Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nordrhein-Westfalen




It seems like it's been a while since we wrote about our goings-ons. Part of the reason is the internet is not so reliable here. Anyway, we've been seeing a lot of the big cities of Germany lately. And of all the Christmas Weihnachtsmarkts we've attended, Essen was our favorite. It was the prettiest and the biggest. We rode on a Ferris wheel there--Jacob can't pass up an amusement park ride like I can't pass up an old church. We spent our last 10 euros on it!

We also saw a church that was built in the year 835 AD. All old churches have a crypt where either priests or kings are entombed.
And we saw the Essen Vollverein Industrial complex, which is on the UNESCO world heritage list for culturally important contributions. It was not all that exciting to see:


We went to a German flea market afterwards and that was more entertaining. But we didn't buy anything because we are trying to keep things light luggage-wise.

In Mettmann we went to the Neanderthal Museum, built because a Neanderthal Man was found in the area, pictured below:


In Duesseldorf we went to Altstadt which is where all the interesting stuff is in the city. It was a beautiful day. Here we are in front of the Rhein:

We saw where Heinrich Heine was born. He's a beloved German poet (a favorite of Professor Kelling's) and I believe I've sung some of his poetry set to music. Of all coincidences, we happened to see his birthplace on his birthday.


A man? Or a statue?



We also stopped by Wuppertal and rode its famous Schwebebahn, a monorail which hangs from above the city. Wuppertal felt huge--so much crammed into such a small space. But then again, every city I see I'm amazed at the size of the apartment buildings. No wonder--with 82 million people in a country the size of Montana. Random tidbit: aspirin was invented by Bayer in Wuppertal. Also, Engels of Communist Manifesto fame is from here.


Our final day in Germany, after we ran last-minute errands, we met up with Daniela, my friend from high school who goes to school in Aachen. We hadn't seen each other since 2003 and it was wonderful to see her! She and I gabbed in German while Jens, her boyfriend, and Jacob waited patiently. It was amusing to see both of them always take Jacob seriously! I had to instruct them that everything Jacob says is never literal.
She and Jens had tried to drive out to see us a couple of nights before, when they got into an accident on the Autobahn! Can you imagine? Miraculously they were unhurt, and since it was the truck driver's fault (he rear-ended them) they will be compensated for the car. As they were then carless, we took a train to see them, and I really thought Aachen was a delightful little city. We saw a church that Charlemagne, known as Karl der Grosse in German, built, but unfortunately only from the outside because we didn't get to Aachen, the former capital of his empire, until late. Charlemagne, considered by some as the father of Europe, was interred here.


I found this on Wikipedia:

"In 1000 Otto III had Charlemagne's vault opened. Otto of Lomello, one of the courtiers who accompanied him, recorded the event, which is reported in the Chronicle of Novalesia, written about 1026. The account reads:
So we went in to Charles. He did not lie, as the dead otherwise do, but sat as if he were living. He was crowned with a golden crown and held in his gloved hands a sceptre; the fingernails had penetrated through the gloves and stuck out. Above him was a canopy of limestone and marble. Entering, we broke through this. Upon our entrance, a strong smell struck us. Kneeling, we gave Emperor Charles our homage, and put in order the damage that had been done. Emperor Charles had not lost any of his members to decay, except only the tip of his nose. Emperor Otto replaced this with gold, took a tooth from Charles’s mouth, walled up the entrance to the chamber, and withdrew again."


The next day we started on our 33 hour bus ride to Sofia, Bulgaria. We were the only Americans on the bus, which meant we got special attention every time we crossed a border. I got especial special attention because my passport has this really big water stain on the main page--I have no idea how it got there, but it makes me look suspicious.

I was so happy--they showed Home Alone on the trip! I've been wishing I could watch that movie like I do every Christmas. True, it was in Bulgarian, but the pictures and the music were still the same. We drove through Germany for most of the day, and Jacob literally slept the whole time. I'm jealous of his ability, because sleeping sitting up does not come so easily to me. He only got to stretch out like this for the first few hours; then it filled up:

Sadly, it was nighttime when we drove through lovely Austria, so I couldn't see a thing except that it was covered in snow. The next day we spent driving through Serbia. This is the saddest country I have ever seen.




All of the houses are unfinished. I wondered if it was like the polygamists in Arizona who get tax breaks for not finishing their houses. But actually I think the people just don't have pride in their country and they are too poor. There was litter everywhere, in plain view of the highway. Piles of junk which gathered in the rivers and in parking lots and in fields. Not just in one place in Serbia, but the entire drive. Saddest of all were little squat houses with laundry spread on the roofs. They looked abandoned, but cars and people and a couple of goats were there as proof that people really could live in such close and squandered surroundings. We saw not a single store in the ride, only barren wasteland and then, suddenly, huge and ugly mismatched and poorly built apartment complexes.


Our cleaning lady at the hotel came from Serbia, and when I asked her if it was pretty there she said no, and that there was no work there and no money. It's hard to believe there's a place like this here in Europe.

Then we arrived in Sofia where we were ripped off by a taxi driver. We confirmed the price before we left, (2.5 euros) and then when we arrived he said 10 euros and pointed at the meter. He maybe took a long route on purpose. Apparently we got in the wrong taxi. We were looking for OK taxi, and even the taxi name was a rip off (CK). Not sure we could have avoided that one... Some people are just dishonest.

But the hostel is cool-rated top 10 hostels abroad. Meals and must-see info included. And internet, of course.

3 comments:

The Elledges said...

i cannot sleep sitting up either. for some reason i thought you were a deep sleeper. probably your fire alarm alarm clock. i guess sleeping deep doesn't equate with sleeping in any position :)

whenever i watch the news i always end up feeling sad and depressed...there are millions of people in the world, even in the U.S. and Europe that live in horrible conditions, never have enough to eat etc. i saw a report that here in cleveland even there are children who go to school mainly to get a their only meal of the day: free school lunch.

sounds like you guys are still having wonderful adventures and seeing the world! merry christmas!

oh said...

Jack says OF COURSE Jacob can sleep in any position. He has a lot of practice because he is 6 ft 4 in. Short people don't need to worry about such a thing.

Joslyn and Devin said...

Hey you guys! I'm so happy you guys are living the high life in Germany! It looks like you guys are having such awesome experiences.

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