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This is a collection of my blog entries related to short or long trips I, or Jennifer and I went on.
I have some master pages for some specific locations/trips:

Paris over many years | Australia over many years | Canada over many years | Japan over multiple trips | Italy in 2011 | France in 2013 | Indonesia in 2013 | Japan in 2013 | Japan in 2014 | Taiwan in 2014 | Indonesia in 2014 | New Zealand in 2015 | Japan in 2015 | Costa Rica in 2015 | Singapore in 2016 | South Korea in 2016 | Japan in 2016 |

Table of Content for trips:

More pages: February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997



2016/10/09 Germany Trip Wrapup
π 2016-10-09 00:00 in Germany2016, Trips
After 23 days in Germany, including a 2 day detour in Austria, that was the end of our trip. Jennifer would happily have added a few more days to match the Rick Steve's book recommendations, but at the same time, after 20.5 days of touring (2.5 days were my conference), we were also tired :)
With hindsight being 20/20:
  • Another day in Dresden to see all the museums that were closed on the moday we arrived, would have
  • Munich had so many worthwhile museums that it was easily worth another day (mind you, the BMW museum and factory tour did burn 2/3rd of a day, but that was worth it)
  • I'm sure we missed other worthwhile cities, but you can't be everywhere, after a while you start OD'ing on churches and museum anyway :)
  • Rick Steves will invariably put 3 stars on anything Nazi and/or Jewish memorial related, but you only need to see so many before they become redundant (I think we saw 5 or 6 of them total, and it felt like more than necessary). For one, going to where Hitler's house was in the mountains in Obersalzbe (Eagle's Nest) was a total waste of half a day that would have been much better spent in Munich. Similarly, taking us to where Hitler's bunker used to be in Berlin where there is absolutely nothing left of it, and not mentioning anything about the beautiful German and French Churches that were just 7mn away by foot, did not make sense to me.

  • I'm not a huge fan of driving on boring public roads, but Germany was about as good as it could have been. Hightlights on driving:

  • Autobahns were great, except for all the sections that were closed for rebuilding: in too many other places, we got stopped by a red light to share a single lane with oncoming traffic, each side taking turns, and the Autobahn was often slowed down as everyone merged on a lane or two while the other side of the road was being rebuilt. Bad timing I guess.
  • Germans are pretty respectful of rules, but did not seem overly worried about speed limits on freeways, when they existed. I was totally ok with that :)
  • However, their lane discipline, getting back over to the right after passing, and proper signalling, were a delight. If only US drivers actually had a of proper training with a real instructor, and real rules starting with always signalling, and lane discipline (stay to the right, unless you're passing or there is no one behind you).
  • We got way too many umleitungs (road detours), to the point that we started hating that word :)
  • The last few days, we were able to get around with trains, and there were quite descent
  • 2400km, not as many as the 3700km we drove in France
    2400km, not as many as the 3700km we drove in France

    About food:

  • German and Austrian food, I'm not sure (sorry). It wasn't bad and I like sauerkraut, but I've sadly had better choucroute in France than the 4 places I tried in Germany and Austria (but maybe I got unlucky each time?). Also, some restaurants took up to 15 minutes to even take our order (they were busy) and often 45mn or even 1h to give us one dish. We quickly learned never to order an appetizer or a dessert if we wanted to get back to our room some decent time, which is sad. But speaking about desserts, the ones we ate were good.
  • The food options at a beer garden in Salzburg were much more limited if you did not consider a pretzel "dinner" :)
  • The breakfasts we got were mostly the same in all the hotels we went to, but overall we enjoyed them, a good selection of meat, cheese and breads for sandwiches. Hot chocolate just about everywhere and espresso for Jennifer in most locations. Honestly, those were often the best meals of the day.
  • The food was a bit disappointing overall. Germany is supposed to be known for sausages, so I tried them in different places. At time they gave me most basic and boring hot dog like sausages, a few times, I got somewhat better sausages, but nothing really earth shattering. Along with the rest of the food we ate, nothing really brought me any fond memories outside of a flamenkuche I was able to find somewhere, but those are actually from Alsace, which is now part of France :)
  • Germany does have fancy restaurant where the food was better, but they were a bit hard to find, and we often didn't have the 2H+ necessary to eat there, not counting reservations, so all in all food was not what ended up being one of our best memories of Germany.
  • My other thoughts on Germany:

  • First, German people, outside of some museum goons, were all very nice and helpful. They also spoke English quite well overall, much better than what you'd expect and get in France or Italy for sure.
  • A sure lowlight was the stupidity of security rules in Munich preventing me from taking my fanny pack with all my money, phones and other stuff I care about, in a museum for "security reasons". What a bunch of crap, are they trying to compete with US TSA in totally pointless "security" measures? (more details in the blog post on Munich)
  • Similarly, telling Jennifer that she could not carry her light jacket/layer around her waist and had to check it in, and go back to check it out if she needed it later in a different colder room, was just a complete joke. This happened in 3 different museums in different cities, and they were hassling Germans too, so it was not targeted at her specifically.
  • On the sightseeing standpoint, it was really nice. The amount of diverse and pretty castles they had beats France in my opinion, and France has some nice castles too. On the catholic church standpoint, some were the prettiest ones I've seen the world, bar none. The amount of varied and beautiful art in them was unbeatable, and that includes what I've seen in Italy.
  • Germany is also full of very nice palaces that were built when they were jealous of Versailles, and let's be honest in saying that many were pretty incredible, not in size, but in the quality of art in them. Sadly at least half of them also did not allow any pictures which is not quite acceptable in my opinion, Versailles allows pictures, they should too, at least in places where the visits are not in mandated tours.
  • On religion, Germany has been torn between Catholics and Protestants, but the part I didn't know is that unless you specifically declare you are atheist and/or renounce your current religion in writing, you are required to pay 8% (!) of your taxable income to the church. Ouch, talk about lack of separation of church and state... But the bonus for us was a multitude of beautiful churches (well, at least for the catholics).
  • I do however have to get Germany absolute credit for how they have been handling their troubled history. Every place I saw was to the point, didn't hide anything, and while it did point out that many Germans obviously did not agree with what Hilter was doing, it was also almost impossible to oppose him after a short while. I was very disappointed at Japan and how they flat out lie about their history so that they don't look bad and don't have to admit fault, and they have plenty of it. Germany was an exact opposite of that.
  • Another thing we saw in multiple places was how Germany leads the world in solar production per capita despite the limited sun they get compared to some better located countries. Good for them!
  • we saw many solar farms on the side of the road
    we saw many solar farms on the side of the road

    So, despite some of the speed bumps due to over strict rules, it was a very nice trip through a country with varied history and culture, resulting in lots of different things to see. Well worth it.

    See more images for Germany Trip Wrapup
    2016/10/04 Germany Day 19-23: Berlin
    π 2016-10-04 00:00 in Germany2016, Trips
    The last 5 days of our trip were spent in Berlin, although 3 of those were spent at Linuxcon Europe. We only really had about 2.5 days to visit Berlin, which was almost enough, but only given very long days (we found some museums that closed at 20:00, or even 22:00 depending on the day).

    Our first nights were at the intercontinental berlin, which had a great breakfast but wasn't super nicely located for sightseeing:


    very good selections
    very good selections

    During lunch the first day, we had a quick walk to a nearby church that had been badly damaged by bombing, walking by the zoo:









    One evening, we had a party next the Berlin tower and AlexanderPlatx. We had a rooftop party, but it was so cold that we only went out for a few pictures and stayed inside the rest of the time:






    The first day after the conference, We went to the Deutsche History Museum, which was both unique and excellent. I had never seen a museum that recounts the entire history of a country, but that's exactly what this one did:

  • from prehistoric times
  • to the story of religions (germany started the protestant fork of christianism with Martin Luther who translated the bible in German after finding the catholics way too corrupt and willing to sell absolution)
  • to the invasion of good parts of Germany by Napoleon who in addition to growing France's borders, was also wanting to get rid of kings and queens in Europe and actually did help several people get rights similar to France's déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen
  • France however tried to be a bit too greedy and in the end lost its army after trying to go too far, resulting in France even losing some of its territory to Germany (Alsace and Lorraine) in 1870
  • A description of WWI where the war stalled and France got Alsace and Lorraine back
  • The resulting conditions put on Germany after WWI that caused hyper inflation, unhappy people and ultimately helped allow the rise of the nazi party
  • A good description of how Hitler and his accomplices were able to slowly take control of the government, first legally and then by removing whatever legal rights were left, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and competing political parties
  • from there, the same description of what the nazi party managed to do before the end of WWII
  • Sadly, once Germany was occupied by the 4 victorious countries, Russia was losing so many people to the west with its economic policies that weren't working out, that they built the wall in and around Berlin, to stop the exodus
  • and it's only by 1989, that they admitted that their policies had utterly failed, that their people didn't want to participate, and that they finally allowed them to cross the wall
  • said wall was fairly quickly taken down by the population as a bad memory of 30 years, to the point that the government had to protect a few pieces of it to be kept for historical reasons.










  • Next, we went to Pergamon Museum that was open late that evening, and that saved us from the usual lines they have. It's going to be in renovations for many years, but they still had interesting collections from the middle east that were visible:










    The next morning, we walked to the Reichtag for a walk to the top dome. Honestly the view was nothing to write home about, but it's a nice building nonetheless:



    pieces of the berlin wall
    pieces of the berlin wall

    monument to murdered jews
    monument to murdered jews






    Before doing the rest of the walk, we did a detour to the Wall Museum, with a reconstituted piece of the Berlin wall with watchtower, and no mans land in the middle. The subway also showed subway stations that got closed and became ghost stations while the wall was up (as well as escapes that managed to work out through the subway tunnels):


    in some places, the pavement shows where the wall used to be
    in some places, the pavement shows where the wall used to be




    what the wall used to be like, two walls really
    what the wall used to be like, two walls really

    The walk then went to Branderburger Gate and continued the walk:




    the bunker hitler finished his life in before killing himself is gone, just a plaque
    the bunker hitler finished his life in before killing himself is gone, just a plaque


    galleries lafayette
    galleries lafayette

    Not on the Rick Steves Walk (and that is a mistake) were the German and French cathedrals by the concert hall. The French one was actually for a sect of the protestants that had to flea from France after persecution from the catholics, and the city of Berlin added a nice dome on top that one can now climb after the rebuild that happened due to WWII:


    the french cathedral had a museum
    the french cathedral had a museum

    new church tower with bells
    new church tower with bells

    just a few steps to get to the top
    just a few steps to get to the top

    nice view
    nice view


    the church inside is very basic, as expected for protestant churches
    the church inside is very basic, as expected for protestant churches


    Deutsche Cathedral
    Deutsche Cathedral


    We then walked to checkpoint charlie before going to Topography of Terror, the Berlin documentation center, with its own piece of wall too. By then, this was our 4th or 5th documentation center on what the Nazi did, so there wasn't really anything new, but we still went through it in a couple of hours since it was open from 18:00 to 20:00, a bit later than others places that had closed by 18:00:







    they had more pictures
    they had more pictures

    some were disturbing: hangings...
    some were disturbing: hangings...

    shootings, etc...
    shootings, etc...

    By 20:00, the documentation center closed, but I had still time to visit the nearby "Mauermuseum - Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie". It had some interesting stories on how people escaped east berlin and got across the wall through various means: tunnels, self built aircraft from planes to balloons, ramming the wall with a big bus or truck (that didn't work so well), using fake uniforms, fitting in a suitcase, or a loudspeaker box, and so forth :)

    incidently, East Berlin apparently only had one kind of car, for those lucky enough to have one. It's now an icon
    incidently, East Berlin apparently only had one kind of car, for those lucky enough to have one. It's now an icon







    someone even managed to hide in the engine bay of that crappy car
    someone even managed to hide in the engine bay of that crappy car

    original sign from checkpoint charlie
    original sign from checkpoint charlie

    I finally got done by 21:30, it had been a long day, and it was well past time for some rest :)

    The next morning we went to the Berlin Dom/Cathedral which opened by 09:00 when everything else was closed until 10:00. Decent view from the top:









    By 10:00-ish we headed towards museum island, starting with the Altes Museum, with a nice collection, but again we got hassled for BS like Jennifer being told she could not carry her jacket around her waist and put it on and off as needed. Either she wore it, or she had to check it in. Seriously?

    we learned during this trip that Romans started making sarcophagus and mummified some of their people after learning from the egyptians
    we learned during this trip that Romans started making sarcophagus and mummified some of their people after learning from the egyptians


    greeks having sex
    greeks having sex


    By then it was late enough to see a small original watch tower that was used to check the wall


    in that location the no mans land between the 2 walls was huge
    in that location the no mans land between the 2 walls was huge


    not a comfortable place to spend 8H shifts
    not a comfortable place to spend 8H shifts

    interestingly, the koreans put a small temple on the border of where the wall used to be, as a symbol of their dream to lose their own wall
    interestingly, the koreans put a small temple on the border of where the wall used to be, as a symbol of their dream to lose their own wall

    From there, we headed back to museum island to see Neues Museum, as it's actually called:



    yes, egyptian stuff isn't exactly new, but it was in the new museum anyway :)
    yes, egyptian stuff isn't exactly new, but it was in the new museum anyway :)



    Next, in case the names weren't confusing enough, there is also an alte national gallery that isn't the altes museum:







    After that museum, we went back to finish the Deutsches History Museum, and when they kicked us out at 18:00, we went to the DDR Museum nearby. To be honest, the DDR museum wasn't as interesting, but when we got out, it was night, so we went to enough the night sights and the festival of lights:













    And that was it for our visit of Berlin, much to see, especially museums, and it was interesting to see what's left of the wall in person, as well as more history about it than I had learned at home.

    See more images for Germany Day 19-23: Berlin
    2016/10/03 Germany Day 18: Partial Day in Dresden
    π 2016-10-03 00:00 in Germany2016, Trips

    From Nürnberg, we had to get to Berlin for my conference, and Dresden was on the way, so we spent a day there, but sadly it was a monday when most museums were closed (then again, our partial day in Dresden was pretty full as is, so we'd have had to add a 2nd day for the extra museums anyway).
    We took an early train at 07:30 from Nürnberg and had a 4H trip to Dresden, including a dicy train change that ended up working out as our train arrived late for the 3mn connection but thankfully the other train waited 2mn for us to let us transfer and make it. We arrived around 11:30, put our luggage in a locker, and went out in Dresden for a city walk under the rain.
    That day also turned out to be German Unity Day, so there were both festivities under the rain, a fair amount of people protesting about various things, and lots of police everywhere to ensure there would not be any terrorist acts. It was a bit weird but I can't blame the Germans for being worried at this point.
    Dresden was also heavily bombed during the war, most buildings had been rebuilt already: i00*

    the way from sorrow to violence is shorter than from Dresden to Heidenau
    the way from sorrow to violence is shorter than from Dresden to Heidenau




    Frauenkirsche
    Frauenkirsche



    poor church was reduced to rubbles
    poor church was reduced to rubbles


    Art wall on fuerstenzug
    Art wall on fuerstenzug


    sadly the celebrations on theatreplatz were kind of wet
    sadly the celebrations on theatreplatz were kind of wet


    lovely touring weather
    lovely touring weather

    We then went in the main museum that thankfully was not closed that day: Residenzschloss in Dresden. I has a famous "green vault" where the most valuable artifacts are stored, and for which we had a reservation. The items are stored in a vault where as expected no pictures were allowed. It was a nice collection, but it was a bit annoying that they made it that special and with those extra requirements. On the plus side "the new green room" inside the main museum had artifacts that were just as nice, where access was not restricted, and where pictures were allowed:






    nautilus shell
    nautilus shell






    coconut shell
    coconut shell


    The 3rd floor of the museum had other collections:




    Nice coin collection:



    The nearby church was accessible via a special access path for royalty, but because we weren't royalty, we were not able to use it:




    when the museum closed at 18:00, we had a quick look at the nearby museum complex that was closed, and went back to the airport to catch the last direct 2H train to Berlin:





    2016/10/02 Germany Day 17: Nuernberg
    π 2016-10-02 00:00 in Germany2016, Trips
    This was our first day of sightseeing after getting rid of our car. In Nürnberg, it was not a big deal, easy to get around on foot or by public transport, which is what we did.

    Because it was sunday, virtually nothing was open before 10:00, so we started by going to Rally Grounds walk around Dokumentationszentrum, and arrived there at 09:00 to do a one hour walk around the grounds. To be honest, outside of the Zeppelin Field, the rest of the walk was a bit boring, there isn't really much left to see today outside of that, and the amphitheatre that the Dokumentationszentrum is in:

    we arrived at 09:00, 1H before it opened, so we took the time to walk around the grounds
    we arrived at 09:00, 1H before it opened, so we took the time to walk around the grounds

    overview of the grounds, including parts that were never built due to lack of funds/time after WWII started
    overview of the grounds, including parts that were never built due to lack of funds/time after WWII started

    A huge street meant for marching and displays between monuments
    A huge street meant for marching and displays between monuments

    Congress Hall, the only monument that almost got fully built (some were planned and never started). It was supposed to get a roof though, but that didn't happen
    Congress Hall, the only monument that almost got fully built (some were planned and never started). It was supposed to get a roof though, but that didn't happen

    another view
    another view



    Zeppelin Field was used for huge Nazi rallys
    Zeppelin Field was used for huge Nazi rallys


    very big
    very big


    now it's an overgrown field used for sports
    now it's an overgrown field used for sports

    part of the outside of the field is actually used as a race track a few times a year, with grand stands
    part of the outside of the field is actually used as a race track a few times a year, with grand stands

    A bit after 10:00 when Dokumentationszentrum opened, with did the tour with the audio guide:






    A bit after 2H for the visit, we took a bus back to downtown for a city walk

    Saint Sebaldus Church
    Saint Sebaldus Church


    Männleinaufen
    Männleinaufen



    Lorenz church
    Lorenz church







    the church, like most of the city, was heavily damaged by WWII bombing and a lot was rebuilt
    the church, like most of the city, was heavily damaged by WWII bombing and a lot was rebuilt

    Hauptmarkt
    Hauptmarkt







    We were supposed to do a 14:30 guided tour of bunker tunnels were a lot of art was stored to be protected from bombings, but it was run badly by a company that didn't really care, and we got incomplete information which ended up with us showing up early and being told there were no spots left for the only tour of the day that's maybe in English (or not). Instead, we just had a quick walk up to Kaiserburg, the Imperial Castle, which we just had a quick look at without going in.
    The city view from there was a bit underwhelming, sadly, the view was a bit underwhelming:




    So, since it was close to 15:00, we opted for doing to the Deutsches Museum, a great museum that happens to contain a church inside of it (!). I barely got to see all of it in 3H, and at normal pace, it's likely worth most of a day. It has a very varied collections, from caveman artifacts, to middle ages, to church history, to science instruments, musical instruments, old paintings, new paintings and art, nouveau art, and more:






    nice faucets
    nice faucets















    I then went to the church inside the museum
    I then went to the church inside the museum

    how many museums have a church inside of them?
    how many museums have a church inside of them?





    We then had dinner in downtown and want to get some sleep due to an early train to Dresden the next morning

    See more images for Germany Day 17: Nuernberg
    2016/10/01 Germany Day 16: Weikersheim and Wuerzburg
    π 2016-10-01 00:00 in Germany2016, Trips

    We left Rothenburg early-ish in the morning and drove to Weikersheim, a nearby town where we went to visit Palace (Schloss Weikersheim and went through its gardens before it opened at 09:00. We then got lucky to have a private tour from their guide when they opened at 09:00. It's a nice palace that was built by another person with too much money who was jaleous of Versailles and wanted to at least match it :)
    Pictures were kind of restricted inside, so I sadly only have a few shots:









    We then drove to Würzburg's train station and finally dropped off our car:

    2416km driven, not as much as our French trip, but not too bad :)
    2416km driven, not as much as our French trip, but not too bad :)

    From the train station, we went to Residenz Palace in Würzburg, it's a beautiful palace, were very annoyingly so pictures were restricted too. By then I was really starting to get annoyed at this. When Germans go to Versailles, we let them take all the pictures they want, it's really not right that they are preventing pictures without flash in some of their nicest palaces and castles...
    Another thing to know was the that palace was heavily damaged (like most of the city) by WWII bombing, so they spent a lot of time and money rebuilding it, and the rebuilding job looks really good. Anyway, these are the pictures I have:










    And 3rd party pictures I had to waste time looking for, thanks again to the restrictions Residenz Palace in Würzburg had:





    In the same location, we went to the Court Chapel, which was beautiful:





    Next, we went through the gardens:





    We then started our Würzburg walk:










    We then went for a walk up to Marienberg Fortress for a guided tour that was going to leave at 15:30, and we made it up just in time:



    after a pretty steep walk up, we got there
    after a pretty steep walk up, we got there






    good view from up there, keep in mind the city was mostly levelled by bombs and rebuilt
    good view from up there, keep in mind the city was mostly levelled by bombs and rebuilt









    We then went to visit the main museum that's part of the Fortress:






    By 17:00 the museum closed, so we walked back to the town towards the train station and took a train to Nürnberg:




    More pages: February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997