoach with an experienced Tour Director and Driver. Anita and Richard had previously toured with Trafalgar in September 1997 and September 2004. Our Tour originated and ended in Frankfurt.
Our bus, a 2 year old Temsa, made in Turkey carried 53 passengers. The Tour operated on a seat rotation system … one moved two rows each morning in a counter clockwise direction.
Our tour group consisted of 23 Americans, 2 Australians, and 17 Canadians – 42 in total. The Americans came from Bellingham, WA; the Chicago area; Florida; Fort Worth, TX; Georgia; Kentucky; Los Angeles; Nashville, TN; near Philadelphia; and New York, NY. The 2 Australians came from Brisbane. Of the 17 Canadians, 2 came from Calgary, Alberta and the remainder from British Columbia – New Westminster, Richmond and Steveston as well as Anita and Richard from Vernon. Our Tour Director, Robin, lived in both Switzerland and Florida and our Driver, Michael, was German. In our short time together we had ample time to visit one another, be it during the seat rotation, during meals or while on “free” time. We found all on tour to be courteous and polite.
We were provided a list of Optional Excursions to experience during our tour – all were purchased by Anita and Richard. They provided transportation to and from the events and included meals and drinks we would otherwise had to buy on our own. Having done this on our two previous Tours we felt good in doing so and, in the end, provided us with many unforgettable memories!
During our daily drives, be it between cities or visiting places of interest, Robin provided an historic commentary for each site, was very helpful to each of us always “finding” the right solution [i.e. providing some Taxi rides for Anita and others who experienced walking difficulties on the many cobblestone paths and streets], played music appropriate to the occasion and provided humour on occasion.
We stayed in some of the best hotels in the areas we visited. Berlin was a bit disappointing as we were scheduled to stay 2 nights at the Hilton but were “bumped” the first night to another fine hotel as were others on similar tours.
Throughout this journal the metric system will be a constant to record temperature, distance and the like. For those not using our metric system, below is an abbreviated conversion table to the US system of measurement:
Temperature Distance / Speed
15 C = 59 F 100 km = 62.14 miles
20 C = 68 F 200 km/h = 124 mph
25 C = 77 F2 250 km/h = 155 mph
30 C = 86 F
The Web Sites I have provided are to enhance the attractions we enjoyed and provide more background for you … enjoy!
Since our arrival in Germany on September 11 we had been staying with our friends, Ulf and Friedl Friedl who reside in the city of Friedrichsdorf, 28 km north of Frankfurt/Main. They proved to be just super hosts touring us in and around the Frankfurt area.
Monday, September 22
At 9:30 a.m. we had a farewell glass of wine with Ulf and Friedl at the house before they drove us to the Sheraton Offenbach Hotel where our Tour was scheduled to begin. Ulf had previously programmed the GPS, known as “Susy” to assist in locating the Hotel but she acted up and did not provide good direction. Upon arrival at the Hotel we were most fortunate to find our Tour Director at the front desk and following introductions received the appropriate information on times and such for Day 1 of our Tour. Said our farewells to Ulf and Friedl and checked into our room. Weather conditions for our 11 a.m. hotel arrival consisted of mainly cloudy skies. That afternoon we attended the orientation meeting where we met our fellow travelers for the first time, enjoyed a welcome drink then departed for a tour of Frankfurt’s financial centre and medieval Romerplatz. Dinner was in the square near a 12 th Century Church where we had previously attended a pipe organ Concert shortly after having arrived in Germany. Back at the hotel we enjoyed a nightcap before retiring. Our first impression – Robin, our Tour Director and our fellow travelers – a fine group!
Web Sites of Interest …
Tuesday, September 23
Our departure at 8:20 a.m. took us for our first drive on the autobahn then we joined the Rhine River to drive alongside the river through to St. Goar.
Autobahn is the German word for a major high speed road with the recommended speed limit of 130 km/h but there is no speed limit. Our coach could travel 100 km/h and 90 km/h is the maximum for transport trucks. Autobahns are built and maintained by the federal government. The first were built in the 1920s, and in the 1930s. German motorways are toll-free for cars. The two of us were impressed with the highway system in Germany. While we did encounter numerous construction zones during our 22 days there, traffic flow was never truly affected save for the odd traffic jam [Staus] . Trucks used to transport goods were always in great number on German highways, far greater in number that here in North America.
For Anita and Richard, their third visit to this area since September 11 – first on the ICE train, Osnabruck>Frankfurt, second by car with Ulf and Friedl and now on Tour. Cloudy skies at St. Goar as we embarked on a relaxing Rhine Cruise through to Boppard. Enjoyed the sights of river boats of all types plying the river, vineyards on steep slopes, castles, churches and houses in the many towns we passed by. Rejoined our coach in Boppard to continue our drive along the Rhine through to Koblenz, a city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Mosellle River. At Koblenz we drove on the autobahn, passed by Bonn, Beethoven’s birthplace, through to Cologne to see and photograph its Gothic Cathedral which was spectacular. At 3:30 p.m. the rain began as we drove the last one hour to our hotel in Dreesen, a last minute change of location we had only learned of this morning. During our drives, Robin, our Tour Director, had outlined the Optional Excursions available and we had to make known our choices by dinner that evening. We enjoyed a 3 course dinner that evening and Anita and Richard chose to participate in all the Optional Excursions.
Web Sites of Interest …
German Autobahn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobahn
Cologne Cathedral http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cologne_Cathedral
Wednesday, September 24
Cloudy skies as we left our hotel at 7:15 a.m. for a full day of driving on the autobahn – destination: Hamburg. The early morning departure was the first of many to come during our Tour. Some 20 minutes into our drive – gridlock, a traffic jam [Staus] that lasted some 50 minutes until Michael, our Coach Driver, decided on an alternate route. Traffic continued heavy all day, no more gridlock for us but we did see much more on the other side of the autobahn. Landscape today, that of farming country – endless fields of corn and rape as well as fields awaiting the next planting – all neatly manicured [not like in North America] . We passed by a nuclear reactor plant, used for electical purposes we presumed as well as numerous windmills over the course of the day’s drive. Our early morning cloudy skies gave way to sunshine as the day progressed and by 2 p.m. sunshine was the order of the day.
Restrooms in Germany are noted by the sign, “WC”, meaning Water Closet. Robin, our Tour Director, referred to them as “Winston Churchill” each time he pointed out their location to us, a large number of which we had to pay to use.
We arrived later than planned in Hamburg due to traffic volume and had one-half hour “free time” at the square housing the townhall finished in 1897, featuring a 112 metre tower, St. Peter’s Church and St. Jacob’s Church beofre a local guide arrived onboard our Coach for a tour of the living area of the rich and famous, old Hamburg, and the red light district. In old Hamburg we saw an early shopping area complete with the narrow streets and one crooked chimney [Richard took a photo]. Had a tour of St. Michaelis Church but were not allowed to take photos inside the Church. This Church is a city landmark with its 132 metre high baroque spire a prominent feature of the city’s skyline and has always been a landfall mark for ships sailing up the Elbe River. Next we had a fabulour one hour harbour cruise of the Port of Hamburg during which everyone took numerous photos. The Port of Hamburg is the largest port in Germany, the second largest in Europe and ninth largest worldwide. Following the enjoyable cruise we arrived at our hotel and after check-in enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner.
Web Sites of Interest …
Hamburg Town Hall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg_Rathaus
St. Peter’s Church http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Petri,_Hamburg
St. Jacob’s Church http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Jacobi,_Hamburg
St. Michaelis Church http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Michaelis_(Hamburg)
Port of Hamburg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_Hamburg
Thursday, September 25
We were greeted with sunny skies as we departed this morning for Berlin, Germany’s capital. Driving on the autobahn today the traffic was favourable and good time made. At our rest stops we again had to pay to use the toilets. The surrounding terrain on today’s drive provided us with views similar to those we had experienced on Wednesday. Arrived in Berlin and had 2 hours “free time” in the downtown sector near to the largest department store prior to a guided coach tour of the west and east [Communist era] sections of downtown Berlin. The tour lasted some 2 hours and some highlights we saw included city hall and location of the original Berlin Wall. During this tour we witnessed an extremely large protest, some120,000 + strong against cuts to hospitals. Dinner that evening, part of the Optional Excursions we purchased, was a splendid German offering with drinks included. Bill and Sandra out of Fort Worth, TX celebrated their 49 th wedding anniversary. Afterwards we enjoyed a coach ride past the sites we had earlier visited but now illuminated in the night sky. Our hotel that night was an alternate as we and others had been “kicked out” of the Hilton due to another more important function happening in Berlin. We drove some 36 km out of the city to reach our accommodation.
Web Sites of Interest …
West Berlin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Berlin
East Berlin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Berlin
Berlin Wall http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Wall
Brandenburg Gate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_Gate
Reichstag Building http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_(building)
Berlin State Opera http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_State_Opera
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
Friday, September 26
This morning sad news filtered through our group during the day. Robin, our Tour Director, received word overnight that his sister had passed away. Word had it that she had cancer and her passing not unexpected. Our first stop this morning, the Hilton Hotel, in the former East Berlin sector, to deposit our luggage for tonight’s stay. A local guide then joined us to tour the highlights of East and West Berlin by Coach visiting again some sights we had seen the previous day. We saw, touched and photographed a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Elsewhere, throughout the city, the original presence of the Wall was marked by bricks on the roads, pathways and sidewalks. Our drive took us past the Holocaust Memorial … all this on a glorious warm and sunny day. A visit to Checkpoint Charlie gave us further insight into the Cold War as it represented the separation of east and west. We then left Berlin for the short drive to Potsdam, the capital city of the federal state of Brandenburg in Germany. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin. Our first vist was to Cecilienhof, the last palace built by the Hohenzollern family. Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany had it erected for his son Crown Prince Wilhelm and the crown prince's wife Duchess Cecilie. The tour here revisited past history. Cecilienhof was the location of the Potsdam Conference between July 17 and August 2, 1945. The rooms had been largely refurnished to match the taste of the participants. Winston Churchill, later Clement Atlee, Joseph Stalin and Harry S. Truman met at the round table in the great hall. Off to Sanssouci Park for a walking tour. The Park is made up of an ensemble of palaces and gardens. The palace is little more than a large single-storey villa containing just ten principal rooms, it was built on the brow of a terraced hill at the centre of the park. Our return drive to the Hilton saw us arrive just after 3 to check in and relax prior to our Friday Optional included dinner. Richard sent an email to family and friends before he and Anita enjoyed a relaxing drink in the Hotel Bar. Dinner and drinks that evening were enjoyed by all attendees and a good time had by all.
Web Sites of Interest …
Checkpoint Charlie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checkpoint_Charlie
Sanssouci Park http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanssouci
Saturday, September 27
We left Berlin in the sunshine bound for Dresden. Today was our turn, through seat rotation, to sit at the front of the Coach behind Michael, our Driver. It was our misfortune to encounter fog for almost the entire drive so our views were limited. Arrived in Dresden to find the sun out in full splendor again. Dresden lies on both banks of the Elbe River, mostly in the Dresden Elbe Valley Basin. We were let out at Neumarket Square, received an abbreviated oreintation tour, then were given 2 hours “free time” to explore and admire the many historic buildings such as the Catholic Church, Church of Our Lady [Lutheran], and Zwinger Palace, a major German landmark, to name but a few. Our local guide rejoined us to escort us on a walking tour of the historic Green Vault, a museum on the ground floor of the West Wing of the Dresden Royal Palace before our Coach took us to our hotel. Next came a tour of Schloss Moritzburg, a Baroque German castle in the small town of Mortizburg in the German state of Saxony. Both Anita and Richard were tired from the previous walking in and around Neumarket Square and did not participate … good thing as we were later told walking to the castle and back to the Coach was in excess of a mile each way! Our Desden hotel was the first in Germany we stayed at that had a flat screen televsion in the room. We enjoyed Happy Hour followed by our included dinner and then had early bedtime.
Web Sites of Interest …
Catholic Church, Dresden http://www.aviewoncities.com/dresden/hofkirche.htm
Church of Our Lady http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche
Zwinger Palace http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwinger
Schloss Moritzburg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schloss_Moritzburg
Sunday, September 28
On our drive to Nuremberg we encountered lingering fog patches that interfered briefly with the brilliant sunshine we otherwise enjoyed. Highs of beween 15 – 17 C were later achieved. Traffic today on the autobahn was much lighter than other days, this because transport trucks are not allowed to run from 10 p.m. each Saturday to 10 p.m. each Sunday. Spectacular views … the trees were breathtaking with their autumn colours of gold and orange and fiery red. Our previous drives exposed us to tunnels and bridges on the autobahn but today’s drive portrayed the best of the two to date. To help maintain safe grades, the autobahn system is well-endowed with tunnels and bridges. So-called "valley bridges" (Talbrücke) are often over 500 meters high and sometimes over 1 kilometer long. The autobahn system now has over 65 tunnels, both through mountains as well as in urban areas. All autobahn tunnels have extensive safety systems including 24-hour video monitoring, motorist information radio and signs, frequent refuge rooms with emergency telephones and fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and exits, and smoke ventilation systems. Our first stop this morning was at Modlareuth, a German village situated partly in Bavariaand partly in Thuringia. The northern part was in East Gernmany and the southern part in West Germany. We first enjoyed a 20 minute film depicting life during the era the village was divided by a wall similar to the Berlin Wall and then visited the open-air museum and took photographs of the remaining towers and fortifications in this “divided” village. Our journey continued to Bayreuth for a brief photo op of the Wagner Festival Theatre. Upon arrival in Nuremberg at Market Square we enjoyed our included lunch of sausages, sauerkraut and beer or wine followed by a walk in the square to photograph the historic St. Lawrence’s Church in Lorenzer Platz, the city’s largest twin-towered Gothic Church and the Fountain of the Virtues. Afterwards we strolled the stalls of the Market. Our final destination today was a visit to the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, the building most famous for being the location of the famous Nuremberg Trials that were held after the Second World War for the "henchmen" of Adolf Hiteler, between 1945 and 1949 for those who were still presumed to be alive. The trials took place in courtroom number 600, situated in the eastern wing of the Palace of Justice. The courtroom is still used, especially for murder trials. Since the end of the Nuremberg Trials the courtroom was refurbished and is now a bit smaller as a wall that had been removed during the trials in order to create more space was re-erected. In addition, the judges´ bench was turned 90 degrees and is no longer situated in front of the window but now stands where the witness box was placed during the trials. Here we had an oral presentation on the original courtroom setup, procedure and such followed by a short film of the actual trials, in German but with English sub-titles. This visit was a profound experience for Richard. Leaving courtroom 600 we then had hotel check-in followed by Happy Hour and our included dinner.
Web Sites of Interest …
The Autobahn –
Tunnels and Bridges http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/autobahn.htm
Wagner Festival Theatre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayreuth_Festspielhaus
St. Lawrence’s Church
Fountain of the Virtues
Palace of Justice (Nuremberg)
Nuremberg Trials http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Palace_of_Justice
Monday, September 29
As we departed Nuremberg for Munich the early morning weather provided us high cloud with some filtered sunshine. More familiar landscape on our drive, vast expanses of farmland all nicely manicured as has been previously described. Windmills made their presence known from time to time and we saw signs that the crops are being or have been harvested, all this blending in the with the splendid fall colours. At our first stop, the town of Rothenburg, well known for its well-preserved old town, our walking tour of the old square revealed more old buildings [i.e. Town Hall] prior to “free time” that many of our group used to frequent the shops selling Christmas ornaments. Rothenburg was the film location for the Vulgarian village scenes in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968. We visited St. Jakob’s Lutheran Church, the largest church in the town, before returning to our Coach. Driving on we drove the scenic and relaxing Romantic Road for close to one hour before once more rejoining the autobahn through to Munich. En route, compliments of Trafalgar Tours, we received a box of 25 Mon Cheri German chocolates [ones we receive regularly from Ulf and Friedl]. We encountered massive road construction on the outskirts of Munich. Robin, our Tour Director, gave us commentary on the sights we passed en route to the center of the city where the Marienplatz - a large open square named after the Mariensäule, a Marian column in its centre - with the Old and the New Town Hall was situated. Here we had a very late lunch and photo op of the many old buildings before being taken to the Hilton where we spent 2 nights. The Hilton also had flat screen televisions in the rooms. That evening, prior to enjoying a Bavarian dinner at a nearby restaurant, we attended the Hofbräuhaus, the beer hall made famous by Oktoberfest. Here, according to one’s choice, we enjoyed a beer or glass of wine. A fun-filled evening that hopefully all enjoyed!
Web Sites of Interest …
St. Jacob’s Church
The Romantic Road http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_Road
Tuesday, September 30
Another fine day as we set out at 7:30 a.m. for Salzburg, Austria climbing as once again we’re in the mountains passing picturesque villages and farm houses. We passed into Austria at 9 a.m. and in Salzburg a local guide joined us to walk us through old Salzburg – Mirabell Palace and Gardens, shopping streets open only to pedestrians, Mozart’s birthplace, Old Town Hall, and St. Peter’s Abbey, considered one of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking world – some highlights of our walk-a-bout. Close to the Abbey we could view the Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and the funicular cable railway, the oldest in Austria built in 1892, leading up to the Fortress. Richard and Anita remembered these sites as they had previously visited Salzburg in 2004 during their European Heritage Tour, also with Trafalgar. After “free time” and lunch eaten outside in the warm sunshine we again joined our Coach bound for Eagle’s Nest, elevation 1,834 metres [6,017 feet], a structure presented to Adolf Hitler for his 50 th birthday. Construction of the Eagle’s Nest was completed in 13 month’s time including the road, Germany’s highest. Special buses were used to transport us. The ascent from the bus arrival zone into the building is most unexpected as a ston-lined tunnel leads 124 metres [406 feet] straight into the side of the mountain. At the end of the tunnel an elevator takes visitors on a 41 second ride another 124 metres [406 feet] up through the heart of the mountain and into the building itself. Here, weather permitting, are breathtaking panoramic views over the Berchtegadner Land. Hitler seldem used the Eagle’s Nest due to his fear of heights. This visit was one huge highlight of our Tour! Once back down from the mountain a light rain began falling for our return drive to Munich. Our included dinner that evening was held at a restaurant some 20 minutes from our hotel.
Web Sites of Interest …
Mirabell Palace and Gardens http://www2.salzburg.info/sehenswertes_23.htm
St. Peter’s Abbey
Hohensalzburg Fortress http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festung_Hohensalzburg
Eagle’s Nest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kehlsteinhaus
Wednesday, October 1
We experienced dark, overcast skies and a raw wind as we departed the Munich Hilton. The streets were wet from overnight rains as we did yet another “drive by” of prominent sites. All in our group were upset for not having any “real” time in Munich to see the city itself. Our drive took us to Dachau. Dachau was a Nazi German concentration camp, opened in March 1933 and the first one in Germany. The camp area consisted of 32 barracks, including one for clergy imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime and one reserved for medical experiments. The courtyard between the prison and the central kitchen was used for the summary execution of prisoners. The camp was surrounded by an electrified barbed-wire gate, a ditch, and a wall with seven guard towers. An hour was spent by those who wished to visit the memorial site while the remainder waited in the Coach. A visit not soon forgotten. Leaving the reminders of the horror of war behind about an hour later the clouds lifted giving us a mixture of sun and cloud for the balance of the day. Our journey into the Bavarian Alps took us through spectacular countryside and rolling hills to the village of Oberammergau, famous for its production of a Passion Play that was first performed in 1634. After enjoying the sites and indulging in sweets and coffee we continued our drive and remarked that solar power was most evident as we meandered over country roads. As we neared Lake Constance, situated between Germany, Switzerland and Austria, we once again enjoyed spectacular views of vineyards and fruit trees that gave way to farmlands before we entered the Black Forest Region. We did encounter heavy road congestion the final hour of our drive making for a late arrival in Breitnau. Our included meal was ready soon after check-in. Later we enjoyed drinks and fine conversation in the bar before bedtime.
Web Sites of Interest …
Lake Constance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Constance
Thursday, October 2
Prior to leaving our hotel we attended a presentation on the manufacture of cuckoo clocks at the shop across from the hotel. We departed Breitnau in the rain and as we descended from the mountains the rain ceased giving us once again a mixture of sun and cloud. First stop was at Baden-Baden, famous for its spa and casino, for a short walk and bathroom break. We traveled the autobahn through to Heidelberg for a tour of the castle. Our group photo was taken within the castle grounds. Richard and Anita did not participate in touring the castle as they had been there prior to the tour with their friends, Ulf and Friedl. Leaving Heidelberg the autobahn took us the final leg of our journey back to Frankfurt (Offenbach). At 4:30 p.m. we witnessed our first ever accident during our 22 days in Germany. It was a minor fender-bender in the opposite lane and created an extremely lengthy traffic tie-up. For our 12 Day Tour our Coach traveled 3,598 km. Our final included dinner was held at a downtown restaurant. Back at the hotel, fond farewells to new made friends as many had early morning flights home.
Web Sites of Interest …
Heidelberg Castle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidelberg_Castle
Friday, October 3
The breakfast crowd was greatly diminished as many had already departed on earlier flights. Still, we had chances for second farewells to those accompanying us to the airport. Our coach left at 9:15 a.m. and took 30 minutes to reach Frankfurt Airport from our hotel. Our flight did not leave until 1:45 p.m. so we had a long wait. Once in the air folks in our immediate seating area were subjected to very loud talking from 4 male passengers, speaking in Finnish. They were drinking from their own supply of alcohol as well. Three of them sat 2 rows behind Anita and Richard and 1 on the opposite side of the aircraft. Visiting back and forth the volume of talk increased and they began to bother fellow passengers. Our complaints to airline staff resulted in one lady flight attendant asking them to behave. No way! One male flight attendant then took them all to the rear of the plane to tell them the rules. The flight attendants also confiscated a 26 oz bottle of Vodka but the troublemakers still had more and kept it out of sight. By this time we’re some 4 hours into our flight. Finally the 4 of them slept so we had peace and quiet until about 2 hours before arrival in Calgary. This time the noise was somewhat subdued. Our flight path to Calgary saw us pass over Iceland, the bottom one-third of Greenland, Baffin Island and Rankin Inlet before entering Canada at the northeast corner of Saskatchewan north of Prince Albert before entering Alberta through to Calgary. We had no problem clearing Customs and making our connecting flight to Kelowna. None of our luggage got lost or misplaced. Our friend, Marjorie, met us in Kelowna, took us to dinner before we drove home to Vernon. Bedtime came early what with time change and all. It did take both Anita and Richard some 4 days to overcome jet lag and before they enjoyed a proper sleep.