Moselle Valley, Trier, Berlin
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
As we traveled from
On a ferry down the
Public transportation, though more of a hassle, opens up the world. When we travel by car, it's like being in an isolation bubble: we're in a country physically, but out of contact with its people.
"ROMAN RUINS RIGHTS"
Lou was determined to
"do" the town anyway, so we pulled ourselves out of bed at 6 a.m. and set
off along the dark, rainy streets. We plodded along lost because people
were hurrying to work and didn't speak enough English to give us adequate
directions. We were cold and
wet, and because it was too early we were unable to gain entry to the sites. We did manage to "see"
the ruins of the ancient Roman baths - by peering through locked gates. Joan began to complain about the idiocy of this kind of
sightseeing. We stomped along in stony silence to several other ruins. Lou felt
put-upon that Joan wasn't appreciating his valiant efforts to see and do every
last thing. We finally made a deal, called "Roman Ruins Rights."
Either of us can invoke these anytime he or she chooses not to accompany the
other. (The next time would be when Joan refused to go into
The rest of the day was also
pretty challenging. We spent nearly four hours in the train station, while Joan
guarded the backpacks and Lou worked out a bus ride from Trier to Traben
Bahnhof, a change of buses, a train to Bullay, another train to Cochem, a hotel
room in Cochem, a train the next day to Moselkern, a 40 min. walk from
Moselkern to the Burg Eltz castle, a guided tour in English at 9:30 a.m., a
return walk to Moselkern and a train back to Cochem in time to pick up our
backpacks at the hotel and board a ferry to Koblenz. WHEW! This is why people
sign up for guided t
Late that afternoon we checked
into our hotel in Cochem and went out to see the town. We trudged up a steep, steep
hill in the mud (the others rode cable cars, but we were too proud)
to a fantastic viewpoint. Below us was a scene out of a child's picture book:
the red-roofed village, the
The next day, just to push our marital luck, we had more logistical pressure. We missed the train to Moselkern, because someone pointed us to the wrong track and we helplessly watched our train pull away from across the track divide. After catching the next train, we had exactly the 40 minutes the Lonely Planet guidebook said it would take to walk to the castle. HAH! This was almost the only time our guidebook failed us. We race-walked, jogged and huffed and puffed up the muddy hillside for 55 minutes. We arrived at the castle 15 minutes late - sweaty, red-faced and winded - only to learn that the English tour was non-existent! We toured the castle with a huge German group, following along as best we could from an English brochure. It was worth the effort to get here. Burg Eltz castle is a fantastic place, with wonderful furniture, armor, tapestries and primitive "water closets."
When we made the obligatory
"Grand Tour" of Europe in 1965 (11 countries in 10 weeks, driving a
new-from-the-factory MGB and camping in a pup tent), we decided we did not like
Our first hosts in
We talked long into the night with each host family. During the days, we were on our own. We saw two great exhibitions of contemporary German art, and took what was easily the best tour we've ever taken - an excellent "City Walks" tour of the city with an inspired guide named Christopher.
One of the most amazing stops on the walking tour was at Babel Platz. Beneath our feet was a conceptual art installation located on the site of the Nazi book-burning. It's below ground level, with a heavy glass plate across its top - below is an all-white chamber lined with empty white bookshelves. A plaque in the ground reads: "Burning books leads to burning people." Chilling.
We also visited the site of Hitler's bunker, Brandenburg Gate, a museum dedicated to the horrors of the Nazi regime and a section of the Berlin Wall. Christopher told us amazing stories of escapes across the Wall. We were especially fond of the elderly folks who dug their own tunnel to freedom after younger neighbors scoffed at their ability to do so. An 81-year-old member of the group was the look-out in the garden, in which he repeatedly planted the same sapling! We also liked the story of the man who made 400 trips to bring out 400 refugees in his little VW Bug, with a fake gas tank large enough to conceal one person. Another man hid his wife in two end-to-end suitcases. (Below, Christopher talks about a section of the Berlin Wall.)
Christopher's best story was of a young man who rented an Austin Healy Sprite and removed the windshield so the car was low enough to drive UNDER the barriers and through the S-shaped path at Checkpoint Charlie. Of course, his head could not protrude above the hood level, so he had to memorize the path and drive blind. With his wife prone behind the sports car seat and his mother-in-law hidden in the trunk, he gunned the throttle and somehow wove his way through the barricades!
Leaving Berlin with sober thoughts, we caught a train to the CZECH REPUBLIC
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