Month: August 2018

Hamburg, Germany: Industrious, Iconic, and Inspiring

Hamburg10

Hamburg: “Venice of the North”

My visit to Hamburg, Germany was intended to be a stopover to facilitate catching a train to Copenhagen the next day – but turned out to be so much more than I ever could have anticipated! What an unexpected pleasure! Often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” Hamburg is adorned with cerulean canals and boats bobbing in the breeze everywhere you look. But it has so much more to offer than that.

Hamburg18

Elbe Philharmonic Hall

Perhaps the most captivating building in Hamburg is the Elbe Philharmonic Hall on the waterfront. The modern glass top mimics the waves of the water below, poised atop an old brick warehouse. This structure perfectly exemplifies the spirit of Hamburg, at once old and new. Hamburg embraces its future while honoring its past through its architectural wonders.

Hamburg22

City Hall

Opened in 1897, City Hall showcases the older side of Hamburg. Bedecked with intricate detail, it is a majestic sight to behold, and provides and impressive backdrop for the crowds of locals congregating to socialize, enjoy the spectacle of street performers, or conduct business.

Hamburg20

Modern Metropolis

Modern structures in Hamburg challenge the passer-by to discover the many inter-mingled components that allow them to be viewed in different ways from different perspectives and by different people. As diverse a city as Hamburg is, the diversity of architecture is distinctly fitting. Playfully defying our assumptions and notions about geometry, function, and color, Hamburg’s modern buildings are a delight to examine from every angle!

Hamburg13

Waterways, boats, and towers are omnipresent in Hamburg

Hamburg qualifies as a hidden gem, and highly underrated tourist destination in Germany. Hamburg’s many charms should not be overlooked! Whether you spend your time strolling along the canals, reveling in the sounds of street musicians, or marveling at the industriousness of it’s massive port, a memorable time is sure to be had by all who give Hamburg a second look!

Hamburg21

Hamburg’s busy, bustling port

Video tour of Hamburg is available to watch here!:

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

$1.00

 

Advertisements

Marvelously Medieval Rothenburg, Germany

rothenburg 4

Marvelously medieval Rothenburg

Rothenburg is probably the best place to see medieval architecture… and maybe one of the best places to see crowds of tourists as well! Admittedly there is an over-abundance of tacky souvenir shops and getting trampled by legions of tourists is not out of the question, but if you can overcome these downsides Rothenburg is a fascinating place to explore.

rothenburg 6

Quaint, cobbled streets

Here half-timbered houses painted in bold hues compliment cute clock towers on cobblestoned streets. Fortunately, it’s an easy enough escape to slip down a side street and get away from the touristic masses and gaudy commercialism.

rothenburg 2

The side streets are quieter

The Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum and Shop probably is well packaged in the category of “you either love it, or you hate it.” If sugarplums are dancing in your head at the thought of being enveloped in the wonder of Christmas in July (or June, or August… or whenever you’re there), and boisterous decor does not bother you, you may love it. If “Scrooge” is more your style, you may want to say “bah, humbug” to this attraction. It’s replete with both people and baubles, like Black Friday on Christmas themed steroids.

Feel free to stroll aimlessly, for the city is surrounded by medieval walls and no matter how far you walk you will eventually make your way to the main square again. It’s a great place to safely get lost in.

rothenburg 11

The main square

Rothenburg is charming, colorful, and distinctly delightful, despite the crowds. It’s a great place to step back in time a reasonable day trip from Munich.

rothenburg 8

Colorful half-timbered houses

This video will give you a tour of the town:

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

$1.00

A Tale of Two Fairytale Castles: Neuschwanstein and Harburg Castles, Germany

castle edit 2

Neuschwanstein Castle

Bavaria is dotted with a myriad of historic castles, of many different ages and styles, and many of which are a relatively convenient day trip from Munich. Undoubtedly the most famous of them all is Neuschwanstein Castle, model for the castle at Disney World one of the most instantly recognized German landmarks the world over. Neuschwanstein’s tower pokes through the clouds like a giant exclamation mark, a fitting metaphor for the amazement to be experienced here.

chalet edit 1

Tourist Establishments Below

When you arrive, whether by train, tour bus, or car, the touristy restaurants with English menus and shops sporting tacky souvenirs at the bottom of the mountain give you a sample of what’s to come. While I knew how famous this landmark was, I was unprepared by the extent to which it’s popularity would impact my experience. But all-in-all it was worth it.

The castle is actually very high up on the side of a mountain, and you have a few options of getting close: hiking it (not recommended unless you have plenty of energy and determination – it’s further than it looks from the bottom!), or taking a bus or horse carriage, both of which come with a wait and a charge. The scenery takes you through densely forested area. You must reach the top for spectacular views of the valley unencumbered by trees and other obstacles. And the view is indeed incredible – it is understandable why this location was chosen. You emerge from a tunnel of trees to wide-open views of vast landscapes, tiny houses far below, and puffy white clouds populating brilliant baby blue skies. And soaring above it all, the magnificent Neuschwanstein tower.

castle view from edit 3

View from the Top

I shared this view with a multitude of other tourists, from all over the world. It was shoulder season, and I can only imagine how packed the entrance to the castle is in peak season. Guided tour is the only way to “explore” the castle – if you can call it that. It’s not really the way I like to explore a place – free reign is by far my favorite way to go. But that was not the most disappointing aspect of my visit – I quickly realized why the tours were guided. I discovered that cameras, photography, and filming of any kind whatsoever are not allowed in the castle – and security guards are constantly spying on you to assure compliance. Being herded through the rooms at the guide’s pace (who is trying to make time for as many groups that day as possible – with a LOT of people waiting), not being able to capture the experience with my camera, and being routed through not one but two gift shops, made the experience feel like a trip through a glorified theme park. But despite this, I was enthralled by the little time I was able to spend in the lavish rooms, and the breathtaking exterior of the castle alone was worth a visit at least once, although I doubt I’d brave the crowds again.

1024px-Neuschwanstein_bedroom_00183u

Colorized Photo from 1886 (Public Domain) of the Bedroom

1024px-Neuschwanstein_throne_room_00180u

Colorized Photo from 1886 of the Byzantine-Inspired Throne Room

Despite being forbidden from taking photos, I didn’t want to leave you hanging without a visual taste of the interior. Fortunately, there are photos available old enough to qualify for public domain that I can share with you. I was particularly impressed with the astonishing Throne Room. As a scholar of ancient Roman art, I really appreciated the authentically inspired rendition of the brilliant Byzantine art style here, from the arches and columns, to the clerestory, to the gilded walls depicting spiritual scenes. It is no wonder this art has continued to be so cherished and emulated throughout history.

The concept of a museum denying visitors the right to photograph and film is one I find acutely disturbing – but that is an issue for another post. Ultimately, it was a tremendous hassle to visit Neuschwanstein, between the exhaustive regulations and thick crowds of tourists. But none of these drawbacks can diminish the beauty of the building and how moved I was to finally be able to witness it first hand. If you have the chance, I’d say go, and make the most of it.

harburg edit 1

Harburg Castle Exterior

Harburg Castle stands in stark contrast to Neuschwanstein. Here you are also required to embark on a guided tour, but the atmosphere is far more relaxed and welcoming. I only encountered one room I was not allowed to photograph, and was not only free, but encouraged, to film and take photos to my heart’s content during the rest of the tour. There was no rushed feeling, and I felt more like I was exploring the place than being shuffled through it.

harburg edit 2

Entering Harburg – a Much Warmer Welcome

I did not feel the suffocating burden of massive crowds of tourists. Harburg is much older, and many would argue not nearly as spectacular as Neuschwanstein with its more modest decor. But Harburg provided a more intimate, genuine experience that I felt offered a welcome balance to my visit to the tourist and commercialism overwhelmed Neuschwanstein.

harburg inside edit_

Harburg’s More Modest Interior Decor

I filmed a video tour of the castles (in the case of Neuschwanstein, the best I could!) you can view here!:

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

$1.00

 

Munich, Germany: From Biergarten to Baroque Bliss in Bavaria!

Marianplatz 1

Taking Bavaria’s Pulse in the Heart of Munich: Marienplatz

After the destruction suffered in World War II, Germany’s cities were faced with the decision of whether to revive their historic treasures or go for a completely clean canvas and thoroughly modernize. Munich chose the former, and exquisitely captured the essence of historic Munich. The current adaptation of the Neo-Gothic “New Town Hall” in Marienplatz (shown above) was only completely finished in the 1990s, though compared to other structures much of the original remained intact after World War II. It was restored and improved over the course of many years.

church interior 2

St. Peter’s Church, Munich’s Oldest

Luckily, Munich’s oldest church, also located at Marienplatz: St. Peter’s, is in magnificent condition. Here, bold, brilliant colors envelop you in a masterpiece of baroque wonder. Sheltered from the bustling activity outside, the silence of the church encourages you to expend all of your energies into one sense, your eyes, so that the magnificent splendor surrounding you does not overwhelm.

market

Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt, just steps away from Marienplatz, is a down-to-earth place to observe Germans carrying out everyday activities – shopping at the farmers’ market, checking in with the butcher and bread-baker, and indulging in a notoriously German favorite activity – socializing at the Biergarten. If you want to see Munich from a local point-of-view, Viktualienmarkt is a great place to visit!

hofbrauhaus

Hofbrauhuas – Blatantly Touristy Fun

Prefer a more touristy perspective on the traditional Biergarten? Hofbrauhaus is a rambunctiously exaggerated version forged with the tourist in mind. Here you’ll find large crowds of tourists in a boisterous atmosphere, and, if you come at the right time, a band of merry Germans in lederhosen enthusiastically playing an assortment of raucous instruments! Not entirely authentic, perhaps, but undoubtedly loads of fun!

Olympic Tower offers a great observatory from which you can view not only Olympic Village and the sporting venues, but the city skyline and the Bavaria beyond. It’s satisfyingly comprehensive to be able to get a birds-eye overview of a place to complement seeing it up-close and personal, so I always do so when possible.

coolsquare 2

Italian Renaissance Inspired Odeonsplatz

Munich has many attractive squares worth a visit once you’ve experienced Marienplatz. Odeonsplatz, shown above, is one such place. With Italian style renaissance influences, artwork-adorned colonnade, and neighboring rose-dotted English Garden, Odeonsplatz is a great location for a leisurely stroll.

palace 2 sunset

Nymphenburg Palace Exterior at Sunset

Arguably, the most extraordinary sights in Munich are the illustrious palaces of the House of Wittelsbach: Nymphenburg – the summer residence, and Residenz – the Wittelsbach family’s city home. In an ongoing effort to “keep up with the Habsburgs” of Austria, no expense – or imagination – was spared in devising the grandest, most elaborate and ornate baroque utopias possible. Dripping in gold leaf and endowed throughout with masterfully painted scenes exploding with vibrant color, the interiors of these palaces provided some of the most spectacular and breathtaking eye-candy I have ever seen.

interior palace main 4

Awe-Inspiring Main Hall, Nymphenburg Palace

palace 2 roof

An Explosion of Color Greets You in the Foyer (Roof)

Not far from city center (and easily accessible by double-decker bus), Nymphenburg Palace can induce a dream-like state of euphoria with its spectacular beauty. I was mesmerized by opulence of my surroundings.

residence exterior

The Residenz – Very Deceptive Exterior!

Back in the city, the exterior architecture of the Residenz- very simple and unembellished, is extremely deceiving – perhaps an attempt at creating an even greater sense of shock and awe in the visitor once they “unwrap” the nondescript package to find an experience of wondrous bliss hidden within.

residence interior fave

The Gilded Bliss of the Residenz

residence interior 14

Mirros Amplifying the Abundance of Gold

residence interior 10

When Gold’s Not Enough – Crystal Chandeliers and Masterpieces of Fine Art

Here in this imagination-defying paradise, there’s no trace of the everyday life of modern Munich right outside its doors. It’s hard not to soak in the atmosphere and imagine what it would be like if you lived in this sanctuary, crown adorning your head, unicorn in the stables… Ok, not that last one… but I think you get what I’m trying to say… The modern everyday German of the Viktualienmarkt seems a million miles away from here.

marianplatz 5

Twin Towers of Church of Our Lady, Marienplatz

After being spoiled silly by the scenery of Munich itself, you can indulge yourself even further with outstanding day-trip options from your Munich home base. I did so by visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, the most famous in all of Germany, and Rothenburg-am-Tauber, Germany’s most well-preserved medieval town. Join me next week to embark on this adventure! I filmed a vlog of my exploration in Munich you can view here!:

Donation

I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

$1.00