From Berlin to the Black Forest (2010)

In May 2010 I decided to leave my job in Australia and travel around the world before moving to the USA. This journey ended up involving travelling in 18 countries on 4 continents (North America, Europe, Asia and Australia) and taking me around the world 1.5 times over a 12 month period! I wrote a number of travel emails from that trip and I thought it would be fun to revisit them with some additional info and photos. The following blog is Part 7 & 8 of that journey (Germany).

June 15th, 2010

Hi All,

I am now in Freiburg, in South Western Germany (reasonably close to Switzerland). I am planning to do some hiking in the Black Forest nearby, but now and probably tomorrow it is raining virtually all day….a German summer is like a Melbourne, Australia one! Stinking hot one day, cold and wet the next! If the rain remains light I will still head out there.

My last days in Berlin were very interesting. I went to the former HQ of the Stasi (secret police). This building was where the last Stasi Director had his offices before the fall of Communism in East Germany (GDR) in 1989. All the desks, board room tables etc were still there – every room had a large safe for files, there was a prison cell etc. A strange highlight was having afternoon tea in the former cafe lounge of the Stasi Officers – all the decor was very 70´s and early 80´s with wood panelling etc. An interesting experience, given that up until 1989 being in that place was not a good thing! If you spoke against the state or asked to leave for West Germany, you could end up in jail for 18 months with no trial. The Stasi would just sign a form and you were taken away immediately – generally after extreme psychological pressure to sign a “confession”!

Berlin Stasi HQ
Berlin Stasi HQ – GDR Flag
Berlin Stasi HQ
Berlin Stasi HQ – Detention Cells

Last sunday was the Berlin Air Show, although the weather was ordinary – overcast and light rain, the show was fantastic! The German Luftwaffe put on a fantastic display with Phantom II, Tornado and the newer Eurofighter jets – 12 jets doing simulated attack runs, jets doing touchdowns and takeoffs etc. Great fun….plus loads of other fighter jets, helicopters, historic aircraft, aerial acrobatics etc. The Swiss Air Force FA-18 Hornet and their aerobatics team “Swiss Patrioulle” with F-5 Freedom Fighters were also excellent to watch (even in the rain for the grand finale). It was so hot the day before, then the weekend came and the weather turned bad, shame….but the show still went on.

Luftwaffe F-4 Phantom II
Luftwaffe Tornado
Luftwaffe Eurofighter
Swiss F-18 Hornet
Swiss Patrioulle

I also visited the Deutches Technikmuseum (Museum of Technology) in Berlin. A museum of scientific and technical collections including aircraft, locomotive and maritime displays, some of the items date back from over 100 years ago, alas many more items were lost during WW2 bombing. For me it was an opportunity to see some rare WW2 German aircraft and early technology like 1930’s televisions (the 1936 Berlin Olympic games were actually broadcast on TV, but I gather not many people actually had one to watch!).

Messerschmitt 110
1930’s TV’s

Then it was on to Nuremberg. This is the city where the Nazi´s set up as their rally and parade grounds. Hundreds of thousands of people attended these events in the 1930´s. I have to say the buildings that they planned to build here were incredible – some of the largest buildings of all time – Germany Stadium was planned to seat 400,000 – it never got past the stage of a foundation stone! Then there was Congress Hall, partially built between 1935-39, this place is huge, like a giant coliseum, parts of it are now used for  a museum on the rise and fall of the Third Reich. I have read a lot of history on this era, but I was unaware of the scale of such buildings. I also went to Zeppelin Field, where a Nazi grandstand still exists (minus giant swastika and eagles at each end) – it is partially restored and you can go on it, stand where Hitler did his speeches etc. Quite a bizarre experience was sheltering from the rain, in a doorway, where the Nazi leaders would walk through. Inside the stand (inaccessible area) is apparently a large hall with gold mosaic ceilings.

Congress Hall – Nuremberg
Congress Hall interior (and an image of the planned hall) – Nuremberg
Zeppelin Field – Nuremberg

Nuremberg is also famous for the Nuremberg Trials following WW2, where the victorious Allied nations (specifically the US, Russia, Britain and France) prosecuted Nazi war criminals. Apart from its dark history, Nuremberg has a large old town with many cathedrals and a castle on top of the hill (Kaiserburg), once used by the Emperor. Despite it’s history it is a very nice place.

Nuremberg
Kaiserburg – Nuremberg

Sunday night in Nuremberg I went to a pub to watch the world cup soccer game between Germany and Australia. There were hundreds of Germans there and well, just me! They all got up and sang their national anthem when the players were doing the same on the TV, I did like wise when the Aussies did the same….this caused a great deal of interest from the crowd! Anyway the result was a shocker for Australia (Germany scored 4-0), but the crowd were not like at home and I got away relatively lightly…..but the city went mad! Cars everywhere beeping horns, people singing, flags all over. It was pretty amazing to see but you would think they won the cup from the reaction! It is under such situations you realise how important soccer is to Europeans, nearly every restaurant, bar and ice cream shop is showing the game with people inside and out on the street watching the games!

Now I wait for my walk in the Black Forest. Thursday I go to Switzerland, friday is Sonisphere, the big heavy metal festival (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Motorhead etc!).

June 16th, 2010

Hi All,

I made it to the Black Forest, via a tram, bus and cable car to the top of a mountain in an area known as Schauinsland, for most of the cable car ride it was in the fog and mist, quite eery being able to see nothing but the actual cable and the occasional tree top! As the car got to the top the fog cleared with beautiful green forest all around.

Foggy view from the Black Forest cable car!

The walk took a little longer than planned….. I decided to hike 6-7km and then cable car down. 1 hour in I was a fair way down the mountain, so decided to walk all the way down – but in the fog I missed the main trail for the quickest way down, but I found a logging track and could tell it was heading in roughly the right way. The other option was a steep incline down the side of the mountain – no path, or steep one back up my present path – I decided I didn’t want to do either and kept going. I ended up only 500m from the bus stop I wanted! All worked out well ….3 hours of hiking – pristine air…fantastic! Today I went to another forest area closer to Freiburg, the weather looked good, so I left the rain coat behind…….lets just say the weather changed abruptly half way….ended up very wet didn’t I! After a while I couldn’t really get any further wet than I was, so just kept going.

The Black Forest

I saw lots of birds on the walk, including a hawk/eagle and woodpeckers. Oh and these strange giant slugs!

So I have now fulfilled a dream put in my mind way back in the early 1980´s, by The Goodies a classic British comedy TV show – “Pirate Radio” episode  where they only had one record to play “A walk in the Black Forest” and every time they would say something like “and now for a walk in the Black Forest“.

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