A Travellerspoint blog

October 2008

Burg Frankenstein

October 25, 2008

Burg Frankenstein is a 1,000-year-old castle in Western Germany near Darmstadt that turns itself into a Haunted house every year for a couple of weeks in October. The whole thing started with the US Army! After WWII the Army stayed in Darmstadt and brought Halloween with them. They had a party at their barracks which got too noisy so they asked if they could use the castle. The party has been a yearly event since then! We bought tickets online in advance and headed 2 hours west for the thrills.
You have to park at the bottom of the mountain and a shuttle bus takes you and all your costumed companions up to the castle. They dump you out at the entrance and then you have to show your ticket and go thru security. Finally we entered and what is the first thing we see....just think we are in Germany....Beer! There is a tent with food and drinks. We stop to have a slice of pizza and drink in our free "goblet" (really just a plastic cup.)
After we get our nerve up we head toward that goblins and monsters (80 of them!). Basically the place is set up in sort of a circle where monsters can chase you. They also have a few "stages" where they have their shows. The monsters here are some of the most touchy feely things. They would rub your hair, chase you and even hug some people.
One that was stationed down in a pit of water all night liked to steel things from the girls.
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There was one guy with a chainsaw running around that really freaked me out. After awhile it got so crowded there that I was less of a target. Curt on the other hand didn't seem to scared of these guys.
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The castle supposedly influenced Shelley in her writing. Mary Shelley got the name Victor von Frankenstein from the physician and alchemist who wrote 2 books about the castle. He took bodies from the graveyard in Neider-Beer-bach and the minister told everyone in the local parish he used the parts to create a monster.
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The place is really only a pair of towers and a chapel but they decorate it superbly. They also have actors performing little shows. They mime them so there is no worry that you don't speak German. They did portray a different twist on Hansel and Grettle that I have ever seen.
I can definately chalk it up as one of the best Halloween events I have ever been to.

Posted by ErinDriver 00:42 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Procedures in Karlovy Vary

19 October 2008

overcast 40 °F

On Sunday our whole goal was to get our “procedures”. We had breakfast, checked out, stowed our bags and headed to the clinic :) Our only choices were Thai massages so I got the hot stone and Curt got the classic full body. It was mostly relaxing but I can say those thai people or the people in Karlovy Vary have a different idea of what the hot stone massage includes. Afterwards they gave you tea which was delicious.
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We moved the relaxation party to the Elephant Café for a lunch of Pepsi Lite and panini sandwiches. The sandwiches were great but the service was very European....slow. After lunch we headed back to the hotel taking a few pictures on the way. We headed a different way back and ended up seeing the downtown from above.
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Posted by ErinDriver 07:22 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

17-18 October 2008

overcast 40 °F

I don’t think we have been able to go on a weekend trip since the beginning of PA school so this feels great. We left for the train station Friday night and after 4 hours and 3 train switches the buildings of Karlovy Vary showed themselves. It was 2300 when the train pulled in and the walk to town was a big scary. The station is way up on a hill and a 30 minutes walk from the spa section of town. Our abode for this weekend is Hotel Avita by Best Western. Curt had a discount at Best Western which influenced our decision to make the reservations. However upon arrival the man at the front desk said we did not have a reservation. Luckily it was the off season so there was still a room available. Before long we were sound asleep.

Saturday was our day to sleep in – well until 0800! The room came with the usual European breakfast so we started our tour of Karlovy Vary with full tummies. The first stop was to buy little ceramic glasses fashioned with the name or picture of karlovy vary.
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These are used to drink from the many fountains with healing waters :) This would be a good weekend for Rheumy Russ! The idea is toget some of the salty water in your cup, have a sip from the handle and then eat a sugary cookie to take away the taste.
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We roamed down the main street by the water, drinking, eating and trying to find the spots shown in the movie, The Last Holiday. We passed the Grand COllanade, a building with a hot water spring in it and the church of mary magdolin. DSC04180.jpg
Crystal is the thing to buy in Czech and I found some crystal flowers that I loved. There is also a liquor which is made only here – Becherovka. Apparently only two people know the recipe for this – I think they don’t realize that the Listerine mouth wash company got ahold of it. So a sip of that was enough!
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At the end of the main walkway is the long awaited Grand Hotel Pupp! It looks much smaller than in the movie and we never found a ceiling that made us cry but it is still a beautiful hotel. Since we didn’t stay in the hotel an agreement was made to have coffee and a cake in the café Pupp. We got the Pupp cake which was layers of an apricot like fruit with cake and topped with chocolate.
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The next mission was to climb to the Tower named Diana and have a look over Karlovy Vary. There was a furniculur that would take you to the top but what fun is that ?? :) We hiked and it was beautiful with all the leaves changing color and falling. The elevator then whisks you to the top of the tower and you have a beautiful view of the countryside. It doesn’t take long to take this in and you are back on the ground. We paused for a left over pizza break and some pommes. Now the only thing to do is go back down!
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At the bottom the Carlsbad Medical Clinic was located and we secured appointments for our incredibly expensive "Procedures" - massages!
Dinner was at the Embassy pub and Hotel. Outside there are pictures of all kinds of actors like Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas who have dined there. We didn’t need the reservations because at 1830 we were the only diners in the restaurant, therefore the waiters could pay lots of attention to us. The dinner was great and lasted like 2.5 hours.
The menu included parno ham wrapped around gorgonzola cheese with a slice of melon as appetizer. I chose white wine and curt had a Czech beer. Next came tri-colored pasta with cream sauce and bits of salmon for me. Curt had a stuffed pheasant with mashed potatoes. We took a plunge in getting the strawberries in pepper sauce with ice cream. I wasn’t a big fan of those but otherwise the dinner was great.

Posted by ErinDriver 07:07 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Mike's Bike Tour of Munich

13 October 2008

sunny 55 °F

We had rearranged our travel plans in order to do Mikes Bike tour today. It didn’t start until 1230 so we had breakfast at the hostel, packed, checked out and deposited our bags in the luggage room.
The day was beautiful again we spent the morning at the viktualienmarkt, having a radler and reading. Lunch before the tour was chicken and chips from a vendor for 3.40 euro.
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Our tour guide was a Hawaiian guy who in the end told us he was 36 years old with a 3500 euro mortgage and only works 6 months of the year. This didn’t get him far with a tip. The tour surprisingly spent a lot of time off the bikes but definitely won out over walking everywhere. The highlights were the park behind the residence and a beautiful ride thru the English garden.
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The ride was gorgeous with leaves falling from the trees and men playing stereotypical music on their accordions. The tour included a stop at the second largest beer garden in the world, none other than the Chinese beer garden.
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And order of pommes, a pretzel and two beers later the tour headed back to the shop. This ended our tour of munich ….or we may have to come back to see the surfers. There is a place in the english garden where surfers can catch a wave on the river. Of course today they weren’t out because the water was being cleaned!

Posted by ErinDriver 01:57 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Munich Marathon

12 October 2008

sunny 60 °F

Race Day!!! Fortunately or unfortunately the race started at 1000 so we got to have breakfast at the hostel before heading to the subway and the race start. The walk didn’t seem as long as before and we were at the start before we knew it.
The race had about 8000 runners and was a bit more spacious than berlin. It was thankfully flat full of water stations. I got a pain in my IT band that made me think I was going to have to walk the last 9 miles. I went with the other strategy which was just don’t walk because that is when it hurt the most. Not sure if it was the pain in my leg, running only 2 weeks after berlin or both, but I was definatly slower, finishing in 4:36.
The finish was one of a kind in the Olympic stadium. There were lights and fog as we entered along with lots of music. The worst thing in a run happened here because runners had to complete a lap around the track before finishing! But the end was pleasant with a big area to relax on soft, cool grass and munch on pretzels, apples and bananas.
The most cruel part was the end when to get out of the stadium you had to walk up the stairs! And walk all the way back to the area to turn in your chip. This did allow us to find a marathon maniac, Cowboy Jeff and have a chat with him.
Showers and food were the next goal. The plan was to eat downstairs at the hostel restaurant but who ever was supposed to work didn’t show so we ordered out some four cheese pizza and watched….LOST for the rest of the night.

Posted by ErinDriver 01:53 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Dachau Concentration Camp

11 October 2008

sunny 50 °F

One of the benefits of the hostel was definitely not the shower but was the breakfast. We devoured some bread, cheese and cereal and headed to the Marianplatz to meet up with our Dachau tour guide. The one on the pamphlet I had never showed up but another group was found. As it turns out our guide was from Scotland and was easy to understand and passionate about his job.
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The tour included the subway ride there and a guided tour. Our guide gave us some history on the site before even entering. I did not realize that the nazi’s became popular with germans after WWI because everyone was poor and out of work. The Nazi’s were paying for everything and even sending people on vacations - they would have gotten me! There is actually a sign in the museum that states Hitler is our only hope!
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The grounds are massive with a huge area for the role call which was done twice a day. If a prisoner was missing everyone was made to stand there until the missing person was found.
The entrance door come with a phrase stating work will set you free. Its also a reminder that Dachau was the first concentration camp but was mostly used as a work camp. The museum has a collection of trinkets that were taken from prisoners and demonstrations of some forms of torcher.
We also walked thru a bunker area that kept special prisoners like political prisoners or priests. Some of the cells were made so that the prisoners could only stand, some were made so that it was only in darkness.
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The group went thru the barracks which were of course small and cramped. The bunkbeds were built with shelves even though the prisoners had no possessions. The prisoners had 1 hour to wake up, eat, shower, clean the barracks, and have their beds made to military precision before showing up to roll call then work.
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We were taken by a few memorials and churches. This is now a place of unification for religions. There is a Russian, Christian and jewish church. Last but not least was the memorial with mangled bodies made of iron and then the momument to the forgotten concentration camp victim and the Never Forget sign.

Dinnr was at Bar Riva which is a place near the marienplatz that makes pizza and pasta for the younger crowd. I had my favorite margherita pizza and curt got spaghetti. After the carbo load we headed home to prep for the race and….watch LOST!

Posted by ErinDriver 01:38 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Munich Again

For another marathon, 10 October 2008

sunny 47 °F

Yes, you heard it right – we are in Munich again. The Bavaria pass on the train is becoming our best friend. This weekend the trip to Munich is for the marathon. Arrival in Munich goes smoothly and the hostel, 4 You Munchen, is only a 2 minute walk from the Hbf. It is no frills accommodations with a small room consisting of bunk beds, 2 cabinets and a small table with chairs. The bathroom is right across the hall and operates by a spring loaded button.
The marathon expo is first on the agenda and is held at Olympic park in the event arena. This means a ride on the subway and of course the exit was on the other side of the park than we wanted. The weather was nice for this weekend too so the walk thru the park was beautiful. We eventually found the expo, got our packets and strolled thru the vendors. Running clothing seems to be expensive at the European expos.
The other U-bahn station on our side of the park was just about as far to walk but by mid-afternoon we were back in our room. Because we are addicted to Lost the afternoon was passed watching a few shows! We just can’t help it!
Dinner at the World Famous Haufbrau House was the other event on the agenda for the day. We decided to bypass the touristy show and attempted to find a seat. It was not to hard to find but little did we know we were in the WRONG section. The deal here is to share tables with others and we ended up with what I supposed were germans. Our waiter though was either having a bad night or was just fed up with tourists because we ordered a pretzel twice and never got it, ordered apple strudel once and never got it and had to wait about 45 minutes to pay our bill. But of course we did get the Liter of beer that was as big as my head.
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But regardless of these few things the food was good and it was an experience to sit in the rowdy beer hall with Liter beers and an oompa band playing in the background. The Liter Radler was the order of the day and I had the bratwurst with kraut and mashed potatoes while Curt had goulash.
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Posted by ErinDriver 01:33 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Oktoberfest 2008

Munich, Germany, 5 October 2008

sunny 60 °F

Today is the day that we go to see what this Oktoberfest thing is all about. The Bayern pass is great for us because for 27 euro we get to munich and back including the subway. So we were in relative comfort until we got off the train at the Munich Hofbahnhof and tried to get on the U-bahn to the fest. The crowds were huge and they had guards at the doors of the train to try and keep order I suppose.
When we finally stepped off the train we were right in the middle of the fest. Our arrival time was about 1200 so it was not too crowded yet. The tents and games and food stands were all decorated to the hilt. The first stand we passed were a bunch of fish on a stick. You just eat it like that - with its eyes looking at you and everything.
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We made our route taking photos of the brau hauses and horses, etc. Each brauhaus had a wagon outside with decorated horses and barrels of beer.
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We sampled some of the roasted almonds, a huge donut and tea and of course the ½ meter bratwurst.
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Souveneirs are also big here with tons of stands all selling the same thing. There are beer mugs, hats and those cookies that everyone buys and wears around their neck.
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There were no openings in the beer tents but the scene inside looked pretty amazing. They were packed full of people drinking and bands playing at 1200 in the afternoon
While we were eating the donut we shared a standing table with a german couple who told us the last weekend and especially the last day was one of the best days to come – Lucky us - today was the last day.
Our last stop was the beer stand where they didn’t have our favorite radler but they did have something similar called Russ!!! We drank and watched the people go by in their Oktoberfest garb. It was a good time but starting to get crowded so we headed back to the train station. All in all we only spent about 3 hours at the fest but it was a good time.

Posted by ErinDriver 00:05 Archived in Germany Tagged events Comments (0)

Bamberg, Germany

Looking for antiques, 4 Oct 2008

rain 50 °F

Okay so this weekend we aren’t going away overnight but we are doing a couple of day trips. Today was Bamberg because we got word of an antique show at the elementary school on post. The drive was about 1.5 hours to get to the school. The show on post was very small and in fact most of the stuff was already sold when we arrived. It was pretty much a bust so we went down town where there were supposed to be a bunch of other stores.
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An hour later we found a parking space downtown about a mile from the center. It was impossible to park and we remembered why we always like to ride on the train. The downtown was very cute regardless and would deserve some more time. We hit the TI and got directions toward the other antique stores. However these weren’t quite what I imagined – in other words they were pretty upscale. So we strolled thru town and I got a pottery tea cup and candle holder. We got our ever favorite bratwurst and I raided the candy store for chocolate.
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Curt had a friend stationed in bamberg so after a bit of time downtown we headed to their house and shortly later to a restaurant called the Blue Grotto. We walked to the restaurant that has a half of the place that looks like a cave. The lights are low with candles and the seats are soft and comfortable. I had turkey smothered in a cheese sauce with broccoli and rice. It was fabulous. Curt had peppersteak which also disappeared pretty fast.

Posted by ErinDriver 23:23 Archived in Germany Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)