THERE & BACK AGAIN // Frankfurt, Germany

Getting to Frankfurt from Venice proved to be a bit of a long haul, but that was our fault for flying with a budget airline! The flight itself was only an hour, but we had to travel an hour by bus to a smaller, further away airport at Venice. Then after arriving in ‘Frankfurt’, we had to wait another two hours for a bus that took over an hour and a half to get to the city centre. I don’t know why they claim Hahn airport to be a part of Frankfurt, but we made it. Eventually.

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This was Chris’ first time in Frankfurt, but because I had been here previously we decided to keep it pretty chilled out in regards to sight seeing. Plus there really isn’t much to see in the city. These photos of the city skyline are from atop the city’s main chapel tower. My fitness has certainly declined after traveling and being sick: climbing all the stairs nearly killed me!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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For lunch we headed to a market hall I had visited last time, and got the exactly same thing I got all those months ago! An un-appetising looking local meal of a meatball, herb sauce and potato salad. Delicious nonetheless!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We also stumbled across an Australian shop, which provided us with a great deal of novelty. Tim tams! Beer! Weet bix!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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In the afternoon we joined a free ‘alternative’ walking tour of the city. The company had only recently started up, so unfortunately to tour wasn’t overly fantastic. Plus it was freezing!

We ventured across the river to the Sachsenhausen district to try the local apple wine, as well as some local food. Which in true German style, is basically meat, cabbage and potato. It was a great night, as we reminisced over the end of an era, and all that was in these past few months.

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This morning we woke up to a small snowfall! It was a nice send off from Europe.

We are currently waiting at Frankfurt airport for our flight to Dubai, which has unfortunately been delayed. Hopefully we don’t miss our connecting flight to Melbourne, as the whole journey back is already long enough.

Next time you’ll hear from me I will be back in sunny Australia! It is still all a bit surreal.

– Reanna.

ON TRAVELLING SOLO // Berlin, Germany

I’ve been pondering this post for a few days now, but my posts are already so picture heavy that I thought I would try wait for a day when I didn’t have too many to share.

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These photos are from yesterday morning. I had a bit of time to kill before I had to catch my bus at 3pm (I had wanted to catch one earlier, but with tickets for 9 euro instead of 29, I couldn’t say no) so I went for an explore around Kreuzberg. I suspect I may have stumbled across one of the more “hipster” areas of Berlin. The walls were adorned with art, I saw several vegetarian restaurants, and there was more than one café with a bearded barista.

But lately I have been reflecting a bit on how I have been travelling personally (pun intended). I’ve been filling this blog with pictures and vague recollections of what I have seen during my days, but I haven’t often paused to think about how I’ve been feeling through it all.

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This is my first major solo escapade. Sure, I went to Adelaide by myself for a week or so during my gap year, but even then everyone I needed was only a phone call or text away, and flights barely hit the hour mark. Over here in Europe, on the other hand, I have been much more alone. I don’t have a SIM card in my phone, flights take an entire day back home, and I am constantly on the hunt for Wi-Fi.

There has been a few times when I have felt this loneliness quite profoundly. When I missed my bus in Munich, when my train to Hamburg was delayed and I couldn’t tell my friend on the other end what was happening. Both times I was uncertain of what to do. Everyone around me was speaking German. It sucked. I cried. And I couldn’t just pick up my phone and call someone, as I normally would have back at home. But that forced me to think more into it. Why did I want to call someone? What were they going to do? Sure, they could offer a few consoling words as I blathered about my woes, but could they really fix it? Unless one of my parents has suddenly mastered the art of teleportation or learnt how to control time and space, nothing was going to change. So I gave myself a mental kick in the butt and persevered. Sure, a few more tears were shed along the way, but I got there.

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I have also felt lonely at times in the sense of not having anyone to share my explorations with. Often when I go on tours or hang out in hostels, most people have their friend, family or partner with them. They can bounce their experiences off each other, snap each others photos and generally just enjoy the moment together. As much as I am enjoying travelling by myself, sometimes I have been in situations where I would have loved someone to share it with. On the other side, however, one of the pros of solo travel is getting to do whatever you want. No need to worry about pleasing everyone or compromise, I get to plan my days as I please! I’ve had some great moments when I have enjoyed my solitude, such as when I climbed up to the old fort in Luxembourg and had the most spectacular view all to myself. I am, however, not resorting to getting a “selfie stick”.

Despite some of these more depressing moments of solo travel, it has been (and still is) a great experience though. Sure, it’s had its tough moments, but that’s part of why I came here. To push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve come this far, so I can certainly keep going.

*insert motivational cat poster here*

Though I could do without missing another bus!

– Reanna.

(Also, I am now finally in Prague! I arrived last night, so expect me to be loosing my mind about actually finally being here over the coming days.)

THERE ARE NO WORDS // Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

Just as a warning, this post is about my trip to a concentration camp near Berlin. While none of the images are in any way graphic, I may touch on some things that could be sensitive to people.

Yesterday, after a slow morning stressing over a lack of wifi when I had two Skype dates lined up, I headed back into the city to join another tour by Sandemans New Europe. This time we were headed out of Berlin, to the infamous Sachsenhasen Concentration Camp, about 30kms north of the city (I think!). The tour was quite heavy and informative, however, confronting and coming to terms with the atrocities of the past is part of the healing process. This will also help to ensure that such mistakes are never made again.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur tour started by walking down Camp Street, just as the prisoners would have done back at the start of the Nazi regime.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA former SS compound, now a police training complex.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe weather was grey and muggy, which was somewhat fitting to the experience. I couldn’t imagine being here on a sunny day, and I think it would have changed the feel of the experience.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES“Work makes you free”, the words inscribed in the entrance to the camp. Freedom here, of course, is not in the sense that we would imagine it.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMost of the buildings were destroyed by the Soviets during the 60s, before it was decided to keep the remains of the camp as a memorial. Gravel pits now line where the barracks used to be.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThese two barracks were rebuilt, using what remaining original wood could be found. Visitors can enter them to see what living conditions were like for prisoners. At the back end of the left barrack above is a Jewish Museum. You were not allowed to take photos in there, due to the antisemitic nature of the original propaganda.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSachsenhausen also featured a small walled off section to the side that housed the political prisoners of the Gestapo. Our tour guide had a fantastic knowledge of the history of the place, even if somewhat horrific as he described the torture techniques used to garner information of inmates (such as the technique that utilises the above poles, though I will spare you the details). The guide then posed an interesting question to us: what is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? When we talk about the prisoners of the Gestapo, we call them “freedom fighters”, but the Nazi’s regarded them as “terrorists”. Our guide then compared this to what is happening today in the war on terror: the difference is simply a matter of context. It was somewhat alarming to think that torture techniques described during this tour are still used today in the name of justice.

Food for thought, anyway.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe cells within the Gestapo prison were adorned with small flowers and memorials for those lost.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen Sachsenhausen was originally turned into a museum by the Soviets, it was set up in such a way that only the communist prisoners were acknowledged. This tour, for instance, only bears the red triangles that were used to identify such prisoners. Since then, the museum has changed, and know recognises all those who were captured and taken here: Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, everyone who came through the gate.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe execution trench.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis is the site of the first instance of systematic extermination of Red Army soldiers.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe foundations of the extermination facilities, serving as a reminder of the horror of these camps. While nothing compared to the scale of killing systems developed in the death camps, it was still confronting. Our tour guide commented on the psychology at play in the running of this building: the SS guards never had any contact with those they killed, all the labour was done by other prisoners. As a result, feelings of guilt were avoided, as was the industrialised view of the process.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe interior of the pathology building, one of the few originals in the camp. This was probably the eeriest experience I had on the tour, which was further exemplified as I descended down into the morgue.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs full on as this tour was, I am glad I went on it. I learnt a lot about the history of the human race, and the mistakes that have been made. And may they never happen again.

I called this post “there are no words”, as I was struggling to think of a title that would encapsulate the entirety of my experience of this camp. However, I think one needs to experience this place first hand to fully grasp the feeling of it.

– Reanna.

 

LAYERS OF HISTORY // Berlin, Germany

I was quite excited to be in Berlin, as it’s a city that I actually already knew a bit of history about. Not that I had ever studied it in detail, but I can recall a bit of information about the Cold War and the Weimar Republic from my year 11 History days.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter being lucky enough to score a bike from my airbnb host, I once again embarked on a Sandemans New Europe tour. There was a ridiculous amount of people at the sign up point, but they have plenty of tour guides. So despite the hundred odd people lining up, I was still in a comfortable group of 26.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe started of in one of the main squares. The above hotel is infamous for being the spot where Michael Jackson dangled his child out the window!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe then moved along to the Holocaust Memorial. It was a strangely moving experience. There is no information available, so one can interpret it as they will. The ground was uneven, with concrete blocks of differing heights across the square. As you walk through, it grows darker and more quiet, and no one can walk next to you, so you feel oddly alone.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis carpark is built of the top of what was once Hitlers bunker, where his last days were spent.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNext, our focus turned from Hitler to the era of the Cold War. This is the front area of the former Ministry of Ministries. The photo on the ground depicts the people of East Berlin protesting poor working conditions, while the mural in the background was created by the government, depicting the people of East Berlin happy and prospering. An interesting juxtaposition, exemplifying what life was like in the city.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESRemnants of the wall.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESCheckpoint Charlie, so many tourists. You could line up and get your photo taken with some guys dressed in military garb, and get an “authentic” passport stamp.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThese buildings cast us back even further in history, to the time of Frederich the Great. The array of history in this one city is fascinating.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA plaque to commemorate the book burning by the Nazis.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe TV tower, rather ugly but apparently well known.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter the tour I headed to the DDR Museum. It was small, but interesting, filled with interactive displays about what life was like in East Berlin. The above car was quite popular at the time, despite essentially being a cardboard box on wheels!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESApparently I would have failed as the perfect socialist child. Whoops.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFinally, it was on to the East Side Gallery.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe wall was oddly beautiful, despite the graffiti ruining many of the pieces.

I have another day to explore the city today, so I best be off!

– Reanna.

 

THAT TIME I WALKED UP 132m OF STAIRS // Hamburg, Germany

Today I am challenging myself to put a bit more time into writing for this here blog. I often find myself quite time poor (I have more important things to do, like exploring new cities!), resulting in quite a rushed collection of words thrown in between some photos. I am enjoying keeping this online journal though, knowing that I’ll be able to look back over it in the coming months and years.

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Yesterday my friend had work, so I was off into the centre of Hamburg by myself for the day. It was recommended to me to climb up the tower of the grand church, St Michel, in order to get a view of the city.

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The interior of the church itself was beautiful, and full of school kids. It featured a massive organ, though I am beginning to think this is quite standard in churches like this!

It was only 4 euro (student price) for me to ascend the tower. An elevator was available, but on a whim I decided to challenge myself to climb the stairs. And they were a killer. I think it took me over 10 minutes, though I did often stop to look at the inside of the tower. This proved to be quite interesting, as I was able to view the support system, bells, and a random bar near the top.

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The views from the top were spectacular, despite the hordes of school children running around.

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After returning back to earth (via the lift this time!) I wandered into the city centre and joined yet another Sandemans New Europe tour. Our guide was of South African origin, providing for an interesting accent! He took us around to view several old churches, business buildings, and canals. Well, I say “old”, but many older buildings in the city have been rebuilt several times, but retaining their original look. This was due to the Great Fire of 1842 (I think) and a raid during WWII.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMore ridiculously large organs.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThese are the oldest houses in Hamburg, that were somehow able to escape the fire and war unscathed. They are now, however, on a dangerous looking lean.

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I often forget the dark history of Germany while I happily walk around as an innocent tourist. Munich in particular had minimal recognition of the war, whereas the above photo was taken in the remains of a church that was destroyed during the conflict. Rather than be rebuilt, the burnt remains were kept as a reminder of those lives lost. I’m interested to see what it will be like in Berlin – I have just arrived!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDoes this building look like a ship to you? Apparently it’s meant to!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis building above is the new symphony orchestra building (or something like that), that was meant to be finished about four years ago. But, in true ridiculous building style, is now not due for completion for several more years, and is about 10 times over it’s initial budget of 75 million euro.

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After the tour I strolled the streets a while more, before heading back to my friends for the afternoon (to do fun things like organise insurance so I can complete my accursed visa application!). My friend returned later in the evening, and with another companion of hers we headed out for a few drinks. In particular, she wanted to show me the infamous Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s red light district. I had seen in it daylight the day before, but that didn’t do this glowing and flashing sleaze joint justice.

 

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Apparently the Beatles became famous here?

It was wonderful to hang out in Hamburg, especially due to the wonderful hospitality of my friend!

– Reanna.

PEOPLE HERE ARE CALLED HAMBURGERS // Hamburg, Germany

I have been lucky enough to spend my time in Hamburg with a friend, who has just returned from travelling around Australia, Asia and New Zealand for a year. Nothing like having a local to show you around!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was a pretty bleak old day, but the rain held off enough for us to wander around the harbour in the morning. I was quite surprised that there was harbour here, as Hamburg is not on the coast! But a large river runs to the city, which cargo ships can travel down into the massive docks.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe headed down to the edge of the river, and caught a ferry down to the local beach.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI saw a submarine in the shallows. I have no idea if it is actually functional or not, but it was totally cool anyway.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe docking area was huge! I didn’t manage to see any of the enormous cargo ships, but I can imagine how huge they would be from the sheer size of this place.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe beach was pretty empty, considering todays conditions.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter lunch we went into the city and had a quick look around before jumping on a double decker bus for a sightseeing tour of the city. I was so tired, so I was struggling to keep my eyes open!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe sun actually came out, which was not helping me stay awake!

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe remainder of our day was pretty cruisy, but I was so grateful to have my friend show me around her city. She even learnt something too on our bus tour! It never hurts to be a tourist in your own city.

– Reanna.

ON THE RIVER // Rhine Valley, Germany

Having explored the city of Frankfurt, yesterday I decided to venture out into the countryside. I’d heard good things about the nearby Rhine River, so I booked a bus tour to see what it was all about. Our destination was a section of the Rhine River that is UNESCO listed boasting a ridiculous amount of castles and quaint villages. You know those ads you see on TV for luxury European river cruises? Amazing views of perfect looking rivers? Yeah, they go here.

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Trying to keep cool about seeing a deer. Chris told me he saw a squirrel in Copenhagen the other day, so I’m on the lookout.

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Our first stop was in a small town on the banks of the Rhine. Our bus took us to the top of a hill, where we could chose to go on an optional chair lift ride back down into the village. My over anxious self was a bit apprehensive, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I almost died when I saw how rickety the chair lift looked, but I held myself together and got on anyway. It was absolutely worth it, the views were spectacular.

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The village we alighted in was also picture perfect. Cobblestoned streets, beautiful houses, and it was quiet. It’s nice to get away from the calamity of main tourist attractions sometimes.

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Lunch was at an odd little restaurant overlooking the Rhine. It was furnished with nautical and vineyard themes objects, making it rather overcrowded and dark. A trip to the bathroom also revealed novelty toilet seats (mine had a clock in it) and more decorations. I ordered an ‘ice wine’ with my lunch, a speciality of the region made of frozen grapes. I later regretted in when I received the bill; apparently it is an expensive wine for special occasions!

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After lunch we hopped onto a boat for a cruise down the river itself. Words cannot describe how amazing it was. The weather was perfect, there were beautiful castles everywhere, and I couldn’t decide which little village I wanted to be my future home.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe infamous Loreley rock (I think). Legend has it a siren would stand atop the rock and sing a song, causing boats to crash into low lying rocks on the other side.

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Afterwards we returned to the restaurant where we had lunch for the most disappointing wine tasting of my life (the wine was served in plastic shot glasses with the tour guide providing limited information). Then it was onto a bustling tourist village for a quick explore.

Upon returning to Frankfurt I was tossing up between returning to my hostel or going to check out the opening night of the Museum Festival (Frankfurt has something like 32 museums). However, I opted to chill out at the hostel. Today, I have just arrived in Luxembourg city for a new set of adventures!

– Reanna.