Monday, 4 June 2012

The City of Inspiration

A city having more than a million people keeping the streets busy. In 1992 the city became part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. It receives over 4 million international visitors in a year and is the sixth most visited city in Europe. Its existence started in the year 800 A.D. On 15 March 1939 Hitler ordered the German Army to enter the city to proclaim the castle. On 5 May 1945 the majority of the German population either fled or was expelled from the city after the third Shock Army entered the city.


On Sunday morning, 20 May 2012, I got the chance to visit this city for 3 days (and the honor to spend my B-Day in this city). And to make it more special, I had a family member (Mother) who traveled over 10 000 km to visit me in Dresden, Germany. She had a conference in Prague, so nice company in the evenings... and a lot of exploring during the day while she was at work. Sounds like a pretty good plan!

We stayed at a very nice place (The Holiday Inn - Vyšerad) for the couple of days. I heard a lot of stories of this city... now it was time to experience it!

The main trem stop I used in Prague was Muzeum. It is the stop at the Wenceslas Square street.... a street full of life! It is a street with quite a slope... so my favourite part was walking down... It is street full of souvenir shops, and ladies... a LOT of clothe shops too! The first thing I had to buy was... yes... Absinthe! For Prague is known for the city which invented this potent drink, but... unfortunately they stopped producing the real Absinthe in the 18th century...

Now... to explain the routes I followed while touring Prague is close to impossible... so I will start with this list of photos to give you an idea what the city looks like:
Old Town Square
 National Theater at night.
The Rudolfinum
 Night view over Prague city centre.
 St. Vitus Church
 Trem system in Prague.
 Czech Senate Garden
Old City Square at night with famous Prague Astronomical Clock.
Famous Prague Dancing Building.
Prague National Museum.
Artificial Rock Wall.

As one can see from the photos above... there is a lot of tourist attraction sites in Prague. What I have put up on this blog so far is just a rain drop compare to the thunderstorm. My suggestion when visiting  Prague: At least one week to walk around and visit every museum. The atmosphere that is generated by the tourists in this city is quite unique. even when the elder are walking down the street, you still get this 'Next Generation Social life' feeling. 
Franz Kafka couldn't have been more right when he said: "Prague never lets you go... this dear little mother has sharp claws". I would like to go back one day and finish exploring this marvelous city. 
One of the most interesting things I saw in Prague was a pathway which is referred to as The Smallest Street in Prague. It is actually a pathway connecting an upper art of the city to the lower part of the city.... and it has a robot! Beware, for in the photo it doesn't look like steep climb... but as you know, looks can sometimes be deceiving. For the down part it is quite nice, it leads to a cafe bar... and good news... those taste buds will also be awarded with a nice cold beer if climbing the stairs to the top. I do not know of any accidents, but traffic jams are quite regular, so please equip yourself with something to keep you busy with while waiting...
On Monday morning, 21 May 2012, I left the Hotel without a map, without any plans for the day... Just exploring! I started walking in one direction... one pathway leading to the other... and after about 2 hours of walking, I found myself at the foot-end of the Prague Eiffel tower (Petrin Observation Tower). the tower is a mere 60m tall, but when climbing it, with winds from all side testing your balancing skills you learnt in primary school... for some people that 60m could be quite challenging. the steps which lead to the top of the tower is quite narrow and steep. After enjoying this wonderful adventure the 60m climb has to offer, one is awarded with the best panoramic view like no other! 

It was my 25th birthday on 22 May 2012... and I couldn't have experienced this day any better. And yes... I was really lazy that day... and for the people who know me... I really appreciated that piece of Steak and a nice cold beer on that day...  I left Prague that night after I had said goodbye to my mother. 

Like I mentioned before, the vibe of Prague is nice... but cannot be explained to somebody.... You must experience it yourself! "The ancient splendor and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fade..." - Richard Wagner.

Even though the time was short and we couldn't visit all of the places... it was a great honor for me to have spent this time and sharing it with my mother... and hopefully in the near future... the rest of my family! I missed you all (Liewe Jesus het my geseën om n familie soos julle te he!). 

Two months left in Europe.... time is running out, so let's start planning the next tour.....

Until we meet again...

; )

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Touring with Da Mom!

On Wednesday night (at around 20:00pm) I was waiting at Dresden Hauptbahnhof, looking for a bus on its way containing a surprise... And believe me, it was a nice surprise. After spending over three months in Germany, to see a family member's face was quite comforting. My mother came to visit me in Dresden.

And before I knew it, I became the tour guide for Dresden.

I had about three days to show her Dresden.... where to start? As you've already read from my previous postings, Dresden is a city which requires time when visiting, but it was time for me to improvise...

I took her through all the main attractions in Dresden (whicg was mentioned in my previous posts 1 and 2) so I'm not going to mention it again. On thursday I convinced my mother to climb the chairs of the famous Dresden Frauenkirche (Woman Church) to experience the panoramic view of Dresden from the tower... and every step was worth it! I think this photo will describe the thousand words I wanted to type:

No matter how many times I walk down the streets in Dresden, my head still turns at the beautiful architecture of this beloved place. A city so precious, so much history and so friendly! When you get a chance to visit Germany, I will definitely recommend to experience what this city has to offer! just grab a bockwurst in one hand a city map in the other and explore!

On Saturday we decided to visit Bautzen. We arrived in Bautzen only after 12:00pm because we took the wrong train at first... but when we arrived, we were surprised by a festival! It was the 1010th Bautzen  Spring Festival. It was quite an unique festival compared to what I have experienced before. There was a balance between nature, culture and engineering... uniting all the different interests into one big celebration. A section on the one side of the festival was dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and illustrating the current projects where are taking place. 
The also had some owls and falcons on display where visitors were able to interacts with them. On the other side of the festival was a section specifically dedicated to culture, where music was played by a marching band and small curio shops down the street. there were people demonstrating traditional blacksmith techniques and also displayed traditional clothes worn during the battle times. And another side of the festival was dedicated to motor fanatics. This section was all about racing and adrenalin junkies. A variety of motorcycles were on display together with some racing cars and gliders. Below are some photos from the festival and of Bautzen:
Bautzen bus station.
Bautzen town square.
Bautzen town square.
St. Petri Church in Bautzen.
Me giving the owl a neck massage at the 1010th Bautzen Spring Festival.
Blacksmith techniques being demonstrated in Bautzen.
Fit for battle.
Old but still pumping the fuel.

I can't say a lot about Bautzen itself, but from what I experienced from the couple of hours visiting this city I think a day trip to Bautzen is worth it.

After experiencing the agonizing pain of walking on cobblestone pathways the whole day, it was time to go back to Dresden. We spend our last hours of the day in Dresden Altstadt and were entertained by the Classical Music Festival of Dresden. I really enjoyed the experience; watching a live classical orchestra while being surrounded with the old buildings and sun shining on a late afternoon...

After the music, we passed a really creative panhandler demonstrating a different way of doing ''business' ... and he was quite good!

we left Altstadt at about 21:00pm to get enough rest for the tour which followed... but you can read more about that on the next post.

Eine schöne abend für du und hoffen du habt geniesst die lesen.
(... at least I'm trying to work on my German without google translate... ;) )

Bis später

Monday, 7 May 2012

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

As a kid, I was always warned by my mother to stay away from the wall of white plates… You know… the round stuff hanging in your grandmother’s house that has blue pictures on it. I have heard something that was called White Gold…. but soon found out that the real name was: Porcelain. I was told that is very expensive…. Well… after another weekend of sightseeing… I believe that it was an understatement!

We were a group of friends who decided to visit Meissen, a city which is well known over the world for their prestigious porcelain ornaments. We left Dresden on 29th April at around 9am after having a nice muesli breakfast at home. The infrastructure here in Europe still amazes me… we bought our train ticket using a vending machine… a mere €5.6… The train trip lasted about 40min before we arrived in Meissen.
There was only one thing on our minds when we left the train station… Meissen Manufaktur – the Porcelain Factory.  The factory is quite unique on the inside. After you pass the reception, you enter an area displaying amazing jewellery. But don’t worry, the price only varies between 3000€ and 60000€ per necklace… something quite nice for the woman…
After the intimidating rocks dangling on small silver chains, one enters the porcelain section. Now this was an experience… You can pick up any piece of porcelain to examine it; the body whiter than white, flow of lines telling the history of the creator’s mind and the rays of light reflecting from the golden edges while wondering in the back of your mind how it could be made by a man’s own hands… It is quite an experience! I wanted to buy something for myself a souvenir… but be warned… even a nice shooter glass will own approx. €40 of shares of your wallet.
After admiring all the cutlery and kitchen stuff… we proceeded to the presentation area… this is where they tell you the history of the factory and also showing you how the porcelain artefacts are made. From learning things about Feldspar and Kaolin, to showing how mud is transformed into something beautiful, it is a tour which will entertain anyone, from the biker gang to the ballerina club! Below are some pictures of the visit:
First step of pottery: The moulding process.

Second step: Assembly of parts.

After assembling, the object is placed in the oven for curing… an object loses approx. 30% of its initial volume during this process.

Next step: Adding colour using either under-glaze or over-glaze technique.

After baking in oven, the final product…

After we were hypnotised by the elegance of the white gold, we headed to the town centre. We visited the Cathedral of Meissen. The trip from the town centre to the cathedral is an experience. You walk through narrow passages, surrounded by old ruins, passing little vineyards, all the way to the top of the hill… Once you’ve reached the top you are surrounded by the beauty of this city. There is a nice viewpoint over the whole city which could be accessed on the south side of the cathedral. The cathedral was constructed in the 13th century. It was first a Lutheran church but is used as a Catholic church today. Below are some photos of the cathedral and also the lookout point:

After we visited the cathedral, it was time to fulfil the dream of a hungry student’s stomach… food and something to drink… We stopped to eat something in the town centre, drank really good beer and headed back to Dresden afterwards.

This trip was short, but worth it. To take mud and turn it into something priceless…. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder!!

Bis später

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Walking With No Limits - Part 2

I would suggest to read first Walking With No Limits - Part 1 before reading Part 2.

We finally arrived in Magdeburg after having some rest on the train for about an hour. During this train trip I saw the weirdest weather changes… During the trip from Wittenburg the weather varied between sunny, to cloudy with rain, followed by snow and hail and finally sunshine as we arrived in Magdeburg. As soon as we left the train, it was time to loosen the muscles and start exploring. But first we had to give those legs some fuel… we stopped at Charley’s for a really nice bratwurst with bread.

We focussed our exploration expedition in the city centre on Saturday. The first historic place we saw was the Altes Rathaus (old city hall). After that we walked east to see the Johanniskirche. We found that the door to the towers was opened so we decided to see what our vertical limit is. Now the stairs in this church to climb was much better than the ones in St. Marien church (Halle). From here we could clearly see how enormous the famous Dom (Cathedral) is - as can be seen from the photo above. The main hall of this church is now used as a conference/ceremony hall and the interior wasn’t attractive for me at all. We could also see the Jahrtaussendturm.

From Johanniskirche we walked to see the famous Grüne Zitadelle von Magdeburg. I really enjoyed walking through this place. It is actually a square building, but the lines make it look unusual. This building was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser and construction started on October 3rd, 2005 and was finished two years later. It is referred to be the “greatest and most beautiful building” created by Friedensreich. It is not only used as a residential and office building, but also have a hotel, kindergarten and medical facilities with some small arts and craft shops on the ground floor. It is a perfectly integrated project which is colourful for the eyes and has a relaxed atmosphere for the soul.
From there on we headed south-east to visit the Dom. Now this building is magnificent. I felt like an ant looking up at the Voortrekker monument. The two steeples of the church is approximately 100m tall, giving you the scale of how big this building really is. On Good Friday 1207 the cathedral St. Maurice was destroyed due to a city fire. It was on this foundation where the Dom was constructed. It took 300 years to finish this masterpiece, which was finally finished in 1520.

The weather also played a really good roll with the Gothic theme of the church, making it to feel like I am in a movie. The interior of the Dom was impressive. Most of the statues and slates are crafted using sandstone and marble.  There is a small square on the outside of the church which is like a small grass field. When I stood inside this square, it started to snow/hail, giving me this real Hollywood feeling. I cannot think of any words to describe this landmark of Magdeburg.

After the Dom we walked North-east to cross the Neue Strombrücke (steel bridge) so that we could visit the Stadtpark (City Park). When walking through this park, it doesn’t feel like you are close to any city. Only nature surrounds you with her pleasant songs from the birds and the colour of spring which is approaching. This park brings a perfect balance between the demanding life of a city and the serenity of nature.

And that was our tour for Saturday. After the park we headed south – Approx. 8 km to reach the place where we stayed for the night, CityInn. One thing I have learned from this trip: Make sure you know where you stay and also try to find something close to the city centre, otherwise you are going to walk for a looooong time. 

We started our tour on Sunday morning at about 09:00am after having a really good night’s rest and a breakfast to start the day. We wanted to see the Museum of Cultural History before leaving for Potsdam. There was a section inside about nature which was my favorite part to visit.

It had specimens of different kinds of mammals, insects, sea life and fossils of prehistoric life. They had microscopes at a couple of places where you could look at small organisms. Here I saw for the first time in my life real fossil dinosaur eggs. It reminded me of Jurassic Park -the movie.

The rest of the museum was about the lifestyle in Magdeburg and also history of WWll and how Magdeburg was affected by it. The photo that is shown on the right is a model they made to illustrate what the city looked like in 1945 after the war and it is amazing to see that the biggest building in Magdeburg (the Dom) wasn’t      completely destroyed. The only real damage the cathedral obtained during the war was on January 16, 1945 when a bomb hit the west side of the cathedral, destroying mainly the wall and the organ. All of the windows were destroyed. Below are more photos of Magdeburg:
Magdeburg as seen from Johanniskirche tower
Runes of the St. Maurice cathedral underneath the Dom.
Small courtyard at the back of the Dom.
Art collection inside the Museum of Cultural History.

By this time my feet was extremely tired of all the walking over the last couple of days and was really looking forward to the train ride to Potsdam so that my feet could rest. We arrived in Potsdam at 13:30. Now this is the city that owns my feet. The first thing we decided to do was to visit the Sanssouci (Without concern) Garden. This garden is well known for the Sanssouci Palace which was built for King Frederick the Great in 1747. Unfortunately we visited this place in the winter. 

I believe that when one see these gardens in summer, it would be mind-blowing! It is full of flowers and fruit during spring.  There are a couple of buildings inside the garden which is a must see. For me, this was more like a garden where they grow palaces, because I have never seen so many palaces in one cosed area like this garden. Below are some pictures of each place and a photo or two of some of the views from the surrounding areas:
View of garden from SanssouciPalace.
New Palace at Sanssouci

After walking through the garden, we were just in time for our tour through the Sanssouci Palace which started at 17:20. Now this tour is a bit expensive, but I would still recommend it to everybody who will be visiting the Garden. After visiting the Garden, my stomach started to get my attention, for I was hungry, just like a normal student – ALWAYS! We found a nice Turkey restaurant in Friedrich-Ebert-Street and ate a döner kebab before heading back to the place where we stayed for the night, Youth Hostel. The facilities at this hostel was good, but one advice – remember a towel. The breakfast is included in one night stay at the hostel and it is a buffet breakfast… ideal for a hungry student!

Monday morning was our last day of tour before heading back to Dresden and normal routine life, so we had to make the best of it. We decided to visit the other big park – Park Babelsberg. The park is situated on the west side of the city and has a couple of nice sceneries. The park is not as big as the Sanssouci Garden and is on a hill, allowing it to have nice lookout points over the city. Below are some photos of the Park:

 Babelberg Palace with the Glienicker Bridge in the background.
Steam-powered pump house
 Little Palace
 Court of Justice
Flatow Tower

From the Babelsberg Park we walked north-east to see the New Garden. This garden has two main tourist attraction places, the Marble Palace and the Cecilienhof Palace.
Marble Palace
 Main entrance of Cecilienhof Palace
 The courtyard in the middle of the Palace

The Cecilienhof Palace was built between 1914 and 1917. It is the place where the Potsdam conference was held from July 16 until August 2, 1945 and was attended by Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Attlee and President Harry S. Truman.  Notice the chimneys on the roof; each chimney has a unique shape.

From the New Garden we walked east to see the Belvedere on the Pfingstberg. This was quite a nice place to visit. Construction started in 1793 and was finished in 1863. It has a really nice view over Potsdam and one can even see Berlin from the towers. 

Below are some pictures:

 View from back to front of  Belvedere.
View over Potsdam
 View of Berlin

After visiting Belvedere, it was time to head back to the main train station. We past the Russian colony and the houses reminded me of a cuckoo clock. It looks exactly like the house of a cuckoo clock, just bigger. When I saw this, I started to miss my sister’s daughter. My mother has two cuckoo clocks in her house and every time the cuckoo clocks strike on every hour, she runs to see if she can find the bird singing. When we arrived at the main train station, it was time to eat. We both had a really nice döner kebab again and a Radeberger draught to finish it up. We left Potsdam at 15:00 and arrived in Dresden Neustadt at 19:36.

This trip was amazing! I will recommend it to everybody, but would suggest doing it over a whole week and not a long weekend. If you want to cramp everything in a long weekend like we did for cheap, I would recommend the following:
  •  Comfortable shoes and pain killers in the backpack.
  • Try to find accommodation as close as possible to the city center.
  • Not doing it over a weekend with national holidays, because most of the places are closed if one wants to buy food and drinks. You have to walk a bit further on public holidays to find open restaurants and also be willing to pay extra for the food.
  • Most important: Travel with someone you can communicate with. This tour would’ve have been so good and I wouldn’t have seen so much if I hadn’t travelled with someone. Thank you Damien!
  • Travel light! Trust me, it helps a lot! Just take the necessary. I used my laptop bag for my personal care stuff and took my camera bag with… The next trip will not see my camera bag again. Try to fit everything into one backpack.
  • The more willing you are to share a room with other people, the cheaper it will be and the more sightseeing you can do. Try to find a dorm, because all you need is a bed, you do not need a flower on a table with a bed lamp next to you!

Hope you were inspired by the blog posts and enjoyed the reading as much as I did typing it.

Bis später!