Summer 2009 – Europe Roadtrip Part 5

hamburg

Hamburg from the river Elbe

6th August 2009 – Day 15

After 1 great week back in Denmark with the family, we started our journey home to Venice. First stop was Hamburg – we took a drive into the city centre – the Rauthaus when we arrived at 1600hr from Copenhagen. Saw the port area, a thriving shipping town until today (the biggest harbour city in Germany and the 2nd biggest in Europe) and ended at the riverfront for a nice afternoon walk. We slowly made our way to the Fishmarket to have our dinner at Rive  for some excellent seafood and the view over the River Elbe.

rive

at Rive

7th August 2009 – Day 16

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Bergen Belsen Memorial

From Hamburg , we made our way to South Germany (Bavaria) to a small town called Fuessen.  About 100 kms south of Hamburg, we stopped first at the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp (known as the camp where Anne Frank and her sister died). It started as a prisoner of war camp – mainly Soviet soldiers were held here , in the later years, in 1942  it became a concentration camp for the Jews. Although this camp did not have a gas chamber, many prisoners died due to the unhygienic and overcrowding conditions and lack of food.

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On April 15, 1945 the British 11th Armoured Division liberated the camp. Following excerpt taken from BBC news and wikipedia.

The scenes that greeted British troops were described by the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby, who accompanied them:

…Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which… The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days.”This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.

Anne and Margot Frank died just a few days before the camp’s liberation. Her memories are being kept alive until today by the diary she kept.

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In this site, you can see the marked mass graves dotted around. But the buildings have been burned down and there are no traces left of what the camp was like at that time, except for photos and sketches taken displayed in the documentation hall. Only several earth mounts indicating a burial site or water basins – the rest of the land is bare and peaceful almost – a complete contrast of what has been before. There is a documentation room where one can go through the history of the camp and her victims.

This camp was later described as a ‘lighter’ camp compared to the others like Auschwitz, Dachau. Nevertheless I can’t imagine visiting Auschwitz as I already felt angered and saddened by the horror of what has occured in Bergen Belsen. It was almost with disbelief when I went through the historic records, that such inhumanity could be shown by other fellow humans to one another . It will take you at least 3 hours to go through the museum and walk around the camp.

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One of the ‘see’ (lakes) close to Fuessen

Continuing our journey, we headed towards Fuessen our stop for the night and to see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle the following morning. We reached Fuessen around 1900hr that evening to our B&B Suzanne.

8th August 2009 – Day 17

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Suzanne’s B&B

We had a good alpen breakfast with cheese, ham, muesli and high fibre bread! The fine morning air was crisp and a little chilly at first. It warmed up later during the day. If anyone loves the mountains and outdoor activities,  this is the place to be. It is great for hikes and long walks, moutain biking, paragliding to name a few! And top it up with the view to kill. The lush greenery amidst the mountain backdrop. 

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Besides the outdoor sports, this place is famous for Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle . Tip: Make sure you are at the ticket office by 8-8.30am to get tickets to go up to the castle. We were late 10.30am – and the next available tour was at 4pm, we had to be at Verona by that time unfortunately. 

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Neuschwanstein Castle

Since we did not manage to go in, we caught this view from afar driving away from the entrance of the castle town. Along the way we saw many cars stopping like us to take a shot of the castle from afar and a number of paragliders jumping off from a mountain nearby.

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A paraglider in action

The journey had to continue – so after 50 shots of the castles and the surroundings, onwards now to Verona. We had tickets for the Arena, to watch Aida. It is a pretty drive to Verona from Fuessen, passing many mountain passages, going into Austria and including the Brenner pass. What a beautiful drive – loved it! It took approx 4.5 hours .

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One of the views outside our car as we drove (Austrian side now)

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For lunch we stopped by an Austrian lodge for some schnitzel and cranberry sauce! Finally we reached Verona at 4pm. Had a rest and got ready for the opera which started although only at 9pm, we left early as unsure where to park and how long the queues would be. It was manageable I’d say if you give youself 2.5 hours, you can have a decent meal (lots of restaurants around the Arena) while parking we found a good spot – about 10 mins walk at Via del Lanciare – don’t bother with the official parking for the Arena, long queues!

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 The Arena from the outside and inside while still light.

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And here is a night shot of the stage during the opera. Some advice: do bring a cushion with you for a more comfortable seating although you can rent a pillow for €3-5 . Also have a raincoat with you just incase, since this is an open air venue and if the weather is not favourable – you might as well come prepared. A good anti mosquito repellant is also advisable and a light sweater as the opera went on until 0045hr! It could get chilly later on in the night depending which month you are in Verona.

9th August 2009 – Day 18

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Juliet’s balcony

The following morning, after breakfast in our hotel, we checked out and went for a quick tour of Verona city including the famous balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. You can’t miss it, it is in the city centre and follow the crowd and there are signs too. You may get lost, but just ask around.  And as you enter Juliet’s house where the balcony is located, both sides of the wall are filled with love messages and declaration of love for one another. It was fun, we had a pen with us and scribbled our names on the wall too!

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About 15 mins walk away in a suburb, lies Juliet’s tomb.

Verona is not that huge, you will get to see most things in 4-5 hours.. well that is if you don’t linger too long in the shops! Anyways – left Verona at 2pm for home – Venice! On the way we stopped by Padova at our favourite restaurant Kofler for lunch, good food at good prices too.

The drive from Verona to Venice will take you 1.5 hours straight. It felt fairly short after the long hours we have driven during our road trip! Fantastic holiday..educational, insightful and cultural – an intense combination! Highly recommended!

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