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Part 4: Berlin, Wittenberg, Dessau, Bayreuth

Map of trip across Germany 6.6: Munich -> Hamburg
7.6: Hamburg
8.6: Hamburg -> Lübeck -> Puttgarden -> Copenhagen
14.6: Copenhagen -> Malmö -> Trelleborg -> Binz (Rügen island, Germany)
15.6: Binz, Sellin (Rügen island)
16.6: Königsstuhl and Stralsund
17.6: Binz
18.6: Binz -> Stralsund -> Berlin
19.6: Berlin
20.6: Berlin -> Potsdam -> Berlin
21.6: Berlin -> Wittenberg -> Dessau -> Bayreuth -> Munich

19.6: Berlin
Smarthostel Berlin: upon second sight we note that the kitchen stuff is dirty and rusty. Also the toilet bowl is not so clean.
Weather: overcast almost the whole day, even a little bit of rain. Some sunshine in the evening. Quite fresh.

Because of the poor weather we rest the whole morning in the hotel. At 2pm we go to the Italian restaurant close to the hotel and have lunch. Pretty good food and the prices are decent.

Then we drive to the Pergamon museum, parking the car at 3:45pm in a side street about 300m from the museum. Some civil works are ongoing at the museum island where the Pergamon museum and other museums are located.

A few minutes later we reach the museum and check the ticketing options. One counter is selling tickets for several museums except the Pergamon one or a combined ticket for all museums of the museum island for 18€. Otherwise you can purchase the ticket at the Pergamon museum for 12€ (kids don't pay).

Long queue at the Pergamon museum, In fact we'll wait one hour and 20 minutes in the queue. They only let in people once in a while, probably to avoid having too many people in the museum. Every now and then priority groups and visitors are let in (for instance those who booked a ticket online for a specific timeslot).

At 5:15pm we are finally allowed into the museum. Great view of the Ishtar gate, followed by other very interesting artefacts of the ancient Euphrates civilisations (Uruk, Babylon etc.). Other artefacts of the Greek and Roman periods, very nicely restored and set up. Islamic civilisation section on the upper level, with interesting explanations.

A museum definitely worth visiting. The only issue are the long waiting times. They could in my opinion tolerate a few more visitors to substantially reduce the waiting time. No fun to queue up for one or two hours. We are lucky today because it is fresh and it doesn't rain, but imagine waiting in the queue in the rain or in the strong sun. And it's tiring for the legs to stand for one or two hours in a line.

Anyway, after 1:20 hours we are done with the museum and actually a bit tired. We have also the problem that the car parking will soon run out (bought three hours at 3:45pm for 6€) so we must go back to the car. Didn't know that there is so much waiting time at the Pergamon museum.

So we walk back to the car and key in the next destination into the navigation system, the Gendarmen square.

We arrive there shortly after 7pm. At the moment some function is ongoing with a crowd of people gathered next to a stage where some people are singing religious songs. The square itself has a few imposing neoclassical buildings and is sort of interesting, although perhaps not too much. I've probably seen too much neoclassical buildings in my life.

After 15 minutes we drive to the Kurfürstendamm. On the way we spot the holocaust memorial and stop briefly there. The kids play hiding games between the stone pillars. The place is ideal for these kind of games, as it is very easy to hide between the columns.

Finally we reach the Kurfürstendamm shortly before 8pm. This street resembles a bit the Champs Eliseés in Paris, because it's long and there are so many high end shops.

We have a quick look, then find a Chinese take away restaurant where we have a meal. Shortly before 9pm we drive back to the hotel.

At night as usual the kids don't want to sleep and keep chatting until well after midnight. Explaining them that they are kids and need many hours of sleep delivers no results - impossible to discuss things on a rational basis. The only solution would be to put the kids into separate rooms, but there are just two sleeping rooms in this hotel apartment.

20.6: Berlin -> Potsdam -> Berlin
Smarthostel Berlin
Weather: overcast in the morning. The sky opens up partially in the afternoon and is mostly free of clouds in the late evening. Fresh (around 20°C)

We leave the hotel after 1pm and drive to Potsdam (mostly motorway, some traffic jam). There we have a lunch in a Thai restaurant in the city centre. Then, after 3pm, we drive to the Sanssouci castle and park the car in the adjacent parking (4€ for 2 hours).

Sanssouci is a beautiful palace built in the 18th century by Prussian king Friedrich II in Potsdam to sort of rival the Versailles palace. It consists of a main building which oversees gardens spread over a slope of terraces with a fountain at the bottom and extending beyond that. The compound includes an orangerie building (kind of a glass house for plants requiring warmer temperatures) and a new palace currently under restoration. The entrance to the compound is free, a ticket is only needed to visit the interior of the palaces.

We stay until 5:25pm in the area, with the sun in the meantime showing up every now and then. Then we drive to the Charlottenburg castle in Berlin, arriving shortly after 6:30pm.

Charlottenburg is again a baroque era castle with adjacent park, built between 1695 and 1712 by the Prussian kings in the Charlottenburg area of Berlin. The castle is less impressive than Sanssouci, but the park is very nice. In front of the castle there is an open air event, some kind of food and culture festival.

While Shirley and the kids enjoy the food and the shows, I walk a bit around the castle. Nicely set up park along the Spree river.

Shortly before 8pm we drive back to the hotel. In the late evening, around 10pm I'm in town again for some blue hour shots. Lots of streets around the museum island are blocked due to road works.

21.6: Berlin -> Wittenberg -> Dessau -> Bayreuth -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: overcast in the morning and for most of the day. Quite fresh, even if today summer is starting (temperatures well below 20°C). The sun briefly shows up around 4pm and then again in the evening after 7pm.

After checking out of the hotel around 11:30am we initially drive to Wittenberg, a city south of Berlin, the place where Martin Luther lived and started the church reformation movement.

Wittenberg is a UNESCO world heritage site and in fact a very pretty city. Most of the historic buildings have been restored and the entire city could be very photogenic. The only problems are the bad weather today (dark overcast sky, never mind) and the ongoing restoration works on the town church and the castle church (sigh!).

Both these churches (which probably are very pretty) are completely wrapped up with scaffolding and plastics sheets. Reminds me of when the artist Christo wrapped up the Reichstag. The restoration works should be completed in 2015.

We have a lunch in an Indian restaurant which Shirley spotted. Bad food which is also a bit pricey. Then we do some shopping, and at 3pm we drive to nearby Dessau, arriving there at 3:30pm.

In Dessau there are even two UNESCO sites. One is the Bauhaus buildings and the other is the garden kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz. Both may be in the UNESCO list, but are rather unspectacular from a tourist perspective.

I have a quick look at the Bauhaus building in the Gropiusallee. Later I find out that this building, originally from the 1920s, has been reconsructed and restored a couple of times since then. That is why it looks so modern.

After a brief stop we have a look at the gardens/parks described in the UNESCO list, more specifically tp the one near Pushkinallee. Nice, well laid out park, but again nothing that you would not see elsewhere. Perhaps this is in the UNESCO list because it was the first or one of the first of such parks.

There is a small zoo in the park and a (small scale) open air event. The kids spend some time there. Shortly before 5pm we drive to a Kaufhaus supermarket, where we buy some food. At 5:30pm we leave for Bayreuth, arriving there two hours later at 7:30pm.

Bayreuth is a city in northern Bavaria, famous for its music festival in which opera performances of Wagner are held in the Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus. The actual site listed by UNESCO is the Margravial Opera House. This is, well, cute but relatively small and far less impressive than other opera houses in other cities. The historic core of Bayreuth however is quite pleasant.

Lots of life in the streets. A public classical music concert is for instance going on in a square near the opera house before the football match.

Between 8 and 9pm we have a dinner in an Italian restaurant, then walk on the streets. Crowds of people are assembling for the world cup football match Germany-Ghana.

Between 9:30pm and 11:30pm we drive back to Munich. The motorways are almost empty, which shouldn't come as a surprise because most people are somewhere watching the football match.

Copyright 2014 Alfred Molon