Tag Archives: vacation

My Trip To Germany: The Countryside

The Countryside

A couple weeks ago after speaking at a software developer conference in Berlin Germany, I had the opportunity to take several personal days while there and I got to see some of the countryside!  It was pretty great!

I rented a car and then drove south out of Berlin.  Sort of towards Munich but only about half that far.  My destination was a tiny little village called Zaulsdorf that is tucked into a tiny little valley of beautiful rolling hillsides.  This is where my grandfather, Kurt William Leucht, was born and where he lived till about the age of 4.  I grew up in a very rural area of Central Illinois, so seeing rural Germany was really fun for me.


Here’s a photo that I took of Zaulsdorf from above.

It’s a very small farming community.  There are probably only 20 houses in total.  Zaulsdorf reminds me of the small unincorporated community of Allentown, Illinois that I grew up in.

The beautiful yellow flowering fields seen in this photo are very common in Germany and are growing rapeseed which is the 3rd largest source of vegetable oil in the world.

Zaulsdorf is just a couple miles off the nearest highway but is only accessible via a one lane road that is both steep and winding.

This photo shows the large rural land plots within the village and also some of the farmland on the hills in the distance.

There are only a couple of small one lane roads in Zaulsdorf.  I parked my rental car along the playground near the center of the village and walked around for a bit.

I was mainly looking for old structures and old houses that were likely in place back in 1900 when my grandfather was a pre-school child there in the village.  Like this old house.

This old barn was probably also there in 1900.  Look at that architecture!  They don’t make ’em like this anymore!  It’s a real work of art!

Here’s a close up view of the slate stone wall foundation.  Amazing.

This little stream was at the bottom of the valley, in a park or playground.  While looking at this stream it was easy to imagine my 4 year old grandfather playing in it back in 1900.  At least I know I would have played in it as a 4 year old!

This photo shows some of the properties and houses from the bottom of the valley looking up.  Some of the houses were cute little cottages, while some were larger modern looking structures.

This old barn has an old slate rock roof.  It’s beautiful.  These types of roofs can last for 200 years!

For many generations in Zaulsdorf, my grandfather’s family owned the village mill, which was a central focus of Zaulsdorf.  In 1902, they sold the mill to the Halbauer family.  The mill was a working centerpiece of Zaulsdorf until about 1986, when it was shut down and the mill building was turned into apartments or a duplex of sorts.

The white building in this photo is the old Zaulsdorf mill.

The old Zaulsdorf mill used water from a brook or stream on top of the hill which was guided in a pipeline to the mill. Inside the mill building, the water flowed through a turbine and then exited the building into the brook again.  So the entire mill drive ran inside the building and wasn’t visible from the outside at all.

Inside the mill, people ground grain into flour. There used to be a lot of mills like this in Germany because the farmers had only small pieces of land and couldn’t easily transport their grain across long distances.  But they are becoming more and more rare.

Here is a closer photo of the mill.  It was mid-morning on a weekday when I was there exploring the village.  Part of me wanted to walk up and knock on all the doors and ask if I could explore inside the old mill building.  But I don’t speak German at all.  And it looked like nobody was home anyways.  So I chickened out.

This large old barn next to the mill building looks like a fun place for a 4 year old to play in 1900.  I think it would be cool to explore inside today, just to see what my grandfather experienced back in 1900.  But it didn’t seem like anyone was around.  So I just imagined what it’s like inside.

What are the odds that there is something of my grandfather’s actually up in the attic of this old mill barn right now?  Like an old toy or an old book?  With his name scratched on it or written in it?  Wouldn’t that be cool to find!

Here is a close up of the old barn next to the mill building.  The sign says “at the mill”.  I’m assuming this barn was part of the mill property based on its location and also based on that sign.

I almost missed it, but in the small park or playground in the middle of the village was this memorial from World War I.  It’s about chest high and it’s towards the back of the property.

It says:

Our Heroes
Walter Flemmig
Emil Leucht
Paul Leucht
Paul Knoll
Max Bley

So who are these two Leucht guys who were from Zaulsdorf and died in WWI?  I’m not sure.  My immediate relatives moved out of Zaulsdorf in 1900, but maybe there were other Leucht families living there.  Leucht was a fairly common name in the area.


I popped into Leipzig quickly, which was about midway on my trip to Zaulsdorf.  The reason I wanted to get a look at Leipzig was that my grandfather stopped there when he was 18 years old and travelling to the northern coast of Germany for his overseas trip to America.  He wrote in his journal that he had a couple hour train layover in Leipzig and that he saw the Battle of the Nations Monument.

First I explored this big cemetery that was right next to the Battle of the Nations Monument.  It was pretty cool.

This photo is still inside the cemetery, but you can see the massive Battle of the Nations Monument in the background.

This huge monument was built in 1913 and my grandfather saw it in 1914.  If you look closely you can see two people at the base of the monument, which gives you a better feel for the size of this thing.  It’s really big!

Photos don’t quite do it justice.  This monument is immense.  It’s 300 feet tall!  The monument commemorates Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig.  It is claimed to stand on the spot of some of the bloodiest fighting, from where Napoleon ordered the retreat of his army.

I didn’t have a lot of time in Leipzig, so I didn’t actually tour the monument or the museum or anything.  I just walked around it, took some photos, was amazed, and then got back on the road.


This is just some random stuff related to my travels through the countryside.

Here is the rental car that I got in Germany.  It’s an Opel Adam.  It’s just a bit bigger than a Mini Cooper.  And more streamlined.  I liked it.  It had all the bells and whistles.  And it ran great.  I ran at 105 mph (170 km/h) on the Autobahn for a while and this car didn’t even blink.  By the way, at that speed people were still zooming past me like I was standing still!

This car had a 5 speed manual transmission.  Now that I think about it, they didn’t even ask me if I could drive a manual transmission.  They just gave it to me.  Obviously, I can drive a manual.  I actually prefer a manual transmission.  Every car I’ve ever owned has been a manual.  The vast majority of all vehicles in Europe are manual and in some countries you even have to prove that you can drive a manual before they will even give you a licence.

On my way out of Zaulsdorf, I thought it might be interesting to visit a couple of local country cemeteries.  Here is one of them.  It was very small, less than one city block.  I wondered if any of my ancient relatives were buried in any of these small town cemeteries in this area.

I did find a Leucht couple buried at one of the cemeteries that I visited.  But I don’t think they are from my family.  At least not a part of the family tree that we have found and documented.

While driving from one small town cemetery to another, I passed by this building with Leucht painted real big on the side.  Obviously, I stopped to check it out!  It says: Curtains, Albert Leucht, Weaving

I stumbled across this planetary statue thingy while searching out a public restroom in a small village near one of the local country cemeteries.  Turns out there are 8 of these planet displays installed around Vogtland, which is basically the name of the county here.  Each display shows one of the planets in the solar system  And the distances between the displays is scaled to the  distances between the planets.  That’s kinda cool.  A person would need to travel all over the county in order to see them all.  And they would get a feel for the relative distances between the planets.

The main sign says:

Neptune is the eighth and outermost planet in the solar system, with an average distance of 4.5 billion kilometers (equivalent to about 25.8 kilometers in this model).  It was discovered in 1846 on the basis of Uranus orbit interferences.  With a diameter of almost 50,000 kilometers (here about 28 cm), just four times the diameter of the earth, it is the fourth largest planet in our solar system.  Together with Uranus, Neptune forms the subgroup of the “ice giants”.  Neptune dominates by its size the outer zone of the planetary system.  Neptune currently has 14 known moons.  The gas planet is named after Neptune, the Roman god of the sea and the flowing waters.

The gold plaque says:

Initiators Andreas Krauß – Olaf Graf
Planetary Trails Vogtland
A total of 8 paths lead from landmark points to the center – the observatory Rodewisch.  The lines between the starting points and the dome of the planetarium of the school observatory symbolize the distances between the planets of our solar system. Walk along the marked paths and experience a piece of wonderful (hiking) Vogtland.

Very cool.  I like that.  I wonder how many public schools shuttle their students all around the county to see all of these displays.  That’s a pretty cool learning experience.  Although it might make for a long day.

But wait, there’s more Germany to explore!

My next stop was Plauen, where my grandfather lived from age 4 to age 18, when he came to America!  Next time I’ll publish some details and photos from that part of my trip!

Thanks for your interest!


My Trip To Berlin, Germany: The Sights In Berlin (part 3)

Even More Berlin Sights

A couple weeks ago after speaking at a software developer conference in Berlin Germany, I had the opportunity to take several personal days while there and I got to see quite a bit of the city! It was pretty amazing!

There was so much to see and do in the city of Berlin, that I can’t even fit it all into two separate blog posts!  So welcome to part 3 of Berlin sights!

Computerspiele (Computer Game) Museum

I only happened upon this small unassuming museum because I walked right past it on my way to the conference!  It’s a great little museum, though!  The Computerspiele Museum covers computer gaming, console gaming, and handheld gaming.  It has some great exhibits and displays and it also has lots of retro games that you can actually play!

This was the display for a cool home console system that I had never seen before.  It’s a Magnavox Odyssey console from 1972.  I was 2 at the time, so it’s no surprise that I don’t remember this console.

It was black and white and it didn’t have any sound.  It did not use memory storage game cartridges.  Users actually swapped out various circuitry cards in order to change the play mode of the system.  It included a very rudimentary set of controllers that had a couple of dials that the users turned to move  simple white targets around on the TV screen.  And the really unique thing about this system is that it came with a set of transparencies or overlays that users were supposed to attach to the front of their TV screen using static cling!  Amazing!

Here is one of the original Pong arcade game upright cabinets from 1972!  Look how simple it was!  Just a single knob for each player!  Awesome!

Pong was originally intended to be a warm-up exercise for a new employee at Atari.  The prototype was so impressive, that his bosses decided to mass produce and market it!  And the rest is history!

Awesome video game history!

The success of the arcade version of Pong, led many companies to create their own rip-off versions or remakes.  Including the one pictured below.

The Computer Game Museum has a number of small retro rooms set up to look like they were ripped right out of your past.  And these retro rooms include working consoles like the Pong ripoff console shown in the above photo.  My apologies to the young gamers who were enjoying the game when I snapped this photo.

Here is Mattel’s Football handheld game on display in the museum.  It was super popular in 1977 and I remember it well.  This thing was literally hours worth of entertainment!  And it was so simple to play!

Speaking of working retro games that you can actually play, here are just a couple of the working arcade cabinets in the museum.  No quarters necessary!  I played them all while I was there!  These particular cabinets are probably from the early 1980s.  Some of the internal components have been upgraded out of necessity, but you really can’t tell from the outside.

Now this is super cool.  On display in the museum is this early 80s Apple II+ that is actually signed by Steve Wozniak (Woz)!

This particular Apple computer model was made from 1979 to 1982 and they really got Apple moving as the premier computer manufacturer of that time.  I was and still am the proud owner of an Apple IIe, which came out in 1983 and enjoyed a glorious 10 year run!

The Pac-Man video game was released in 1980 and was a smash hit!  It’s been released on so many platforms, it’s ridiculous!  The Computer Game Museum in Berlin has one that you can play using this huge Atari 2600 looking joystick!  That’s cool!  It looks like it’s playing on a working Atari 2600 Jr console!

This display is pretty cool to me, because I actually owned this Coleco Galaxian tabletop mini arcade game.  I played the heck out of this thing and I can totally hear the little tune it played right before the little aliens started careening down on top of you!

It was worth hours and hours of entertainment for a single player or while playing with a friend!

Here is another example of a retro working game console that you could just walk up to and start playing in the Computer Game Museum in Berlin.  It’s the Rampage game from 1986 running on a Sega Master System console.

This is especially relevant since the Rampage movie, based on the video game, was released just a week before I went to Berlin!

Here is another example from 1989 that you can actually sit down and play.  It’s a game called It Came From The Desert running on a Commodore Amiga 500 PC.

Okay this next display was really really cool!  It was an entire wall full of maybe 16 inch by 16 inch blocks stacked up.  The blocks were ordered by year and each block showed a noteworthy game from the history of video games.

A laser light projected cross-hairs onto one of the blocks and there was a single joystick in front of the wall.  If you moved the joystick, it moved the laser projected cross-hairs to the adjacent block.  Whichever block was lit up by the cross-hairs immediately gave you a show, of sorts, up on the large monitors at the top of the wall.

The show for each video game included several video snippets from the game-play, often including the splash screen, on the left monitor.  The show also included details about the game (including publisher, designers, etc.) displayed on the right monitor.

I spent probably close to an hour watching the game-play from every single game on this wall.  Including several games that I played as a kid, that brought back so many great memories.  All the nostalgia feels!  Very well done, Computer Game Museum of Berlin!

There was a lot more to see and learn in this museum, but I don’t want to overdo it here on my blog.  I will leave readers with one last photo.  These larger-than-life characters were all over the museum!  Cool!


Okay, let’s change gears now.  There were a couple pretty neat fountains in the center of Berlin that I want to show you.

Neptunbrunnen, or Neptune Fountain was built in 1891 and features the Roman god Neptune surrounded by various animals and 4 prominent women, who represent the 4 main rivers of the country.  This fountain is right next to St. Mary’s Church.  It’s a pretty cool old fountain!

There is another, more modern and abstract, fountain just a block north of Neptunbrunnen.  This is called Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft, or Fountain of Friendship Between People.

It’s also called the Fountain of International Friendship.

German Biergarten (Beer Garden)

I’m not a big beer drinker.  Okay, I’m not any kind of beer drinker, big or small.  But I noticed that you can’t throw a rock in Germany without hitting one of these Biergartens.  They are outdoor entertainment areas where beer and food are served, usually at large shared tables.

The one pictured above is in Tiergarten Park and it’s on a cute little lake, complete with cute little boats that you can enjoy.  Sadly this particular beer garden was closed when I was there.  It looks like a lot of fun, though.

Reichstag (Parliament) Building

While I was in Berlin, I really wanted to check out the Parliament Building, and especially I wanted to visit the gigantic glass Dome on top of the Parliament Building!

From the Dome, I hear that you can see the whole city!  And you can also peer into the debating chamber of Parliament below!  The Dome symbolizes that the people are above the government, which was not the case during Nazism.  That’s super cool!

But sadly for me, you need a reservation to visit the dome and I didn’t submit my request early enough and so there were no slots available when I tried.  Missed opportunity.

Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church)

Here are several photos from St. Mary’s Church, which is centrally located in Berlin.  It’s a fairly impressive building.

It’s very cool inside too.  The light colors on the columns and the ceiling keep it very bright inside.

The speaking pulpit is quite grand.

And so is the pipe organ.

Here is the alter area.

I’m not sure what this little memorial thing is all about, but it looks like the little cherub at the top is holding a club over the man’s head.  Also, there is a lot of wheat in this memorial for some reason or another.  If anyone knows what this is all about, please leave some details in the comments.

Here is another strange thing that stood out to me in St. Mary’s Church.  This baptismal bath thingy has dragons or something similar prominently adorning it.  That struck me as odd, but that was probably common in Europe long ago.

Protestant St. Peter’s Cemetery

This was a cemetery that I walked by several times on my way to and from the conference.  I walked through it one day and took a few photos, since it wasn’t like cemeteries in America that I’m familiar with.  The plots were quite small, but they were all beautifully kept and tended.

Then along the outside, there were large plots.  some were nicely tended and some looked like they had not been touched in a hundred years.


Okay, I’m finally down to the last several photos from Berlin.  I just have a few miscellaneous things to point out and then we will be all done exploring Berlin.

One thing that I immediately noticed about Berlin is that they have amazing public transportation.  I used the bus system, the tram system, and also the subway system while I was there.  They were all reasonably priced and I also noticed that they were all very clean.  So don’t be afraid to use them while you’re in town.

I also noticed that a lot of locals ride bicycles, as you can see in the photo below.  At just about every major intersection, the bicyclists seemed to stack up almost as much as the vehicles.  I also noticed several vendors renting bicycles to tourists.  It looked like most of the roads were laid out with bicyclists in mind, so Berlin is definitely a good city to explore on a bike.

This photo shows a pretty cool world clock situated in the public square.  It shows the current time all around the world which I thought was pretty interesting.

I didn’t have the time to take a boat tour, but the city of Berlin has the Spree river cutting right through its heart.  And Berlin hosts tons and tons of river cruises, which I’ve heard are pretty fun to experience.

This building was just amazing.  I don’t know what it was and I didn’t have time to explore it, but it just blew me away.  This in in Potsdamer Plaza.

Also in Potsdamer Plaza was this gigantic circus-tent-looking structure called the Sony Center.  It’s pretty crazy.  It’s basically a mall inside with several stores and shops and restaurants and even a hotel.  It’s an open air design, as you can see from the photo, but with a very big and impressive tent-style roof made of glass and steel.

This photo is just for fun.  I didn’t see a ton of street vendors in Berlin, but this guy had quite a mobile setup going.  It made my body hurt, just seeing him carrying around all that weight, though.

Here is the hotel that I stayed in and the church adjacent to it.  It was the Leonardo Royal Hotel.  It was a pretty nice hotel.  I would probably stay there again.

Literally right outside my hotel lobby in the middle of the sidewalk, was this little unassuming memorial embedded into the cobblestone sidewalk.  I googled it and found the Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) project.  The project commemorates people who were persecuted by the Nazis.  There are more than 7,500 of these little memorials installed around the city!  Amazing!

The plate on the left says:  Here lived Samuel Nussdorf, born 1880, deported 29.1.1943,  murdered in Auschwitz.

The plate on the right says: Here lived Frieda Nussdorf, maiden name Hirsch, born 1886, deported 29.1.1943,  murdered in Auschwitz.

These are nice little memorials to keep everyone who walks down this sidewalk aware of what happened back then.

So much more to see in Berlin!

Okay, so those were the areas of Berlin that I was able to see during my 3 personal days that I had available to explore on my own time.  But there is so much more to see in Berlin!  I really only scratched the surface!  So enjoy your stay in Berlin and go see everything that Berlin has to offer!  And also feel free to comment below on things that I missed or things that I got wrong!

But wait, there’s more Germany!

Berlin wasn’t actually the end of the line for the personal portion of my stay in Germany.  I was actually able to see some of the countryside too!  Next time I’ll publish some details and photos from that experience!

Thanks for your interest!


My Trip To Berlin, Germany: The Sights In Berlin (Part 2)

More Berlin Sights

Last week after speaking at a software developer conference in Berlin Germany, I had the opportunity to take several personal days while there and I got to see quite a bit of the city! It was pretty amazing!

There was so much to see and do in the city of Berlin, that I can’t fit it all into a single blog post!  So welcome to part 2 of Berlin sights!

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie (or Checkpoint C) was a famous crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.  The original booth is on display in a museum, but a copy of the booth is situated on the original site for tourists.  Along with Military Police actors posing for photographs.

Berlin Wall

Only one block west of Checkpoint Charlie is a memorial or a monument to the Berlin Wall.  It is a 200 meter (650 foot) long section of the wall that was never torn down and is now protected by a fence.  Although the wall was torn into and chipped away before being protected as a memorial.  This is not the only stretch of the Berlin Wall that still stands, though.  There are several throughout the city.

Small sections can be found throughout the city on display too.  This one was just a block from Checkpoint Charlie.

And this one was just across the street from Checkpoint Charlie.

German Historical Museum

I dashed through the German Historical Museum in only 3 hours one afternoon, but you can easily spend an entire day going through all the displays there.  It is laid out chronologically, so you can go quickly through time periods that you are less interested in and you can spend more time on other periods.  I didn’t take a lot of photos inside.  It was a bit overwhelming.

Here is a 16th century book that I thought was pretty cool.  It was hand-drawn and hand-written on parchment.  My phone camera and the dim lighting didn’t allow me to capture the incredible detail.  Each page is a unique work of art.

Here is an actual prosthetic arm from the 16th century.  It’s made out of iron and wood.

It was probably made for a high ranking knight who had lost his arm in battle.  The elbow has 6 different positions that the wearer could set.

And the hand has a button to move the index finger and middle finger, plus another button to move the ring finger and little finger.  Pretty advanced!

Here is a photo of 2 different light bulbs from the 1870s.  On the left, Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb.  And on the right, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan’s incandescent bulb.

Both of these inventors seemed to independently invent their versions around the same time period.  And they integrated each others ideas into their own inventions.  They even worked together for a while.

I ran out of time by the time I got to the Hitler section and WWII and then the Cold War.  I should have skimmed through some of the earlier history, because there are a lot of cool things to learn in the WWII and Cold War sections of the museum.

Here is the ballot from the German elections on March 5th of 1933Adolf Hitler called for this election shortly after he had been appointed as Chancellor.  You can see that the voters had 15 different choices, and that the Nazi party was on top of the list.

Here is one of the Nazi party campaign posters for this election.  It says: “The Reich will never be destroyed – if you stay united and loyal”.  This poster blended the old Reich President (Paul von Hindenburg) with the new young Chancellor, while placing Hitler’s head subtly in the foreground.

They had nearly 90% voter turnout for this election and Hitler’s Nazi party won about 44% of the votes.  Just two weeks after this election, Hitler persuaded and intimidated other parties and was able to pass an act that effectively gave him dictatorial powers.  Within a few months, the Nazis banned all other parties and dissolved the German Parliament (Reichstag).  And the rest is history.

Sad and shameful history.

Holocaust Memorial

Just one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, is a really interesting and creative Holocaust Memorial, or Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It covers an entire large city block … almost 5 acres.

When you first enter the park and see the memorial, it appears to be just rows and rows of concrete slabs.  The slabs look sort of like graves in a large cemetery.  There are thousands and thousands of these concrete slabs and they are not all the same height.  It’s quite beautiful.

But then when you walk into the memorial, you quickly realize that the ground undulates up and down wildly as you get deeper into the interior of the memorial.  The ground gets lower and lower.  And the concrete slabs get higher and higher.  Eventually the slabs tower over all visitors that explore the park.  The mood of visitors turns to confusion, isolation, and even a little bit of worry.

The artist who designed this memorial says that the slabs “are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere”.  It’s a unique experience.

Buried under ground in the middle of the memorial, is an information center, but it was closed for the day when I was there.  So I didn’t get to go inside.

But wait, there’s more!

Next time I’ll publish yet another blog post showing even more of the fun sightseeing that I did in Berlin. Because in 3 days I saw a ton of cool stuff and it won’t all fit into even two blog posts!

Thanks for your interest!


My Trip to Berlin, Germany: The Sights In Berlin

Berlin Sights

Last week after speaking at a software developer conference in Berlin Germany, I had the opportunity to take several personal days while there and I got to see quite a bit of the city!  It was pretty amazing!

The weather there was pretty mild with highs around 60 to 70 degF and lows around 55. It rained lightly one afternoon and one full day while I was there, but the rest of the time it was partly sunny.

Berlin is the capital and the largest city in Germany.  It’s located in the north east of Germany.

Fernsehturm (Television Tower)

In the middle of Berlin is this huge TV Tower!  It’s impossible to miss!  The giant shiny sphere towards the top has an observation level and a rotating restaurant!

When the tower was built back in the late 60’s, it was intended to be a symbol of Communist power.  It’s the tallest structure in the entire country of Germany!  And it’s the second tallest structure in all of Europe!

Here are my best photos of the Fernsehturm (TV Tower):

Siegessäule (Victory Column)

The Siegessäule, which literally translates into Victory Column, is also centrally located in Berlin.  It’s actually smack in the middle of a huge park which is sort of like Central Park in New York City.  Großer (Great) Tiergarten (Zoo) Park is Berlin’s oldest and largest park.  And as you might suspect by the name, it has a pretty awesome zoo inside!

Victory Column was built in the late 1800s to commemorate several recent war victories.  It’s actually bigger than it looks in photos.  It’s about 20 stories tall and tourists can actually climb an internal spiral staircase to an outdoor viewing platform at the top of the tower, just under the gold statue.

Here is a close up photo of one of the four massive bronze reliefs that are mounted on the four sides of the base.  You can see that there are some bullet holes in the relief from the second World War and there are also some bronze pieces of the relief that are missing, like both rear legs of the second horse.

The marble base had several small chunks missing as it was damaged a bit during the war.

Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate is probably the best known, most photographed landmarks in Germany.  It was built in the late 1700s, so it’s quite old.

It used to be a customs gate for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  Through the years, many political parties (including the Nazis) have paraded through the gate as a symbol of their strength and victory.  The Berlin Wall, which was built nearby, stopped all traffic through the gate for nearly three decades.  After the Berlin Wall fell, the entire area became a pedestrian plaza, so vehicles no longer travel through this gate.

This is what it looks like from the east.

And from the west.

Here is the gate at sunset.  This is a very popular tourist destination, regardless of the time of day or night.

Berlin Dom (Cathedral)

The Berlin Cathedral is centrally located on Museum Island in the middle of Berlin, a hotspot area for tourism.  It’s quite a big church and it stands out easily.

It’s quite beautiful.

It’s very open and spacious inside.

This photo shows more detail of the ceiling domes from inside.

The alter is just amazing.

The main speaking pulpit sort of reminds me of a giant Fabergé egg, though.

Paying tourists can walk up the stairs to a small museum containing some really cool plaster models of various parts of the church.  These plaster models were used as part of the design process.

Then tourists can walk up even more stairs to the top of the main dome.  There’s a small viewing room that lets tourists look down toward the alter from the main dome above.  That was pretty cool.

Then the self guided tour takes tourists outside the main dome at this high level!  And they can walk around the entire main dome out there!  That was super cool!  I was totally not expecting that to be part of the tour!

The view from up there was amazing!  And just a little scary!  The people down on the ground looked like little ants!

If you scroll back to the first couple photos of the exterior of the cathedral, you can see exactly where I was standing.  You can see the railing and the statues going around the main dome on the exterior of the cathedral.  It’s really crazy to me that they even let tourists out here!

One thing that caught my eye back inside the Berlin Cathedral were the fancy burial caskets at the back of the main sanctuary.  The caskets were all behind bars, but they were still on prominent display.  There were quite a few caskets.  They apparently hold the remains of past royalty and past church leaders and such.

This was a little creepy to me since I’m not used to seeing burial caskets placed above the ground.  One of the caskets even had this scary looking skeleton dude sitting at the foot of his casket.  Writing down his name in his book of death, I suppose.

Continuing with the creepy decor, on the wall beneath the big beautiful pipe organ, were these two faceless ghostly looking statues.

Then things got even more creepy for me since the tourists basically have to walk through the basement “crypt” in order to exit the place.  Through the gift shop, of course.  This whole basement crypt thing is probably pretty common, but it was a first for me.  And I was not expecting to have to walk through a ton of really really old burial caskets in a very large and pretty dark basement room, on my way out of the cathedral.  I lightened the below photo quite a bit.  Believe me, it was pretty dark in that crypt.

Most of these old caskets appeared to be made out of metal.  Several of them were super old and it looked like they were even starting to cave in under the weight of their covers.  The second casket in the above photo even appeared to have a couple of bars installed across its cover with bolts attached down into the cover to keep it from caving in more than it already had.  That casket was dated 1601.  That’s pretty old.

One of the last caskets that was on display in this crypt was actually an infant.  It had it’s own little well lit room, along with a painting of the funeral and mourning parents.

A sign on the wall said:  Nameless Princess – Daughter of Prince Adalbert and Princess Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen, Granddaughter of Emperor Wilkelm II, September 4, 1915

Nothing like finishing on a sad and somber note.

But wait, there’s more!

Next time I’ll publish yet another blog post showing some more of the fun sightseeing that I did in Berlin.  Because in 3 days I saw a ton of cool stuff and it won’t all fit into a single blog post!

Thanks for your interest!


My Trip To Malmo, Sweden: The Travel


Flying long distances is never all that fun.  Our trip to Malmo Sweden took us to Reykjavik Iceland on the first leg, and then to Copenhagen Denmark on the last leg.  Iceland seems like a strange stopover location, but we flew on IcelandAir, so that’s their hub.

The photo above is Orlando at sunset right after we took off on our trip.  It was an overnight flight, which means that everyone is supposed to sleep during the flight.  Easier said than done for some people.

We were dead tired when we landed in Iceland.  Our layover was supposed to be an hour and a half.  But even before our plane left Orlando, we were told that our Iceland to Denmark flight was delayed several hours.  When we got to Iceland we were told that storms the previous day caused a backup of an entire’s day worth of flights and so our flight would get delayed 8 or 9 hours.

Here is what the radar looked like an hour after we landed in Reykjavik Iceland.  The storm from the previous day was still on the radar moving to the east.

We inquired about what there was to do in Reykjavik Iceland, and the only activity that was presented to us was a popular local hot spring called Blue Lagoon.  It looks pretty neat and really beautiful, but we didn’t really feel like doing a hot spring with all our luggage and without swim suits.

So after taking long naps on chairs in a quiet corner of the Iceland airport, we made ourselves comfortable for the day.  We found some nice lounge chairs that we could stretch out in and chill.  I watched a movie on my iPhone.

And my wife did some “teacher homework”.  Grading papers or filling out teacher paperwork or something of that nature.

Eventually we got on a plane for Copenhagen Denmark and arrived there close to 10pm local time rather than our planned noon arrival time.


In Denmark they speak Danish and in Sweden they speak Swedish.  And I know nothing about either of these languages.  Luckily, most locals also speak fluent English.  Once they realize that you’re not from around there.  And luckily most signage that we encountered had English subtitles.

But there were a few times that I needed a quick real-time translator.  Google Translate mobile app to the rescue!  It’s an awesome app!  It uses augmented reality to show you the translated text over the top of the actual text using your phone’s live camera feed.

Here is a photo of a sign in Danish that was on the wall in the Copenhagen airport.

And here is a screen grab of what that sign looked like in the Google Translate mobile app.  It overlays the translated text over the original text in a similar font and color in order to replace the text in real time within your live camera feed.  It’s really cool.  Not perfect, but super cool!


To get from Copenhagen Airport to Malmo Sweden, we had to buy a train ticket inside the airport and then wait for the train.   The signs were a little confusing because we needed to go to the Malmo Central train station, but the trains mostly showed their final destination.  So we nearly missed our train because Malmo was in very small print on the sign.  We noticed it just in time, though.  Thankfully.  It was cold waiting for the train, and I didn’t want to sit there for another 20 minutes waiting for the next train!

The train from Copenhagen to Malmo goes both over and under the strait thanks to the awesome Øresund Bridge.  It’s a pretty awesome trip, although we couldn’t see anything when we arrived since it was quite late in the evening.


It was midnight before we actually got settled into our hotel.  Our hotel (Comfort Hotel) in Malmo Sweden was an interesting combination of classic 19th-century architecture and modern and trendy decor.  It was decorated with a rock and roll vibe.  Check out the stacks of amplifiers and speakers in the lobby!  (This photo was NOT taken at midnight when we arrived after our long trip to Malmo!)

I didn’t get a picture of it, but our room had a giant mural of lips singing into a giant microphone.  It covered one entire wall!  Very rock and roll!

Although I didn’t end up using it during our stay, the gym in the hotel was pretty awesome!

The equipment all looked brand new and the gym even had a boxing ring!

Our flights back home at the end of our stay were fairly uneventful.  This is a photo of Copenhagen Denmark right after we took off.

And this photo is also of Copenhagen a couple minutes later.

One thing that I did note on the flight back.  When we took off from Iceland on our second and final leg, the sun was just going down.  And since we were flying west for about the first half of that flight, it actually took about 3 or 4 hours for the sun to actually go down!  Pretty cool!

Thanks for your interest!