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!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Walking With No Limits - Part 1

This year's Easter weekend was a very special weekend for me. This weekend was a celebration for the gift Lord Jesus Christ gave us – Life! He died for us so that we can be set free from our sins, never to be hold back from His love and the freedom He has given to us. All that He is asking is to believe in him and to trust Him! Before I share my experience over this weekend, I would like to thank my Saviour for the love, life and talents He is giving me and also giving me a chance to experience it all!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” – NIV

A colleague friend and I decided to spend our weekend doing a bit of sightseeing in Germany. Now, there were a lot of things that happened over this weekend and therefore my writings will expand over two blog posts, just to make the reading a bit easier…. We wanted to visit the following cities: Leipzig, Halle, Wittenberg, Magdeburg and Potsdam.

We decided to start the tour on Friday morning, leaving from Dresden hauptbahnhof to Leipzig. When I arrived at the tram stop Friday morning at 06:50am, I realized that the tram service only starts after 08:00am on a public holiday, causing us to miss the train. Fortunately for us the train ticket was a Saxon ticket allowing us to travel anywhere within the Saxon borders, so we decided to replace Leipzig with Chemnitz. We arrived in Chemnitz at 08:55am. We didn’t have a city map, so we just started walking…. We’ve seen most of the tourist attractions: Sclosskirche (Benedictine abbey church St. Maria), Altes Rathaus (old town hall), Roter turm (red tower) and also the famous Lew Kerbel’s monument which is dedicated to Karl Marx. When we walked to the monument we were expecting a sculpture of a head standing on a meter high pedestal, but when we arrived, we got a surprise. It was huge! The pedestal was over 2 meters high. Unfortunately we didn’t stay very long in Chemnitz, so I can’t give a good overview of the city.
 Altes Rathaus
 Roter turm
 Lew Kerbel’s monument
St. Peter's Church

We left Chemnitz at 10:20am to go to Halle. We used the regional trains during our tour and the journeys were comfortable. I can’t wait for the day when South Africa will have these types of transport systems which is in Europe. We arrived in Halle at 12:40pm and the first thing we were looking for was a city map. The weather in Halle was good enough for sightseeing; It was 4C and cloudy with little wind to spice things up a bit.
Unfortunately we arrived on a public holiday- all the shops were closed to buy food and only some of the restaurants were open but was quite expensive. Halle is a small city compared to the other cities I’ve visited, and has a unique atmosphere when walking down the streets. We tried to see most of the tourist attractions, but due to time we couldn’t visit the Händel-haus (music museum). My favourite part of this city is the Marktplatz (town square). In the square you will find the Marktkirche St. Marien (St. Marien Church), Unser Lieben Frauen (Our Dear Lady) and the Roter Turm (red tower). We were very fortunate on that day because the towers of the St. Marien church were open.
The stairs were horrible to climb. It was an uncomfortably small chamber to climb up, but the view was worth it as soon as we reached the top.
After we have seen everything in the town square, we decided to visit the Beatles museum. I enjoyed the trip through the museum. Do not let the small museum surprise you, for there are a lot of history within those walls. The museum is a three story building, each level dedicated to a certain time period of the band’s history. There is a nice souvenir shop and a small cafeteria. Below are some of the tourist attractions one could find in this small city:

Roter Turm (Red Tower)
St. Marien Church in front and the two towers of Unser Lieben Frauen (Our Dear Lady)
Post Haus (Post office)
Saline (Salt factory)

Salt was produced for the surrounding cities at the Saline factory by mining. Guided tours are availible through the factory during the week between 08:00am to 16:00pm. After a long day’s walk and sore feet, it was time for a rest. We decided to have dinner in a nice Italian restaurant called Trattoria Da Luca. I had a nice pizza with a really good Hefe dunkel beer to finish it off. After dinner we decided to check in at the place where we stay, HostelNr. 5, and what a nice place. We stayed in a dorm, a shared room for up to 6 people. The facilities were great and the service was excellent.
Halle made a really good impression on me. Walking down the little streets with some of the street crossings having little fountains in the middle, the pink dogwood trees found next to the streets and the sound of the church bells in the background on every hour… And the people were kind. 

On Saturday morning we left Halle to spend the morning in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. We arrived at 08:15am. It was in this city where Martin Luther nailed his ‘Ninety-Five Thesis’ against the door of All Saint’s Church. I found a nice article summarising the main events of Martin Luther’s life. We first walked to see the House where Luther stayed. They converted the house into a magnificent museum.

The museum contains most of Luther’s work he had done. It was quite an experience for me to see Luther’s original written notes he made while translating the first German Bible from Hebrew. The house was also used as a literature archive in those days, and one can see the archive through a glass window (for preservation purpose). And  there are a lot of books!

They also tell the story of Katharina von Bora, Martin Luther’s wife whom he married on 13 June 1525, and had six children together. For me it was a first to learn about the monk who married a nun. At the back of the house in the cellar Katharina brewed beer for extra income.
After visiting the museum, we headed of down the streets again to visit the famous All Saint’s church. The place where Martin Luther was laid to rest is inside the church. The craftsmanship inside the buildings in Germany is amazing. I am still amazed by all the historic buildings which surrounded me that was made by man and hand…  I realized that we do not know what we are capable of…
Below are some more photos:
 A copy of the Ninety-Five Thesis on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgence.
 The Church door on which Luther nailed is thesis.
 Original papal books that wasn't burnt on December 10, 1520.
  Martin Luther’s handwriting.
 The first German bible.

The presence and closeness I felt during my visit was unforgettable. This is a place I would highly recommend visiting. We were in Wittenberg until 12:00pm before leaving for Magdeburg.

And this is the end of Part 1…

Bis Später