Germany Part 3: The Swing of Things

18 07 2012

Berlin Hofbahnhof

This Saturday morning, we were feeling better about the transportation thing.  After breakfast in a café, we took the S-Bahn (the above ground train, as compared to the U-Bahn, which is the subway) to the Haufbahnhof (train station).  Somehow we were able to get tickets from a ticket machine and found the right gleis (track).  We boarded the train, took the first empty seats we came to, and half an hour into our ride were told very nicely by the man sitting behind us that we were in seats he reserved but it was okay because his traveling companions hadn’t come.   Dooohhh… Live and learn.  Next time we will get reserved seats.

The city gate of Stendal

Detail of the city gate

In about an hour we arrived in Stendal, a small town about the size of Aiken.  For the rest of the trip we had to answer the question, “Why did you go there?” but it turned out to be a wonderful change from Berlin: small enough that it wasn’t overwhelming and yet still charming and historic.  We got a room at a hotel right across from the train station and set out on foot through the historic district.  Several sights were closed but we did get to go through Marienkirsche, or the Church of St. Mary, which was built some 45 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Still life in Marienkirsche

We passed a huge statue in a plaza that I later found out was Roland.   Roland who?  Good question:  I had to look that up too.  Apparently, he was a Frankish military leader under Charlemagne (I really need to bone up on my European history) who became a popular legendary figure in medieval Europe.  Also in the plaza with Roland was a group of young men watching a guy who was having to shovel a huge pile of wood chips into bags.  We had encountered this kind of thing before:  it was a sort of bachelor party in which the groom had to do embarrassing tasks the day before the wedding.  It made an interesting scene for us as we took a break for coffee and a cookie in a bakery next to the Rathaus (great name for  city hall).

Annalise and Roland by the Rathaus

Later we wandered over to the Winckelmann Museum.  We had no idea who Johann Winckelmann was or why he had a museum of his very own and there were no English translations on the exhibits, so we had fun coming up with the story of his life.  The first exhibit showed a cobbler’s bench and then a shelf of old books, so we figured that Winckelmann was a scholar whose father had been a poor shoemaker in Stendal.  Other exhibits showed Greek and Roman antiquities, so we decided Winckelmann must have been a historian.

Trojan Horse

Out in a courtyard there was the world’s largest replica of the Trojan Horse and various dirt pits to try your hand at archaeology, so we refined our view of Mr. Winckelmann as a famous archaeologist.   Come to find out, we were right on the money.   Johann Winckelmann is known world-wide (by everyone but us, apparently) as the father of modern archaeology.  And, to top it all off, in his portrait he looks amazingly like Annalise’s Uncle Kevin, who was an amateur archeologist.

Johann Winckelmann

In another part of the museum was an exhibit about beauty, taking the visitor through the ages with different and changing perspectives of beauty.   Since we were the only ones in the museum,  Annalise and I had fun trying on different wigs and outfits and posing for pictures.  No deep philosophical questions today.    After the stress of the last few days, it felt good just being silly.


Three cherubs?

Annalise in ancient Rome

We finally made it back to the hotel after losing our way several times.   One advantage to getting lost is that we found an interesting park with a tree with red fruit on it.  They looked like cherries, but one can’t be sure.  After Annalise tried one, I did too.  They were delicious!

They were cherries!

Finally home,Annalise fell on the bed and refused to move so I went downstairs to see about wifi connections.  Two Euros bought me an hour of Internet at the hotel but between three clerks and me, we could not get it to work, so I got my money back and went down the street where I had seen an Internet cafe.  For one Euro I was able to use the laptop of the owner of an Indian-Italian restaurant and got an email sent home.  Back at the hotel I tried to call home on the cell phone again and finally had success.  Then Annalise and I went back to the restaurant for some excellent Indian food including the best tandoori bread I had ever eaten.  Here it was, our third full day in Germany, and we had yet to eat a traditional German meal.  We stopped at the train station to buy tickets for tomorrow and spent the rest of the evening fighting over the television remote.  Footsore.  Tired.  Getting used to this travel thing.