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kenmoore
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Joined: 11/27/00
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Loc: Schenectady, NY
Germany & Austria Trip report - Part 1
      #1738180 - 07/10/17 01:34 PM (67.248.249.139)

In June, 2017, my wife and I headed to Germany and Austria. Our focus in Germany was to follow the footsteps of Martin Luther during the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Our trip to Germany and Austria this year began with an AMTRAK trip from Albany to New York’s Penn Station. There we transferred to the LIRR for a short ride to Jamaica when we then took the AirTrain to our Terminal. All three rides were relatively hassle-free and we arrived at JFK with plenty of time to spare. Our tickets were courtesy of American Airlines Frequent Flyer status. I qualified for two round trip tickets, but I was shocked when they charged me $950 for fees and taxes. Apparently, this is the norm for international flights. I was only charged $11 for my FF ticket on Southwest from ALB-MCO last April. For practical purposes, I only benefited from 1 FF ticket. We flew from JFK to Berlin via London on British Airways. We thought BA’s terminal at JFK is substandard for such a reputable airlines. Nevertheless, the flights went off without a hitch and we landed in Berlin more or less on time.

I didn’t realize when I booked our lodging through Airbnb that we would be staying in what was East Berlin. Thus, our taxi ride from the airport to our apartment was through the former communist sector and we passed many reminders of the Berlin Wall. Since the fall of the wall in 1989 and the demise of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the sector has made amazing progress and growth. Our lodgings were in a pre-WWII apartment building, but were pleasant with all the modern amenities we could want. Surprisingly, I found myself having to speak German more often than not – which was fine by me.

Since our visit to Berlin was short by design, we hit only the highlights. I was in Berlin twice before during the Cold War. Once in 1968 as a student with some of my classmates travelling on the Eurailpass, and a few years later as a soldier stationed in Hanau, Germany. We walked everywhere and made a pilgrimage to Checkpoint Charlie. I didn’t realize that when the wall was operational, Checkpoint Charlie was generally reserved for US military and civilian people. People from other nationalities were required to pass into East Berlin via five other checkpoints.

Being there generated a weird feeling for me. As a student and then as a soldier, I looked upon the wall as history as it was happening. Now, I looked upon is as a history as it was. I recall a viewing stand just to the right of the checkpoint where you could climb about a dozen stairs, look over the wall into the death strip, and take a picture of yourself flipping the bird to the East Berlin Volkspolizei on the other side. These viewing stands are no longer there and have been replaced by modern glass and chrome buildings. During this visit, we walked through the former border with ease and no visible sense of what went on there from 1961 – 1989. It was somewhat eerie for me to be standing on the former death strip and buying a currywurst & spritzer and enjoying the ambience of modern life.

There is a two cobblestone-wide path that describes the circumference of the former wall – about 28 miles. I could have spent another day just walking around the monuments to, and remnants of, the Wall and recalling the horror or its existence.

On our 3rd day we took the train to Wittenberg, (a.k.a. Lutherstadt) - about an hour away. Known as the "Birthplace of the Reformation", Martin Luther played the most important roles of his life in Lutherstadt / Wittenberg, from monk, student, professor, and priest to husband, father, author, and reformer. Legend has it that Luther nailed his 95 Theses to Wittenberg's Castle Church door, an act that would go down in history as the beginning of the Reformation. While the original wooden door no longer stands, a massive bronze memorial door marks the spot that changed the course of history. Here we visited several sites

Castle Church
This is where Martin Luther famously put up his 95 Theses on the door. Today the church is under selected renovation, but we were able to go into the church and see the sanctuary and altar as well has Luther’s burial site. Very impressive.

St. Marien City Church
This city church (Stadtkirche) is the oldest building in Wittenberg and it’s where Luther gave many of his sermons. Besides the interior (some of which was designed by Cranach the Elder), there’s a small Holocaust memorial located in the southeast corner on the outside. Martin Luther preached many sermons in this church, and he and Katharina von Bora were married here. Their marriage is re-enacted annually in a popular festival. All of his children were baptized in the church. A large painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder is above the altar showing Luther receiving the cup at the Last Supper.

Martin Luther’s house
Martin Luther’s former home in Wittenberg, it was provided to him by the local university while he taught and studied in the city. Today it’s the world’s largest museum of Protestant history. The Luther family, wife and six children, and various students and visitors lived in the central part of the building. He was given the building by one of the aristocrats supporting his movement. The building is now a museum, open daily, and maintains Luther's living rooms in their original state. This is where Luther sat with his family and friends in the evenings, discussing a wide range of subjects from the sublime to the earthy (yes, earthy, not earthly!)
Martin Luther was known for his rather blunt way of speaking as well as for his eloquence. Students were allowed to be present during these evening discussions; they took notes and later published thousands of his comments in a book called "Table Talk".

Phillip Melanchthon House
Just down the street from Luther’s house, we visited the former home to Philipp Melanchthon – a contemporary of Martin Luther. Also a reformer and professor, Melanchthon was a humanist and philosopher during the same time as Luther. Lucan Cranach's fascinating painting of the Ten Commandments is located on wood panels in the refectory of Martin Luther's home. The Wicked Deeds are presented quasi-cartoon style for the faithful to ponder.

Lucas Cranach Home
Lucas Cranach was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving. He is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Revolution whose cause he embraced with enthusiasm while becoming a close friend of Martin Luther. He also painted religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. He documented much of the Reformation with his portraits and woodcuts.
He painted many of the well-known figures of the Reformation, as well as the local princes and princesses, and his paintings, drawings and woodcuts are in museums all over Europe. His house on Collegienstrasse is now a museum and his artist studio behind the house has some interesting exhibits.

We then walked back to the Bahnhof for our ride back to Berlin for our last night. We got off at the Friedsrichstrasse Bahnhof which, during the Cold War, was a heavily guarded checkpoint in East Berlin. Now it is a major commuter and long-distance station with shops, food stands, and a thriving pedestrian life – not unlike Grand Central Terminal in NYC. We had a great meal at a side-street café. She had her usual two glasses of Riesling wine and the sauerbraten and I had my “mineral wasser mit gaz” and an excellent Wiener Schnitzel.

There is so much to see in Berlin, but we did not have the time this trip. Since I was there twice during the cold war, I’d like to go back and spend more time exploring the paths of the Berlin Wall. It was perversely fascinating to be to be able to cross the debarkation line and enjoy a beer and a bratwurst on the former death strip.

Next: on to Erfurt, Germany


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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Germany & Austria Trip report - Part 1 [Re: kenmoore]
      #1738273 - 07/11/17 03:06 PM (45.52.228.152)

Thanks for the beginning of the journey! I'm sure it was quite an odd experience for you, being in Berlin like that. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey and hopefully seeing some pictures?

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kenmoore
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Joined: 11/27/00
Posts: 274
Loc: Schenectady, NY
Re: Germany & Austria Trip report - Part 1 [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1738424 - 07/12/17 08:27 PM (67.248.249.139)

I'll try to do this. Can you direct me to the post where it explained how to add pictures to these narratives. I've seen it somewhere, but I cannot remember where. Thanks.

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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: Germany & Austria Trip report - Part 1 [Re: kenmoore]
      #1738481 - 07/13/17 12:57 PM (47.192.14.99)

It depends on whether the pictures are already online or not. If they are already online somewhere, you can use the IMAGE tag, or you can just post a link to the directory where the pictures are located. If not, you have to put them online somewhere. Photobucket unfortunately appears to no longer be an option. You can upload individual pictures here to the general photo gallery http://www.traveltalkonline.com/forums/postlist.php?Cat=0&Board=genphoto

Directions on how to upload into the photo gallery are in the FAQ section.


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sxmBoston
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Joined: 01/14/08
Posts: 216
Loc: Boston, MA
Re: Germany & Austria Trip report - Part 1 [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1739517 - 07/24/17 08:17 PM (100.0.51.97)

Those ridiculous fees happen when you use BA with AA miles. You could've tried Air Berlin, Aer Lingus or Iberia. (At least those are the options with Avios).

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