“Mainhattan”

For the final day of my brother’s visit, Jan, my brother, my friend K and I headed to Frankfurt am Main, or – as the Germans jokingly like to call it – Mainhattan (because it’s on the River Main and has “skyscrapers” – although nothing compared to the ones in the actual Manhattan, I’m sure!) Our first stop was the German Film Museum. My brother is a Film Studies graduate, so I thought he might enjoy this museum – and I was correct. He told me afterwards that it was nice to see all the equipment in “real life” rather than just as pictures in a text book! The first floor of the museum is all about the history of film and moving pictures, and there are various replica items that you can look through, try out, etc. Upstairs, there’s a bit about actual films with information about various techniques, music, etc. and some computers where you can edit a film sequence yourself or play with music. Finally, on the thrid floor, is a special exhibition, which was about surrealism when we were there. The entire museum was very interesting and we ended up actually having to rush the last floor because we’d booked somewhere else and were going to be late!

After the film museum, we had a booking for an English tour at the Frankfurt version of Dialog im Dunkeln (Dialogue in the Dark). Some of you might remember me writing about my experience with the one in Vienna (if not, you can read it here.) It seems Frankfurt is the original. Here’s a photo my brother took showing the various Dialogues around the world:

Dialog im Dunkeln

If there is one near you I can highly recommend it! I preferred our guide in Vienna, but the experience in Frankfurt was still interesting. Most of the obstacles, etc. were the same (there was even a “boat” at both), but one thing I found interesting in this one was the caf├ę at the end. In Vienna, it was just a bar, which we stood at and were served by our guide. Here, there were other people working behind the bar and once we’d purchased our drinks, we went and sat at a table, which meant finding our way over there in the dark and sitting down without spilling anything. We had hoped that with four of us booked on the tour we could go in alone, but alas a group of three had also booked an English tour, so we were seven. Not that that’s a problem, but with fewer people I think there might have been more opportunites to actually use our sticks without banging into someone!

By the time we were finished with Dialogue, we were hungry! We’d spotted a Vapianos near where we parked the car, so we decided to go there. For those who don’t know, Vapianos is a chain of Italian restaurants where the food is prepared fresh. Pasta is made in front of your eyes, while if you order pizza you receive a buzzer that goes off once your meal is ready. I chose a white pizza with courgetteand goat’s cheese, which was very nice. Then it was off to town to show my brother around a bit. We parked near the river, so that was our first stop.

You can totally see why it's "Mainhattan", right? ;-)
You can totally see why it’s “Mainhattan”, right? ­čśë

After a looot of walking, we eventually ended up at the R├Âmer (a mediaeval building that’s now City Hall) – probably the most photographed building in Frankfurt! Of course, I took more photos of it (and the square – R├Âmerplatz), despite the fact that I’ve been there before. And why not? It’s the only part of Frankfurt city centre I actually really like ­čśë By the way, the balcony on the R├Âmer is usually where the German football team presents tmeselves when they come back from a competition, except this year they didn’t because the decision was made to have the “welcome back world champions!” celebration in Berlin instead. Random fact for you!

The R├Âmer
The R├Âmer
R├Âmerplatz
R├Âmerplatz

With the R├Âmer done and all of us feeling pretty tired of walking (remember, we’d walked all around the musseum, too!) it was time to head back to the car and home. My brother needed to pack and I had work the next day, so we didn’t want to stay out too late!

And that concludes my series of posts about my brother’s visit. Next stop on my travels: Taiwan!

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A day in the Black Forest

After a day in Strasbourg and a day in Basel, on the Friday of my brother’s visit, we decided to just relax. After a lie in, we made crumpets for brunch, went out for a round of mini golf then, in the evening, my friend came over and we watched How to Train Your Dragon as I hadn’t seen it before and said friend had asked me to go to the cinema with her the following week to see the second one. Saturday was back to day trips! Having been to two different countries, I thought it was about time to see some of the local(ish) area, so we headed off into the Schwarzwald. Our first stop was Neuenb├╝rg, or rather the castle above the town.

Black Forest
Looking down from Neunb├╝rg castle

When we arrived, the castle museum in the main building wasn’t open yet, so we went and had a look at the ruins of the “Hinterburg” (literally “back or behind castle), an older building that was presumably used before the present-day castle was built. My photos of it are terrible! Sorry about that…

Once we’d finished exploring the ruins, we decided to head for the restaurant for a coffee while we waited for the museum to open. Once we were brought menus, we decided that, actually, we might as well have lunch since it was already after 12. We each chose to have a Pfanno – a speciality of the restaurant that’s somewhere between a pancake, a pizza and an omlette. It has too much egg to really be a pancake, and it tastes a lot like an omlette, but itthe savoury ones looked kind of like a pizza with the toppings. I went for the tuna version while my brother went for a sweet version with apple and cinnamon. Jan had the Elsass style one (not pictured), which basically had traditional Flammkuchen style topping – bacon, onions and creme fraiche. They were tasty, but very filling! I couldn’t actually finish mine.

By the time we’d finished eating the museum was open and it was also starting to rain (the only time we had bad weather throughout my brother’s stay!), so inside was a good place to be! The museum begins with a retelling of a fairycalled “Das kalte Herz” (The Cold Heart). To go with the stories, there are wood carvings and light sillhouettes of the various characters. My brother was given a set of headphones so he could listen to the story in English. It was kind of a weird thing to find in a castle museum, but somehow cute.

The remainder of the museum had general stuff about the castle and local area. At the end was an exhibition of architects collected from people living in the town, including old games. I took the following picture because the sign amused me:

Schloss Neunb├╝rg

All the things in that particular display case had to do with the railway. For those who don’t read German, the sign says “No smoking and no spitting on the floor.” Hahaha.

By the time we left the castle, it was raining pretty heavily, so our original plan of a possible work in the woods was out. Instead, we headed to Hirsau in the Calw region because I had read there was an Abbey museum there. Museum = indoors! Unfortunately, there was no English information in the museum so I ended up translating things for my brother! The first 2 floors were about the church that the museum is located in and the abbey/life of the monks, then there was a floor with information about Hirsau and the surrounding area, including an album of old photos. Once we’d finished with the museum, it had stopped raining and we were able to head over to the ruins of the abbey itself.

Outside the little chapel (the Lady Chapel), there was a tonne of rose petals on the ground. Since there was no rose bush to be seen, I can only assume somebody had married in the chapel that day and had rose petals strewn on them. What a gorgeous setting to get married! Shame about the awful weather.

I had seen on Facebook that The Se├ín Treacy Band, who have been mentioned on this blog before, were playing in a village called Sch├Âmberg, also not far from Calw, so we decided to finish our day by going to see them perform. The village was having its Gl├╝ckswoche (happiness/luck week) and there was a mini festival going on. We ate spiralled potatoes on sticks, sausages (my brother) and pork steaks (me), had a few drinks and watched the first half of the band’s performance before heading back to Karlsruhe for the night.

Basel, Switzerland

When I was first speaking to my brother about where he would like to go while visiting us, Basel was one of the places he specifically asked to visit as he’d never been to Switzerland before. It’s within perfect day tripping distance from Karlsruhe and I wanted to eat fondue in Switzerland anyway, so I was happy with his choice. there is an express train from Karlsruhe to Basel which takes about an hour and a half, but we decided to drive down. We parked near the Badische Bahnhof, which is a joint operation between Deutsche Bahn and Swiss rail, meaning it is covered by the German rail pass, the Sch├Ânes Wochenende Ticket and the Baden-W├╝rttemberg ticket. The latter two can only be used on regional trains though, which will increase the journey time to one and a half hours from Karlsruhe and mean changing trains at least once (in Offenburg or Freiburg). From the Badische Bahnhof it is roughly a 20 minute walk into town.

Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town
Crosing the River Rhine on our way into town

Our first stop in town was at Basel Cathedral. It was a hot day and we were quite glad of the relative coolness inside the church! The first picture below is of the square in front of the cathedral (taken facing away from the cathedral)… one of those buildings is a school, believe it or not!

By the time we’d finished with the cathedral, we were starting to get hungry so we headed off in search of some lunch. I’ve already written about our search for fondue here. After lunch, we continued our walk around the city and came to a small market where there was a stand selling frozen yoghurt. Despite our big lunch, we all agreed that a nice, cold frozen yoghurt would go down well (I told you it was a hot day!). I chose forest fruits as my topping.

It must be yummy... the carton says so ;-)
It must be yummy… the carton says so ­čśë

Frozen yoghurts consumed, we headed up to Theaterplatz for a look at the Tinguely Fountain, a water feature consisting of slightly bizarre machine structures in a large pool. It’s quite fascinating! Jean Tinguely was born in Basel but later moved to France. This fountain was installed in 1977.

A walk through the narrow mediavel alleyways of the old town is a must while in Basel, so that’s what we did next. This area is beautiful, and you’ll occasionally see something unusual too… like a model rhino?!

Our walk through the old town eventually lead us to Marktplatz┬á – Market Square – and the town hall. I couldn’t get far enough aways to get a decent picture of the front with my tiny camera, so I stole the first two photos below from my brother ­čśë Phones with their wide screens are much better for getting photos of long things! The sculpture in the inner courtyard is called “Enemies United”.

After checking out the town hall from all angles, we decided to leave Basel and take the scenic route back to Karlsruhe through the countryside. Then we headed to one of my favourite places in Karlsruhe for some cocktails. I also decided to have a mango and avocado salad, which came with walnuts and parmesan. Not a combination that would ever have occurred to me, but it was delicious! The perfect end to a lovely day.

~ I am counting Basel as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge ~