Summer 2011 - Joys of Urban Living
In early October 2011 we returned to the US from 3 1/2 wonderful months in Berlin, Hamburg and other cities in northern Germany. Below is a brief summary of our travels followed by links to our stories.
The end of April saw the weather in Auckland turning more chilly and rainy as winter approached. During these last days in New Zealand, we began thinking about our next journey and we developed a plan: we'd return to the USA, make our normal visits to Albuquerque and Phoenix and then resume our Nomad travels. But to which destinations? We decided to make visits to Chicago, Washington, DC, and Easton, PA before heading back to Europe - to Berlin!
To provide our readers with some insight into the thought processes by which we chose this path, we offer this rationale.
Our journey around Australia and New Zealand had extended over five months during which we had been on the road fairly continuously. We usually stayed in backpacker hostels that were comfortable and conveniently located near the Central Business Districts of the towns and cities we visited. These places were wonderful places to meet young travelers but offered limited privacy even when we opted for private rooms (most of the time). Even our month long stay in Melbourne was not in our own apartment - we rented a bedroom in a three bedroom home and shared the kitchen and living room with the owner and another couple.
So, as we considered our next journey, we found ourselves yearning for a place to call our own, in a city where we could delight in the urban lifestyle we have come to value so highly. An apartment in Berlin was the obvious choice.
While traveling around the US, we worked to arrange our Berlin apartment, this time in Friedenau, a nice residential district south of Potsdamer Platz and away from the touristy areas of the city. Then in late June, we boarded a flight from Philidelphia to Frankfurt, cleared customs, and boarded a sleek Deutsche Bahn train across Germany to Berlin.
We stayed in Berlin until the middle of August, again enjoying the vibrant urban lifestyle of this wonderful city, but this time with the leisure to simply enjoy day to day life and not be constantly seeking new sights to see. We were also able to reconnect with friends we had met earlier in the year in New Zealand and last year in Peru.
We then moved to Leipzig, our first experience in a city totally in the former East Germany. They have done a wonderful job rebuilding their inner city after the destruction of WWII, but we also noted that some of the nearby suburbs still showed signs of neglect from the GDR era. A daytrip took us to Dresden to experience another wonderful city, devasted in WWII, that was well on the way to recovering its former glory.
A short train trip then took us to Erfurt, where we spent our days walking in the footsteps of Martin Luther and Johann Sebastian Bach. We were able to enjoy wonderful organ concerts at two of the larger churches. A daytrip took us to Eisenach where Martin Luther lived in the 1520s completing the translation of the New Testament of the Bible from Greek into German.
Another train ride took us to Hamburg, in northern Germany, where we spent the month of September. Our stay began with an amazing warm week end when everyone flocked to parks and the ufer (riverfront), cafes with beer gardens or sidewalk tables, and other outside venues. Hamburg too was badly damaged in WWII but has recovered well.
We then spent a long weekend in Kiel, Germany, an hour north of Hamburg on the Baltic coast. A ride on the Kiel Canal was the highlight of our visit as we sailed on a 1905 steamer, our captain steering clear of the massive tankers and container ships that use this canal as a shortcut from the Baltic to the North Sea.
Another train ride returned us to Frankfurt for our last week in Germany. By now, in early October, the last days of golden autumn were waning. In addition to the grand skyscapers of the European financial center, and views along the River Main, this city offered us an amazing performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest by the English Theatre company, an exhibition of paintings by Max Beckmann from the time he lived in America, and a visit to the house where Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born and lived as a young man.
Following are links to this summer's adventures. We hope you enjoy them.
Click here to return to our 'Searching the World for People Friendly Cities' page