We decided that with this trip we should concentrate on visiting places that would be hard to reach or visit from our home country of England. The western part of Germany is easy to get to so we didn’t really explore there at all, focussing on the Eastern side. Even then we didn’t get to do everything that we wanted, I really wanted to visit Berlin, but time just didn’t allow for everything!
After leaving Neuschwanstein we decided we wanted to go to Dresden. Everyone in the family wanted to go there, the kids especially as they had listened to the Michael Morpurgo story An Elephant in the Garden, which is set in Dresden in the second world war. As I may have mentioned before, we like history and especially the war (Marcus loves it the most though!)
On the way there we had a new country that was very tempting to visit along side. The Czech Republic is a country I visited once on a school trip and had lasting memories of old Skoda’s and everything being so cheap we couldn’t spend the money we had and so gave it to some kids in the street! I was really hoping we could visit there. We discussed driving through there to Dresden and kind of chickened out as we ended up thinking that the border could be really hilly and the van might not make it, I couldn’t check things out as our internet was non existent and our sat nav didn’t cover it. Yup, bad excuses, we chickened out!
We did compromise by going for a day trip. We camped right on the border and went in for the day to the town of Cheb. It was really interesting watching the houses change as we passed the old checkpoint. German houses are generally quite big, and in the Czech republic they were really tiny. We travelled about 10 minutes and we were in the town, marvelled at the cheapness of the fuel, and found a supermarket car park we could park up in.
I was sure that as the Czech Rep was in the EU that they were in the euro. Um, nope. The fact that we saw the fuel prices being so low was because they were in a different currency! Lol, I felt so stupid! I went to the cash machine and was stumped as to how much money we should take out, knowing in the past I couldn’t spend it all. We opted for 500 crowns and went shopping.
The kids were going completely crazy about this weird country and how we didn’t know how much everything was. My head was in a spin working out prices and also keeping an eye on what we’d spent so I didn’t overspend (my credit card wasn’t accepted in most of Germany, so I’d been using cash, I wasn’t sure if it would work here either!). It was a fun trip though, I love seeing the food in other countries and trying things.
Cheb was actually a really nice place, with some beautiful buildings. James thought that some of it reminded him of Sheffield, where we lived in England, and he was surprised that he was reminded of home in an eastern European country. Maybe it says more about where we lived! I loved our quick visit there and it whetted my appetite to visit more of the eastern side of Europe.
Cheb timeline – kids spent ages reading the whole history of the place!
Finding a cafe called Bartholomeus in Cheb!
Dresden was next and within a days drive so we got there the next day. The grey clouds had kept following us round, every day just felt so dull! We later found out that Germany and central Europe had had some serious rain (really?) and lots of places flooded, we were really lucky to have been just a step ahead of it all I think.
Our overnight stop in Dresden was wonderful. Well, actually, it was just a glorified car park, but its location was fabulous. It was about a 5 minute walk from the old town and just across the river from it which meant you just had to walk out the car park to get the best views ever.
Dresden is just stunning and it’s all the more poignant looking at it all knowing that it was rebuilt to that state after we bombed it so mercilessly in 1945. We spent ages just looking at all the buildings and marvelling at it all.
Part of the original church (Frauenkirche) left next to the restored version. It was only finished in 2005!
Large gardens in the old area, I never quite found out about what it was – I should look! Ah Zwinger!
The transport museum was chosen by the kids as somewhere to escape the rain and it was a really nice place to while away a few hours and not too expensive either – I think 12 euros for a family ticket? Even James, who is the kind of car nerd who knows a car from a small part of its steering wheel saw some cars there he’d never heard of.
Kids inside some old German trains
One of the other reasons we went to Dresden is the fact it was so close to Colditz castle which was famous for the fact that so many people escaped or attempted to escape. We were quite bemused by the fact that there was no mention of it being a tourist destination in our German road map that we bought in Germany, but it was in our less useful European map. We never saw any signs advertising it along the autobahn either. We figured it was just that germans possibly didn’t like to talk about the war much. I know there is the joke about not mentioning the war, but I didn’t really know if it was true! Anyway, we duly arrived in Colditz, went down a one way street the wrong way and found a place to park while we visited inside.
Again, not a hugely expensive museum. I’d have liked to have the tour, but that would have been way too much for us unfortunately. The museum has loads of information about all the escape attempts, with lots of items that the soldiers used. It was so amazing, I’d no prior knowledge about the castle except it was a tv series and there was a board game that apparently was really hard to play (I think it was on a James May programme I saw that?) and I was just struck by the ingenuity of the prisoners, the camaraderie and the fact that the just never gave up. They just kept on trying! I’d highly recommend a visit if you get chance
I am being rubbish with finding photos of here – um, sorry!
So from there our time in Germany was coming to a close. We planned some long drives to get out to the border and one found us in the town of Quedlinburg which apparently was a UNESCO town. There are so many medieval towns in Europe that it’s probably really hard to miss them! Anyway, I do like to tick off nice UNESCO sites so we stopped, looked around and just really didn’t like it there, it was full of old wooden beamed houses that should have been beautiful, but we just felt it lacked something and the kids thought it was really a bit creepy there! Not helped by it being quiet and lots of road works making the streets hard to negotiate. We were pleased not to be staying long, but then James decided that his eye needed seeing to by the chemist. It had been red and sore for a few days and we hoped it would get better, but was just looking awful by this time. The chemist thankfully spoke English, but said he;d need to see a doctor. No problem, it was just next door. Except no-one spoke any English and our German is just non existent as well. Thankfully, one patient stayed with James while he got seen and could translate. It was just an allergy but it meant we couldn’t drive anywhere that day. We had to stay another day in the creepy town!
The next day we did a mammoth drive though, thank goodness for the German autobahn! We were on the edge of Germany, about to head into the Netherlands and you know what? The sun came out!