A German Family Stay
The wooden staircases, the hut-shaped house, a backyard garage room, wine bottles and a piano kept in the living room, the cold winter, the thick wooden sound of the wooden staircase, a thick winter jacket, bread & cake, and the melancholic silence all around were primary motivations which defined an European house to me.
I was excited like a child when Sam told me that we were going to stay in his house on Easter weekends. Even though I had spent a significant amount of time in Berlin but in a true sense, I felt, city streets, apartments, monuments, metros, buses and busy people did not present an aesthetic cultural sense.
Rather, that was hardly a cultural experience which was shallow and superficial in nature. You have to step inside a house in a countryside to see the coexistence of the modernization and cultural heritage. That would be the first time in my life when I would experience something really different and something watching which in the Hollywood movies I have grown up. If I say, I was not having an imagination of how would the house be, the wooden staircase, white window curtains, cushy carpets and the smiling faces of his parents, then I must be lying.
Surely I was trying to imagine how would everything be like at his home. It was already evening when we arrived at his house. That was the first experience of the melancholic German winter. Two orange parking bulbs blinked on the empty street under the dark gray clouds while other houses stood silent aligned to his house. I was still wondering which one was his house. in some time, we opened a cold & black iron gate of a house. A beautiful lady was standing smiling at the door.
The house was a hut-shaped modern house. I was still clueless what I was going to see inside the house. As we stepped in, there was a place to hang the winter jackets. Ah! that was exactly the same that i had been watching in the English movies.
That was a solid wooden warm floor. I was standing in the living room wondering what to do next. That was completely a new yet lovely & exciting world for me.
Sam’s mother is a Russian. Though she could speak Russian & German both but she was not comfortable in English. She had just started her English classes. On the other hand, I was not so fluent in German. So, somehow we managed to communicate our well-beings with a full laughter.
Moments later, I was showed my room. That room basically belonged to Sam’s younger brother. Since he was at his school, I was given that room. That room was in the basement. But not the basement which we see in the movies. It was a nice room with the fluffy mattress, a large Tv and a nice window view to the backyard of the house.
Food & Beer
We would not greet our guests with a beer but soon, I was greeted with a nice beer from Bavaria. Bavaria is a region in the south of Germany, mostly famous for its beers. The next plan was for grilling and barbecue which was to happen in the backyard. I was being shy then but now I regret for the moments which I could not capture in my cameras but anyway, they are written in my memories forever.
Well, that was again my first time in life when I was seeing a family’s proper barbecue. While the beer was just like water, we were drinking & drinking. I was vegetarian then so there were corns and vegetables for me while there were sausages and other stuff for them.
Cozy room on cold nights
The room which I had imagined just as a store garage was really something different from inside when set. There was a chimney just outside that small room. The table was set with the candle; woods were put inside the fireplace and soon it was so warm inside that little room.
Cold German nights, softly burning candles without any flicks, the silence, a nice family and you are sitting thousand of miles away from your home – I had my destiny already written before for that. We drank more beer before retiring to sleep. Imagine, there is no sound around you, not even a mosquito hum.
Sometimes, I would roll on that fluffy bed to make sure I was not living my dream and sometimes, I would try to look at the wooden ceiling of the room while trying to suppress the joy that I was feeling for myself. Sometimes, I would switch on that big TV and while watching I would feel like I wish I had the same sort of arrangements for myself while trying to look outside across the cold windows.
Next morning, his mother had already a nice cake prepared for me. That’s when you feel super special. We spent the entire day seeing around his father’s properties and driving around in Mercedez.
A glimpse into countryside Germany
I must admit the countryside Germany is much more beautiful than I had thought. At some point in time, you really start to wonder if you were not in a dream. The lush green fields, warm sun in the cold winter, countryside houses, workers, remote bread shops and much more make you realize that you are into a different world.
At one of his father’s property, I saw a lady in her eighties living alone. And I always wondered how she made her living. Having not seen such aloofness before, I asked Sam a thousand questions about her health, food, medication and even death. Not so abnormal to him, he gave answered me as if that was a mundane life which everyone has to eventually live in their lives.
I also met some workers from the Eastern Europe who were employed by his father for the construction work. They could hardly speak German or English. That was a fun meeting them and trying to understand their gestures and language. I was not the only alien there.
The Sauna Experience & getting naked
There was a Sauna room as well in the backyard and a small water pool. Sauna was always exciting to me. You sit naked in a very hot room and then you jump into a pool and relax and then again repeat.
While I could not tolerate cold, Sam could not help himself with the heat. We went inside the Sauna room. That sauna room was very small and compact. There was be a fireplace with charcoal which used to heat the room and there was a scented oil also which you put in the fire for a nice smell.
There was also a device hanging on the wooden wall of the small Sauna room which would tell us the current temperature of the room. The room will hardly have enough space for standing. There were just two benches on which you put the towel and sit naked.
So we both got naked and sat there. Sweating began. You touch your hair and you can feel the burning scalp of your head. Anywhere you touch is burning. We could not tolerate more than 120 seconds in general when the sauna room was really hot.
The next moment, we will run towards the pool in the backyard and jump in the water there. Initially, I was apprehensive of the cold water of European winter but I was almost burning and when I jumped, for the first 10 seconds, I did not even realize that I was standing inside a pool of water which was at around 7-8 degree Celsius. Later, we would take a blanket and sit on the chair before repeating the same procedure.
Sam always loved to explain me the scientific benefits of Sauna. Well, it detoxifies your body. Because heat expands the veins of the body and the blood circulation increases. When you jump into the cold water, veins suddenly contract and this contraction and expansion of blood veins are somehow related to the detoxification of the body.
Because we used to drink a lot of beer, Sauna was much needed for us. These were my major experiences. Though I have a lot to tell but some memories cannot be explained by the words and they are better off inside the brain.
Sam was from Heroldsberg, a small town near Nuremberg. On weekends, we often use to drive from Berlin to Nuremberg on his car. I remember, it was the first time when we were going to his home. I was really surprised to know that he was going to drive around 450 Km from Berlin to Nuremberg alone. And that was the first time when I was introduced to the concept of AutoBahn.
Let’s talk about the Autobahn later. Let’s first talk about my surprise first. When I came to know that the drive of 450 Km from Berlin to Nuremberg in just 5 hours. I was really surprised. Well, in India, the journey of 450 Km, even by an express train takes around 6-7 hours and by bus, it takes around 9-10 hours. A car might take 7-8 hours. But the same distance in Germany was being covered in just half the time and we were going to drive even faster than the fastest train in India, on an average.
But, I really wanted to experience that long road drive. Sam had a Mercedez car. I mentioned this because, for me, Mercedez had always been a class in India, even though it’s a taxi in Germany. We would usually start in the afternoon and reach Nuremberg by 7 and grab a beer and do a barbeque with his family.
Like the highways are numbered as NH in India which stands for National Highway, the same way, highway in Germany is numbered as ‘A’ followed by some number. So it looks like A9, A4 or something like that. It’s A9 from Berlin to Nuremberg and we used to cross cities like Bayreuth, Hale, Ensberg etc. but the Autobahn never crossed through a city.
AutoBahn A9 pictures:
Camping with German Friends
Himmelpfort camping experience was something which I would like to always discuss. The main reason being camping in Germany is totally different from camping in India. I am validated to write such opinion because I organize camping & trekking in India and I can very well differentiate that.
Camping in India vs Camping in Germany:
There are a few things that I would like to highlight in terms of camping.
- It is hard to rent a camping space in India but in Germany, people rent a camping space and camp there
- Camping is allowed only in certain areas beyond that camping is not allowed. While in India, we even camp in a reserve forest.
- Germans, in true terms, set up a small home while they camp. They come with a lot of stuff like grills, chairs, tables, playing stuff, cycles, etc.
- We, in India, camp in a frugal way. I was not aware of such a camping style until I got to see it for my own.
Himmelpfort camping Experience:
Himmelpfort is a camping place almost 100 Kms North of Berlin beside a lake called Stolpsee. Once you arrive at a certain camping point, there will mostly be an office where you will have to go, register and rent a camping place. The camping area is mostly like a big ground where everyone pitches their own tent.
Besides, there will a common bathroom for all the people who camp over there so the surrounding remains clean. There will also be a restaurant where you find beer and eatables. I mentioned beet because Germans just love beer.
I remember it from Koh tao Island. Usually, I am not a beer fan. Two liters of beer is sufficient for me. However, when I was there in Thailand with my German friends, my beer capacity has literally gone to four to five liters per day. When I returned to India after 15 days of the trip, I had gained some weight as well. Keep aside my beer belly part. Anyways.
When we reached there, we talked with the guys at reception and we found a camping ground. Unaware of the German activities, I thought we would all go cycling and at least for hiking around the area. But the tent was pitched. After the tent was pitched, our day started with beer. Whenever there is a situation, Germans like to have a beer. And I loved the idea of having a beer for every occasion. So, after the beer, we pitched our tent, got settled up with our camping stuff, we headed for the lake nearby.
Yes. So another great stuff about the lakes in Europe is they are really cleaner compared to India and people respect Nature. Most of our days’ activities included swimming in the lake, having a beer, and then relaxing under the warm sun again.
Though in the night, entering the lake was not allowed. But we still went inside the lake. The water was really cold for me. Imagine entering the lake at a water temperature of around 8 to 10-degree celsius. For my German friends, that was not a problem.
Around midnight, it rained pretty hard. The ground got wet and cold. For me, it was really colder. Christian, a friend of mine, helped us with a warm mat for insulating the ground. The next morning, had our breakfast and decided to play “Durak”. Durak is a Russian game. “Durak” in Russian means a Fool. This game has a very complicated rule. However, it is a very interesting game. And played that game for like hours and hours. The next day, we repeated the same routine.
Some of the things that I learned camping with Germans were:
- Germans like to relax a lot while camping. I think the same applies to the other Europeans as well.
- Germans like to have a beer for every occasion irrespective of the hours of the day.
- Camping is a big event for them. I have seen people coming in their own caravan & vehicle with the family tent, chair, table, candle & all.
- Even kids play camping all day long without any boundation.
- People even rent boats and speed boats.
- Germans do not like to talk much and they like to spend quality time alone in Nature.
- Things like sunrise, sunset, stars, moon in the sky in the night play a big role in their lives on camping.
Himmelpfort camping experience video:
Himmelpfort camping Photos:
First ICE train experience
I was always excited to visit the Hamburg because of two reasons. One was mostly because of one of my very close friends from Germany, Tobias was from Hamburg. And secondly, located in the northern part of Germany, Hamburg is one of the largest cities in Germany. Here is account of my journey:
Train System in Germany:
So that was the first time, I was traveling on an ICE train in Germany. Germany has a good network of trains and they have divided the train network into three layers.
- ICE (The Inter-City Express)
The Inter-City Express (ICE) train in Germany is high-speed train and it connects the main cities of Germany like Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt etc. These trains once start from one station, they mostly stop at bigger station en route.
- Regional Trains, Germany
If ICE trains connect the bigger cities of the Germany, regional trains connect the suburban areas around a city. So, they mostly cover the distance of around 150-200 Km on one side.
- Local Trains (S-Bahn, U-Bahn)
There are local trains also known as S-Bahn and U-Bahn which run within a city and connect different areas of a city.
Inside the ICE Train:
That was my first time, I was boarding a fast train anywhere in the world. In India, the fastest trains run at the speed of around 130-140 Kph. And that was the first time, I was boarding a train that would run on almost more than double the train speed I had ever seen.
The ICE train to Hamburg started from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or the Berlin main station. Once we crossed the city of Berlin and train was running in the outskirts of the city, I was really mesmerized by the speed. Usually, the ICE trains would also have a display system which will display the speed of the ICE train. I must confess that for the first fifteen minutes or so, I was unable to take my eyes off the speed display system. Inside, I was counting on to the speed limit of the ICE train.
The seats are very comfortable and windows are really wide. Unlike India, they doors will get locked and sealed before the train begins the journey. I was really surprised to not to hear the sound of the train which we usually hear in India from the train running on the track. Anyways…
Berlin to Hamburg in ICE train & beautiful landscapes
Once, Berlin was left behind, the ICE train was running through the big fields. In Germany, the size of agricultural farms is very large compared to India. Sometimes, I really saw no end of a farm. They go as long as more than a kilometer sometimes in the length.
My journey turned out to be more beautiful because of the yellow mustard plants that were shining under the sun. It really felt like unending length and breadth of the yellow world along with the running train.
Imagine two tiny eyes of an innocent kid staring out of the wide train windows. He has kept his cheek against the window panes and his eyeballs are moving along with the running train as if he is trying to catch the next beautiful thing which will soon pass by the rapid train. Sometimes, he stares at the vast azure sky and sometimes, he tries to catch the electric poles that are running in the opposite direction. Sometimes, he runs his eyes along the helm of the mustard fields which lie like a lazy yellow carpet on the green fields.
But everything aligned in his views is not in a hurry. He looks at the slow moving fans of the windmills. Even though the world is running is so fast, the windmills fans are not in a hurry. They seem to have a lot of time with themselves.Look at the contrast here, a slow-moving windmill fan being seen from a fast moving train.
Look at the contrast here, a slow-moving windmill fan being seen from a fast moving train. Behind the windmill, is the red sun which is also running along with the train but that seems slower to him. Sometimes, the fans of the windmill cut an ephemeral eclipse over the sun but soon, the sun would glimpse out of them. In between those tiny moments, the sun rays bounces off the windmill fan and the boy closes his eyes momentarily because of the shiny rays.
But it won’t last long because there are also small patches of trees and bushes which fall in the line of the view and it irks the kid as if he is trying to flee away the housefly which sits over his nose while he is trying to drink a glass of milk. Helpless he seems.
Sitting lost in the train, his eyes are trying to lose themselves in the white patches of the clouds that hang far below the azure sky. And then, the sun. And then, the mustard fields; and then the bushes and then he looks inside – wide cushioned seats, scattered gathering of passengers, most of them lost in themselves, and the silent which is being disrupted by the suppressed sound of the running train and his thoughts hovering over his mind.
He is lost yet he is able to figure out his existence in that little moving world. How two hours just passed by seems a dream. The train has begun enter into another world. The labyrinth of canals, ships standing in the harbour, shining glass windows of the high rising buildings. Gradually, the train crawls into the station. It reads “Hamburg”.
“Welcome to Hamburg” – He says to himself and looks at the white engine before stepping out of the station.
Mustard fields and Windmills from the ICE train:
That Park nearby in Berlin
I and Sam share a lot of things in common. Like birth month, Birth days (not falling apart for more than 24 hours); we are nature lovers; we think same about the life and spirituality. Though he thinks he is smarter, sorry sam! but not always. Hehe. Anyway.
Being nature lovers, one day Sam asked me to go to a park near by. Well if you are an Indian and when you hear the word “park” there are certain things which comes over to your mind. Like ice cream vendors, couples sitting behind the bush trying to find some private time, little kids shouting and a few young people trying to oogle at girls. I almost thought the same but I had to restrict my thoughts because until I had not seen how a park looks like in Berlin, I was not supposed to assume something.
Lietzensee, a small lake (See means lake in German) was just 10 minutes of walk from our flat. I was really excited to see how a park looked like in Berlin. To Sam, that must have been a regular park but for me that was a nice experience. Natural habitat is no way deformed or manipulated in any case. Ex Koot birds could swim freely in the see-water without any prospective threat.
People respect the nature and they are conscious of not disturbing the nature. People also respect the privacy and even if you are drinking beer or eating something or kissing your girlfriend. no one is going to care for you. The difference is in India, still some people leave behind the trash because there are no trash cans near by and they do not want to carry the trash home.
Kissing is common there so that’s why people can kiss in the bus, train, metro or on the streets. And in India, people take that offensive and that’s why for a couple in love, behind the bush is a place to hide to not to offense others.
See-water is not dirty at all and people do not swim in just any lake. Government also takes care of the lakes and in summer, people flock by to enjoy bathing in the lake under warm sun. There is greenery everywhere, trees are maintained and a park look like a park. Over the time, I along with Sam, Christi and Sophie would go there to have beer and enjoy the sunse or play with the Larse, Sam’s dog.
The day I tasted my favorite German beer
I think that was my first weekend at Berlin. I and sam had always loved drinking beer even when he was in India. I still remember we went to drink beer just the night before exams during our masters. But I could never surpass his ability to drink beer but I always loved to cheers with him.
Introcudtion with Hefeweizen beer:
Sam came up with beer. That was the first time in my life I was seeing an unfiltered beer. Before that I even didn’t know that such beers did exist in the world. Well, it’s always the first time in life. Another thing I noticed in Germany that most of the beers came in 330 ml bottle which we call a “pint” in our Indian term. The bigger bottles came in 500 ml. I hardly saw any beer bottle coming in 650 ml volume. I don’t know why but may be, Indians like to drink all at once and Germans want to drink slowly. Whatever the case be. The bottle was opened and was passed to me. Like always, I lifted up the bottle to drink the beer directly. But Sam told me that I was not in India and that was a different kind of beer which needs to be drunk from a beer glass.
He poured the beer into the glass. I loved their beer glasses in the kitchen. The beer purely looked thick and unfiltered. I was clueless about the taste. When he passed the glass to me. I took the first sip and surely the taste was totally different from filtered beer that we drink in India say Kingfisher beer. I liked the taste. First thing I noticed was that the taste was so smooth that it appeared to me a sweet beer. I guess none of the Indian filtered beer would have that taste. From that I became instant fan of that beer. Whenever we would go beer shops, we would atleast chose a bottle of that beer.
Later, he informed me that Hefeweizen beer came from the southern part of Germany called “Bavaria”. Bavaria is famous from good quality of beer and that was also the hometown of Sam. So, I think he got a good taste and choice of beer. Hefeweizen beers have more wheat than malted barley and are usually served in 50 ml.
First Russian Beer Experience
My first experience of Baltika beer was related more to my personal bonding with Russia since childhood. These are the reasons, personal and historical, that have made be a fan of Russia, current political situations apart. I had once read a Hindi story of an Indian in Moscow in winter. His description of kids looking like a penguin in white snow; big apartments; some of the Russian words having root to Sanskrit
ex: fire is ????? which is pronounced as ogon (which has Sanskrit root as Agni which means fire). Rabindranath Tagore’s poem being famous in Russia, instantly made me a fan of Russia. Taking cue from the 1971 war of India Pakistan Russian nuclear submarines came to the rescue of India when USA was on Pakistan side.
Our prime minister Indira Gandhi, signed a 20 years agreement from 1971-1991 with Russian then in the field of defence. The best personal experience was meeting Sam, my Russian friend.
Russian store was just across the road and on every ocassion that had be our first stop to grab a bottle of Russian beer, Baltika. Ok, Russia had got some extreme sides also just type “Russian road rage” in Youtube and you will see a lot of videos.
Watching those Russian guys at the store would tale my mind to the Russian guys in the road rage videos. Not be denied, I was little scared of them too but they were never rude to me except once when I miscalculated the bill amount at Russian shop for beers was paying the guy lesser money. Well, Euros always made me confused in initial days.
I remember it was Sam who brought the beers on some occasion and we venerated over the beer as it was Russia. In our regular discussions also, we criticized US fo their double-faced game. Baltika beer was opened. It’s surely different in taste. The taste is more like honey or some fruit syrup. It’s totally different from regular beer taste. Moreover, the dark bottle would add more weight to the taste.
I think we always took Baltika 7 which is dark in colour. I loved the dark bottle so much that I never took the beer out in the glass and tried to drink. We always drank from the bottle. So, if you are also a fan of Russian attitude, try Baltika dark beers. You will love it.First
Pommesfrites & Mayo of Berlin
Pommesfrites and mayoinesse: I love them
I have always loved eating frech fries, called by different names as frites, finger chips, fries, chips, or deep-fried potato. That day Tobias, mo and Dine were taking me to Berlin east side gallery. Well, Berlin east side gallery is a place where people have done a lot of paintings, graffiti over Berlin wall which once divided east Berlin from west Berlin.
Sun was almost going down and we had been roaming around for almost 6 hours and we were tired as well. The best thing about Berlin was you can grab a bottle of beer from anywhere and you can start drinking at any place, not all but almost anywhere.
So, finally we decided that we would have some beer before we will proceed for our flats. We went to a near by shop and grabbed some beers and sat near by river Spree with our beers. I loved eating french fries. I don’t know why but I loved a lot over there. May be they used different cooking oil to fry and there were very fresh but they were surely different from Indian french fries.
A small pack of pommesfrites costs around 1 Euro. They call it klein pommesfrites means small french fries. Next part was how would I live to have that with Ketchup or with mayonnaise. May be I had eaten mayonnaise before in India also but I never knew the name. I hardly remember the name of so many things I have eaten.
It was obvious that I would get surprised to it. I asked Tobi what was mayonnaise and he explained me. I took a look at and that was more like a pale white cream tasting little salty and sweet. Since then I became a fan of Pommesfrites with mayonnaise. Wherever shall I go, I would love to get a pack of those and enjoy the splendid taste sitting in my own warmth.
Trying the ice skating
That was the first time in my life, I was going to try ice skating in Berlin. Winter had painted Berlin in White and everything, though black and white, yet looked so beautiful. Sam, one of my very close German friends, decided that we go to ice skating one Sunday.
After my spinal cord fracture, I had turned reluctant towards trying new sports which involved hard surfaces. Moreover, I was also busy writing my first fiction novel, The girl from the woods. Nonetheless, I thought why not try this new game. Anyway, I didn’t know when would I get another chance to try this ice skating in my life.
So, we went to a ice skating ground. That was the first time I had seen an ice skating ring. The ground looked more like a running track except that the whole track was covered with ice. Also, there was small ring in the centre of the track where people where also skating.
Sam explained to me that the big oval track around the ring was for experts and we won’t be skating there because I was the first timers. But watching those skaters from a distance propelling and skidding over the ice just over a cm thick skating shoe was a retreat to the eyes. That was more like an adrenaline rush. They were so quick were almost skidding like a human bike.
We reached at counter and paid something like 12-15 Euros for the skating fee and skating show renting charge for an hour. Sam decided that we skate inside the ring. There was also an iron bar all around the ring from which one can draw some support.
Standing on a skating shoe was the first challenge for me. Somehow I managed to hold the iron bar and managed to stand over the skating shoe. Managing to stand on the skating shoe was more like limping on a shoe. It was very slippery. You try to push yourself forward and you realize that if you don’t hold the iron bar either you will fall down because of imbalance or you will skid on the ice without any break since the friction is very lesser there.
I tried pushing myself and I felt the same. So I thought of observing other people, trying to learn the art and skills of ice skating. Somehow after a few minutes, I was able to stand straight but skating flawlessly was still a far dream. I looked around Sam was skating freely over the ice. I took a look at other people. Some were falling over the ice after getting imbalanced. I also fell over the ice a few number of times.
After some time, I was able to drive myself but not more than my limit. Lets say my limit was giving a nudge along the iron bar and skate for say 2-3 meters and when I began feeling I would fall I would quickly catch hold the bar. Sometimes, in hurry, even though I was doing good, out of fear I will imbalance myself. Bottom of the skating show has a sharp iron bar attached to the show on which people skate. I was afraid of falling down and hitting small kids with that also.
After, say a trial of more than half an hour, I decided to relax and do not constrain my self much but Sam wanted to continue. So, I left the skating area and returned the shoes. Then a bought a big of pommesfrites with mayonnaise. Grabbed a peaceful place from spectator’s arena and enjoyed my potatoes while watching the show of ice skating and sometimes trying to look for my friend Sam in the skating crowds.
Trying Sushi for the First time
A Japanese restaurant is not lesser than a restaurant shown in the movies. Dim lights, dragons or faces, paper lights, peaceful ambience and very courteous waiters are integral part of a Japanese restaurants.
I and Sam will always feel lazy and hungry on sundays. Our day used to start late in the morning with a bread-omelette as our only breakfast sometimes with orange juice. In the afternoon, I would always look forward to Sam for taking me to interesting places like flea market, second hand shop (because I wanted an olive green jacket and we could find that nowhere and flea market was our last resort), nice bar where others will combine to play games, in the park or trying out some new dishes at new restaurants.
Most of restaurants offer Sunday meal at discounted price. People like to sit outside in the sun and laze out on meal slowly with a beer. This time we headed for a Japanese restaurants for Sushi. That was the first time, I was going to eat Sushi. On top of that, that was the first time, I would use chopsticks to eat Sushi.
Chopsticks though look simple but a lot of technicality is involved in using it. Specially in holding the chopsticks. but that was interesting to learn and then use it. Another thing which made me it’s instant fan was Wasabi. Wasabi has got different kind of hotness than garlic or paper. Since then, we started going to Asian store and we won’t forget to pick a Wasabi-coated peanut box and keep it at our dining table with beer.
When it comes to giving tips, usually people pay 10% of the total bill amount. For example: Each meal costed us around 10 Euros and we paid 2 Euros as tips from two persons. If tips is not paid then it is assumed that a customer did not like the food at the restaurant.
What new things you should expect to see at a Japanese restaurants:
- Eating with Bamboo chopsticks
- The very hard and pungent smell and taste of Wasabi sauce (Green in colour)
- Vinegared rice, an important part of Sushi dish
- Sushi served as rolled rice
- Eating dishes with Soya sauce
A Day at one of the biggest Harbors in Germany: Hamburg
Hamburg, located in the north of Germany, is one of the largest cities and has one of the busiest ports in Germany. I had heard these things from Tobi, one of my very close German friends since Hamburg was his hometown. So, I always had a penchant for traveling to Hamburg and seeing some places.
Hamburg, just like Venice but not at such greater scale, has a labyrinth of canals. Just to give you an idea, here is a Google Maps view of the Hamburg canals:
So, it’s like everywhere you go, the river Elbe follows you in Hamburg.
Hamburg port is situated on the river Elbe and trust me, I had not thought about the sizes of the containers and ships that I would see in the Hamburg. There were really big ships, containers, ferries, passenger ships and much more. While the Hamburg port presents the modern day picture of the development and modernization, at the same time, the canals crisscrossing through the old walls of the city still gives you the feeling of the medieval times.
Most of the buildings were red in Hamburg, I don’t know why but that gave an archaic feeling. The streets parallel to the main roads which run along to the port. The port is open to all and you can go there and sit beside the river and watch the ferries and ships leaving the port. Even though the port is always crowded, it’s so big that everyone gets a place to sit and relax.
Here are some of the pictures from the Hamburg Port:
Desden Tour with University Students
If you want to experience the medieval time architectural beauty of Europe, after Prague and Budapest, Dresden should be the next place, on your list. It was a tour organized by the international student department office, Freie University, Berlin. The tour was really cost-effective for us because it was very cheap for us because we were students. Dresden is almost two hours of ride from Berlin.
Once we reached Dresden, it looked more like Berlin but less crowded and newly built. We began roaming around. There are huge church and old buildings in this city and most of the buildings are very fascinating. Suddenly the world of glasses and modern buildings turn into medieval times with pale buildings etc. I do not have words for Dresden. I am sharing some of the Pictures:
Inside an Orthodox Catholic Church in Bamberg
After my visit to riverside view of river Regntiz, I went to the most famous chruch of Bamberg – The Bamberg Cathedral. Bamberg cathedral is a famous church because someone from higher church authority sits over there. More over, this church is also situated at a higher place in the town of Bamberg. So, one can expect a nice view of the town.
I expected many people to be there but the church was almost empty except a few tourists. I don’t know why. May be that was not the right season of tourism or people were not interested in coming and seeing the church. Sam, my friend, has different opinions about Roman Catholic church. According to him, Roman catholic church almost looted the common people in the name of religion.
For example: one can easily get rid of sins if he/ she donates some money to the church etc. That’s why protestant church came into the picture after the dark ages. Being a Hindu, I always found his/ mine friends talk very interesting and we could draw a lot of similarities as well most often.
I think that was the main reason people were lesser interested in seeing an orthodox catholic church. But, that was good for me because I could roam inside the church freely and see everything without any tourists’ disturbances. First thing I observed from outside was the four magnificent towers with green top and yellow marbles situated at the four corners of the church complex. Most of the churches in Europe will have some sort of towers all around. Only the structures of the towers differ. Somewhere they are called bell tower, somewhere they are called just towers. But they add more beauty to the church for sure.
The church had a big wooden gate. It had an antique key hole to it like shown in the movie. I like opening the gate very much. That was heavy and thick wooden.
Glass windows were also very beautiful, dark blue in colour. I do not remember if they were stained glasses or not but they surely fit well in contrast with the yellow marble stone of the church.
Main altar of the church is very long and inside the church was little darker so honestly, I was little scared and little curious as well. I was scared because It was dark and under Roman catholics. So you can say after watching movies like angels and demons and all, I was little skeptical and I was curious as well for the same reason.
After a few minutes, I began feeling comfortable and began to explore more. Inside the church, I saw statues of many kings and queens too.
Late I came to know that those were the kings who constructed the Bamberg cathedral. One of them was King Henry 2 as well which I had heard about in my history book. After spending around an hour, we came out and walked to our car through the beautiful and peaceful streets of Bamberg. I saw this decoated window on the way.
A visit to the Holocaust Memorial to Murdered Jews, Berlin
I had never seen such a big cemetery with uncountable number of solid and concrete graves in middle of the city in memorial of war victims. Each such grave is called a stela. I search for the meaning of this archaeological term over google and it says “an upright stone slab or column typically bearing a commemorative inscription or relief design, often serving as a gravestone”.
That was so true for this graveyard memorial. Those hundreds of stones were made in remembrance to the murdered Jews of Europe during world war. One thing I noticed was every grave in form of a stela or concrete block was equal in base area but were different in height. So when you take a look from an end towards this innumerable number of stela, you will feel confusing. And that will really scare you a lot. Scarier part is when you start walking along the aisle in between the grave yard rows. Though that would not scary much but still gives a kind of sad feeling to walk amid the graveyard of war victims who were brutally and purposefully murdered.
If I had to explanation that from an author’s perspective, I would write:
Imagine an innocent soul of an angel like girl lost amid thousands of such big graves of a cemetery. Imagine her running and trying to find a path to come outside. All path look the same and all path look long. The same had been the condition of the murdered Jews. Running and trying to find a haven to save their souls in that cruel world. Surely, I could not stay there for long. Except for taking some pictures, I could not find anything interesting to do there. Obviously, that’s not a fun place so we returned after some time.
This place is situated just nearer to the Brandenburg Tor. It is a mass graveyard for the jews who were killed during the second world war by Nazis. This holocaust memorial is a cemetery with hundreds of cubical and rectangular structures which depict the pain of the Jews.
Exploring the Berlin Flea Markets
In this world of globalization, new fashion kicking in everyday and good brands not coming at affordable prices, I found second hand shop at Berlin, the most convenient place to buy some clothings at affordable prices. Not for long for a winter or so. Being an Indian, not to be denied that it is in my gene that I would compare prices (I know it’s a foolishness to do it in Europe but I could not stop my mind from starting thinking). I found almost everything very costly except at some stores like Primark or H&M on discounts.
I don’t know where did I get the penchant for having a olive green jacket. May be, I saw Sam, my brother like room-mate in Germany, wearing a same kind of jacket. We tried at many shops but finding that jacket was really tough and then we thought of cycling to Second-hand shops or flea shops to try finding a same kind of jacket.
Moritz, my another friend took me to the flea market. Well, I was little scared but in my wild imagination, I imagined flea market more like a chor-bazaar in India. The flea shop was little secluded from the main town in Old Berlin beside river spree. The whole shop was more like a big Garage shop with a big front iron doors. They sell almost everything from Gramophone to sofa to antique horse saddle to old table lamps to world war military jackets. Later I realized why flea market was a special thing in itself to go to. because people will find some antique things at cheaper price.
Inside Berliner Tor: Dome, Windpipe & Cryptic Coffins
From outside, the church looks like old even though it was rebuilt almost completely after the second world war. A big wooden door awaits you. I always love those doors, I don’t know why. That reminds me of the big wooden door of Bamberg Cathedral church as well. I think most of the cathedral church would have a big wooden door.
As soon as you push the door and step inside, a broad red carpet awaits your foot steps. That, more or less, feels like an entrance of a big and costly hotel. Then you go at the ticket counter. There are different ticketing systems for the different kind of tourists. Since I was a student at freie university berlin, I had a student id card with me and I was given a ticket of visit at discounted rate. International tourists have to pay the most almost double of the price that I paid and local tourists have to pay little lesser i guess.
There is also a radio guide available at the counter and apart from that they give away a leaflet as a written guide to the church for free. In that leaflet, few of the important parts of the church are marked with some numbers and explained accordingly. So, that’s more like you have a map, a route guide and you explore the church one after another.
Dome of Berlin Cathederal Church from Inside:
Anyway, personally I was impressed by the dome of the Berliner dom. It’s very big and round in shape. If you walk in the center of the church and look up you will see the tomb just aligned above your head. The dom has some paintings of the historian and many people will tell many stories behind, or at least guess, after looking at the beautiful paintings. I did the same. Those paintings are actually called frescoes. These paintings are done on the lime stone and there is a particular technique behind it.
Wind pipe organ, a musical instrument at Berliner dom:
The second most impressive thing to see at Berlin cathedral church was the organ, I call that pipe organ. The organ is a kind of music instrument which I mostly found inside the church. A pipe organ consists of many wind pipes and it produces a nice music. The music is produced by a keyboard and a pedal board which are used to play the music tunes.
Once, I was lucky to listen to that music inside the Berliner dom. After the music or I think before the music, the priest will come and recite some verse from the bible. And people will say “Amen!” I liked that par very much. Hundreds of people in suit-boot sitting inside a big church, pipe organ instrument plays and at the end everyone says Amen. There are many marble statues also forget not to take a look at them. Those are beautiful sculptures of the Berliner dom.
Berlin cathedral church also known as Berliner dom was completely destroyed during the second world war. And it was again built from the scratches. This church is known for its wall frescos, paintings, a magnificent dome, wind pipe organ and much more.
Please to see nearby Berlin cathedral church:
- DDR museum
- Museum islands
- Pleasure garden
- Aquadom and sea life Berlin
- Berlin Tv tower
Hohenzollern Crypt & coffins, Berlin cathedral church
Hohenzollern Crypt is the name of the basement underneath the Berlin cathedral church. These basements have a particular name and are called “Crypt”. Most of the European churches will have a crypt underneath the church. A crypt will mostly look like a stone chamber with lot of pillars. I think these pillars are used to support to the church from beneath.
These crypts are a scary places to me personally because they are used to store the coffins and other religious relics. In the crypt of Berlin cathedral church, there are a lot of coffins of different sizes and style. Some coffins are very beautiful and looks magnificent from outside. I think when someone with higher authority died they were given a bigger coffin. because those coffins would also have a lot of ornamental arts above them. These bigger coffins also occupy a special place inside the crypt. These bigger coffins, I think, belonged to the royal family or pope or bigger father. Smaller coffins belonged to the smaller priests.
All the coffins will be marked with the name, designation and life period of the person. However, the lighting there would not be so bright. It would mostly be dull red or little dark color. I think this lighting system is so because it can match the ambience of sad demise of someone from higher authority.
Take a Hop On – Hop Off Bus Tour
Vinit had just arrived from Stuttgart and we were looking forwards to go to Prague but we had one day surplus in our hands. So we thought, why not try hop on- hop off berlin tour. Hop on hop off is a city tour in which, within a day, you can board any bus from the same travelers for city travels, Get down any where, catch the next bus and see the city. These buses from same companies follow timings and next bus arrives after an interval of around an hour.
Most of these hop on hop off buses also have roof . Something like a bus with an open roof top or double-decker bus. So at the top deck, you can sit and see the city without sitting under a bus roof or sitting beside a glass window. They keep on announcing about the nest destination in German and English at regular intervals with small speakers kept in the corners.
It was winter and Berlin was freezing with cold. We checked for the weather. Anyway, we had decided to take a tour and we were not gonna stop in any case. However, weather was also in our favour. Day was not windy nor so cold. So, I and vinit decided to sit at the open roof deck. It was really nice to see road running behind. cars following us and bus taking turns through many alleys and broad roads. I always wondered of these kinds of buses when I saw them in a Bollywood songs specially. And Now I was traveling in them.
The bus was empty except for a couple sitting at the front and I was hopping from here to there like a kid on the red seats of the bus. It was really nice to see 360 degree panoramic view of the whole city. Lemon trees were going wear lime green leaves, old buildings, black roads, snow lying beside the road and cold wind combing through our hair. Everything was so beautiful.
Important things to take care of on Hop on Hop off Buses:
- Cost: 10 Euros
- Chose a side seat and try to find a place in the top deck. The city looks wider and more beautiful with proper photography opportunities.
- Do listen to the announcements. They share informative knowledges.
- Throughout that 4-5 Hours ride, I covered around 20-22 beautiful places of Berlin like churches, library, art houses, Universities, Statues etc.