A Travellerspoint blog


Day 10 - Moving Day

Some observations on Deutschland

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Today was moving day. Travelled from Schleswig to Amsterdam. So the best part of the day was spent on multiple train trips (five in total) and today the rail strike really did hit us. Started out at 08:30 and arrived at Amsterdam at 19:30, so all up 11 hours on the train to cover a distance of 600 km. Still we meet some very nice and interesting people, who helped us on our confused way. One train involved a local train service full of local football fans who in the German way were very exuberant with the amber fluid and pumped up for a big game the NEXT day.

Anyway I will use this time to make a few observations about Deutschland. Obviously 7 days is not enough time to gain any real insights into the nation and its people, but here goes.

Community allotments. One of the first things that I noticed on the train trips were the number of what I assumed to be community allotments scattered along the train lines, mostly near the towns and villages. They looked like the English allotments used to grow vegetables, but they all had small huts with German flags fluttering in the wind. So I can only assume it is their summer weekend retreat where they go to tend their vegetables, pigs and miniature horses and kick back with a few beers and schnapps over the weekends.

Common woodlands. Another observation on the trains were the appearance of what seemed to be common woodlands outside most smaller towns and villages. I didn’t get to ask anyone about them, but they seem to serve a number of purposes. One as a nice place to walk through with the dog. Two as a source of trees for cutting into wood stove piles.

Alternative energy. I had read previously that Australian scientist working in the solar industries had all gone to work in Germany because there was no research funding in Australia. Well Germany has certainly taken on the alternative energy industry in a big way. All across the country side stand banks of wind farms that slowly and purposefully generate electricity for the domestic market. Every so often you see banks of solar panels in the fields. The fields are also cropped with canola which is used mainly for blended fuel. In Berlin many buildings had solar panels built into the facade, which all contributed towards the energy equation. Many years ago German shut down its nuclear power stations and they made a conscious decision to go down the alternative energy path. It looks like they are well on their way to being self sufficient. It just goes to show that big changes firstly require decisive leadership.

Flat ground. In all our travels in northern Germany, it is unusual to see anything resembling a hill, let alone a mountain. I suppose it is great for farming, but it creates a monotonous landscape. Also the fields have numerous channels of water. Lee-ann’s friend, Scott Curry, said that low water tables is a constant issue in Berlin when constructing new buildings. So much so that the Government is almost contemplating abandoning the unfinished Berlin Airport. See http://www.dw.de/date-set-for-long-delayed-opening-of-new-berlin-airport/a-18126206 and http://www.dw.de/berlin-airport-the-five-biggest-mistakes/a-17740584. A very un-German situation!

The rural economic geography. I could not get a handle on the economics of rural towns and hamlets. In most instances there were no noticeable employer, but lots of small villages located often only a few kilometres apart. So I don’t know what people did for employment in these places, or whether they were commuter villages. Maybe they were historical settlements and they have not changed over the years. But it always did impress me with the number and sizes of churches that some of these villages had.

City life. Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt all had the familiar hum of well organised cities. Extensive U & S Barn systems made moving around these cities extremely easy and efficiently. It makes you wonder what it will take for Brisbane to implement such systems. It would be hard at the beginning, but the economic and efficiency dividends would far outweigh these costs over the medium term. All cities had a never-ending number of eateries built into the lower floor of residential buildings, so you were never too far from food here. I have to say that I was disappointed by Berlin, my recollections of it were of a much more vibrant city, but now it is more sparse in terms of life on the streets.

The Germans sure do love their bread products. There was a never ending number of bread shops that never seem to empty out during the day.

Eating out it was difficult to find authentic German food. Like most places around the world, the cheaper food places tend to be ethnic food and Germany was no different. Looks of Italian restaurants and donar kebab (Berlin had a big Turkish population). It wasn’t until Schleswig that we got to eat what I thought was to be more authentic German food.

It would appear that Germans are allowed to take their dogs to work. Walking in Berlin one day, I was momentary struck by the image of one business man with his dog on a lead going into his office. There were numerous other instances of people with small dogs on trains and buses all heading off to work. With the number of Germans living in apartments, it makes sense to allow people to bring their dogs with them into work. A bit like child care for pets. And yet is all looked so natural when you saw it. In Australia we would have fits if you tried to do the same thing. It’s all cultural.

Other things that we have fits about, but seem to work quiet normally here is mixing cyclists and pedestrians. They don’t seem to have any major problems with it here, albeit that the cyclist peddle at a more sedate speed here.

The Germans were prolific smokers and drinkers. I was a bit surprised by the number of people smoking, especially young people. However this is nothing compared to the amount of public drinking. I will say it was all very orderly and you never felt threatened, like you would with a group of drunk Aussie males. But it was the social acceptance of public drinking and the time when it would start, which was an eye opener. It was not uncommon for people to be drinking on our early morning trains and in bars at 07:30. Even in the most rowdy situations, I felt they were in complete control and I never saw any fighting.

Fräuleins in tight jeans. Very niccee!

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Day 9 - Schleswig

Stoking the fires of discontent

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Day 9 and we are at Schleswig in the northern Jutland of Germany, near the Danish boarder.

Schleswig is the district where another of Lee-ann’s relatives (Buchbach Family) came from in 1863. At that time they were farmers so they most likely lived in the surrounding farming district or they could have been poor allotment farmers near the then village. I just don’t know exactly where they lived.

According to another family researcher, who happens to be the caretaker at Kingston Butter Factory, their farther Wilhelm Gottlieb Martin Buchbach was the chief chimney sweeper at Schloss (Castle) Glottof. So that was good enough for me and here we are.

The Schloss Glottof (www.schloss-gottorf.de) is another one of those castles that you see scattered around the countryside that at one stage was the home, or seasonal residence of some past prince who ruled over the land in the distant past. So it was here, the Glottof were Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein, an area constantly in dispute between various rulers who represent present day Denmark and Germany. As was the way in those days there was much fighting back and forth, political connivances, and political marriages all with the purpose of maintaining, defending or expending their power.

So we did the tour of the castle, looking for any fireplaces that Wilhelm may have stoked. There were two main fireplaces that still existed. The first being the kitchen, which would have been a big operation, having to feed up to 400 people on any given day, two to three times a day. The second was the Deer Room which was the sort of entertainment room of its day. So obligatory photos were taken and we spend a good 3-4 hours looking at the various exhibitions.

Afterwards we went back to our accommodation - Hotel Zollhaus (www.zollhaus-zu-gottorf.de), which was a big step up from our previous place in Hamburg, for a few hours rest before heading out for now customary pre-dinner stroll. Went to a local pub and had what I thought was the best meal so far.

Tomorrow is moving day and it will take the best part of the day getting from here to Amsterdam. This is made a bit harder by the fact that there is still a train strike going on here in Germany. So while some trains are running they tend to be slower regional trains and not the Inter-City trains.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Day 8 - An Immigrant's Song

Who will take me away from this wretched place?

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"We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!"
"Led Zeppelin - The Immigrants Song"

Well maybe they didn't come from the land of ice and snow, but there were a hell of a lot of Germans who drove their ships out of Hamburg Harbour seeking new lands, if not Valhalla.

And so it was today. All of Lee-ann's German relatives left their homeland through this harbour, some singing, some crying. Starting with George Forster in 1855, then Juliane Buchback in 1863 and finally Heinrich Hopp in 1870. Germany was not a unified country at that time and serfdom was still all the rage (making a comeback lately). Constant wars between principalities meant that life was cheap and likely to end too soon. At that time the Queensland Government was actively recruiting these young Germans as citizens for a fledging state. It worked, look around at the names in Queensland and there is German names aplenty.

Well originally I was going to write that Hamburg was and still is a place to get out off. It is a working port town with little to offer in the way of a tourism experience.

The purpose of this visit was see the port that all of Lee-ann’s relatives left Germany for Queensland. I think it is the 3rd or 4th biggest port in the world and it certainly looks and feels it. Import and export and everything that goes with that is all here for display.

After the obligatory photo of Lee-ann down at the (modern) port, we went out separate ways. Lee-ann did the bus tour and I headed off to the emigration museum. I was hoping for a bit more information on what drove all her relatives out of Germany back in 1850-1870, but it would have been one of the worst museums that I have ever experienced. Needless to say I didn’t get much out of the experience.

Afterwards I went down to the Reeperbarn, the famous red light district of Hamburg, It is also the place where the Beatles played prior to becoming famous. As a port town such places are big and gordy and never a pleasant experience. And so it proved to be. Lots of down and out people all spending their time drinking their way to sleep. I was here too early to get the full experience, but I could safely say that the ladies would be very special.

Headed back to the hotel especially early and had a little lay down. It is a classic “central” hotel opposite the main train station. Cheap, cheerless and you can’t swing a cat in the room. I expect it to be a night of cheap sex through thin walls and many banging doors throughout the night.

Still Hamburg did surprise. Because it doesn’t get dark to 21:30 we decided to go for a walk prior to dinner. Found a nearby lake with lots of boats, runners and people out strolling, which was very nice. The President of Estonia was also nearby and it was a big operation just to get him to where he was going. Princess Mary (our Mary) was also in town yesterday, so we missed out on saying “G’day”. So after a suitable pre-diner exercise we found a little Italian dinner in a quiet square next to a small church to have our dinner. €25 ($40) for 2 people with a huge glass of wine each. All very civilised.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

Day 7 - Hopp on board the good ship Queensland

Heinrich Hopp a thoroughly good guy

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Left Berlin behind us and took the slow train to Schwerin to get back on the family trail.

This time it is Heinrich Hopp, Lee-ann’s GGF, being the father of Julianne Hopp, who married William Hewton. All very confusing, even for me; and I did the family tree. I did have a rather fondness for Heinrich as he appeared to me to be a thoroughly good fellow. Mostly likely very formal and upright, but he brought out a belief of trade unionism that he pursued in his life in Brisbane. Given that he lived in the times of serfdom, this would have been a bit turnaround in his way of life.

It is unknown why Heinrich left Germany when he did, but it may had something to do with the Franco-Prussian Way being waged around that time.

While not completely certain, he most likely came from a fly-speck of a village called Settin, located about 3 kms outside of Crivitz. My host at the AirBnB arranged for his girlfriend to drive us around. So quick introductions and we were off. Found one of the original buildings and took the obligatory photos before moving onto to Crivitz. Crivitz was the nearest major town and given Heinrich was a tailor, most likely the place where he worked. As luck would have it as we pulled up to the church, the pastor’s wife walked by and open the church up for us. The place reeked of old religious values. So more photos before heading back to Sherwin.

Schwerin was once the capital of the former principality of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and what a castle the prince had. It really was a different life they lived. When you think of the money piled into this castle over the years, it is no wonder the peasants eventually revolted.

When back into the old town and had a leisurely dinner. Apparently there is a train strike tomorrow, but some limited trains will run. So the leisurely sleep in and casual walk to the station for a 9:30 train will be replaced by an early start (at least for Lee-ann) for a 06:00 train to Hamburg.

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Day 6 - Cruising down the river

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Decided to have a lazy day today.

I got up early and went to a few places that I wanted to see. While it is good to get to these places before the masses arrive, they don't have the same appeal because they are largely devoid of people. Keep falling into the trap of taking photos of buildings and places and not of people.

Went on a 3 hr cruise down the Spree River. All very cruisey.

Afterwards went to the oldest part of Berlin, which is still quite modern and had a leisurely lunch at one of the plazas.

Tonight we are catching up with a friend of Lee-ann. Scott Curry, brother of Lisa Curry-Kenny, who is a music teacher. All very cultural, so must wear my best trackie daks. Turned out a good night as Scott has been living in Berlin for 35 years. Saw the inside of his apartment and the complex so it gave us some insight into the living conditions of some Berliners (96 stairs up and down each day). As with most places in Berlin, there are numerious bars and resturarants that have no outwards signs of life. So you have to know where to go. Scott took us to the "Monkey Bar" because it looks over the Berlin Zoo and in particular the monkey enclosure, where you see the moneys getting up close and personal. Afterwards we wandered up the Kurfurstendamm, which is the premier shopping street in Berlin. Usual high end designer stores and lots of eateries. We popped into a small courtyard bar/resturant just off the main street and it was very pleasant stilling outside in the long twilight drinking and chatting.

It is tonight that I saw a more different side of Berlin. Pervious days I had been up early and and spent most of the day walking around, so fairly tired by dinner time and we did not venture out too far or late at night time. Given this was a Monday night I was constantly surprised at the number of people out and about all socisialising. We caught the bus back across town at 22:30 and the streets and bus where still full of people going about their lives.

All in all I enjoyed Berlin. As you got used to the transport system, it was extremely easy to move around the city. It was not the Berlin of my memory, but time and place stops for no one.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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