WEBMU 2014: Nürnberg

Every year, a group of ex-pat bloggers living in Germany gather for a weekend of fun, tourism, food, and drink.  This gathering is called WEBMU – the Whiny Expatriate Bloggers Meet-Up.  The location is different each year-  in 2012 the gathering was in Berlin.  In 2013, the group gathered in Prague, but I didn’t make it to that one.  This year, we met in Nuremberg roughly halfway through the month of September.

The attendees were:

A WEBMU weekend typically runs Friday through Sunday, with the early arrivals taking a day trip to an alternate location in the daytime in Friday.  This WEBMU was no exception, and we met up at 10am to visit scenic and moist Bamberg.  Most of the pictures I took in Bamberg are similar to the pictures I took the first time I visited Bamberg, so I’m not going to include too many of those here.  If you’re curious, you can look at the previous Bamberg post.  (Also, it was raining all day, so many of my new photos have rain drops on the lens.  I really need to get a lens hood.)

One of the first things we saw in Bamberg was this randomly placed elephant.  We’re all pretty sure it’s an advertisement, but it was still random enough to warrant a photograph.

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We went to the Altes Rathaus, and to the local cathedral to look again at the Bamberg Rider.

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We were in Bamberg on the same day that there was a party for the closing of U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg, so we stumbled across the Burrito Bandito.  It was a little strange seeing US Army guys in fatigues while out and about in Germany.

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While waiting for the train back to Nuremberg, we were witness to the Hochzeit of two smaller trains.  The coupling is almost entirely automatic for this type of train, so it was kind of fascinating to watch.  We were all mesmerized, to the great amusement of the conductor from the train on the left.

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Fast forward to Saturday, and we started the day with a small city tour… in the rain.

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Here’s the tour route, just for fun:

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This is one of the two brass rings embedded into the wrought iron-work in Schöner Brunnen, a rather nifty fountain in the city’s main market square near the town hall.  It is said that spinning the brass ring will bring you luck.  The fountain itself is a reproduction; the original lives in the city’s historical museum.

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It’s rather amazing to me that I’ve been in Germany for this long and I didn’t manage to get a picture with a section of the original Berlin Wall until this trip.  Here it is.

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Albrecht Dürer is kind of a big deal in Nuremberg.  His house is near this statue.

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One of Dürer’s most celebrated creations is this creepy-ass rabbit.  The dude with the pink umbrella just makes it so much more surreal, don’t you think?

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This store’s sign caught my eye because it’s a rather nifty play on words.  Bohne & Kleid in German is “Bean and Dress,” but it sounds quite a bit like “Bonnie and Clyde.”  It made me giggle.

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One of the nifty things about Nuremberg is that a large portion of the old city wall is still intact like this section on the right.

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A bunch of these old cities have St. George and the Dragon themed stuff floating around.  It’s all very Trogdor-oriented.

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Nuremberg also has a reasonably well preserved castle, part of which is pictured here.

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Big castles have big doors.

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Here’s the requisite view of the city from the castle’s ramparts.

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Later in the day, Cliff and I ventured in to the Deutsche Bahn Museum, a place I had wanted to visit for quite a while.  It had some fantastic vintage carriages.

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An old rail-running bicycle looking thing was on display.  This reminds me a little bit of the scene from Blazing Saddles with the quick-sand.

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What would a train museum be without incredibly detailed models?

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The DB Museum had a ton of great photographs up showing the construction of the railways and bridges.  Most of those pictures didn’t come out well enough to post, but this will give you an idea of how amazing and fascinating the historical photographs were.

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Any good train museum would also cover that uncomfortable part of Germany’s history where the railways were part of the World War II experience.  Here’s a train conductor’s uniform from that era.

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The best part of the exhibit was the various trains  set up along the outer edges of the museum.  Here’s a mostly-plastic model of an ICE train.  You couldn’t even sit down inside.  The real thing is much nicer.

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Apparently, 6th class train rides involved standing up in a giant rectangular train carriage with no roof.  Still beats walking, I guess.

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Compare that last one to first class, which has velvet seats and a nice terrace from which you can have champagne toasts.

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Speaking of first class, the Prince’s carriages were present in the museum.  They’re very fancy.

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The Prince’s carriage had a green room that Cliff thought was amazing.

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I was more partial to the blue room in the Prince’s carriage.   What can I say? I like blue!

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There were also some massive old steamers in the museum.

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When I say massive, I mean massive.  These wheels were nearly as tall as I am.

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…and you can step up into some of them for hammy moments.  Here’s Cliff, waving hello from the conductor’s window.

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Have you ever been to the DB Museum?  Have you visited Bamberg or Nuremberg?

Munich Flughafen Besucherpark

Almost every time I’ve gone to or from the Munich airport in the last few years, I’ve used a route that includes a train between Regensburg and Freising, and bus 635 that goes from the Freising Hauptbahnhof to the Munich airport a few times each hour.  One of the stops on bus 635 is the München Flughafen Besucherpark, or Munich Airport Visitor’s Park.  I could see from passing by that it had a bunch of old aircraft to look at, and an observation hill that looked over the airport, and I made a promise to myself to actually stop when I had time, instead of just noticing it on the way to or from the airport.

That opportunity finally struck in July, when I had a ticket to go into Munich to see Sarah from Regensblog in the ESME summer concert.   The show was in the evening, so I set out a little bit earlier in the day.  Instead of taking the train all the way into Munich right away, I stopped in Freising, got on the old 635, and hopped off at the stop for the Besucherpark.

The bus stops are next to the S-Bahn stops, and there’s a little bit of a walk between public transport and the visitor park.  If you drive there, you get to park closer, but you miss out on some of the groovy trail decorations.  I especially like the nod to the Statue of Liberty in this one.

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Getting a little bit closer, there’s a helicopter on a stick!  I wonder if this exhibit is sponsored by a roadside assistance company of some sort… maybe ADAC?  This air rescue helicopter was stationed at the Munich hospital 36 years ago, and was retired here in the visitor’s park.

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This is the bit that got my attention from the bus as it passed by-  the Lockheed L-1049 G Super Constellation.  This is an original Super Constellation from 1955, with Lufthansa’s classic livery colors.  This was the first aircraft to have a pressurized cabin, and it was the first aircraft that Lufthansa used for transatlantic flights.

For a euro, you can go up into the aircraft.

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Passengers had quite a bit more room in the 1950s!

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There are fewer seats than in a modern aircraft, but the space per seat is much greater.

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They left the auto pilot on!

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Next up, there’s a Swissair Douglas DC-3.   This one was closed up when I visited, but the DC-3 has a reputation for being a great cargo plane.

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The Junkers Ju 52 was used for airmail service to South America and for exploration flights in the 1930s.

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This is the back of the Junkers Ju 52, also referred to sometimes as Auntie Ju.  The obseration hill and stairway are visible in the background.

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There were historical broadcasts playing inside the Ju 52, but I didn’t stick around to hear them.

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This is the cockpit of the Junkers Ju 52.  Vintage 1930s technology!

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At the top of the observation hill, you can see all the aircraft from above.  You’ll need another euro to get through the turnstiles at the bottom of the hill.

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From the observation hill, you can also see the entire airport spread out in front of you.  Lots of people brought their kids up here, and there are coin operated telescopes to get a closer view.  I saw one guy with enormous binoculars and a notepad writing down every aircraft type he spotted.  Interesting hobby, I  think.

I watched several aircraft taking off and landing before I climbed back down.

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The Besucherpark is designed to be family friendly.  It even has a pretty good sized play area for the smaller children.

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Naturally, there’s a restaurant and a souvenir shop on the premises.

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The restaurant is named Tante Ju’s, which is the German for Auntie Ju’s, named after the Junkers Ju 52 aircraft pictured above.

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Once I was done at the visitor’s park, I walked back to where I started and took the S-Bahn the rest of the way into the city for a nice burger and a concert.  That’s another story, though.

The Visitor’s Park can be reached by Bus 635 from the airport or Freising, or it can be reached by the Munich S-Bahn (S1 or S8 to Besucherpark, about 40 minutes from the main station.)

The Visitor’s Park and viewing hill are accessible around the clock, year round, and the information center, shop, and historical aircraft have the following hours: March to October, 9:30am-6pm.   November to February, 10am-5pm.   Tante Ju’s Restaurant is open daily 9:30am to 6pm.

And according to the website, there’s minigolf there too, but I never saw it.

Have you ever been to the München Flughafen Besucherpark?

Further Drachenstich

Each year, the town of Furth im Wald holds a festival called Drachenstich, or Spearing the Dragon.    Part of the main street is fenced off to become an arena, and the town performs one of the oldest folk plays in Germany.  The original version goes back to 1590, but the play has been revised along the way- once in 1951, and again around 2007.  The festival is so ingrained into the city’s identity that the signs leading into town focus on the Drachenstich.

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The story in the play focuses on the evils of war-  the dragon is good and kind in the beginning of the story, but gets a taste for blood after the humans start to kill one another, until eventually there’s a traditional hero type (Udo, in this story) saving his love from becoming a Dragon-snack.  It’s a pretty big spectacle.

Before I get further into the pictures, let’s talk about the dragon-  after all, this is the real reason that I wanted to see Drachenstich in the first place.  The dragon is quite new, and holds the world’s record for largest four-legged walking robot.  It’s 15.5 meters long, 4.5 meters tall, and it has a 12 meter wingspan.  It walks, blinks, breathes fire, roars, spreads its wings, waves its tail, and even bleeds at the appropriate point in the story.  It was manufactured by Zollner, which also makes some of the buses that I ride to work every day.

We arrived to Furth and parked the car just in time to catch the Dragon-wranglers bringing the dragon up the street toward the Drachenstich arena.  For up-the-street transport, the dragon was on a custom wheeled base-  the walking speed is less than two kilometers per hour, which would have been interminably slow up that hill.

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The two guys in the brown shirts in this picture are the controllers-  I counted three different controllers with very large control boxes strapped to their chests.

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At the top of the hill, they ran some pre-show tests, including a little bit of flame.

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You can see the dude in the bottom right of this picture controlling the dragon’s head.

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The dragon’s face is really expressive.

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This is from the earlier part of the play, when the dragon is good and kind.

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The lady in the red head-dress would be the woman that Udo is rescuing by killing the dragon.  To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of the non-dragon parts of the story.  There was a lot of yelling and a repeating creepy feral girl from the first scene.  There were lots of horses, too.

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During the climactic final scene in the play, the dragon walks all the way into the arena, spreads its wings, and does battle with Udo.

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Flame on!

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The Drachenstich festival runs until 17 August, so there’s still time to see it this year.

Who’s your favorite dragon?

The Palatine Chapel, Aachen

On the way back from the Netherlands, we stopped in Aachen specifically to check out the Palatine Chapel and the Aachen Cathedral.   The Palatine Chapel is an early medieval chapel which was originally part of Charlemagne’s palace.  Most of the palace no longer exists, but the Chapel has been incorporated into Aachen Cathedral.

This building is Aachen’s theater, and has nothing to do with the Cathedral.

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This is part of the wall just outside the Chapel.  When we arrived, it was about fifteen minutes before the Chapel would be open for visitors so we walked around a bit.

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A statue near to the cathedral called The Circle of Money.

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This is the Aachen Rathaus (town hall), across from the Aachen Starbucks.

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Germans really do love their ice cream.

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The Chapel opened at 12:30 and we were inside soon after.  In the main entryway, there are pine cones dating from the year 1000.

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This is the “She-wolf,” a Roman female bear from the 2nd century.  Recent research has dated this sculpture back to ancient Greece, claiming that it is part of a hunting scene.

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The Cathedral administrators charge you €1 to take pictures with your own camera.  When you pay, they put a green band on your camera strap to indicate that you’re allowed to be taking photos.  This seems entirely reasonable to me.

This is the main octagonal part of Charlemagne’s chapel.  The main structure dates back to roughly the year 800.

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The ceiling of the Chapel.

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Stained glass with several items visible on the altar.  I’ll come back to these.

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Detail in the ceiling near the main entrance.

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The gold box closest to the camera is the Shrine of St. Mary.  It contains four Aachen relics, which are taken out every seven years and put on display.   Behind that is the Adlerspult (Eagle stand), a brass music stand in the shape of an eagle.  The furthest gold box back is the Shrine of Charlemagne, and it contains the remains of Charlemagne, who died in the year 814.

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The Shrine of St. Mary and the Adlerpult.

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The Shrine of Charlemagne.

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In the gallery upstairs is Charlemagne’s throne.  (Thanks to Robert for taking this picture.  You had to join a tour to go upstairs, and he did.)   Originally, the throne was white marble, but it was covered it in tar paper after the war and buried in sand-  a bomb attack blew out all the windows and they were doing their best to cover the inside from the elements.  The tar paper has left stains on the marble and these will not be cleaned for fear of damaging the marble.

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This is the Aachen cathedral in its entirety.  The rounded cupola in the center is the portion containing the Palatine Chapel.

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Have you ever been to the Palatine Chapel?

 

 

 

Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain

In Duisburg, Germany, there is an unusual structure called Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain.  It looks for all the world like a roller coaster, but it’s actually stairs, and it’s considered a sculpture.    You can climb on all parts of it except the inverted portion of the loop, for obvious reasons.

We never did figure out why they named it Tiger & Turtle.

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Have you ever been to Tiger & Turtle?  Why do you think it was given that name?