Contents 1 Thursday Nov. 7, Montréal
2 Friday Nov. 8, Frankfurt - almost
3 Saturday, Nov. 9, Ulm
4 Sunday, Nov. 10, Ulm
5 Monday, Nov. 11, Ulm to Stuttgart
6 Wednesday Nov. 13, Berlin
7 Thursday, Nov. 14, Berlin
8 Friday, Nov. 15, Wittenberg
9 Saturday, Nov.16, Wittenberg
10 Sunday, Nov. 17, Frankfurt/Oder
11 Monday, Nov. 18, Frankfurt/Main
This trip to Germany is officially a vacation. I am going to Dornstadt, a small town just north of Ulm to deliver Peggy's skis to her. Ulm is about halfway between Stuttgart and Munich, just south of the Stuttgart/Munich autobahn. Peg is going to school, in the Schubert Gymnasium, for a year. This will, hopefully, replace her first year of CEGEP and make her eligible for University - somewhere. Unfortunately, the local educational establishments are not geared to easily accept an unusual educational experience. I went to Queens in August, just before Peg left for Germany and received a cordial, but rather bureaucratic answer that Peg would be considered as being a German student, although she would have been there only for a year. They insisted that she have her ``abitur'' - a German high school certificate. This would be impossible for her. The abitur is given at the end of Grade 13 and Peg is taking Grade 12. I also wrote UofT and Carleton. Carleton replied without comment but sent an application. UofT was more promising. They said, that based on the information about Peggy's background and records that they felt sure the Faculty of Arts and Sciences would be interested in admitting her. They asked that she obtain a letter from the Principal indicating her progress - grades or anecdotal comments would be acceptable. Peggy wants to take Political Science with a possible diplomatic career1 The year in Germany has to be beneficial. From what we can tell, it may actually be fun.
Not only do I have Peg's skis, I also have, as usual, my bike. It is feasible, although not terribly comfortable, to ride with the skis. I am hoping not to have to ride too far. I have a 5-day German Rail Flexipass. I have discovered that I can't use the Express trains but according to a friend, Reinhard Gotzhein from Hamburg, I can use the ``D'' trains. I have no idea whether this will be easy or hard. Peggy told me that she saw a number of people with bicycles as she went from the airport to the Frankfurt Bahnhof ... so at least I can get that far. I will go to Ulm on Friday, and have made arrangements to meet Peg as she leaves her German lesson at the Einstein Haus in downtown Ulm.
I am giving a seminar at the University of Stuttgart on Monday so I will take the train from Ulm to there on Sunday. From Tuesday, the plans are uncertain. I would like to see East(ern) Germany before it is transformed. I was in Berlin in 1968 and am curious about the changes. If it is feasible, I shall go to Berlin on Tuesday. The next ``fixed'' point would be Heidelberg on Sunday to visit a friend of mine from IIASA, Gerhard Rahmstorf. We shall see what transpires.
Almost - meaning it is about 12:16 am, or 6:16 in Frankfurt - and we are actually over Amsterdam. This has been a very smooth flight in an Airbus 310 with efficient, but not inspired, service. The food and wine selections are still better on Air France. One nice thing about the Airbus is the map on the TV screen. It gives the location, in different scales, the altitude (33,000 feet or 10058 metres - not 10059?), and speed. According to the pilot we will be arriving early to a dreary rainy day in Frankfurt. Just so we wouldn't get our hopes up, he added that it was the same weather all over Germany.
My bike, bag, and the skis made it intact ... except that the tip of the skis were protruding out through hole. It shouldn't be a problem when I am merely carrying a bike. The bike is both very heavy an awkward. I was able to negotiate the escalators and made it down to the train station. The trains went to either the MAIN or SUD stations ... which one. If I am on the wrong platform, I have a problem - the escalator is not working. I asked some people where I should go and they suggested the MAIN They also didn't know if my FlexiPass was good on it. The train driver didn't know either. The uniform suggestion was that I should go on the train and risk the 50 mark fine.
I arrived unchallenged, found the Train Information, and was informed that it was impossible to get to Ulm with a bike. After some thought, and my question about going to Stuttgart, a way was found. Take the 12:04 ``E'' (milk) train to Stuttgart and change to another ``E'' train to Ulm.
Since there was only one way to get to Stuttgart with a bike, I decided to check on the other trains:
I am now on the Ulm train. However, I am going to miss Peggy at the Einstein Haus. I phoned from Stuttgart and found that Gerd Platow, the father in Peggy's host family, is arriving a few minutes later. Perhaps I shall meet her host family sooner than I expected.
The whole trip down to Stuttgart was delightful castle studded rolling country with leaves turning colour and still on the trees, and vineyards climbing up the slopes. It is now five and getting dark. The daylight is about 9 1/2 hours.
The route to Stuttgart runs east of Heidelberg, missing it completely, but following the Neckar, Heidelberg's river, all the way to Heilbronn. My travelling roommate, a little old lady getting off at Lauffen, complained that the Germans had lost their character - they were too affluent and didn't seem to care any more. Since she had been to Chicago some years ago, I assume this was not an East(ern) litany.
The train to Ulm is jammed but it is obviously a commuter train - three stations later it is getting empty. By the time we got to Ulm, it is really an ``I'', as I am the only one left in the car. I hauled my bag, bike and skis off and was about to start packing when I saw Peg racing down the platform towards me - what a delight. Sigi had intercepted her for me as she had left her class. Peg insisted in taking the 50lb hockey bag, pointing out that she had gotten into practice when we were in Ireland. About a hundred metres later she was relieved, but not completely, by Herr Platow; she had to carry his bag. It was a relief to get my bike back, removing the skis2, books, and cans of maple syrup. One of Peg's sadnesses about being here is that she had missed Halloween. She beamed as she saw the bag of ``Trick or Treat'' goodies that I had brought. I declined a rather insistent invitation by Gerd to stay at their place; the logistics were too awkward. Peg and Gerd had a spirited discussion, in German, about how difficult it was to get to Dornstadt by bike, ie non autobahn. Peg started to give me instructions that consisted of starting out on the autobahn, and then finding the service road that ran beside it, which Gerd added would probably take at least an additional half hour of searching. I also turned down a second suggestion that I should follow them home, riding my bike behind their car, so I could find and memorize the route for tomorrow.
Now I went in search of a map and a hotel. It was 6:30 and I discovered that the entire shopping district was shutting down. By 6:35, all the stores, even Woolworths, had managed to add the securing footplates to their front doors. This is a disciplined society, at least in little things. Although the stores did not guard their front door as they were shutting down, no one, except me, entered at the magic 6:31 breakpoint. It looks like no map for me tonight.
I rode up through Ulm's large Fußgänger zone toward the Münster, the Ulm cathedral, looking for the Markt Platz. I stumbled on it and found, just behind the Rathaus (City Hall) the small Hotel am Rathaus. This is not the one in my guide book but it will have to do.
Supper tonight was at the Ratskeller. I went in about 7:00 and found it rather empty, only two tables filled, and no waiters. Perhaps it was too early. I returned about an hour later and found only one customer - perhaps this is the ``between season'' doldrums. Dinner was a very good, and overfilling, blue cheese and fried onion spatlese - Schwäbisch pasta in a cream made of the cheese topped by the shredded fried onion - and glühwein. I finished the evening off with the local Ulm Gold Ochsen beer in a small place across the platz that claims they have been doing Güte Kuche since 1531.
The Münster bells have been going all night, not disturbing, but a rather nice background. This morning I shall look for a map in the map store that I found near the Münster last night.
I found the three maps that I needed (wanted?). One was of Ulm, a second of Stuttgart, and a third of the country between Berlin and Leipzig. I commented to the lady that the rain would get my map wet. Another customer said that I had come at the right time of year, especially for bicycle riding.
** The most common restaurant in Ulm seems to be the Pizzeria. McDonald's comes a close second. Even Pizza Hut has several outlets.
My map showed me the way to Haydn Weg - all I had to do is go straight up Stuttgartner Strasse right into Dornstadt. However today was a day ``for seeing different things''. I missed the turn onto the Strasse and ended up about 8 to 10 km east of Dornstadt on an entry point to the main Stuttgart/Munich autobahn. My map showed that there was a small road that ran parallel to the autobahn and eventually got to Dornstadt. It was one those 3 metre roads, not wide enough for two cars or one bus. However it did give a rare view of St. Moritz. This version of St. Moritz consisted of only a couple of houses and their associated barns. I continued past Buckenhof, slightly larger than St. Moritz, perhaps four houses until I hit the L1165, a relatively large two lane road going north/south, complete with the occasional car. My road continued on the other side but became a dirt track. About 400m in front of me was a railroad track. The road went from a dirt track to two barely discernible tracks in the grass. It hit the train track but did not cross it. It continued up along it for about another 300m becoming a barely discernible single track. Off to the left, I saw a paved road coming off the highway leading to where I thought the track crossing should be. When the trees cleared, I saw that this ``road'' died at the edge of the field. The ground dipped beside the track, just in front of me so I thought that there might be a tunnel. There was indeed a tunnel, about the size of a cow, all the way under the tracks. It was big enough for me and my bike so through I went. The ``road'' on the other side was just a separation between two fields. In about 100m, it became a legitimate dirt track and I felt that I had made it across. Another 200m later it actually became paved again. About 1km later, after skirting north of Altenzentrum Dornstadt, I came to a Rasthaus on the B10 autobahn. Here there was a pedestrian/bicycle tunnel under the autobahn that linked the Rasthaus with McDonald's and Dornstadt on the other side.
As I turned north into central Dornstadt, I heard my name shouted from a nearby hardware store. Gerd Platow had walked out to buy some things and had seen me riding by.
That saved me having to make the closure into Dornstadt's composer development. Along with Haydn Weg, there were streets for Händel, Sibelius, Brahms, Mozart, Bruckner, Tellemann, Orf, Bach, Listz, Beethoven, and Lehar.
Gerd has made the third floor attic into a one room apartment, with a bath, that has become Peggy's suite. Kerstin, Birte, and Gerd and Sigi have bedrooms on the second floor. There is another small bedroom for Heike when she is home from school. Peggy is having a great time and is slowly learning what it means to be part of a large family.
Peggy's pictures of the area showed it as flat field stretching off to the horizon. Gerd took me on a drive to show me what it was really like. It is on the edge of the Swabian Jura, an extensive limestone plateau, cut with deep sharp valleys. We hiked down into one of Gerd's favourites, up a steep hill, approximately 50 to 75 metres vertical and back to the road. There were junipers, tiny, government protected wildflowers, and strange berries. We continued up the road to Tomerdingen, along a small road, with houses, that was blocked to all cars on Sundays and Holidays. I guess you must plan carefully when you go away for a weekend.
I wanted to leave before it got dark, but we were talking until 4:30 so it was already almost dark. Gerd offered to ride his bike with me to the edge of town, to get me correctly on my way. I gladly accepted - getting into and out of towns gracefully is one of the hardest things to do on a bike. It started to drizzle as we were starting, and I foolishly commented that, at least, it wasn't snow. In a few minutes, it changed to tiny snow/ice pellets. By the time we got to the Dornstadt end of Stuttgartner Strasse, it was quite dark. From that point on, it was a straight shot into Dornstadt, with the additional advantage that is was almost entirely down hill. Dornstadt is about 140m? higher than Ulm. On my way there, I managed to go up a total of about 180m. When I got back into town, I saw where I had made the wrong turn. When I came by in the morning, I had noticed that street going up the hill but thought, that can't be where I should be going. While I was stopped for the red light on the way back, I looked for a street sign. I couldn't see one.
All was well though, I was back in town on Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse. I skirted around some construction that blocked a gate in the city wall and followed interesting streets right into the center of town, without really knowing where I was going, and finally ended up on the street just north of the Münster that led to the Markt Platz and my hotel.
** Peggy says that someday she is going to come into town and spend a few hours meditating on the paintings that decorate the walls of the Rathaus.
The start of today was not too promising. As I was eating breakfast, the clouds decided to unload some wet snow showers. This did not induce any speed on my part during breakfast, and by the time I had finished, the sun was out and the showers had stopped. It was to be sunny, cold, and scattered clouds all day.
I managed two dumb things yesterday; I lost one of my bicycle lock keys (fortunately I have a second, a third and fourth at home), and I managed to forget my yellow school bag at the Platows. Today I did manage to retrieve my yellow bag but the key seems to be lost.
I wandered around Ulm, along the wall by the Danube, and by the Metzger Turm, and eventually ended up at the Train Station where I phoned Peg at about 9:30 am. Birte answered and went to wake up Peggy. My yellow bag had been found but not my key. Peg felt that it would be best for me to come back in the afternoon to retrieve my bag. I told her I would aim for early afternoon.
This morning I walked around Ulm, along the top of the city wall; the Danube is on one side and the Fisherman's Quarter, or ``Alt Stadt'' is on the other. Most of it is actually restoration, but there are a few houses that are still, more , but mostly less, intact. There is a set of three original houses by a small canal. Only two are ``original'' as the one in the middle is really a hole to the foundation with a sign that it is currently an archaeological dig. The last one has the canal actually running right under it. Most of the quarter is really very charming Kunst shopping.
The walk on the top of the wall goes by the 1400, (probably restored), Metzger Turm (Tower) that overlooked an entrance in the wall, and, much to my surprise, an Indian restaurant.
A corner fortification, or Caserne, rose above the wall and afforded a fine view of the Fisherman's Quarter and the Münster.
** The Münster - Cathedral has the world's highest steeple. It took 450 years to complete - money and construction problems. The steeple was designed before there were construction techniques to build it.
The other side of the Danube, in Neu Ulm, does afford a worthwhile view of the city wall, the Fisherman's Quarter, the Münster rising above, and some children feeding a flotilla of ducks and swans.
There are several racing boat clubs, each with their own boat ramps, right by the river. Going downstream, the boats speed while merely crawling upstream against the strong current. I wonder if you are drummed out of the club if you are to tired to row your boat back upstream.
** A small, flat bottomed riverboat, the ``Wien'', turned out to be a dayclub, with music, laughter, and, as far as I could tell by surreptitiously glancing in the windows, without an empty seat.
The tour of the right bank is completed by a bridge, just beyond the end of the Ulm city walls. The path on the right bank continued upstream but I couldn't see any more bridges.
** Vandalisme oder kunst. - Vandalism or art. with an arrow pointing to some colourful wall paintings? in a pedestrian underpass.
This has been an unusual experience for me. I can't remember the last time I walked around a town being a tourist. It was more fun because the sun was out - mostly,
I walked back to the Hotel am Rathaus to get my bike and cut across town on Frauenstrasse, right across Herrenkeller Gasse, on my way to Dornstadt. This time I knew where the turn was. I looked carefully for a street sign; there was none I could see. In fact I didn't ever see a sign at all on the road. On this trip, I carefully recorded the heights for Gerd. It was 100 metres up the top of the Jura that surrounded town, with the highest point on the way being about another 20m up. Although the difference between Ulm and Dornstadt was about 110m, the bicycle climb was about 200m.
I had another charming visit with the Platows. Peggy had been invited to a football game by a girl friend so was not there. Kerstin was in and out, struggling, inside with a biology project and outside with her mom's car. Kerstin had just gotten her drivers license and was discovering that a car with power steering and an automatic was not the same as one with a clutch.
Today I left the Platows early enough to have sunshine for the whole trip. It was a delightful, mostly down hill, only 24m up, trip to Ulm. It really is much pleasanter when you can see.
For supper I had Kebab - called Gyros in Montréal - at one of the many small shops run by the local Turkish community. It was very good, with souvlaki type spicing in a thick pita-like bread. I then went back to my ``1531'' pub by the hotel for some more Gold Ochsen Original beer, and to read my guide book. My book suggests that Stuttgart is really only interesting because of its museums, all of which are closed on Mondays, the day I shall be there. It is not all that important though. I don't expect to have much time.
I made an early train - the 7:10 to Stuttgart. I also saw how the normal people travel, in luxury. The 6:53 ICE to Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Hanover came by while I was waiting. The ICE is classy and fast. My FlexiPass allows me on them with no surcharge but not with a bicycle. The ``E'' train is difficult this time. The conductor sends me to the last car but this is one of those with seats on both sides of the door. There is really no place for my bike except in the aisle. Hopefully the train will remain as uncrowded as it is now. I am the only one in this compartment for 24.
We arrived late again by just a few minutes. Either the trains are late or the schedules are overly optimistic. I took my bike off, with some difficulty, and then went to make the sleeping car reservation. That was relatively easy for 47dm (about $33). In Frankfurt I was told that there was a charge for my bike on this train. I tried to get a ticket and was informed that there was no baggage car and I wouldn't be allowed to take my bike. The ticket agent added that it was really at the option of the conductor whether I would be allowed to take it. If he said no, I was stuck. I really don't have much choice. I have made my sleeping car reservation and may get stuck.
My map showed that the University was just a few blocks from the station. It was a very easy ride and I was there in no time.
I finished after dark - not too difficult to do at this time of year. My seminar took an hour and half. Fortunately, no one left. There were about 35 people there.
I took a different way back to the Bahnhof and promptly got lost at an ideal place - a Fußgänger zone that cut right across town. I was able to provision for the train at the grocery store in the basement of the Hertle Department store. Large department stores in France tend to have groceries in their basement. I guessed that this might be true here and it was.
Supper was kebab on a bun - much nicer than the equivalent gyro in Montreal. I had two. They make hamburgers at McDonald's really fourth rate.
At the station, I stripped my bike and turned the handle bars to make it as unobtrusive as possible. My bike was at one end of the train and the sleeping car at the other. I took several trips down to it during the night to make sure it had not been removed. It made it all the way.
We arrived in Berlin at about 9:00am - the conductor gave me a hard time as I took the bike off about the fact there was no baggage car for my bike. When I said ``sorry'', purposely in English, he threw up his hands and shoulders in despair and walked away.
I then rode madly down the platform to retrieve my super thermos that I had left in the rack above the bed. I got it just before the train pulled out for its final stop - the Hauptbahnhof in East Berlin.
I am staying at the Central Pension, 31 Kant Strasse, recommended in my ``Real Germany'' guide book. I would never have stopped, or even noticed that it existed, without the recommendation.
I am now sitting by the Brandenburg Gate having Bratwurst and Glühwein for lunch. I rode through the gate. In 1968, this was off limits. The wall ran about 10 feet from here. There is no evidence at all of the wall, except for the ``authentic pieces'' being sold as souvenirs.
My hands are cold. I think I shall get some more bratwurst and Glühwein.
There is a small section of the wall just inside the Brandenburg Gate as a memorial. From there you can travel down the line where it used to be. The inner, older mesh fence is still intact in many places. About 500 metres from the Gate, there is a large section of the wall that is almost complete. It is not obvious why, but there seems to be construction activity right near by. I didn't notice any other traces of the wall on my wanderings today, but I didn't try very hard to follow its old track.
The main reason that I wanted to come to Berlin was to see the East before it was totally transformed. I think I am almost too late for East Berlin. Commercially the transformation seems complete. The stores here are virtually the same as in West Berlin, except perhaps for a large complex of Bulgarian government stores left over from the old regime. Interestingly enough, the Russian Army hats, badges, knives, and binocular hawkers that were crowded by the Brandenburg Gate turn up on the Kudamm at night.
The Alexander Platz looks as though it had always been part of greater Berlin. Although Marx/Engels Platz still exists, it seems to be commercially dead. In 1968, I remember it as being the most active part of East Berlin. I have no idea if it died in the 21 years before the revolution or just afterward. It looked as though it had been dead for some time.
Breakfast starts at the Central Pension at the rather late hour of 8:30. I woke up moderately late this morning, 5:00am and survived on some Konditorei delicacies that I had bought last night, plus mineral wasser.
It is nice today in Berlin - cloudy and not raining. Yesterday I was very cold, for some reason I don't really understand - perhaps the dampness. Today I think I shall look for some interesting, and hopefully warmer, mittens.
Museum for Pre and Proto History This is a very modern style museum of stone, bronze, and iron age history in a building attached to the SchloßCharlottenburg. Two highlights for me - reproductions of the stone age cave paintings in Dordogne, France that I missed on my travels there, and a collection of Heinrich Schliemann's treasures and pottery from Troy.
This museum had explanations on most plaques in German, English, and French. The English and French were quite abbreviated. They also had detailed sheets of information, only in German, at each main exhibit. You could take them with you, and pay, on the honour system, at 10 pfennigs per sheet. They had a complete set in French, but not English, at the exit. I bought the French set.
On my way over to the northern end of Friedrichstrasse and Checkpoint Charlie, I made at least two major wrong turns and ended up going precisely the wrong direction on Moabit Alt. I discovered the error when I crossed a river that wasn't supposed to be there.
I seem to be continually lost here in Berlin. Although I was here once before it doesn't seem to help. I was an ``island hopper'' then, popping in and out of U-bahn stations, not learning anything of the layout or the street directions. I don't think there is a straight street in Berlin. My map is similar. It is one of those magical types that very cleverly opens up to a small page. One major problem I find with this is that I don't see any big picture.
I was wrong about East Berlin being completely commercially transformed. Although the Alexander Platz is full, there has been some devastation at the neighborhood store level. There are a number of empty tabacs, restaurants, and grocery stores sprinkled throughout the neighbourhoods.
Friedrichstrasse, once a central hub of Berlin is being transformed. The lower end, near Checkpoint Charlie is in the process of being totally rebuilt. The section I walked through between Marx/Engels Platz and Checkpoint Charlie, which had had been heavily damaged by bullet holes has been largely rebuilt in the 25 years that I had been away. However I did find some evidence of its former state tucked away on some back streets.
In 1968, there were some renovations in progress.
It was nice to see an open street where Checkpoint Charlie used to be. A small fragment of the wall, some tank traps, and an old East German Guard house have been left as a memorial. Zimmer Strasse has been opened up (again?) and cars go right over poor old Charlie.
I do know how to get back to my pension from the Gate via Potsdamer Strasse and Platz (still a large open field - it used to be the center of Berlin), and Kufürsten Strasse and Damm, sort of. I missed my turn towards Savigny Platz and went out to the end of the KuDamm. Then it was backtracking a bit, up to Kant Strasse and back.
I tried some Berliner Kindl beer at the local pub around the corner - there seems to be a local pub around every corner in this neighbourhood - and decided that in my complete scientific sampling of German beers in Ulm, Stuttgart, and Berlin that I liked the Ulm Gold Ochsen best. When I phoned Peg and told her of the scientific results, she complimented me on my good taste.
Today I start out for Lutherstadt, more commonly known as Wittenberg, on my way towards Leipzig. I estimated the total distance to Leipzig as about 150km. Local German estimates range from 100 to 200km. We shall see. Now we shall see how hard it is to get out of Berlin. It was not too hard, just a couple of confusions and wrong streets.
An abrupt end of building, an open field and a long paved patrol road by the non-existent wall mark the edge of Berlin and the beginning of the Neues Bundeslands - New Territories.
Luckenwalde This is a large town about 60km south of Berlin. It has a delightful Fussgänger zone that you would miss if you continued on the highway. I get the distinct impression that the ``main'' highways bypass the center of all the towns. Unlike France, there is no warning that it is happening. I would have missed the town here completely if I hadn't turned off. I had been warned that I was too late to see the East before the transformation. If Luckenwald is any indication, it is indeed true. This place looks quite prosperous and contented.
Jägerbog The town gates are still intact and the main entry into town. I have been looking for a phone booth that will take my phone card. Phone booths are rare and those using a phone card nonexistent. I will have to wait for Wittenberg.
The Soviet Army may be going home but they sure have a lot of trucks on the highway. I just passed a group of about a hundred soldiers having small arms fire practice. Is that to get ready for something or to relieve boredom?
Wittenberg/Lutherstadt I don't have any idea when the name Lutherstadt was first used but I didn't see it on any of the signs on the way down here. This is about 120km from Berlin and I arrived just as it was getting very dark - about 4:50pm. Fortunately the tourist bureau had not yet closed (5:00pm) and they were able to find me a Pension. My guide books are useless here.
Phoning was more of a problem than I imagined. My phone card does not work in the Neues Bundeslands, as the East is called, and the phones use different codes to get overseas, assuming that it is indeed possible from a pay phone. I went into one of the two Hotels in Wittenberg, the Goldener Adler and asked where there was a telephone. He then asked where I wanted to phone, and when he heard Kanada, he offered me his phone at 4 marks per minute. The North American code is 061 rather than the 001 in the Bundesrepublic (this is the word I heard). Of course there was no information on the phone about the codes for anywhere. I got through to Virginia's answering machine and gave the man his 4 marks.
There was an unusual fair in the Markt Platz. It was full of ``normal'' household goods, toys, and miscellaneous. What was unusual is that at least one of the wagons came from Hamburg. I got the impression that they had all come from the west. They appeared to be a bring the needed goods to the deprived New Territories and make a profit in the process. I wonder if they will be there tomorrow.
There appears to be only two restaurants in town; maybe I shall find more tomorrow. What was very unusual was that one pub/restaurant was closed and the local pizza shop was shutting down at 7:00pm. I found a bar that was open and claimed to have pub grub. I continued my scientific sampling of German beers; Krombacher Pils is a pleasant beer like the Holstein Pils but the Schultheiss is just plain dull. Schultheiss was quite common in Berlin. My neighbour had an interesting vegetable soup. I decided to try a bowl. It was delicious with an unusual and subtle taste more in common with a Chinese or Japanese soup than German. I would try it again.
I asked for breakfast at 7:30 this morning. I didn't want to get the lady up too soon. It is now 6:30 and she seems to have breakfast ready for some other guests already.
It appears Frau Barthel will let me stay another night. I shall explore Wittenberg.
Today I was in search of two historical moments. The earlier was Wittenberg in East Germany and the older was Martin Luther and his epoque.
The tourist bureau people differentiated between the AltStadt, all inside the old walls and the new part. I went out into the new part, all the way to the edge of town. The houses were individual and decently interesting but most of the streets are still unpaved. The age of the houses suggest that this is a long term phenomenon. As I reached the end of town, I was reminded again of a characteristic odour that I had smelled at while entering several towns between here and Berlin.
One of the classiest houses that I saw today had a single Russian Star on it. Another part of town looked like the uninspired proletariat high rise housing that I have seen in several other Eastern European countries.
The AltStadt is the focus of the search for Martin Luther. While I was at the train station, an American was asking whether a taxi driver could take him to all the Luther spots he had on his list. Although it was suggested that he could walk to these places, he chose the taxi. I wonder how well he did. Wittenberg is not yet geared to non German tourists - or many tourists of any kind. The non German information is non-existent and the tourist services are minimal.
The Schloss Kirche is where Luther posted his 95 theses on October 31, 1517. From most directions this church looks more like a castle than a church. The normal views, that make it look most like a church, are from inside the courtyard, on the opposite side of the famous doors. The original doors have long since gone and have been replaced by brass ones that have had the 95 theses ``permanently'' embossed on them.
The highlight of the Luther trail is the museum in the Luther Haus. Originally it was the house of Augustinian Monks and then became the house for Martin Luther, his wife, and his five children. His was a big family but the house is four floors, each of at least 10,000 square feet per floor. Perhaps he shared it.
The most impressive thing for me in the museum was the importance of the printed word. I wonder if Luther could have had the same impact 100 years earlier - before Gutenberg. Not only was the bible easily available, Luther's own writings were accessible, perhaps through intermediaries, for mass consumption.
The collection had four floors of exhibits. The fourth was the high security area with several Gutenberg bibles. These were beautiful, two colour (black with the occasional red for emphasis or relief) examples of typographic skill. I found the fonts very difficult to read. Was it as hard then or were you supposed to savour every word. A couple of other bibles were opened to pages that had very detailed gold leaf and painted illustrations filling the page. Did you print or draw first?
The final two rooms on the fourth floor were of contemporary interpretations of Luther anniversaries. In my opinion, they ranged from the grotesque to the very silly. I wonder why the curators felt that this added to the presentation.
I started out for an early walk, around 7:00am because there was no activity in the kitchen and it was not at all certain that there would be. As I was leaving, I met Frau Bartel about to leave on her bike to get morning breakfast bread. I guess something is alive.
Yesterday morning, at about 8:30, I saw a line of people waiting to get into a bakery. Only a few of the grocery stores were open. Even the stalls in the Markt Platz were just setting up. In France, or Berlin(?), the it would be in full swing. Market driven service has not yet become commonplace.
Breakfast looks as though it will indeed be ready at 7:30. Yesterday's 7:00am breakfast was apparently for the workers and the Hamburger. I must compliment Frau Bartel on her flexibility. Most other pensions put breakfast on at a fixed hour - take it or leave it. Although Frau Bartel's Frühstückpension An der Stadtkirche is tucked in the back of building, it has obviously been renovated and is sparkling clean and new. I suspect it is much nicer than the Hotel Goldener Adler.
After breakfast I am off to Leipzig. My estimate is 70km but I have no idea if the country remains flat or starts to become hilly. There are some hills near Wittenberg. Tonight I will take, hopefully, the 11:30pm train from Leipzig to Heidelberg.
Breakfast was indeed ready exactly as advertised. Frau Bartel asked me to sign her Gastebuch - I was her first guest from Kanada. She was quite proud of her foreign guests, Finland, USA, Sweden, and possibly England. All have been charmed, although deciphering European script is almost as difficult as a Gutenberg Bible.
Bad Düben It has been up and down over ridge lines and through the woods since leaving Kemberg 20 km ago. It is a welcome relief from the 140km of field since leaving Berlin. The leaves covered the ground and there was a crisp clearness in the air. This morning it started out partly cloudy but has since degenerated slightly into being partly sunny.
Bad Düben is about 35km south of Wittenberg. It has a drab, colourless look about it that makes you think the new prosperity missed it. Perhaps things will improve as I go into town.
There is a part of town that does have some colour but it is very schizophrenic. A street suddenly changes from new paint to drab blight. The main road, Route 2, is continually blighted.
From Bad Düben it has become flat field again. I stopped for lunch, and a foot thaw at Silvias Grillstube in Gollmenz. I had a Jägerwurst mit Salat, a bratwurst with a barbecue and onion sauce and potato salad. In Germany, ``salad'' almost always means potato salad.
Silvias also had a German Budweiser but I found it easy to resist.
It was very strange but all the stores, except for a few restaurants and one very small bookstore, all the stores in the inner stadt, the city inside the ring were closed. This was all Saturday afternoon.
Leipzig was one of Bach's towns. The Thomas Kirche claims him and there is a Bach Museum nearby. Poor Bach has scaffolding above his head. The entire steeple of the church is enveloped in mesh and scaffolding. I was more than a little disappointed to have missed an organ recital at 1:30.
Three young boys riding their bikes around the center of town were very curious about my bike and me - probably in that order. They wondered how I got to Leipzig and were astounded when they heard I had come down from Berlin, 200km. They wanted me to give them my autograph. I made out one note for them to share. That was extremely silly of me. I then made out two more.
I was unable to get a reservation for the sleeping car for overnight so I decided, instead to take the 17:23 to Frankfurt. This was the first train that I have been on that said they carried bicycles and actually had a baggage car. The glitch was that they asked for my bicycle ticket. After some discussion, they decided that the Flexipass was good enough. It was obvious at that point I couldn't go back and get a ticket.
Frankfurt/Oder We arrived at Frankfurt/Oder and I didn't recognize the station. I didn't recognize the street layout of the city map either. Especially confusing was the Oder River with DDR on one side and Poland on the other. A large map of the DDR showed me my error. I was on the Polish/German border an a line with Berlin. I now know why the other Frankfurt is called Frankfurt/Main.
I thought Frankfurt/Oder was another station like Berlin/Lichtenfeld in Berlin. It is an interesting geography lesson. I wonder if Peggy knows where this is.
My travelling companions to Frankfurt were Mr. and Mrs. Winter from Cottbus, about an hour from Frankfurt/Oder. After some discussion about my travel plans and learning that I intended to visit a friend in Heidelberg tomorrow, he asked me where I was going to sleep tonight. I said I would find a place after phoning my friend in Heidelberg. He said his daughter, Ruth, lived in Frankfurt, and that she was living in a second apartment while her old (new?) one was being renovated. I could stay in there. He said he would phone to tell her I would be coming.
After discovering my plight, I decided that I didn't have much choice but to phone Ruth Winter. I tried using my phone card. It had 2.70 marks on it when I finished phoning in Leipzig and the phone said it was no good. I had three 10pf pieces and discovered from this was watching people use the coin phone that this was the appropriate number. I phoned and Ruth had indeed been warned by her father. She said she would wait for me. I looked at the map again, found Ferdinand Straße, and went straight out the station as her father had instructed. I missed it and went way down the hill on Bahnhof Straße. I came back to the station to examine the map again and Ruth found me. I was the only person riding a bike at that time of night.
We walked back to her apartment to find the kids hanging out the window waiting for us. There are three, Theresa, who had a friend staying over, Felix and Christof. We talked, over a bottle of rosé from Heilbronn, of my confusion, children, and the problems of phoning in the new territories.
I then tried to phone Gerhard in Heidelberg but it wouldn't work. Ruth found the magic 093 code needed from the operator. Gerhard's comment was that it was a long way away. We are not going to see each other on this trip.
The apartment is on the fourth, and top, floor of an older high rise. It has large, sparely furnished rooms with the nice 12 foot ceilings. Each room has a large ceramic coal heater. It is not yet cold enough to use them.
There is a train this morning at 6:39am back to Leipzig and on to Frankfurt (Main). I am getting up very early to go to the station and buy my bicycle ticket. I don't remember any place to sit there but I shall make do.
Ruth gave me keys for the basement to get my bike out but all the plans for a quiet leaving went for naught. I didn't have a front door key and it was locked - from both sides.
This train says Frankfurt/Main
I will even get to see the countryside of the DDR (Ruth stills calls it that.) during the day. Day has not sprung yet and there is no breakfast to be had in the station until just after the train leaves. I ate my leftovers, from yesterday, for supper last night.
Leipzig Back to Leipzig Hauptbahnhof again. We are here about 15 minutes so it is time to race out and buy some brunch. I was successful. This train is the one I would have taken if I had been forced to stay overnight in Leipzig. Overnight in Frankfurt/Oder caused the same thing.
So far I have had the compartment to myself. In fact, from Frankfurt/Oder to Leipzig, I think I had the entire car to myself.
In Erfurt, I was joined by four kids on their way to ???. The tracks and roadbed around Gotha are in very bad shape. Perhaps my travelling companion's comment (complaint?) on the train to Berlin is right. It will take a lot of money to upgrade the Deutsches Reichsbahn.
The 6:14 to Frankfurt Airport is the ``work train.'' It was jammed - I had to carefully control the bike to stop it from running over someone.
The trains to Frankfurt Airport alternate, about every 10 minutes, from Track 20 in the Hauptbahnhof and from one of 6 tracks, I still not at all certain which one, underground. The upstairs one is much the easiest to negotiate.
Security is tight in Frankfurt. I don't think that I needed the 3.5 hours that I had but it was nice not to be rushed.
Security is indeed tight. We identified our luggage right by the plane. There was no snow, just a light drizzle. At least I know my bike made it this far.
1Peggy was eventually accepted by UofT, Carleton, and UC Berkeley, but not by Queens. Carleton and Berkeley accepted her because she wrote her SATs in Germany and did quite well.
2The skis did not
even make it into the ski season. Peggy took them down to ski shop in
Ulm to get them adjusted and the owner said that the skis were only good
for ``kindling wood''.