Tim and I talked about the role that water play a huge role in the major cities of Europe. All great cities are founded on a river; the livelihood and survivability of a city is directly linked to its quality … Continue reading
It’s been a mad dash to the finish line—Lufthansa flight #8831 — for me. Memories of our weekend trip to Italy are nothing more than broken seashells at the bottom of my new suede purse. On Sunday evening, Tim and … Continue reading
Living in an empty home for the past 3 weeks has made us desperate for getting out—simply anywhere, we haven’t been terribly choosy. This past week, we drove out to Passau for the afternoon. We had briefly entertained visiting Passau last summer when we were in the beginning planning stages of a Danube River bike ride from Passau (a common starting point for bikers) to Vienna. Since we never got past the internet research stage, Passau disappeared along with the vacation plans. That is, until the monumental floods that Germany experienced this past spring featured Passau prominently as it became completely submerged and traffic was diverted away from the town as crews worked to repair bridges and roadways.
Located on the banks of the Danube River, this jewel of a town is one of the stopping points for the riverboats that ferry passengers up and down Germany’s famous river. The town is actually at the meeting point of three rivers: the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, which probably makes this a prime place for flooding. As we walked the streets, we noticed high water marks from past floods. For residents, the flood of 1954 was the last major one recorded; this past spring, the waters managed to climb above that water mark making it the most severe flood since 1501, more than 500 years ago. Repairs are still being made and most of the city’s parking garages were still boarded up. Ground floor apartments and shops had powerful floor fans working to dry the walls and many crews were sawing, hammering and painting damaged walls.
The big draw of Passau, besides the awesome shopping found on the main market street, is St Stephen’s Cathedral and its massive organ, which is the largest church pipe organ outside the US. It used to be the largest in the world, but knowing excess in America, the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles happens to beat the 17,774 pipes ad 233 registers found here. And, wouldn’t you know it? There was a 30 minute organ concert scheduled for noon at the church. We paid 4 euro for a grand tour of the cathedral and then sat mesmerized as we listened to the organ. The concert started out with Bach (the master of organ music) and featured other selections from different musical periods. It concluded with one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard from an organ. So loud, that I could feel the vibrations in the marble floor tiles of the church. Now, that’s a concert that gets deep into your bones.
We concluded our mini tour of Passau by walking slowly along the Danube River and looking across to Austria. Tim and I love to imagine what life was like for residents 400 years ago. There is something very alluring about living on a river and watching boats carry people and goods to far away places.
There are few cities in this world that rate a second trip…the gritty and uber-urban capital of Germany happens to be one of them. Most Americans are familiar with Berlin and its landmark Brandenberg Gate as the place where John … Continue reading
A couple of years ago, Lindsey came home with some new music and told me I had to listen to this great song. It was “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and it became our family’s anthem, particularly … Continue reading
During our time in Berlin, we managed to cover a lot of ground. Will commented that the thing he liked best about the city was it’s “excellent public transportation that gets you to where you want to be.” For the two full days we were in Berlin we bought the group day ticket which got 5 of us unlimited public transportation for 15 euros. We also had to purchase an additional child’s unlimited use ticket in order for the whole family to travel together. It was quite a bargain and a good alternative to walking everywhere. In fact, it was rare to see a lot of vehicle traffic in the city–I think Berliners have done a great job of using public transportation and helping tourists get a handle on the system too.
On Sunday, the family split up with the girls going to the zoo and Tim, Will and I going on a Third Reich Tour of Berlin. The 3 hour walking tour was fascinating and included seeing the sites of Hitler’s bunker, the no man’s zone between East and West Berlin, the Luftwaffe building and various other notorious buildings symbolizing the tragic events leading up to WWII and the separation of the city. We chose berlinwalks.com for our tour needs because we’ve used them before in other cities and their guides have never failed to both inform and entertain us. Mort, our guide for Berlin, offered many personal illustrations about life in Berlin during 1920s through today and we have a good handle of the role Berlin played in the Great War.
Our afternoon was spent in the Pergamon Museum and a walk at the East Side Gallery to see the Wall. I was a bit disappointed with the Pergamon, primarily because my vision of what the temple should look like was not at all how it actually is today. For some reason, I was expecting a fully formed temple with goddesses and gods gloriously guarding the entrance. Instead, it’s a combination of historical pieces and “blank areas” that you have to use the imagination to bring the structure to life. Far more impressive is the Ishtar Gate in the adjoining room. While it is also missing a great deal of the original structure, the sheer size and deep blue color of the tiles allows the mind to visualize how grand the space really was.
The visit to the East Side Gallery to see the artists’ contributions to the Wall was inspirational, if a bit long. Lilly was simply dragging throughout the entire walk but I did see 2 paintings I consider iconic…The Kiss and The Trabi breaking through the wall. Once I saw those images, I felt like I could put a checkbox on the experience.