recollections of our Dutch and German travels.
17.07.2012 - 30.07.2012
So, here we are in Italy. It has been more than a month since we've written anything about our trip so I'm spending this time looking through the photos and reminiscing with the family about our recent experiences and favourite times. I can happily state that the reason we have not posted anything is that we have been having too much fun visiting wonderful places and hanging out with Renee and Joel. Spending time as a family, sitting around a camper van, chatting about life, dreams and the world has been far more interesting than trying to find wifi. Sorry about the delay and we hope this does not bore you! Now bring on the memories…
Renee’s birthday equaled pancakes, sunflowers, playing cards and eating cake - the good stuff! Shame that Renee still never got to experience the ‘summer birthday’ but we all had a really good time regardless of the weather. We did really try to enjoy a few cultural experiences such as Anne Frank's house and the Van Gough museum however the queues were enormous and we were thoroughly enjoying just being there and wandering around the canals whilst dodging bicycles and the exceptionally quiet trams. The obligatory (and cultural) walk through the red light district was difficult given that we were sheltering the scene from our little man. We figured we were stealth until the next day when Bodhi bought Renee a wind chime gift and told her that he liked the chosen house more than the "chime with one of those naked ladies from last night". Whoops - add it to the list!
Obviously staying on the boat was a different experience for us all. We fed a family of swans through the bathroom porthole and slept below the water line falling asleep to the gentle swishing motion of the bay. Amsterdam was quirky and fun to experience with both our eldest and youngest child (and boyfriend in law). However, after paying a hefty parking fine, having an expensive haircut and not at all enjoying an overpriced massage by unqualified Chinese hookers (truly, in our naivety we thought you could find a legit massage in Amsterdam – error), we realised that it was time to move on from Amsterdam and head to Germany.
We started our travels through Germany by racing along the autobahn at speeds up to 160km/hr, making sure that we moved out of the fast lane as an amazing number of BMW, Saab and Mercedes cars made us look like we were standing still. Dave found it a quiet thrill however, to pass a police car doing 135 km.
Germany is very green. Not only because of its thick forests that line the edge of the road side but also because of the amount of green technology in use. There was literally hundreds of wind turbines across the different regions. Entire roofs of houses and industry buildings were blanketed in solar panels and there were was a large number of solar farms. Bodhi was memorized.
Our first stop was Hamburg. Chosen for its half way location to Berlin and given a good write up by the Lonely Planet, we decided it sounded ideal. It certainly was for Dave and Joel who fell instantly in love with the price of beer. Cheaper than water, soft drink and basically every other possible beverage, beer featured heavily throughout the rest of Germany in each day's itinerary.
Unfortunately it seemed that beer also featured heavily in many other Germans lives and the amount of damaged people drinking on the street, especially around the entrances to train stations, was disturbing. On one occasion we exited the Central Hamburg station on the 'wrong' side and literally came across people comatose in doorways and maniacal screaming. It was challenging to keep these images from Bodhi who notices everything. It was even more of a challenge to do this in the laundromat one early morning, where a man was stripped to his shorts, washing his shirt and socks while drinking a bottle of red.
Our one and only child free date was to the (in)famous Reeperbahn, where the Beatles, in the words of John Lennon "grew up". Imagine a mix of Northbridge and Kings Cross, then put the whole lot on steroids and you have it covered. We actually didn't even last for a drink but now at least have an idea of it all.
From Hamburg we travelled on to Berlin via Luneburg, described as "wobbly town". It was picturesque however we believe that York in England maintains the European title for 'wobbly'. In Berlin we stayed in an apartment in the area of Mitte and it was on our first morning in Berlin that Dave and Joel discovered their second love; currywurst. Currywurst are pork sausages deep fried in oil, sliced and served with a generous helping of curry flavored tomato sauce. A side of fries is optional and even more fattening. This became our morning, lunch and often afternoon snack of choice. Our arteries were thickening day by day!
Berlin was historically amazing and we visited many sites including Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Unter den Linden and the gorgeous Tiergarten (gardens). The Berlin Wall Documentation Center at Checkpoint Charlie was especially interesting as it detailed the history of the wall with exciting tales of successful and attempted escapes from East Germany. The East Side Gallery is 1.3km of the remaining original wall and was a visual feast. Check out our extra uploaded pics.
More emotionally harrowing were those sites accounting Nazi horrors including the Topographie des Terrors, the Holocaust Memorial and a visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 35km north of Berlin. It is not easy to explain to a five year old the terror of the Nazi regime. Bodhi could not understand why and in the end simplified it himself to Hitler being an evil baddy who forced others to do terrible things as well. At the concentration camp, he wanted to respond in writing as others were doing. His poignant message written by himself stated "It makes me sad and lonely because Hitler did bad things." It made us all sad and we were ready to move on.
The Romantic Road
The Romantic Road is a tourist route roughly 200km long that travels along Southern Germany's B roads between Wurzburg and Fussen. Renee and Joel believe B stands for 'beautiful' and they are happy to travel these roads as their van, Jasper, is straining at 100km/hr plus it helps them avoid road tolls. Dave disagrees as he goes for speed and argues that the A (autobahn) roads stands for "awesome". For this leg of the journey however, it was all B roads and we would not have had it any other way.
In the end even Dave had to admit that driving at a leisurely pace through the Bavarian country side was indeed beautiful. Postcard scenery, fairy tale castles and great fun camping out with Renee and Joel made for a sensational couple of days. All this was topped off when the hotel we had booked last minute, and because it was cheap, turned out to be an absolutely sensational Bavarian building sitting literally at the foot of the Neuschwanstein Castle. A truly unbelievable place to have stayed!