05 January 2011

Strasbourg, Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, Worms

When you are constantly on the go, sometimes a short trip seems like a much longer vacation.  Over the holidays, I flew in and out of Frankfurt, away for about 7 days (5 nights).  I guess I was lucky in that I avoided any flight problems.  The snowstorms had already left Central Europe, but it was very cold most of the time.  After landing and checking into my hotel in Frankfurt, I rushed to the main train station to travel back to Strasbourg, France.  I had visited there over the summer and wanted to return to experience their Christmas markets since they were still going on after Christmas.  What should have been a 2+ hour trip turned into a 4+ hour journey one way.  The planned trains were running late (I'm guessing due to the weather and abundant snow still on the tracks and ground).  I was traveling on a German rail pass so I was not stuck with specific trains, except for the short train ride from Offenburg to Strasbourg.  Thanks to my trusty iPhone and the Deutsche Bahn (DB) app, I found alternative routings based on what trains were running on time.  Unfortunately, instead of taking the nice and fast ICE trains for part of the trip, I had to take multiple regional trains, hence the longer journey out.  Fortunately, my return back to Frankfurt that evening was much smoother and shorter.

It all worked out in the end.  I did get to Strasbourg much later than planned, but it was a good thing.  Since it was just getting dark by then, the lights came on and I could experience the festive atmosphere with all the light decorations.

After one night in Frankfurt, I moved on to Leipzig for three nights.  It was another rough time with the trains.  The train I chose to take ended up being half as long as normally run, and I had to stand for 4.5 hours (we were an hour late).  Even in First Class, the train was packed.  What was nice was that once I arrived at Leipzig station, the hotel I selected was easily found right across the street.

I settled in very quickly, grabbed a quick bite and drink in the Executive Lounge, and then took a walk around town to get oriented.  It was a little tough since many of the sidewalks had not really been cleared from the snow.  It was nice to be conveniently located in the old town section. 

I decided that my day trip the next morning would be to someplace I was already familiar with getting around -- Berlin.  I had a couple of agenda items I would try to do:  the Neues Museum and the Prenzlaurerberg area.  Train problems again prevented me from getting to Berlin as early as I had planned (it's only an hour away, but the train was an hour late).  It was also very cold (significantly below freezing the entire day, causing suburban train problems in Berlin as well).  I bought my timed ticket entry for the Neues and toured their fine collection of antiquities, including the amazing bust of Nefertiti.  By the time I was done, I did not feel much like walking around in the cold and snow, so I skipped P'berg and took train back to Leipzig.

Next day was dedicated to Dresden.  Trains were running better and not quite as cold outside.  It's a little bit of a walk from the Dresden station to the old section of the city.  The old section is very picturesque.  I went first to the Zwinger and enjoyed listening to the glockenspiel in the main courtyard (unsuccessfully tried to upload the video).

I then went into the Porcelain Museum and saw a very fine collection of Japanese, Chinese and German pieces very nicely displayed.  Unfortunately, no photos allowed, although I did sneak one from the outside. I saw a bit more of the town and then headed back to Leipzig.

I returned in time to tour Leipzig while it was still light outside, before any New Year's Eve festivities started.  Leipzig is a city of passages or Hofs, so it was fun exploring these areas all over the old section of the city.  As soon as it became dark, I discovered how much the Germans like to celebrate the evening with fireworks.  The sparklers, Roman candles, rockets and very loud fireworks started well before midnight.  To preserve my hearing, I decided to stay in for the evening.

For the next day, which would be my last full day, I traveled back to Frankfurt in the morning, checked in, and then traveled to Worms to check out the hybrid Romanesque/Gothic cathedral.
For the last day, I boarded an afternoon flight back home.

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