Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tage Wie Diese (Days Like These)

Each time that I've relocated over the past few years I've gotten sentimental when leaving (yes Louise, it's difficult). Stuttgart's no different and, in some ways, it's been a bit harder than usual.

Now that I'm back in Philadelphia, and having lots of time to reflect on my experiences in Germany, I've concluded that the weather, food (except for maybe the wine), and the views are not the reason to live in Stuttgart. :-) The reality is that, even though I've met and spent time with some pretty awesome folks over the years in Japan, Spain, Colombia, the United States, and lots of other places along the way, something is different this time - probably 80+ percent of my memories are about "just" the people as opposed to the sights, etc. The folks I got to know in Germany made it, unexpectedly, one of the best experiences I've had.

I started writing out a big-ole'-list of people to thank but I'm too afraid to leave someone out so I ain't doin' it. Instead, I went through all of the more-than 10,000 photos I took and selected about 80 or so that show both the people I spent my time with and the great times we had. The result is the slideshow video below.

The song I chose for the video is called "Tage Wie Diese" (Days Like These) and is by the old German punk/alternative band "The Toten Hosen" (The Dead Pants). The song's basic story is classic guy-meets-girl. Their time together is so amazing that he (the singer) doesn't want it to end. The refrain (with English translation below):

An Tagen wie diesen, wünscht man sich Unendlichkeit.
An Tagen wie diesen, haben wir noch ewig Zeit
In dieser Nacht der Nächte, die uns so viel verspricht
Erleben wir das Beste, kein Ende in Sicht.

On days like these, you wish it would never end
On days like these, we still have all the time in the world
On this night of nights, which promises us so much
We’re experiencing the best, no end in sight.

To the amazing people that I met and spent time with in Germany, vielen Dank für alles! Ich werde euch vermissen. Wir sehen uns bald wieder, hoffe ich. Kein Ende in Sicht!

Thanks to Fabiola from my German classes for (unknowingly) introducing me to the Toten Hosen and, especially, to this song.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cologne Germany

With our medium-term plans changed, Diana went to Colombia to be with her family. We decided that I'd stay in Stuttgart for a while longer to deal with work-related stuff before going to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving and then onto Bogota myself. But, I had one last weekend left and I wanted to go somewhere that I hadn't been yet. I considered Prague (only four hours away) and looked into some options but, in the end, I decided to take my friend Katharina up on her previous offer to have me up to visit with her and her family in Köln (Cologne in English).

Köln is located a little over three hours (via car) north of Stuttgart and is about twice the size. My ride dropped me off on the other side of the Rhine river from the center of the city and it's about a 15 minute walk to the main square/cathedral, which was very scenic. On the way, I crossed the main train bridge going into the city and was amazed to see millions of Locks of Love attached to the fence that separated the tracks from the walkway:

I couldn't believe how many were there. Even in Paris and the other places that I've seen them, there were not nearly as many. They are so popular, apparently, that local businesses sell customized locks that you can buy for a few Euros and attach to the bridge with your honey.

Köln's been around for a couple of thousand years (!!!) and was once a Roman city. The center of town is very scenic especially when you consider that it was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt over the years. The highlights are the narrow winding shopping streets, the glass-and-steel Hauptbahnhof (main train station), and the Köln Dom (cathedral):

Honestly, I wasn't super fired up to see another church. Europe's full of them! Although, there are a couple of amazing ones...

Let's be honest though, all I really wanted to know was if Cologne smelled like, well, cologne. Unfortunately, Hamburg didn't smell like hamburgers. Would Cologne live up to its namesake? Well, it turns out that the city of Cologne is a bit older than the smelly stuff of the same name. Cologne (the smelly stuff) originated in Cologne (the city) during the early 1700s and continues to be manufactured and sold today in the oldest fragrance factory in the world - this building in the city:

Another padlock display this time at the train station. I don't know about you but 2 Euros seems a bit cheap to "secure" my love...

I got up to Köln on Friday afternoon and walked around until Katharina met me after her classes. We climbed the cathedral tower stairs to check out the views, walked around the city center for a while, and then went to eat at a place called Früh. Früh's is a lot like the Hofbrauhaus that I went to with John John when we met in Munich. Katharina was even able to get me to drink a (very small) beer! I won't be switching from wine to beer anytime soon but it was not too bad. After dinner, we went to her house to meet mom. I think mom and I hit it off because we stayed up at least two hours after Katharina went to bed drinking wine and speaking a very convincing English-German mix.

On Saturday morning Katharina's old high school was having an open house and she wanted to go visit the old stomping grounds. I got the tour and then we met up with mom again for a visit to...wait...wait...wait!!!

The Haribo Gummy Bear Factory (store) in nearby Bonn:

Yes, the Gummy Bears you know and love! But, I have to admit that I was a bit confused as I thought that we were going to visit the actual factory (damn German language skills!). I didn't know we weren't until we pulled into the store parking lot and I saw them tearing down the factory! 8'-(

But wait!!! Don't panic like I did! Once my heart rate dropped back down below 240 bpm, Katharina and her mom reassured me that there was indeed a new factory nearby and that the world's supply of chewy-deliciousness would not suffer. The store was quite impressive and, like the Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory, you can buy as much candy as you can carry for ridiculously low prices. I ended up spending about 20 Euros (~$25 U.S.) and I left with a TON of candy. The surprise score of the trip was finding packs of spicy gummy bears, which are quite the treat!

Random, semi-related story that I just thought of... Back when I was in high school, we (at least I think it was we) would put gummy bears in our mouths to get them wet, take them out without chewing them, and then through them up in the air so that they'd stick to the ceiling...during class. I can hear my mom and my aunt both asking themselves if we were animals and shaking their heads... Gummy bears, delicious and many good memories!

From there, it was back to downtown Köln again to visit the city's World Of Chocolate Museum. Can I just say "wow"? Like churches, I'm just not that into visiting museums but every once in a while, like with churches, one just blows me away. It wasn't just because it was about one of my favorite edibles (the others being things like coffee, wine, and Mexican food), but because they had a mini FUNCTIONING chocolate factory set up on site. Yes, that's a real operator running that packaging machine! Can you say "sexy museum"?

In addition to the production line, they've got an excellent history-of-chocolate museum as well as a green house where they've even got a flowering cacao (chocolate) tree! I was amazed that they could get the tree to bloom and my hat's off to whoever's maintaining that green house.

Oh, and they have a kick-ass, on-site chocolate shop too. (Maybe this should have been called the chocolate museum story???) Anyway, from there we walked across the street to the Kölner Senfmuseum (mustard museum).

The mustard museum's more of a mustard shop with some historical displays set up. What'd I expect, right? Even though it's not that exciting, it's location across from the chocolate museum and their free entry and samples make it worthwhile.

Katharina's mom chose an Italian restaurant overlooking the Rhine for our dinner. I have no idea what it was called but the food was top-notch and I left very full. We then headed back to their house for some more wine and conversation. It's funny but I went to visit with my friend Katharina but I left feeling like I now had two friends in Köln. A big ole hug and a kiss to Katharina and her mom Susana! You guys were great hosts and I can't wait to see you again. Maybe you need to come visit me and I can repay the favor???

And with that, my nine months of living in Stuttgart came to an end, or maybe to a brief pause. The future's open and we may very well find ourselves back in Germany after the new year. For now, it's off to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving and then on to Bogota to reunite with Diana and hang out with Juaco, Fidu, Rises, and Pepe for Christmas and New Year's.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Germans And Their Bicycles

I'm going to say it.

I believe that every German is issued a bicycle when they're born. They all have them. They use them for everything. They love their bicycles!

"Parking lot" at the local Adventure Playground:

Bicycles are basically kids' toys in the United States. They get one when they're old enough to learn and continue to get new ones pretty much up until around age 16 or so when they finally get their driver's license. At that point, almost no one uses a bicycle other than if they're "into" bicycles or they're trying to impress a first date or something. Contrast that with Germany where bicycles are an accepted, no, the preferred form of transportation for many. Everyone has one and they use them all the time for everything; going to the metro in the morning, to work, the supermarket, school. You get the idea.

The bicycle parking area outside a local shopping center. Note that the bikes aren't locked up to anything!

In the U.S., even if people take mass transit to work, they drive to the local station. In Germany, many stations don't have car-parking lots but they usually have bicycle parking ones. Look at the parking lot for the metro near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp I visited recently. Not only is it covered but there's got to be space for like 300+ bicycles - and it's full!

The best part? Just like most things in Germany, bicycle riding is serious stuff. Germans pretty much have rules for everything, whether they're written or unwritten. Bicycling is the same. One morning I looked out the window of our apartment and there were at least 20 kids with neon vests on their bicycles. According to the Germans I asked, they were school kids learning about bicycling traffic/safety laws.

Honestly, I feel a little left out as I don't have a bicycle...yet. I do want one but haven't been able to decide what to get. Do I go road, mountain, hybrid? Do I need lights? How about a removable basket or rack for trips to the store? Could I join the kids out front one day to learn the rules of the road? Ich möchte jetzt ein Fahrrad! Welche soll ich kaufen und wie kann ich lernen, die Fahrad fahren Regeln?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Local Stuttgart Wine - Spätburgunder

Today's post is about something that's very close to my heart: WINE!!! Woohoo!

Before moving to Germany, my opinion of German wines was, well, not too good. The reality, though, was that I didn't ever have much of it but what I did try was too sweet for my taste, which tends towards very dry reds and whites. I usually tell people that I want to be more thirsty after drinking the wine than I was when I started!

Living in both California and Spain has given me the opportunity to try lots of different wines and my favorites for sure are Pinot Noir (mostly California) and Pinot Grigio (mostly Italy). I even wrote a homage to California Pinot Noir a while back! When I got to Stuttgart I was surprised to find vineyards lining the hills around the city so I immediately set to work figuring out what the local wines were and making sure to.Try.Every.Single.One...

The two common wines from the Baden Württemberg area are Trollinger and Lemberger. They are available at pretty much every restaurant and festival including the annual Stuttgarter Weindorf.

A bottle of Lemberger and another of a Dornfelder/Spätburgunder blend:

The most common local wine is called Trollinger, which is a dark-red wine that's often used in wine blending.  It's (just) okay in my opinion, in other words, there are better. Lemberger, the other, in my non-technical-wine-vocabulary view, is one of those multipurpose wines that can range from sweeter to dryer, hearty to light, and so on. I've tried quite a few and really am not a fan.

Don't think that it's all doom and gloom at southern-Germany wine tastings though. Quite the opposite! What I found, quite by accident when my roommate brought home a bottle that had been given to him as a gift, is called Spätburgunder:

Spätburgunder is a Pinot Noir grown in Germany. Like the California Pinot Noirs that I love, love, love, Spätburgunder is now among the wines at the top of my list. The four bottles above range in price from around 5 euros (~$7 U.S.) up to around 9 euros or so. It's not expensive but it sure is oh-so-good! Oh, and the second from the left, a Pinot Noir from the Collegium Württemburg winery (see this story I wrote for photos from their winery) is now one of my two or three favorite wines for under $10.

So, what have we learned? Well, yes, German wines, are, on average, still a bit sweet for my taste but I'm no longer hesitant to check out the German section at the store and neither should you. On your next trip to Trader Joes, take a look for some Stuttgart-area Spätburgunder, buy a bottle, and have a drink for me! You won't be sorry!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

I've gone to quite a few places over the years but this one was different. I was a bit mixed on how I would feel. Would I be sad? Would I not be sad? Would it be life changing? Would it be "just another place" I had visited? I didn't really know what to expect for my first visit to a concentration camp. What could one make out of a place that, over time, became an overly-efficient factory killing machine? Up to that point, I only knew what I had seen, heard, or read about. On one side, the pictures of the skeleton-like bodies pilled up like raw materials and, on the other side, things like Hogan's Heroes, which is a television show that I had watched, and really enjoyed, as a kid.

Somehow, standing at the gate of the Sachsenhausen (pronounced "zox-zenn-how-zen") concentration camp gave me pause. I stopped for a moment to consider all of these mixed thoughts and feelings before going through the gates where so many had gone before:

Sachsenhausen is located about a 30-minute metro ride north of Berlin in what is now a suburban neighborhood. I didn't know it on the way there that some of the prisoners had been transported to the camp via those very same metro lines and walk from the nearby station to the camp.

On the way there, we passed by this memorial for one of the death marches that took place just prior to the end of the war. It's located about three blocks from the camp along one of the main roads. Before moving to Germany, I didn't know how people handled the whole Nazi/World War II/Holocaust topic much less how it was remembered. Over time, I've come to learn a lot more, such as that kids are taught all about these topics in school (way more than I ever was), smaller memorials all over the place (including things like Stolpersteine, which I've written about before), and larger monuments like this one in the middle of a suburban neighborhood:

The camp was originally built to house political prisoners as opposed to the mass-killing camps like Auschwitz that were built later. Interestingly, the camp wasn't closed at the end of the war, rather it was taken over by the Soviets who continued to use it as a prison until 1950. (That last sentence's structure made me realize how bad my English has gotten with the combination of German, Spanish, and English grammar floating around in my head. Oh, and I left it as written so you could see it for yourself.)

Just under the guard house, there's a gate where "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" (work makes you free) is written. This saying, which became famous, originated here and went on to be used at many of the camps. What went through the 200,000+ (!!!) people's minds as they read this when being led in?

Just inside the gate the camp's large size is evident. It's really big and shaped sort of like a piece of pie (wedge) with the main guard building (above photo) at the point. All the buildings were laid out along axes that extend out from that one point so that a single tower could monitor the whole camp. It didn't end up working as well as they had hoped and other towers were added later.

There are only a few buildings remaining. None of them, as far as I know, are original. You can see two of the buildings below, which served as the laundry and kitchen facilities, along with a large concrete memorial tower built during the Soviet era, and in the foreground, the shoe test track where prisoners were punished by being forced to march many, many, miles each day to test out new army boot designs:

A section of the electrified fence, barbed wire, and wall around the camp:

The two buildings below are recreations of the prisoner's barracks. The gravel pits mark locations where other buildings stood.

Inside of one of the barracks. The second room where the sleeping area was is blocked off by a glass wall and the peeling paint was the result of some Neo-Nazi vandalism:

Other than the large machine gun installation by the front door and the shoe test track, the tour had been surprisingly light. My first face-to-face with the reality of what happened here was when I left the barracks and walked out the back to these strappado poles. Prisoners who were being punished for some infraction were suspended by their wrists tied up behind their backs. This, as you can imagine, was quite painful and would usually result in all sorts of damage including pulling their arms out of their sockets.

From there, it was over to the killing trench where victims early in the camp's history were shot or hung. The baby stroller and young child were an interesting juxtaposition to what must have happened here.

Just beyond the trench is a fabric-covered structure that surrounds "Station Z", which is where the gas chamber and crematorium were. The building itself is a bit hard to make out as it's overexposed to the point where it disappears. In an interesting coincidence, the professor that Diana is working under here in Stuttgart was one of the designers of the structure. The memorial sculpture is of two prisoners holding the body of a dead fellow prisoner.

Station Z along with the trench were definitely the most somber part of the tour for me. Just imagining what was happening here was/is pretty hard to take. The remains of a gas chamber are in the foreground left-hand side of this photo. You can see some of the plumbing in the chamber's far wall (left side corner running along the floor, not the four vertical support bars):

...and, located on the other side of Station Z, remains of the crematorium used to dispose of dead prisoners:

Random aside: A photo taken at the onsite museum showing a uniform in a glass case. The reason I took the photo, though, is that, hanging on the wall, there's a pattern nest for the uniform. Having worked in the clothing industry and making uniforms (but not Nazi ones...) at one point, I felt instantly at home!

Sachsenhausen was definitely not Hogan's Heroes, not that I expected it to be. For most of the time I was there, I was surprised how little "impact" that the tour made on me. It wasn't until I saw the strappado posts and the killing pit that it started to hit home. Then, on seeing the remains of the gas chamber and ovens, having it slam into me. Yep, people died here. A lot of them. They were not very different than you and I and they suffered and died here. The worst part is that I know genocide, albeit on a smaller scale, still happens today. I am guilty of sometimes thinking that there are just too many memorials to what happened here but, after seeing this first hand, I'm convinced that we may need even more so that we will be quicker to stamp it out.

Another random note... If you're wondering about the whole "what/do Germans think about Nazis/Hitler/etc.?" thing, let me share a little story from this past weekend that happened after I originally wrote this story. I was watching television with a born-in-Germany friend and her mother and the news was showing coverage of Merkel visiting Portugal. Some of the protesters' signs showed Merkel with a Hitler mustache and others had the word Nazi and/or the swastika written on them. Around 60 years later, this kind of stuff happens every day. I'm not excusing what happened back then at all but, trust me, Germans think about it in their daily life waaaay more than you probably do. I believe that lots of Germans, at some level, believe that most people in the world see them as Nazis. The past can't be undone, nor should we forget about it, but we have to make sure not to blame (today's) people that had nothing to do with what happened. That's just not fair.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Berlin (Part 2)

Our second full day in Berlin started with a fabulous breakfast near the fabulous apartment where we stayed in a fabulous gay Berlin neighborhood. I think one of my new goals, along with ones to only live in places where tourists visit (What am I doing in Stuttgart then, you ask? I don't know!!!) is to live in a primarily gay neighborhood as they always seem to have the best shops and restaurants. One can always dream...

Anyway, our first stop of the day was at the Topography Of Terror (Topographie des Terrors) exhibit and museum that's located just inside the old east Berlin (or just outside the old west Berlin?). I took this photo on the wall line, which is identified by the double-wide cobblestone strip and then by the section of outer wall on the other side of the intersection (east Berlin to the left):

The outside exhibit, which covers the National Socialist (Nazi) policy and propaganda, runs along the what remains of the foundation of the former Secret State Police, SS, and Reich Security headquarters building. In other words, my dad would have a field day at this place. Oh, and one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin wall runs on the edge of the site just beyond and above the Terrors exhibit site:

Like I mentioned in the Berlin Part 1 post, there's not a lot of the old wall in its original configuration. You can see the old wall path, which is indicated by the cobblestones, but, for the most part, the city's just kind of filled in the spaces to the point where you wouldn't know it had been there without the cobblestones. I did come across a few, random, small sections including this one that was some sort of art exhibit in a park:

Probably the highlight of the wall sightings was this Axis-of-Evil-despised-dictators-and-Predator-drone-targeting-list display, which is located just across from Checkpoint Charlie. Is it me or do they have Mr. Potato Head noses and doesn't that last one on the left look like something out of The Simpsons?

And Check Point McCharlie... The famed location of one of the most important gates between east and west Berlin is a HUGE disappointment, unless of course you're looking for a Big Mac or latte. If you want to visit - but the idea of going all the way to Berlin is too much for you - just go to your local outdoor shopping center that has a Pottery Barn and Starbucks. Once you're there, imagine a small Disneyfied guard shack complete with sand bags located somewhere across from the McDonalds and you've pretty much got the idea. And yes, there's a McDonalds there and a coffee shop on the corner...

Along with the Head-Of-John-The-Baptist meme (and here too) that I see all over Europe, there's a ton of Saint Georges (aka Sant Jordi) too. Every time I see one, all I can think of is books and roses. This one's not too far from the Bundestag building:

One of the more unusual exhibits/memorials that I've seen is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe that's about a block from the Brandenburg Gate. It's an entire city block that has an undulating series of walking paths that run between giant blocks of concrete. The effect is that you get kinda' spatially confused when walking through as the blocks change height while the ground also rises and falls. It's, umm, interesting, although I'm not really sure how it works as a memorial, but I did enjoy watching others walk through the site.

One of our last stops was to check out the new-ish main train station. Berlin's Hauptbahnhof feels a lot like an airport terminal except that, yep, there are trains passing through. The space is impressive but it's f'n cold in there because the building is open for the trains. Bonus: they have a Dunkin Donuts! Why is it that there are Dunkin Donuts shops in train stations in Barcelona and Berlin but there are none in the entire state of California???

This next one is a random photo that I don't really have any other place for. In the days just prior to our visit to Berlin, they had announced that Disney had bought the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas. I took this photo of the front pages of a couple of newspapers that were talking about the deal. Yep, droids, Darth, and Mickey, a love story made in heaven...aber, auf Deutsch! Ich bin dein Vater! Nein!!!!!

And finally, another photo of the Brandenburg Gate after sunset, this time with the happy couple:

Berlin wasn't what I expected, but in retrospect, like I said in the first story, I'm not really sure what I thought I'd find. I do know that I'd like to go back and spend time digging a little deeper and also exploring more of the older parts of town. Paris, even a gritty Paris, it is not, but it's still pretty f'n cool nonetheless. Another amazing experience and another pin on the world-tour map!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Berlin (Part 1)

Finally! Berlin.

Berlin's is one of the European cities that I've looked forward to seeing pretty much since I was a kid. I have no idea whatsoever why I had always wanted to go there but it probably has something to do with getting introduced to punk rock and alternative music by my friend Mike when I was in high school. One of the bands that we listened to back then was called Berlin, who, it turned out, was actually from Los Angeles!!! Doh! Anyway, I always kinda' fantasized what the city'd be like - the culture, the architecture - whatever - all of it.

Well, last week, due to Hurricane Sandy (a long story), we headed to Berlin for a few days. Once again, we went via Mitfahrengelegenheit (long German words like that don't even phase me any more). About an hour outside of Stuttgart, this classic came on the radio:

Our first stop upon arrival? Yep. The Brandenburg Gate. Can you believe it?

Okay, so I feel like I missed something in history class. I learned recently that, because Berlin was deep inside of Russian-controlled eastern Germany, the Berlin Wall essentially made Berlin into an "island", surrounded by east-German territory, which required constant resupply via air. Yeah, yeah, I know. The Berlin Airlifts. Geography. I'm sorry. I'm just not that quick of a guy, I guess.

There's very little left of the original, in-place, Berlin Wall. They've laid a ring around the city that's two cobblestones wide where the wall used to stand. It's crazy to see how much the city must have changed since 1989 as the cobblestones run right up to new buildings that have been built straddling the line, much like I'm doing in this photo (yes, it was COLD!):

In retrospect, I'm not really sure what I expected Berlin to be like. I think that something along the lines of a gritty version of Paris or something. It doesn't make much sense now. What I didn't expect is basically a copy of New York City, which is what I think that it's become since the fall of the wall. As you may already know, Germany's economy is doing fairly well, especially compared to many of its Euro counterparts, and there are construction cranes and new buildings everywhere in the country, and especially in Berlin. A view up Broadway (not really, but it could be):

We did spend some time exploring some of the older and more residential parts of the city, especially in the eastern side of the city. These areas were definitely more interesting as a lot of the pre-wall-fall architecture is intact. Still, it wasn't quite what I had visualized. A view down a random residential street in the former east Berlin:

Is this photo not the classic European vista with its Smart Car, Fiat 500, and the multifamily housing in the background?

Diana and I again used airbnb to find a place to stay and, again, it was awesome. We paid about 40 euros per night (~$50 U.S.) and stayed with some great folks in an AWESOME apartment. Our hosts not only gave access to all their food but also to a ton of ideas of what to do including where to eat. One of the foods that Berlin's famous for is called Currywurst, which is a hot-dog-like sausage smothered in a red curry sauce. We opted for the side of fries with ours (and, yes, that's mayo along with ketchup on the fries - YUM!!!):

"Curry #36" is, according to our hosts, some of the best Currywurst in town. When we got there, the line was about 50 people long and we had to wait about 15 minutes for our turn. It's an outdoor-style place where you order your food at the window and eat at stand-up tables outside. I figured that it was going to be about 90% tourists before going but it there were a lot of locals there. It reminded me of a lot of some of the places in Philadelphia and New York where you eat outside no matter the weather and time of the year.

Mandatory self portrait at Curry #36:

We had a late-afternoon tour appointment at the Bundestag building, which is Germany's equivalent of the United States Capital building in Washington, D.C. On the way there, we passed by a theater where they were setting up for the German premier of the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, which was happening later that evening. Having lived in Los Angeles, I wasn't overly excited but Diana, who's never been to a movie premier and still unjaded, was super excited:

The German Bundestag is responsible for creating the laws much like the U.S. Congress. The building where they work offers tours of the roof, roof dome, and a museum where you can learn about the government as well as see highlights of the surrounding neighborhood from high up in the building. It's also, apparently, according to Spain and Greece, where that evil Angela Merkel strategizes to make life difficult. :-)

Sitting down to write this made me realize just how much we fit into that first full day. Pretty impressive. I guess that's why, in retrospect, my feet were aching so much when we finally got back to the apartment for tea with our hosts. It was a good day and I was ready for day 2!

One more shot of the Brandenburg Gate, this time after sunset: