Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Germany Vacation

So for a week over spring break, the men in my family made the big trip across the pond to do some traveling with me!  We planned for a quick visit to Berat and then on to see the grand sights of Munich, Germany.  Allow me to take you through a photo diary of our vacation.

Here we are in Berat, The City of 1000 Windows.  Can you guess why?  Standing on the foot bridge that connects two of the historic neighborhoods in Berat, you can get the most unrestricted views of the city in its entirety.  The boys were only able to make a short trip here, really about 24 waking hours, before we took flight for our trip to Munich.

This is a shot of the inside of the Tirana airport.  Yeah, we have FREE wireless internet!  Unfortunately, the way that our flights ended up, the boys had a three hour wait at the Tirana airport, followed by a two hour layover in Slovenia, before they landed in Germany, whereas my flight left before theirs and was a direct (hour and a half) trip to Munich, where I then waited about five hours for them to arrive!
Once we all arrived in Munich, about 9pm, we made the mistake of renting a car.  Trying to navigate the way to the hotel in the dark, in an unfamiliar rental car, with Mark reading the map, without his glasses, was not the best way to start the trip.  This is just one of the many shots of Dad perplexed by the street maps of Munich.  Image, making spaghetti, drain the noodles, and then pour the noodles out randomly all over the floor... I think that is how they came up with the street "plan" for this city!  The car was returned after one day, and we were all about the public transport after that!
First stop, the city center, MarianPlatz.  Behind the boys is a shot of the Old Town Hall.  Across the street (not able to see in this photo) is the New Town Hall.  Funny thing, because the whole city was bombed out during WWII, they had a little rebuilding to do after the war was over.  They constructed the New Town Hall first and then proceeded with the reconstruction of the Old Town Hall.  So, in fact, the New Town Hall is actually older than the Old Town Hall!  We got all this information and more when we decided to join a free tour around the city center.  After a three hour walking tour, we had a greater appreciation for the history of Munich and Germans, and a better feeling for the layout of the city.
Dinner on our first night in Germany was celebrated at the legendary Haufbrauhaus!  Great beer drinking and lots of meat eating could be the theme of this trip.  I think I did more of both in one week than I had in a long time.  And yes, that is a beer in little Stevie's hand!  In Germany the legal drinking age in 16, so he was able to join in with a little celebrating, too.  Most of the nights, however, he chose to drink the Radler Beer, which is a mix of Beer, lemonade or sometimes a sprite-similar beverage.  This is what the bicyclers drink when they are out on the town, so that at the end of the night they are still able to safely see themselves home without incident.
We were lucky enough to have our friend Austin Engel, who is living in Munich as a tour guide and English teacher, take time from his busy schedule to show us around.  He was gracious enough to take an afternoon and lead us on a private tour around the Dachau concentration camp.  Used as the "model" camp during and before WWII, Dachau is now open to the public to enter and to act in and of its self as a memorial to all the prisoners who died within its walls during this dark time in history.  

We made a visit just outside of town to the BMW factory and its neighbor across the highway, the Olympic Park!  The boys took a tour of the BMW museum, home to old Bond cars and other fascinating things, I'm sure.   Then we all enjoyed the inside tour of the BMW factory, where we were able to see the full construction of a car, from start to finish.  Really cool!  Only bad part, no door prizes or giveaways at the end!

The BMW headquarters building is in the shape of a four cylinder engine, and it was constructed for its grand opening the same time as the summer olympics (remember, literally right across the street)!  Somebody was thinkin'!  And no Steven did not teach an 80's step aerobics class that morning, nor is Mark the unibomber.  Apparently, those are just cool looks now-a-days!
Towards the later days on our vacation we boarded the train with another private tour guide to head out into the countryside to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle of King Ludwig II.  Unfortunately, about two hours into the ride, our guide informed us that he had put us on the wrong train and we needed to turn around and head back to Munich to re-board the correct one.  After catching the right train, and riding it for another two and a half hours, we reached our destination, only to find that we were too late in the day to buy tickets to take the tour inside in castle!  Huge bummer!  I was really disappointed to have come all this way to find out we were not going to be able to go inside.  As a consolation prize, we did get to go inside the parent's castle, the lesser of the two in that town.  We also did make the trek up to the Neuschwnstein Castle a stalk around the outside.  This picture captures the view of the castle from Mary's bridge.  Oh, and to add insult to injury, yes, that is snow in the picture.  It began to snow really hard as soon as we stepped of the train and stopped again as soon as we got back on to head towards Munich.  Not the best day!

Our last day was spent shopping, eating and catching up on the last minute things that we wanted to see before out departure.  The picture above was the inside of the super-ornate Asamkirche, or Asam's Church.  Dad found it in one of his travel books and we went buy on our last day to check it out.  It was truly awesome!
The picture below was a site that had the boys captivated for hours.  We heard about a place in the English Gardens where the river had a spot surfers could ride a wave that was permanently created by something on the river floor.  So we went to check it out, not sure we would catch anyone in action on this 30 degree day.  But, sure enough, we were able to watch the dedicated few shred the wave as they tried out new tricks and "performed" for their fans.  I think if it had been a few degrees warmer we wouldn't have been able to keep Mark on dry land.

After a busy week, it was back to the airport were we said our goodbyes!  Dad and crew went home to Dallas, and I departed for my Tirana bound plane.  All in all, we had an excellent trip.  I would recommend Munich to everyone!

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