GERMANY OCTOBER 2019 TRIP REPORT

Day 1 Frankfurt/Wurzburg

Day 2 Wurzburg/Dinklesbuhl

Day 3 Dinkelsbuhl/Nuremberg/Prichsenstadt

Day 4 Prischsenstadt/ Bamberg

Day 5 Prischsenstadt/Schweinfurt/Nuremberg

Day 6 Prischsenstadt/Erfurt/Neuhausen

Day 7 Neuhausen/Dresden

Day 8 Neuhaussen/Meissen/Leipzig

Day 9 Leipzig/Berlin

Day 10 Berlin

Day 11 Berlin/Home

Day 1 Frankfurt/Wurzburg

Guten Tag from your one and only Frau and Herr and der Koffer- welcome to the German edition of A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase. Get those ill-fitting lederhosen strapped on and that itchy dirndl laced up because it’s about to go down Franconian style. It’s October and that only can mean one thing- the Hubs has masterminded another stellar getaway back to the fatherland- tromping through the magical truffle fields of Deutschland.

If you are a fan of this now 6 year and counting blog then you understand the crafty nature and the unique travel philosophy that these two spirited explorers embrace. It is the true wanderlust of travel that has captivated our souls and ultimately propelled us into now over 30 capers abroad. Having been to Germany numerous occasions, a tempting airfare and a genuine passion for all things German was the driving force for this autumn adventure.

An easy overnight direct flight half full brought us semi rested into Frankfurt, Germany. We picked up our Smurf Blue Cintron stick shift that would serve as a vehicle only half our time in Germany- due to malfunctions and mishaps- but more to come with that…

The Hubs navigated the turbo fueled autobahn-favoring the slow lane designated to the less brave and cautious variety. Yours truly slobbered and snored in head bobbing unison to the twists and turns of the highway. Occasionally, startled by car movement or the Hubs random cursing- an unmotivated eye would spring open providing the most vivid of backdrops. Van Gogh marigold landscapes bathed in the dipped sunlight that draped the horizon.

It took us an hour and a half to reach our first destination where we would remain only one night-Wurzburg https://www.britannica.com/place/Wurzburg . We were staying in the heart of the area, specifically chosen for its convenience and small city charm with big German allure. The town has unique Baroque architecture, buildings with romantic, elaborate and artistic details that draws one back in history. In complete contrast of the old world charm and gentile antiquity Wurzburg has a young, hip energetic feel to it with a lively, industrious vibe.

WURZBURG

We checked into the Hotel Central Garni https://centralhotel-wuerzburg.com/   a modest hotel that provided the bare essentials. We entered the rather austere lobby; we were given the room key and shooed away. We compressed ourselves and exploding luggage into the tiny, unforgiving coffin sized elevator spilling out into the narrow hallway. As we tried to open the door of the room-anticipating that new exciting feeling that jump starts one’s heart in the eagerness of a hotel room’s splendors stirred within us, availing us a second wind. I fantasized of the lush linens and darkened shades that would rock me into a deep lullaby. I was brought swiftly back to reality as the housekeeper, mop in hand as if a weapon, snarled in German -something that did not resemble a warm welcoming to Hotel Central Garni. She made hand motions as if swatting away an annoying fly, all the while glaring at us.

HOTEL CENTRAL GARNI

As the door swung open, my dreams of a sweet siesta disappeared clearly now understanding the housekeeper’s source of disdain. The remains of a glorious evening, dirty plates and thrown covers peeked through the door, teasing our exhaustion. Once again dismissed- we returned to the front desk to be informed as we already knew the room was not ready. This actually served as a gift from the travel Gods as we would see so much in those few hours that were initially reserved for rest.

We ventured out in the cool air. The sun was setting and the streets were alive with activity. We walked through the cobblestone streets through a spectacular park. The emerald green manicured hedges of the Hofgarten https://www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/wurzburg_hofgarten  displayed sculptures and exquisitely cropped topiary. As we continued our stroll, a carpet of rust colored leaves softened our steps, reminding these naïve Floridians other seasons do in fact exist. Ornate fountains with Rococo swirly detail stood center court in the main square.

We made our way to the old main bridge https://www.wuerzburg.de/en/visitors/must-sees/22694.Alte-Mainbruecke-old-bridge.html  one of the most popular landmarks in Wurzburg. The bridge dates back to 1473. Important saints and iconic figures such as Charlemagne and the three apostles of Franconia line the bridge in protective stance over its beloved structure. Off in the distance, perched high up is Fortress Marionberg https://www.wuerzburg.de/en/visitors/must-sees/22689.Festung-Marienberg-Fortress-Marienberg.html  -a mighty landscape shielding Wurzburg by maintaining the old world in the modern day.

The bridge is not only a popular tourist site but a rather robust meeting point and “hang out” locale. Outdoor dining options, a live band bellowing out foot tapping tunes and many simply enjoying Wurzburg’s famous wine and beer options –propped themselves up against the stone wall of the bridge, absorbing the lingering moments of the autumn sun.

I paused taking in the full panoramic view absorbing the scope and breadth of the moment. These trips require planning, saving, preparation and organization which the Hubs does the majority of. The payoff existed in that one 360 degree gaze, as the sun warmed my face-all of it was worth it for just that one moment.

I Facetimed my mother and sister displaying the surrounding wonders around me- as they squealed in collective excitement. Having this moment and sharing it with my beloved family 6,000 miles from home made this an extra special memory.

From there, we walked through colorful Christmas markets selling produce, baked goods and other items. We did some mindless window shopping until fatigue and hunger began to kick in. We returned to the hotel and were offered some local dining options. Just a few steps from the hotel we decided to dine outside at Fuego. https://wuerzburg-escalera.de/.

At this point, the final moments of sunlight began to fade. We dined al fresco next to a heater as the temperature began to drop. Fuego had a nice variety of food options but nothing specifically German. Hubs had a fish that was unique to the region accompanied by potatoes glistening with butter. The smell of the salty dark bread was so tantalizing it was almost too much to bear for this non bread eating gal. My salad and roasted mushrooms served as a consolation as Hubs dipped the thick, clunky bread into the butter bath that housed the potatoes.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel, finally into our room that we had not been to since our arrival. The room was spotless and our abandoned suitcases in the hallway had been placed with consideration by the housekeeper. Seeing the welcoming bed and inviting pillows-all memories of maid misery were vanished and replaced with nothing but gratitude. Our first day in Germany was a true surprise and a bonus.

Day 2 Wurzburg/Dinklesbuhl

Waking up refreshed and eager, we made our way back to Fuego for a fast, easy breakfast. We sat outside as we had the evening before. However, we quickly realized outside dining in Europe means cigarette smoke. The temperature at this point was in the mid-thirties and we struggled to maintain warmth.

We dined on hot cheesy omelets in the cold air. It is not a food item I usually eat and this would be the only exception -but it provided me with nourishment and fuel for the day ahead. Bellies full and energy abundant we made our way to Wurzburg Residence.

The Residence https://residenz-wuerzburg.de/englisch/residenz/index.htm is one of the most important baroque palaces in Europe. It dates back to 1780 when it was completed. It served as the dwelling for the Wurzburg prince bishops. With World War II, 90% of the structure and furnishings were ruined due to fire and water damage. Incredibly, Tiepolo’s ceiling frescoes were saved.   

We took a self-guided tour through the many rooms doing what we call the “museum shuffle”. Eventually, we made our way outside to the gardens. We had spent a long period there yesterday so felt no need to re-explore due to a heavy schedule. The air had warmed up considerably and before leaving the city we drove up to the Marienberg Fortress https://www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/wu_fest.htm . It is a   UNESCO Heritage designated site, a monolithic structure that is the symbol of Wurzburg dating back from the 1300’s. Its history is strong and deep and rather complex. It has served many purposes including the site of many battles and bloodshed. In World War I it functioned as a barracks for artillery and in World War II it operated as a medical depot as well as storage for cultural priceless treasures. Sadly, it was destroyed at the end of WW II from fire bombs. It was only in 1950 that a 40 year reconstruction took place.

We climbed the stone steps to the fortress following the perimeter. The air remained cool and the views of Wurzburg and beyond were breathtaking. The sky was clear, the sun warm and bright and the crowds were limited. Rust colored roof tops shimmered under the mid-morning sun. The gleaming River Main snaked along the narrow water passageway with fancy ships and houseboats occupying the water’s edge.

We chose a lonely bench with a stunning backdrop of the city below. We had a light picnic and refueled for our Wurzburg departure. As we drove out of town, I took a collection of all that we had seen in 24 hours. An area completely unknown to me only a day ago, I felt now an honorary resident. The history of a resilient city that had endured many battles, numerous lost. The conflicts and hardships suffered yet endured only made this city stronger and rebuilt to its original glory.

After a surprisingly full morning, we loaded up in that rather feisty Citron off to our next designation. Hubs had provided a full color coated, hour by hour itinerary, including an undie count, rest periods and permissible sock allowance. We have learned the hard way- pack only what you can carry and edit as much as possible.

Hence, the Hubs organized color coated spread sheet and shoe allotment. Adhering to the prepared timeline, we headed back on the road. An hour’s drive later primarily on the highway -the poor Hubs randomly white- knuckling the steering wheel, periodically grimacing at the Google map on his phone, while Wifey-pooh dreamed of a low carb-gluten free pretzel and sugar free, alcohol free Radler invention that will systematically catapult German Cuisine into the next century.

Sadly, this mastermind idea remains abandoned due to a lack of like-minded fools and Radler’s are considered almost non-alcoholic to the rest of the natural world (*The most delicious combination of Beer and Lemonade or Beer and Sprite- and back in the day- my “cocktail” of choice.) But, I digress …..

Arriving in Dinkelsbuhl https://www.romanticroadgermany.com/dinkelsbuhl.php one is instantly transported into the weathered pages of a Grimms Fairy Tale Book. Nestled in the region of Franconia, Dinkelsbuhl is a historic Bavarian town dating back to the 1300’s. Driving into the popular area, bucolic storybook half-timbered houses line the street. Brightly colored shutters adorn each home and dwelling, adding a uniquely identifying quality. Ornately detailed German words and titles embellish the pastel stone wall foundations. Cobblestone streets serve as the only pavement in this small town of 11,000 people.

DINKELSBUHL

We arrived apparently at the peak of the day as the small city swelled to capacity with tour groups in intimidatingly mass numbers. Hubs drove nervously down the odd formation of streets, both of us suffering from parking anxiety. We have been known to leave a city- regretfully only due to lack of parking. However, a friendly chap eagerly pointed us to a hidden nook behind the hotel with several parking spots, free and without interruption until our departure in the morning. This alone gives our Hotel Meiser’s https://meisers-cafe.de/en a 5 star rating in our book.

At the hotel, it was clear lunch hour was at full throttle. Every table and seat was occupied and waiters flew by me as I ducked and weaved through the restaurant to eventually the check in area. A lederhosen wearing waiter carrying a tray with someone’s sad remains of Apple Strudel, hugged the snug reception desk quickly providing check in details. The chaos of what appeared to be a travel tour induced apple strudel frenzy was in its final mind dizzying moments.

Meiser’s yellow and brown shuttered symmetrical building has 11 boutique style rooms and a popular restaurant. We checked in, dropped off our bags in our room situated on the third floor-precarious, wonky, uneven stairs creaked and moaned (similar to us) with each dicey footstep. Our room was spacious and luxurious with a big bathroom and generous bathtub, that later would soothe my much needed traveled muscles later on that evening.

We explored the streets of Dinkelsbuhl trying to salvage the few remaining moments of sunlight-as this would be our only opportunity to explore our interesting surroundings. As luck would have it for Hubs, all the shops were closed. Unique store fronts with enticing items all useless as none would be open during our short stay there.

The mad rush we had witnessed at lunch seemed to have cleared out and the city was now a quiet ghost land. Tour buses and all its inhabitants vanished leaving behind not even a strudel crumb.

We walked through the small town and curvy streets to the medieval wall of the city eventually making a full loop back to the hotel. We returned for dinner and the Hubs was on a lucky streak as it was “fish festival”- at least according to the waiter and big fish tank proudly displayed on the street across from the hotel.

We ate at the restaurant in the hotel. It was crowded and popular and our bellies empty. We sat next to a German couple rather awkwardly close who seemed curiously interested in our conversation and menu selections. Neither of us shared a common language but as our elbows touched and eyes met it was dauntingly strange.

Hubs had a fish bouillabaisse recommended by the waiter. Orange colored spicy broth full of fresh seafood kept Hubs sipping and slurping serendipitously. A veggie burger with the most interesting potato salad was provided for me. The restaurant touts Viennese café style atmosphere. I would not be able to decipher between that or any other European environment. But, the food was good, hearty and delicious. It was a full day of Germanic pleasures followed by an early night. Rest came easy tucked in our adorable Bavarian hideaway.

Day 3 Dinkelsbuhl/Nuremberg/Prichsenstadt

Waking up on day 3 in Dinkelsbuhl, the sunlight streamed through the boxy window. The rooftops of the enchanted village peaked through our porthole to reality. Chimneys pushed out ashy, slate colored plumes of smoke. It was a majestic wake up call.

We made our way to breakfast, reflecting back now-this would be our best breakfast. In the same area we dined the night before was a beautiful spread of hot and cold items many specific to the region. Hubs dined on white sausage, hot eggs and the finest of pastries.

PRETZELS- YUM. NEVER TOUCHED A ONE!

My ridiculous palate of finicky annoyingness mixed with food allergies, intolerance and untouchables consisted of a protein shake bootlegged in my luggage from home and ice from the champagne ice bucket. Even at that- this was by far the best breakfast selection and presentation provided the entire time. So, stay tuned for the more graphic, deprived breakfasts ahead….

Driving out of Dinkelsbuhl, sadness came over me, wishing we could remain there. However, it is a small town that we fully explored. The robust timetable is a compact with a cornucopia of experiences, it is a fast- paced, in and out and move on kind of itinerary that allows for little regret, redo’s or reflection. Hence, the necessity of the blog-and the tedious detailed documenting of this journey. I learned many trips ago, without the laborious chronicling of events- recollecting it becomes a homogeneous kaleidoscope of blurred memories spilling into one another.

We then drove to Nuremberg https://www.britannica.com/place/Nurnberg – a historical area that has been on the wish list. Driving into the big city, it was alarmingly still as it was Sunday. This day would solely focus on exploring the Germanisches Nationalmuseum- https://www.gnm.de/ . The building itself dates back originally from the 1850’s.  Massive destruction took place after WWII, and what stands today is rebuilt from the 1960’s.

NUREMBURG

An open entrance full of ample light welcomes one as they enter, but once inside enclosed in quiet, uncrowded rooms await a plethora of art, antiquities, sculptures and other fanciful relics. Among the artists we particularly enjoyed were Lucas Cranach the Elder, Albrecht Durer, and Rembrandt. With over 22,000 items in the museum’s permanent collection there is something for all to enjoy. We spent several hours there with of course, an apple strudel and coffee for Hubs as he continued his apple strudel taste testing across Germany. Although, all consumed-a knife was required which took this one out of the running.

As we exited the museum, stragglers roamed the quiet streets, curiously though unclear why as there was not much open. A local Starbucks seemed to be the only dwelling with a light on. Hubs refueled for the drive as even the Starbucks was now closing. More unopen retail storefronts teased my shopping curiosity now dull with defeat.

Back out on the murky road, it seemed odd that it was unusually dark at such an early hour. In comparison, back home in Florida sunglasses would be warranted. It was only later that evening that we realized, it was daylight savings in Germany. Obliviously we slept unknowingly through it and continued on a whole day with little notice to time, deadlines or necessity of a schedule other than fatigue and hunger being our clock. When else in my life will it ever occur in a world driven by commitments, obligations and agendas? My guess is probably never- therefore, this indifference to this numerical figure, at that very moment was once again a generous offering from the travel Gods gladly received. 

DAY LIGHTS SAVINGS CONFUSION

After an hour’s drive, we made it to Worners Schloss Weingut & Wellnesshotel https://www.woerners-schloss.de/. This by far was one of the most unique, off the beaten path kind of lodgings I have ever stayed in. The town has one roundabout and is generally in the middle of nowhere. However, Hubs was very calculated in choosing this spot because it became a central location for all the daytrips anticipated. We would remain there 3 days that proved an excellent home base for all the destinations we had planned.

We were greeted by Harold Worner the owner. The hotel takes advantage of its space offering, wellness packages and massage, a winery with all products for sale and on display in the office/reception, a country store full of all useless bric-a-brac (my guess left behind by past vacationing occupants) a working farm, gardens, Oh and did I mention a 15th century castle along with turrets?

We were introduced and provided with his homemade wine and non-alcoholic beverage for me – which tasted identical to apple juice. He was horrified I did not drink alcohol -dry 3 years- and inquired if I was expecting. He became even more perplexed as he questioned my food allergies and preferences. As I listed my litany of forbidden, verboten, non-preferred and “don’t let near me” items, I could see the blood drain from his face. He tried painstakingly to get some sort of handle on my craziness, but for those that know me- this is an impossible, futile task. It is simply easier to embrace it (in which I have) than fight the madness. Regardless, he dutifully wrote a list gathering a long collection of non-edibles for yours truly and eventually rephrased the inquiry as to what I can eat. The list was short and un-notable. In the end, every morning, I schlepped out my brown rice cakes and bootlegged peanut butter and dined alongside Hubs, happily with my pilfered paraphernalia from home.    

We ascended the stone spiral swirl of a staircase up to the top with all our worldly goods into 40 pounds of luggage up the steps. No offering of assistance was provided and the room itself presented only the bare bones of necessity.

We would be occupying the top of a tower, a small wooden chalet of a space in the oddest formation I have ever encountered. The bed was catty corner and took up most of the space, low wood beams supported the ancient structure that forced one to duck and bend in strange contorted positions to simply walk to the bathroom or beyond the bed.  

The TV stood there as useless as the closed retail stores throughout our sojourn as we were never able to turn it on. A small index card taped on the door of the room warned about water concerns and cautioned not to drink. But, conveniently a $4.50 Euro bottle of sparkling water was available. Later on, we would find the local store and remedy this concern rather quickly. However, it was an interesting oversight that was never mentioned.

The hotel conveniently had a restaurant attached otherwise there were few dinner options available in the tiny town. We entered the small toasty restaurant, grateful for heat, warmth and food. It had been many hours; perhaps a few skipped meals since we had eaten and the weather outside began to deteriorate. It was in the cold 30’s and raining.

There was only one other couple dining there and the menu was on a chalk board in German. The waitress/cook came out and began to go through options with me. One by one, I shook my head no like a fussy, stubborn toddler. Ravioli?  No, I don’t eat pasta. Vegan schnitzel breaded and deep fried. No, I don’t eat fried or breaded items. Mushrooms in a rich cream sauce? No, I usually cannot tolerate dairy due to lactose intolerance. I added I like dairy- dairy does not like me. The joke was lost and patience was clearly and reasonably getting slim. Finally, it was decided I would have Risotto made with soy milk and sautéed fresh vegetables from the garden. All breathed a large sigh of relief including the other couple, who did not even speak English. Hubs always so easy- knew from the minute he gazed at the chalk board- he would have his most favorite of all German dishes- Sauerbraten.

Harold, the owner sat down next to us, telling us the story of his farm, the history and how it has been in his family many generations. His English was cautious and weighted and we enjoyed the brief interaction and attention. Enthralled by the exchange, the Hubs was talked into a glass of Harold’s famous cask cured Red wine. I as well was talked into another glass of apple juice- a rare indulgence for me inflating our bill, in the end making it our most expensive meal. 

Hubs was coaxed into trying the ‘wine soup specialty”. When would another offering opportunity such as this ever present itself again? Certainly not from the kitchen of “yours truly”. The wine soup was brought out to excited gasps from Hubs eager to consume this delicacy. The eggplant colored broth delivered an aromatic euphoria. Hubs slurped and glugged the foreign fuchsia fluid. He proclaimed it delicious and provided a detailed account of all its gastronomic qualities. Rolling my eyes from his dramatic declaration, I took a suspicious sip and agreed it was unique in a borscht type similarity. I was relieved that I did not succumb to peer pressure and forewent the soup suggestion as its captivating qualities would have been lost on me.

WINE SOUP

Our dinner entries arrived, my vegetable platter -a painter’s colorful palette of various vegetables, fresh and fragrant. The owner had reminded me his garden crops are grown with love. The fertile adoration embeds in the roots of the harvest presenting in delicious and harmonious results. A good meal, a treat and indulgence on all levels that wiped out our current Euro stash. This would be our only dinner at Worner Schloss https://www.woerners-schloss.de/  during the 3 day stay.  So, in the end, it was a memorable culinary experience.

We trotted off to bed, climbing the tower, knocking our heads on the wooden low beams and brushing our teeth with $4.50 Euro water only to spit in the sink. It was a full day, a fine day and there would be much more to come.

Day 4 Prischsenstadt/ Bamberg

Waking up in Worners Schloss, in our cozy wooden chalet was slightly disorienting. Peeking from the window shared with the eager woodpecker, I perused my odd surroundings. It was a balmy 42 degrees outside, a temperature a bit foreign to me. However, as the days would progress temperatures would drop and some amateur travel missteps I did would ultimately impact my comfort and some of the flow of events. Nothing too monumental but enough to add extra stops and minimally bottleneck plans. I share this with you my fellow traveler so you learn from my oversights.

My wardrobe was borderline inappropriate and marginally insufficient. I have a ridiculous surplus of jackets for every weather system, shape, size and scenario in my closet at home –the current temperature 80 degrees. But, in over excitement or just simple ignorance- I packed only a paper thin raincoat, a running jacket and a sheep skin hooded jacket that had seen better days. By day 6, deterioration and sheep skin tumbleweeds molted inexplicably completely impervious to a lint brush.    

In addition to totally inadequate warm provisions for these frigid temps for this Florida girl, the accompanying accessories such as a scarf, hat and gloves all were safely tucked away with my warm pea coat (at home). The dry air in complete contrast to the rain forest humidity that hangs like a heavy curtain in South West Florida did not exist in Bavarian mountain air in Germany. Hence, dry scratchy wirey hair completely non cooperative in every way tormented me. The result was scarecrow/dreadlocks mixed with frizzy mania. There was no amount of moisturizing cream, hair product or technique that could tame the beast. This afro calamity resulted in numerous stops to the local store trying to determine what German product would resolve the issue. Ultimately, in the end- there was no cure. The furball fiasco only fought back harder until finally, in desperation, a hat attempted to impound the dry strands of crispy curls- proclaiming in assent “vacation hair- don’t care”. But, as I perused the young, blond German girls with golden thick, tamed straight locks-I continued to fight the fruitless battle in vanity filled despair.

HELP! MY HAIR IS OUT OF CONTROL!

In addition to a complete lack of wardrobe warmth and the hair crisis catastrophe, next came the Tylenol withdrawal. An avid Tylenol consumer, an oversight occurred as I only packed enough for a few days. Yet another stop to the local store and apothecary, I quickly learned German Tylenol is made very differently than the USA version. It is apparently less potent and contains caffeine -an item I cannot take. Previous consequences from the ingestion of Panadol resulted in a full-fledged panic attack on a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong. It was during that scary, heart racing episode that the caffeine amount in it produced overwhelming anxiety, the feeling of impending death and elephant thumping chest palpitations. I had to relearn this lesson again, except fortunately not at 30,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean.  

With no Tylenol, sleep came in sputtered increments, doused with nightmares and the existing aches and pains of an aging gal traveling the world. This remained unchanged throughout the days abroad, but Hubs kept me feverishly distracted with activities making it a mere blip on the radar screen of vacation nuisances.

Across from our wooden getaway on top of the tower was the breakfast room. Breakfast for me-was a sad, dark disappointment filled with elusive food items that were more ornamental than edible. Questionable freshness of items was curiously unknown. How long have those cornflakes been there? Is the jelly changed daily?  By day 3 I recognized the same banana. At one point, Hubs requested mustard and I generously provided a mountainous dollop of banana curry baby food on his ham sandwich. It was an alter universe of culinary landmines unknown to me. A large pot invitingly seemed to offer hot eggs. Except when Hubs eagerly went to ladle out a hearty portion, the bowl was sufficiently empty never to be refilled. Of note, only one other couple was there during our stay.

We left Worners and drove to Bamberg https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/624/  for the day. Bamberg is a charming city, quintessential Germany with storybook cuteness and fairy tale appeal. It is a UNESCO world heritage site that dates back to 1,000 and maintains a well preserved medieval architecture.

BAMBERG

Upon arrival, we stopped in a coffee shop for a quick cup of coffee. It was getting colder at this point, the sun bright but the temperature was beginning to drop. We walked through the interesting village, window shopping and checking out all the cute stores. Christmas decorations were all out, holiday markets exhibiting the most beautiful, delicate and precious ornaments, gifts and displays. There is literally no way one could walk through the village without feeling a nostalgic holiday yearning.

We located a nice bench in an idyllic courtyard. We had a light picnic to tide us over and reenergize us. We stopped in a store selling gluten free gingerbread and other gluten and vegan baked foods. Never quite the fan of gingerbread, I was informed prior to departure that it is a must as it virtually the home of gingerbread and famous for its unique qualities.

This tiny store had all sorts of deliciousness that has been on the untouchable list for good reason. But a sucker for Gluten Free, Vegan baked goods; I had to give it a try. Well, damn it- after the first bite, I heard angels singing in a confectionary choir. The dark, brown squares of moist cake were rich in flavor but not overly ginger. The luscious blocks of pastry prayers were one of the tastiest items I have had to date.

Munching on these delicate oblong pieces of ginger greatness, I cursed that darling store with all its delectable delicacies. It took me a decade working on mind, body and spirit to give up pretzels and all its salty, doughy delightfulness. I did not need another German addiction. Oh, and did I add some of them were dark chocolate coated? Well, sadly this delectable delight was never found again and subsequently the Gingerbread detox has been rather uneventful. I hope my lips may never touch another morsel of what I will now refer to as the devil’s cake. However, if in this region, I highly recommend if you do not have addictive qualities and feel the risk is worth it- try it as because nothing in my travels could ever come close this tasty treasure.

We continued to make our way through the town –gazing at the Altes Rathaus (City Hall) https://www.bamberg.info/poi/altes_rathaus-4656/  a rather noteworthy architectural splendor. Situated on an island with the roaring River Regnitz below provides a symphonic aquatic melody of beauty. The sun glistened off the rambling water. The half-timber yellow structure surrounded by stoned walls hung perched on an arched ancient bridge. A tall brick church steeple poked through the top in watchful protection. We walked up to Bamberg Cathedral https://www.spottinghistory.com/view/5694/bamberg-cathedral/ rounding out a full day of Bamberg’s eternal bounties. Abundant serene canals with beautifully maintained ancient sloping houses containing  colorful flowerbed boxes lined the “little Venice” waterways all shaded by fall foliage creating a tranquil pilgrimage as we made our way back to the car completing our short stopover in Bamberg.

Driving back to Worners, we ventured over one town to dine at Zur Krone https://www.zur-krone-bruennau.de/ -a warm, cozy inviting restaurant. We were greeted with a local friendly reception. The hostess and chef and menu all were in German. The chef came out and sat next to us in true concern to suit our culinary needs. As usual Hubs was easy. He ordered a spicy, pumpkin soup and a rather intricate looking fish dish. My dinner consisted of potatoes, peas, pumpkin, beet, beans and rice. It was essentially a buffet on a plate. I appreciate that the chef truly went out of his way clearly to please. However, in my world “less is more”. There was a convergence of flavors intensely ignited with pumpkin and curry that my belly upon first bite rejected. I swirled the items around the plate trying desperately to drown out the assault of curry. In the end, though -dinner was interrupted by car drama that sequestered the remainder of our dining pleasures as well as my data plan with a folly of phone calls to Sixt rental.

From the get-go that Blue Smurf Cintron we knew was trouble. It was a 6 gear manual stick shift. The reverse gear was feisty as hell, in a hard to shift position cumbersomely located near first gear -nowhere near where US cars have it. Coming to dinner, the engine sounded anemic and lacking power and scarier- we could not go in reverse. An anoxic burnt clutch fluid stench overtook the car and we barely pulled into the restaurant. We were close to being abandoned on a bridge unable to shift and feared our passageway back to the hotel. The street to return was pitch black, no lights and no services available as we were out in the country very isolated.

We ate our food in silence with this car issue looming in the forefront of our thoughts. Eventually due to fear and being stranded in the dark, cold, and remote countryside- we contacted Sixt car rental. We were placed on hold over and over again only to be hung up. We were informed from “Omar” -in an undisclosed location that it would take over 2 hours and if there was no issue we would be charged. We were given a second option of dropping off the car in the morning in Schweinfurt (approximately 30 minutes away). We crossed our fingers and chose option B. 8 phone calls lasting 50 minutes- hopefully when we see this bill we will chuckle and chalk it up to benign travel drama.

With some prayer and coddling, the car started with only the faint distinct odor of scorched clutch fluid. We made it back to Wornerschloss under the licorice black sky, slivery moon and full lit up Milky Way. A full night sleep in our tiny timber tower closed out Day 4.

Day 5 Prischsenstadt/Schweinfurt/Nuremberg

Waking up in our snug chalet, we were growing accustomed to the ducking and weaving to avoid death by wood beam blunt force. We went down the hall for breakfast where I would fix my rice cakes and peanut butter in proud and brazen viewing. One other couple dined next to us. No word exchange was had. They were a perfect German carbon copy of us minus slob appearance and bootleg rice cakes. They chatted in witty cantor planning their day’s events. A world, language and culture apart but on deeper reflection, I would bet more similarities than differences. This conversation of mutual world’s intersecting would sadly never take place. Previous endeavors, we made lifelong friends and memories-ones in which we still discuss. The deficit of this reinforced the focus on us as a couple, a mutual exploration that required our engagement and decision making. In the long run, that’s all that matters.

After breakfast, we piled back into the smurf mobile to the riveting town of Schweinfurt. Other than having a Sixt center it served no use to us. We made our way into the industrial park of Schweinfurt finding after several Google map arguments. Trading the car for a safer option was one of our wisest decisions we made. For the same price, we were upgraded to a sleek black SUV Mercur automatic with heated seats and all the bells and whistles. Later on, we would encounter higher elevation with sharp altitude adjustments and the automatic transition would make all the difference.

We made our way back to Nuremberg for the day. We had been there 2 days ago primarily for the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Today’s focus would be more exploration. We walked through the town, window shopping, exploring the Hauptmarket (Christmas market) https://www.christkindlesmarkt.de/en/ .We poked in the Grand Cathedral https://www.whatsoninnuremberg.com/frauenkirche/ and strolled along the canals. We meandered around the grounds of the Kaiserburg Imperial Palace and Castle https://www.kaiserburg-nuernberg.de/englisch/castle/index.htm which provided sweeping views at the top of Nuremberg’s skyline.

We went to Albrecht Durer Museum https://museums.nuernberg.de/albrecht-duerer-house/. Housed in his original residential dwelling, the art works are all replicas of the famous originals scattered all throughout world-class museums. Audio guide complemented the tour with interesting commentary that revealed much about his expansive life, his prolific art, and his contribution to Nuremberg and the art world. He is a revered honorary citizen of Nuremberg and an annual celebration is held to commemorate his artistic influence and art world impact. The museum had a very calming quiet feel to it. It was small and “do-able, making it one of the highlights for me.

As we were leaving the city, we made an impromptu decision to eat dinner at Zum Spiess Gesellen http://www.spiessgeselle.de/. Located adjacent to city hall (Rathause) it is a large German hall that was almost entirely empty as it was mid-afternoon. It had an extensive menu with interesting cuisine in an Excalibur King Henry the 8th kind of way.

I was provided a gargantuan shish-kebob on a sword that dangled precariously over my plate. A colorful still life palate of protuberant vegetables, colossal tomatoes, girthy potatoes, slender zucchini slices, plentiful onions and other exotic items that swam in a buttery seasoned bath. Hubs assisted in the consumption of this gastronomic gift from the gardening Gods. His meal of pork medallions with spätzle was equally impressive and the cost was rather economical. The service was exquisite and the setting was very interesting. As we dined, we watched the sky darken to winter dusk and the task of Christmas decoration hanging was well under way outside. We left Nuremberg with full bellies, happy hearts and enlightened souls. 

Now there comes a moment in every Girl & Her Hubs, where the fun and games are put on hold and the suitcase is full of dirty garments. That is when the important pressing tasks must be addressed- laundry. Always an undertaking and a necessity, we make it a point to include in our jam packed schedule. We always try to pack less and smarter, and bring fewer things to avail the much needed space for that essential jug of peanut butter!

Just right outside Nuremberg we decided to combine our outing with this chore as we still had remaining motivation for this much needed duty. We pulled up to Eco Express Laundromat https://www.waschsalon.de/waschsalon-nuernberg/#undefined with a perfect spot right in front. We usually manage through this mundane responsibility struggling with foreign machinery, bubbling sudsy explosions, feisty dryer stealing Frenchmen, inefficient equipment, currency shortage or some other international incident that certainly has me on a laundry ban in many countries. But, Nuremberg- you are a gift from the laundry lords. All went seamless, cheap, easy, fast, no arguing, no nasty Frenchmen. What more could a gal ask for?  Feeling accomplished and free from laundry burden duty our clothes was clean and folded all within one hour. We returned in the dark of night for a final evening at Worner Schloss. The day was full of history, art, good food, walking, fresh air, a new car and clean clothes- all that is needed for a true vacation reset.

LAUNDRY DUTY!

Day 6 Prischsenstadt/Erfurt/Neuhausen

Leaving Worner Schloss in the foggy cold of morning- I took a moment to appreciate the unique setting of Worner Schloss. I complain, I moan, I groan, but truthfully I am happiest when I can grumble about something. For 3 days, I was Princess in the Pea, nestled in a tower in a remote forest. I had a personal chauffer (Hubs) and all my needs were well cared for. Truly, there is not one thing (other than potential head dismemberment by low hanging timber) negative remark to make- so let’s move on.

Our itinerary had been well planned as previously stated but allowed for alternatives. The night before we dissected a map of Germany, our anticipated route and on a sporadic whim, reconfigured our plan. We headed north and then east during our 2.5 hour drive full of beautiful scenery. We drove through deep forestry and thick trees that canopied the dappled sunlight. We looped through tunnels spilling out on the other side of a mountain with altogether different weather systems as we exited out into the foggy re-entry. As the elevation ascended the temperature declined.

Image result for erfurt germany
ERFURT

We eventually made it to Erfurt https://www.erfurt.de/ef/en/index.html  our stop for the afternoon to break up the 4 hour voyage to Neuhausen. Erfurt-a medieval city -is one of the oldest and preserved cities in Germany founded in 1300. Walking around the city center it was clear this was an eclectic neighborhood with masterful talented artisans diverse in different trades and skills. We made our way through the slender alley ways perusing the ceramics, paintings, metals and other textile crafts hand made in all the various shops. Each storefront displayed hand crafted goods tantalizing my shopping desire. But nothing completely allured either one of us in a way that warranted a purchase. We stopped for a light picnic lunch on an isolated bench in an active square. We noshed on our snacks and took in the midday sun and people watching. 

It was here in a monastery in Erfurt in 1507 that Martin Luther (the original) the father of Protestantism studied to become a monk and took his vows. He eventually became ordained and shaped the landscape of the Protestant religion as we now know it today. The monastery still exists and is an active Lutheran church. 

MARTIN LUTHER -FATHER OF PROTESTANTISM

We walked all through the town eventually making our way through a market where smells of bratwurst sizzled on a hot grill and greedy hands sifted through cheaply made goods. The market led to massive gradient of steps and rising from the top housed a colossal cathedral that shadowed the market below. The Barfüsserkirche https://kunstmuseen.erfurt.de/km/de/angermuseum/haus/barfuesserkirche/index.html?pk_campaign=sm-gp&pk_kwd=km125882 is a cathedral that stands on the monastery grounds and dates back to the 14th century. In 1944, during WW II it was hit by an aerial mine and resulted in much destruction.  Since then reconstruction and restoration has been an ongoing process. An entire section was enclosed with scaffolding with the echoing of high pitched construction tools and loud workers piercing the sanctity of the church during our visit.

We made our way back through the center of town. We had a long drive ahead of us with a new destination. This drive would be the most memorable with enchanting viewing to titillate the senses. We passed an ancient brick aqueduct that scaled high in the air and cut across the highway. Immense, green hilly fields and farmlands spread as far as the eye could see. We passed through small colorful villages through winding country roads. We encountered more plush forest and off in the distance were snowcapped mountains. The scenery changed every few minutes in dizzying backdrops. Earthy fertile fields spread the horizon as dusk began to settle. Eventually, a curtain of darkness fell upon us off in the distance church steeples illuminated under moonbeam provided celestial beacons of light, windmills too numerous to count swayed in unison providing a melodic and efficient energy system. 

Arriving in the thick blanket of darkness, we pulled into the impressive Schloss Purschenstein https://www.purschenstein.de/en/ . The imposing white stone castle stood out majestically peeking over the Ore Mountain range. A lengthy winding driveway led to a large chess setup complete with human size pawns and knights.  Schloss Purschenstein is a 5 star hotel on a vast campus containing an inviting indoor swimming pool, a sauna as well as spa packages.

We were greeted by a friendly, energetic young lady. Her English was similar to our German -nonexistent-but together we were able to gather some much needed helpful information. Our cozy room was a welcome sight for our tired, traveled bones. After getting settled, we dined at the hotel’s restaurant Remise https://www.purschenstein.de/en/restaurant/.

The dining room was an opulent hall with striking chandeliers, eclectic furnishings and unique antiques. We feasted on velvety, smooth pea soup and a curiously odd and off putting beet and garbanzo bean salad served as my disappointing main course. Hubs had some sort of fishy sea creature with unsettling eyeballs and a floppy tail that occupied the entire plate.

A rather stern and aggressive German couple sat in a disconcerting eavesdropping proximity with uncomfortable leering judgement. We scoffed back with harmless American arrogance. On this day, politeness had abandoned me as cultural differences were clearly defined and benignly displayed. A non-threatening snobbery was palpable in the dining room. However, the surroundings, food, service and scenery more than made up for this minor ego irritation.

Full, tired and deeply inadequately clothed for 26 degree weather we thrusted our bloated bodies up the steep incline back to the warmth of the heated room. On this night, the bright stars and glow of the moon penetrated through the shuttered window aiding in a much needed dream filled slumber.

Day 7 Neuhausen/Dresden

Snuggled up in layers of down comforter in the heated dark cocoon of our room, I awoke by alarm in a well-planned out idea to run. Running on vacation in a foreign land, has really been an exhilarating notion. I did this on the Seine River in Paris and the memories of the multisensory experience still linger with me today. The last few excursions prohibited this due to various contributing factors affecting safety and wellbeing. But, the stars could not have aligned any better to provide this once in a lifetime opportunity.

The receptionist had provided a convoluted map of trails, with even more confusing instructions. But, just the mere concept of running through this mountainous, alpine nirvana had already been well established in my stubborn noggin and not even the risk of hypothermia, injury or dismemberment could quell the need to pound my stumps on that frost laden pavement.

Glancing at the temperature on my phone at a frigid 26 degrees Fahrenheit did somewhat concern this Florida gal, however, mentally I was already there-which is half the battle. I proceeded to layer on half my suitcase contents, 3 of everything and improvised with bootleg ear warmers and other repurposed items all in an effort to thwart frostbite. I know a bit dramatic for those acclimated to these temps, but I was taking no chances in jeopardizing my ultimate experience.

READY TO RUN THE HILLS!

Stepping out at 6am in the cool mountain air, I felt an overpowering sense of calm and anticipation bubble up in my circulatory system. It was an odd concoction of emotions from my amygdala signaling familiar biological responses in total contrast to this unknown land. But, my feet, heart and mind knew what to do and commanded the way. I ran in sync to my music at a dull volume so I could really take in the stillness of my environment. The town was still asleep and would be for many more hours. I paced myself down a steep downhill gradient knowing very well I would need to tackle this beast on the ascent much later. I made my way into the small village, passing by a peaceful waterway. White dewy frost glistened on the carpet of thick grass. The silence was only interrupted by the rhythmic pounding of my sneakers on the smooth asphalt.

I continued on passing by adorable cottages, rustic chalets and charming country homes. Grey swirls of hickory scented embers expelled smoke plumes in the air as faraway wind chimes echoed off in the distance. I took in my surroundings aware that every sensation I was experiencing was a profound memory in the making exclusive only to me. As I rounded the corner, I came across a series of colorful, animated Nutcracker sculptures. These playful figures steered the way towards the famous Nutcracker Museum http://nutcrackermuseum.com/Erstes_Nussknacker_Museum.html. Obviously closed at this early hour, I obtained some commemorative selfies with the decorative statues, knowing that our full agenda would prohibit any future visit.

As I approached my second mile, signs alerting me I was at the town’s edge brought me back to reality. I was well aware of a tightly packed roster and my run would need to be concluded soon. Growing concerned of getting lost and the unfamiliar terrain, I knew in my heart I had to turn around and head back. I looked up as I now was very low in the valley. Purschenstein Schloss our castle was perched up high a full 180 degrees above me.

I put it in second gear, grinding my running sneakers in the pebbly soil. I swung my arms in an effort to hasten my snail like speed. My pointless antics were laughable and exhaustive. I eventually made it to the top completing my run. This physical activity was much more than exercise. Having had my tuckus cemented in a heated car seat for 7 days the opportunity to penetrate the pavement in the fresh mountain morning air in complete solitude was a spiritual event that nourished my soul, enriched my heart and cleansed my mind.

Reinvigorated and revived, I ran back to the dark room with Hubs still in full REM. I manically shared with him my poetic ponderings as he rubbed his sleepy eyes and yawned incessantly.

We ate in the same opulent dining room as the evening before with the same sneering characters from last night’s dinner. Unclear if it was our informal attire, our clearly American air or perhaps our imagination, but the gang here were not a friendly bunch, unlike all the others we had so far encountered. However, neither here nor there as it did not impact one second of our pleasure-only a mere observation.

Spread out were your run of the mill picked over variety of breakfast items. I am certainly not the best judge of cuisine but I did find at best mediocrity and dismal efforts as far as the breakfast offerings.

We piled in the ice covered car and spent a good 10 minutes using one of our credit cards scraping the frozen obscuring shield from the vehicle-a task that is not ever done in Florida. We drove through the thick forest. The leaves were displaying an autumn color spectrum range of burnt scarlet and rusty orange hues. Our drive was a progression of shared one lane quaint farmhouse towns to crowded 2 lane highways passing sprawling fields with lazy cows.

Eventually we made it to our destination for the day- Dresden https://www.britannica.com/place/Dresden-Germany. This charming city that lies on the Elbe River is also the capital of Saxony and dates back to the 1200’s. Before WW II it was thought to be one of the most beautiful cities due to its architecture and art. Sadly, during WW II it was completely destroyed during bombing raids that killed over 25,000 people. The town was completely leveled and then rebuilt.

DRESDEN

We arrived in the eerily quiet city an hour and a half from our departure from the castle. We later learned it was Reformation Day https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/germany/reformation-day . This is a national German holiday recognized in 9 states commemorating Martin Luther where he nailed his holy doctrine on the doors of a church in 1517 generating the start of religious change that ultimately created the Protestant Church. I learned all this only due to annoyance of all stores being closed. My shopping in Dresden would never turn out to be.

Many years ago we came to Dresden by train during a vacation to Prague. We had a well-planned out excursion to the Zwinger Museum https://www.der-dresdner-zwinger.de/en/home/  and to our disappointment on that snowy, blistery day we learned the museum was closed for renovations. We came up with an alternative plan, that day many years ago spending hours in a ceramics museum https://porzellansammlung.skd.museum/ perusing teacups. My body still aches with mental exhaustion reflecting back.

When choosing our city options we made it a point of including Dresden as it was a major disappointment missing out on this world class museum. Well, as luck would have it, and really in this day and age of travel, it is quite common, we learned during our late planning stages that the museum was still in renovations. However, fortunately, they had moved all of the major pieces into 3 rooms, making it a much more manageable viewing experience.

Due to the abbreviated art works, the entry rate was reduced in half as well. A welcoming and pleasant surprise as on day 7, Euro enthusiasm and constant money spending starts to chip away at the fun factor. The museum-although condensed down to 3 rooms is 3 rooms of truly the most important art works. The ticket is labeled as The Old Masters and for good reason. Vibrant large scale paintings of Raphael, Botticelli, Vermeer and Durer surround one in the 3 large open spaces. Every age and cultural demographic of individuals were present, pacing around the priceless images with full interest and fascination. It was a universal appreciation expressed in multiple different languages but all mutually fascinated of the gift of art. These treasured riches allow one to peek into a world from long ago, pre-photo days. This is the only visual documentation we have of ancient worlds long ago forgotten.

We left the art museum requiring a bit of refueling. We found our way to a Starbucks. It was very crowded and apparently the popular hangout –as it appeared no one was in a level of urgency to leave and quite committed to their spot. I caught up momentarily on my documentation here- now a good 5 days behind. This delay was intentional as I wanted to truly stay in the moment and stay engaged. But, there is a fine line where the memories start to fade, slipping like sand in an hourglass, little by little until the recollection is so muddied. It becomes a hazy extraction of the event that actually occurred.

Our day was coming to a close but from the get-go we knew we would try to find where we had eaten on our last excursion to Dresden many years ago. Nothing short of stellar investigation skills, Hubs located the restaurant Singah Thai. Our meal-somewhere wedged between lunch and dinner, the restaurant was almost entirely empty. Strangely, we were placed in the same seats that we had before- a constant eerie reflection all day tethered between past and present played hopscotch in our jumbled brain.

Having missed a meal, my tummy grumbled as an audible reminder. Hubs had once again a fish platter that dominated the circumference of the plate from end to end, accompanied by a heaping mound of rice and a colorful variety of vegetables. In comparison, I had simple vegetable fried rice. The meal later would provide us both with queasiness that would inhabit any Thai European future outings.

As we drove through the dark, cold villages, only illuminated by moonlight, we realized it was Halloween evidenced by the pint sized local children darting through the autumn darkness displaying their animated pageantry. We eventually made it back to our castle retreat for an early evening.

Day 8 Neuhaussen/Meissen/Leipzig

Awakening in the dark and cold, I pondered another mountain run. But, as my feet paddled on the heated floors, my tummy reminded me of the fried rice the day before. Still queasy and unsettled, I listened and abandoned any further running reverie in this hilly haven.

We had one final breakfast in the ornate dining room, packed up our belongings and said farewell to Purschenstein Schloss. Driving back through the forest, the dapple light of morning sun popped through the thick wall of trees.  We then passed through yet more open fields as far as the eye could see of windmills. We eventually made it to our destination for the afternoon-the Saxon city of Meissen https://www.britannica.com/place/Meissen-Germany. Just slightly Northwest of Dresden, it also lies on the Elbe River. Established in 929 from King Henry I, the city is known for its famous Porcelain manufactured in Meissen in the local factory.

MEISSEN

As we made our way via auto through Meissen, one can’t help but gaze in awe at the fortress (Albrechtsburg Castle) built on a rock that towers over the Elbe River and valley below. We parked the car and walked up the many steps through the Obere Promenadenweg (Upper Promenade Path) that led to the Albrechtsburg Castle and Cathedral https://www.albrechtsburg-meissen.de/en/meissen-albrechtsburg-castle/history/.  All along the walking route stopping to gawk at the breathtaking views over the Elbe River valley.

We made our way to the top where a courtyard contained all the most important buildings. The blistery winds and cold air forced us to make our way into the Albrechtsburg Castle. We found ourselves eyeing a welcoming coffee shop with a cozy table in front of an enticing fireplace Schlosscafe- https://www.schlosscafe-meissen.de/willkommen.html. We dined on hot, spicy pumpkin soup that warmed our bellies and soothed our hunger. We stared at the active hearth popping and sparking in comforting composition. We finished our soup and began to remove our layers as sweat beads surfaced on our foreheads in unison. We scooted our chairs further and further cursing the previously beloved fire. Our body temps rose at a fastidious pace bringing on an intense claustrophobic, impending doom sensation. Eventually, we sprung out of our now inferno seats, rushing to the waitress in haste as fiery hell heat encapsulated us.

We went back into the cold air adjusting to the temperature discrepancies. We made our way to the Dom Zu Meissen https://dom-zu-meissen.de/start.html – Meissen Cathedral. An impressive, massive Protestant church dating back from the 1500’s that resurrected during the Counter Reformation. We toured the space, poking around all the nooks and crannies.

We made our way outside to head back; we noticed a glass elevator of sorts. We took this down, much easier than the plethora of steps we took up. We stepped out of the apparatus, excited and giddy. A woman greeted us and we waved bye at her not realizing until later she was there to collect the Euro for this “attraction”.  Ooops.

We piled in the car as the sky began to turn murky grey. We made our way through more farm house towns peppered on immense golden fields. Conveniently arriving in Leipzig as most were leaving, aided in landing a killer parking spot next to our hotel we would be in for only one night.

LEIPZIG

Leipzig https://www.britannica.com/place/Leipzig-Germany was strategically planned in the scheduling of events as were in close proximity of our final destination-Berlin.  We checked into the very luxurious 5 star rated Steigenberger Hotel  https://www.steigenberger.com/en/hotels/all-hotels/germany/leipzig/steigenberger-grandhotel-handelshof%20?utm_medium=bing_ads&utm_source=bing&utm_campaign=handelshof_leipzig&utm_content=shr. Stepping into the striking lobby, I was appreciative for this bit of indulgence. Our travel days were numbering down and this hotel provided many comforts that had been lacking. We made our way to our spacious room with some rather impressive amenities. We played with the electric controlled shades and took in the darkening city view. The hotel was situated squarely in the center of the city with convenient proximity to everything we had on our check list. The weather had turned to wet, blustery and windy.

STEIGENBERGER GRAND HOTEL LEIPZIG

I took a hot bath as Hubs snored away in the darkened room. But, a short nap it would be as we had a show that evening. We dressed in our finest clothes and headed out in the rainy nightfall.

We found ourselves seeking food and warmth and ultimately landed in the Central Cafebar https://www.cafecentral-leipzig.de/. Apparently a hotspot, it was crowded and lively and bustling with activity. We sat in a cozy table window side. Hubs had a club sandwich, in which he pulled layers of contents off in a finicky, toddler way. Each item he extracted he shoved with annoyance to the side. In contrast, I feasted on a cheese crepe that checked all the boxes-an almost impossible task these days. We ate in haste as to not be tardy for our next event- The Opera-Elixer of Love https://www.oper-leipzig.de/en/programm/the-elixir-of-love/78751

CAFE CENTRAL BAR

We took the short walk fighting for equal umbrella space. We made our way to the lit up Opera House https://www.oper-leipzig.de/en/. We purchased these tickets many months ago on a German website with very little knowledge of what if anything we had obtained. We took our seats as the theater lights dimmed and an animated production kept us amused wholly for 3 hours. The singing, dancing, costumes stage and orchestra were mesmerizing. The translation was in German and the singing in Italian. This never inhibits us from wholeheartedly absorbing the scope of entertainment that is offered. The entire evening’s events were extraordinary and well worth the effort made on the front end, pre-travel.

We walked arm in arm sheltered by the umbrella as my teeth loudly chattered as we shimmied the short distance back to the hotel. I cursed myself as my mind flashed back a week ago during packing- tossing out scarves, gloves and a winter jacket to accommodate my rice cakes and protein shakes. My one and only regret would be my unfortunate and unwise selection of apparel. Back in the warmth of the room, we nodded off to sleep as our minds hummed operatic melodies.

Day 9 Leipzig/Berlin

The next morning, I arose in the darkness and made my way to the gym. An interesting array of exercise equipment was nestled in the quiet basement. I hopped on the treadmill, growing bored then migrated to the elliptical, which proved even more lackluster. I drifted over to some vibrating machine. As my teeth rattled and my face grew numb, I pushed it full throttle in amusement. This gym was my sand box and I was embracing my solitude. However, disinterest and paresthesia settled in as my vertebras realigned- I decided it best to wrap up this failure of a workout attempt. No more cardio challenges would be approached. The remaining reserve of vigor would be on standby for much needed museum stamina.

PRE- WORKOUT PIC

Defeated, but partially amused by my post gyration activities, I returned to the room to pack up and prepare for the day. We headed out of the hotel in search of food. We settled on an establishment called Kaffeehaus Riquet http://www.riquethaus.de/. A beautiful art nouveau building with elaborate elephant heads displayed on the exterior of the building appeared quite inviting. A menu was provided by a coquettish waitress. I studied the options with very few choices available. I eventually settled on a crepe. As the waitress took my order, she made a scornful face and shook her head no. She proceeded to tell me in perfect English “this is not delicious, you cannot order it.” With no other options available other than a salad at 930 in the morning, I opted to starve and scowl in obstinate annoyance. The Hubs slopped up his runny eggs with flaky rolls with exaggerated eagerness that was frankly irritating. I appreciated her honesty but feel she may not understand how low my bar of food pleasure is. I later nurtured my deprived gut with the solace of a decaying and week old melted protein bar.

We walked through the city swiftly as we remained on Hubs strict timeline. I desperately yearned for some retail therapy, specifically in the variety of crappy magnets and ridiculous souvenirs. I know it is a waste of money and bogus garbage but it does provide me with such a ludicrous level of happiness. Well, as stated before, the money Gods were looking out for me and ensuring that pesky student loan will be paid upon my return home, because not one item was purchased in Leipzig.

Leipzig is the birth place of the famous musical composer Johann Sebastian Bach https://www.britannica.com/biography/Johann-Sebastian-Bach . Everything in the city is a tribute to him. The city itself has a very different feel to it –something of a Viennese vibe. It was very different from everything else we had seen so far- architecturally, gastronomically and overall, lacking a German essence, but aesthetically pleasing all the while.

Leipzig was heavily affected by World War II and according to historical records all Jews were eradicated. The city itself was partially destroyed by 1,000 tons of firebombs. There are monuments throughout the city center honoring the lives lost. To be completely transparent here, I knew very little of this while I was there, it was only after when I am piecing everything together that it truly all comes cohesive in my mind. Any research that I have done prior does not seem to truly settle in the cortex of my brain until I have actually experienced it. This is in complete contrast to the Hubs approach as he does widespread exploration as he painstakingly constructs the foundation of any one of our travel adventures.

Trying to make the most of our limited time in Leipzig and absorb the real spirit of the city we toured the Bach Museum https://www.bachmuseumleipzig.de/de/bach-museum. Entering in error the last room of the museum first, we interrupted the remnants of an English Tour ending. Approximately 40 distracted and restless tourists, talked loudly, interrupting the tour guide. They all had audio guides for English and therefore made it impossible for us to obtain one as no more were available. They exited the room in brash disruption, tainting what should have been a pleasant introduction to the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. Eventually, they exited and we found our way to the start of the museum as his life was displayed in chronological order.  The museum was interesting and informative and we moved through it rather quickly.

We made our way back to the car as the traffic into the city was staggering. We made our way to our final destination –Berlin. We made it into the city beating rush hour traffic.

Image result for BERLIN KDAM
BERLIN

We swung by the hotel we would be staying for the next 2 days-Hotel Maritime https://www.guestreservations.com/maritim-hotel-berlin/booking?msclkid=c773f8822911160855b6a54fb1c70318 and quickly checked in. The large somewhat tacky hotel was stacked with tour buses. There was a convention going on for a pharmaceutical company and the entire lobby was decorated with garish neon green advertisements. We were given entirely erroneous information from our first greeting including a false breakfast inquiry, map instructions and other important details that after fact checking were completely incorrect.

We needed to return the car. This vehicle had truly served its purpose and without it, the ability to explore with complete freedom would have been impossible. This element of autonomy combined with a structured semi “flexible” plan is really only possible with the addition of a car. Having said all that- the remainder of our days would be walking only, no more heated seats or arguing with the Google map. The rental car hand over had always been a burdensome task that caused us both some concern. But, the actual return, even in the heart of the city, went surprisingly smooth.

Carless and fancy free, we roamed the wet streets. The damp air pelted tiny rain drops randomly as the last few remaining moments of sunlight faded into darkness. The city was alive with throngs of people, sidewalks piled with people swinging in and out of store doorways while segments of conversations hung in the air.

We walked through the bustling Kurfurstendamm- one of the most famous streets in Berlin. It is lines with cafes, shops, and hotels. Before the unification of Berlin in 1989, it was the leading commercial boulevard in West Berlin.

We continued to make our way back to the hotel. Hubs and I were in deep conversation, as I entered the thick glass revolving door. I heard the sound first before the searing intense pain shot through my face. My face met complete total resistance as the revolving glass door was not revolving. My nose took much of the brunt as well as my ego. In the distance, I heard a gaggle of foreign female laughter directed right at me.

I grabbed my face as tears welled in my eyes. I saw stars in front of my face and feared something essential was forever damaged. As I cradled my face, unable to move, Hubs inquired “Why did you do that?”

Torn between glaring at him or comforting my soul, I made my way to the entrance of the hotel choosing an alternative safer doorway option. I somehow managed to make my way to the room, curled into a fetal position and howled like an injured feral cat. I rocked myself in Rain Man fashion, suffering PTSD every time I touched my tender snout. I took the last of my American Tylenol and gave myself a silent pep talk.

After a little bit, I was back to my baseline with caution. I will never, ever underestimate the strength and power of those doors. In the scheme of things, it was a minor event. However, even now-weeks later as I recall these painful details, my nostrils flare with melancholy memory and nasal neurosis.  

We decided what better to relieve misery and a battered sinus cavity then food! We went to the hotel’s restaurant M https://www.maritim.com/en/hotels/germany/hotel-berlin/restaurants-bars/maritim-restaurant. We sat at a cozy table by the window that overlooked the rainy, quiet street. I had simply divine gluten free, vegetarian lasagna. The warm, tango sauce soothed my battered ego and bruised face. Hubs had a magnificent mound of Wiener schnitzel, golden fried with crispy roasted potatoes. It was a hearty meal that dually served as comfort food. We ventured back to the room to sleep my soreness away

Day 10 Berlin

Waking up on our last full day in Berlin, I grew sad it would all soon be over- just a distant memory. We made our way to the great dining hall because we were told the night before we had breakfast with our stay. We approached the hostess stand and saw a bounty of foods, an omelet station, a chef with a great tall white hat, fruits and pastries lined the long tables, all waiting for our eager, empty belly. But, it was not to be. We were misinformed and for just a mere $30 Euros each one could feast on these delicacies. The concierge Gaerheart was the only saving grace to this hotel that provided some helpful instructions and a handy umbrella.

We walked through the silent streets as rain drizzled on us. We were in search of food, substance, nutrition. We already shunned our $60 Euro breakfast with no alternative options at this point. We continued to go further and further until finally a Turkish place peaked Hubs interest. This would be his finest meal. For 5 Euros he had a whole breakfast complete with coffee, scrambled eggs, rolls, and feta cheese. There were no menu options available for me, sadly. I nibbled on his garnished cucumber and hijacked his salty cheese as Hubs munched in oblivion as flaky pastry morsels created a carbohydrate cascade of crumbs.

We made our way back to our starting point which was adjacent to our final destination the Gemaldegalerie https://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/gemaeldegalerie/home.html. This museum held a special place in our heart. We had come to Berlin 13 years ago and stayed for 10 days. We got to know this city very well. We both felt not much had to be seen as we had absorbed so much over a decade ago. But, this museum was one place we felt needed extra special attention. We arrived just a few minutes before opening and a long line trailed along the entrance doors of eager art lovers just like us. As we entered the building, nothing seemed familiar. I racked my aging mind trying to flip through my rolodex of memories- but got nothing. So, for me- this experience was fresh and new with only an underlying fondness attached to it.

We made our way through the inviting gallery rooms. We used an audio guide to aid in the details. The artworks were simply exquisite-Botticelli, Titian, Raphael and numerous other great masterpieces. After a few hours, hunger began to beckon. We made our way to the café with ample provisions available. I channeled my own artistic talents making a still life platter of gourmet selections at their luscious salad bar. Hubs had a hearty bowl of piping hot tomato soup with a sweet treat. We reviewed what we had seen and strategically planned our route for the rooms we still needed to see. We spent another 2 hours perusing the stunning splendors. We left feeling completely fulfilled in our experience.

We took the short walk back to the hotel. It was our last evening there, the end had come, the finale. We would be leaving in the early morning and our German Extravaganza would be over. A bit of sadness settled in my gut but I felt we had truly captured the essence and spirit of Germany in our short 11 days.

To celebrate our last evening, we dined at Amrit https://www.amrit.de/. During our whole stay in Germany we had yearned for yummy Indian food. This last meal would be our only opportunity. We walked several blocks in a trendy neighborhood. The quiet streets speckled with shadows from swaying tree branches and swirling leaves.

We arrived at Amrit to find a large, lively crowd in contrast to the tranquil street we had just come from. We were immediately greeted and ushered to a comfy seat in close proximity to my neighbors on each side. The odors of curry and Tandoori flooded my senses and reminded me it had been a while since I had eaten. With a 10 hour flight ahead of us in the morning, I needed to be mindful of my choices. We were given an English menu and dined on spicy grilled Paneer cheese, with pungent rice and creamy sauces. We soaked in the last final moments accepting the conclusion of our German Holiday was imminent.

We reflected back on our favorite moments. As we walked back hand in hand in the cold, damp Berlin air we knew we had created some very special memories in which will last a lifetime. Germany is a fairyland of physical natural beauty; from its earthy farm fields to its alpine mountain tops its bounty of splendors is endless. The storybook German villages that captured my heart to the bigger cities rich with art and history, this country offers it all. The people are strong and stoic, powerful and kind, generous and staunch. Traveling always reignites thirst and knowledge unlocking foreign worlds in which one never knew. These 11 days reconnecting with Hubs, myself and my world around me was much needed. I feel my soul, heart, mind, body and spirit enriched from all that I have seen, learned, loved, felt, tasted, smelled and touched during my brief escape in the beloved wonderland of Germany.   

Join A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase in Warsaw, Poland in March 2020-its where all the “cool kids” are going these days.

~B&F~

A GIRL AND HER HUBS

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