Category Archives: Germany

Lufthansa Adding Denver-Munich Nonstops

New Airbus service to begin in May.

Lufthansa-logoI have long felt that Denver and Munich are twin cities in spirit, separated by history and time zones. Both are near the mountains but not in the mountains. Both display the energetic pulse of a young, active population. And of course, they are both famous for beer. And come May 11, they will be on either end of new nonstop flights. My husband and I were just talking about our next European trip, so we might well book this one.

A Lufthansa Airbus A330-300 will fly the five-times weekly service. The new eastbound LH 481 will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Denver at 4:05 p.m. and arriving in Munich the following morning. The westbound LH 480 service will also operate on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing from Lufthansa’s Munich hub at 11:45 a.m. and arriving in Denver at 2:30 p.m.(all times local) after a 10 hour, 45 minute flight.

The Denver-Munich route is  the first time that the A330-300 has been scheduled for regular service at Denver International Airport — 177 in Economy and Economy Plus, 30 in Business and a handful in the ethereal front cabin.

Berlin’s Festival of Lights Kicks Off

Germany’s capital’s landmarks bathed in multi-colored creativity & splendor.

VisitBerlin-logoMove over, Paris. The 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights transforms it into a city of lights for 10 days, from October 10-19 — if not the City of Lights. Such landmarks as the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower, the Berliner Dom Cathedral, the Funkturm Radio tower, the Olympic stadium and many other buildings and squares dazzle with the colorful light projections each night as German and foreign artists use building façades as canvases for light installations and projections. The result is an extraordinary cityscape during the Festival of Lights. Locals and visitors enjoy special tours by bus, bicycle, carriage, limousine, boat or hot air balloon to view as many of the illuminated buildings as possible.

A tapestry of lights blankets the city during the 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights.
A tapestry of lights blankets the city during the 10th annual Berlin Festival of Lights.

Art functions and events will also take place during the Festival. For example, during the Open Door Night, light is shed on what goes on behind the scenes in the buildings lit up for the Festival. And the Jazz in den Ministergärten music festival will put the state liaison offices for Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein in an unfamiliar light. Berlin Cathedral is the venue for Lumissimo,  concert and laser show. An event calendar lays it out day by day. Visit Berlin provides overall visitor information.

Germany Showcases Its UNESCO Sites

UNESCO listings honor nature, culture and history UNESCO-heritage-logo

Every year, Destination Germany, the marketing and promotional arm of the German National Tourist Board, comes up with themes that showcase a particular aspect of this varied and vibrant country. The key theme for 2014 will be Germany’s world heritage sites and world natural heritage sites. Of the 962 UNESCO sites around the globe, just under half are in Europe, and 38 of those are in Germany. They include churches, abbeys and palaces, parks, historic towns, industrial monuments and natural landscapes. These range in time from the pre-historic Messel Pit Fossil Site to the early 20th century Bauhaus centers of Dessel and Weimar. Germany will position all 38 sites under the banner “UNESCO World Heritage – sustainable cultural and natural tourism.”

I never would underestimate the importance of validation by UNESCO in international tourism. It not only attracts foreign visitors, but it also adds a layer of protection, since countries are disincentivized from messing with heritage sites. Not that Germany is likely to do anything other than maintain, restore and protect. After all, this is a country that rebuilt after World War II with one eye on restoring the best of the past and the other on the future.

Petra Hedorfer, GNTB’s chief executive said that “For 34 percent of cultural tourists visiting Germany, the UNESCO designation represents an incentive to travel.”

Berlin Readies Its New Airport

Berlin opening new state-of-the-art airport in June

On June 3, when Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) opens nearly 20 years after German reunification, Germany’s capital will finally have a single international gateway airport worth of its 21st century status a a world city and forward-looking creative hub. The new €2.5 billion replaces Tegel and Schönefeld, and also Tempelhof, which was closed in 2008. Construction on BER began in 2006 on the at the site of the former East German Schönefeld Airport, 18 miles south of the city center. To accommodate today’s (and hopefully tomorrow’s) aircraft, nearly 2,500 acres were added to the old grounds. The airport now covers 3,675 acres with a host of ultra-modern buildings, super-efficient infrastructure and two parallel state-of-the-art runways more than a mile apart.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport ready for official June 3 opening.

Construction is in its final phase with the new terminal, jetways, road connections and operation-specific buildings mostly completed. The meticulous Germans have been conducting basic test operations since November 24, 2011,  in order to make a smooth transition from old to new a bit over two months from now. These test runs include security forces, airline employees and ground crews are currently to reveal any possible operational weak spots and to remedy any potential problems.

Continue reading Berlin Readies Its New Airport

Frankfurt International Airport Sets Passenger Record

Gateway airport to Germany & much of Europe shines & grows

Frankfurt Airport terminal map.

More travelers passed through Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) last month than ever before in its 75-year history: 5,558,580 passengers which is nearly a 300,000-traveler increase than the previous year.  It is by far the busiest airport in Germany, the third busiest in Europe and the ninth busiest worldwide, Year-to-date traffic is up 7.8 percent, and cargo tonnage rose slightly. I flew into Frankfurt last November, seamlessly connecting with a southbound train and I flew out of Frankfurt with another easy connection from a flight from Munich.

This enormous airport traditionally boasts of hosting more international flights than any other in the world, and when I am there, I truly feel like a world traveler. I like hearing a babel of languages on the concourses. I like watching the departure and arrival boards displaying  a seductive selection of international flights. It is 6 a.m. on Thursday in Germany as I write this, and the next five departing flights  are going to Lisbon, Hurghada, Istanbul, Bourgas and Varna. The sixth flight is domestic — to Hamburg.

How do I know this? Because the departure board is online — and so is the arrivals board. I like the selection of guided tours of the airport available to help passengers kill time.  The most intriguing one is a two-hour tour to the Zeppelin Museum. I like the quality shops and cafes. I like the fast, efficient transport between terminals and the hotels at the airport, not a shuttle ride away.

World Alpine Championships Underway in Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, is hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships now
The World Alpine Ski Championships. which are held in odd-numbered years so as not to conflict with the Olympics, began yesterday in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavarian Alps, close to the Austrian border. Garmisch previously hosted the event in 1978 (when the championships were held in even-numbered, non-Olympic years), and of course, Garmisch also hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics, the first Games to include Alpine (i.e., downhill as opposed to cross-country skiing).

Since the twin towns’ six-syllabel name is a mouthful for many non-Germans, the event’s popular name is been shortened to GAP2011, and a suitable contemporary logo has been designed as its graphic signature. 

My husband and I visited Garmisch on a bleak October weekend, and the ski jumping stadium remains a popular visitor attraction. People wander around the stadium, read plaques and, when we were there, were  gazing up at the cloud-shrouded slopes.

In October, the "infield" grass in the jumping stadium, built for the 1936 Winter Olympics was green, and the clouds hung low over the facility.

In 1936, the Olympic oath was recited by German skier Willy Bogner (who later founded a skiwear company that today remains one of the top sports apparel firms in the world). Twenty-eight nations participated, and medals were awarded in 17 sports. Men and women competed in both downhill and slalom, with gold, silver and bronze medals given for combined scores. Slalom, the shortest Alpine discipline,  was held on a slope called the Gudiberg and the downhill, started on the Kreuzeck and finished at the Kreuzjoch. Germany’s Franz Pfnür and Christl Cranz won those first-ever Olympic Alpine events.

The 2011 World Championships features 10 events (slalom, giant slalom, Super G, downhill and SuperCombi for men and women). The Gudiberg is still in use as the German Alpine training center, but the downhill races are now run on the fabled Kandahar run, which has nothing to do with a province in Afghanistan. The first medals were awarded yesterday. The U.S. Ski Team’s Julia Mancuso took silver. Austria’s Elisabeth Görgl won the gold, and a German racer was once again on the podium, thanks to Maria Reisch’s bronze.

It would be thrilling to attend the World Championships (I’ve been to those in Vail in 1989 and 1999 and except to watch some races in 2015 as well), but it’s good to be in Garmisch any time — except on a fall day when it’s cloudy and rainy.

Will High-Tech Border Fence Become a Tourist Attraction?

Other walls that kept people apart eventually draw tourists together

Walls are sometimes meant to keep people in (prisons, for example) and sometimes to keep them out (fortresses). The Great Wall of China to keep the Mongols out, Hadrian’s Wall to protect the Roman presence in Britain against raiders from the north, the Berlin Wall to keep the East Germans in and Israel’s walls to contain Palestinians are just a few examples over the centuries. 

I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China in both directions from Bandoling, an attraction for foreign tourists and visitors alike, because it is the most convenient segment to Beijing and the most developed as well.

The Great Wall of China, built in the 3rd century, B.C.

I’ve hiked along a section of Hadrian’s Wall west of Carlisle. Once a formidable barrier, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and north England’ s most popular tourist attraction.

Hadrian's Wall, begun in 120 A.D. and more than 70 miles long.

Nothing symbolized the Cold War more than the Berlin Wall, which divided the city that once was (and is now again) the capital of Germany.  Segments of the Wall have been relocated all over the world to memorialize the terrible tensions of the Cold War era and all the repression involved. The first time I went to Europe, I passed through Checkpoint Charlie separating the two halves of divided Berlin. Germany and Berlin have been reunified, and I’ve seen segements of the wall in Manhattan, Rapid City and elsewhere. I haven’t seen the one at Israel’s Ein Hod Artists’ Village, an sad and ironic place for it, since Israel is still building its dispiriting security wall.

Built in 1961 to divide East and West Berlin

Israel started building a formidable wall after the Second Intifada in 2003, and they haven’t stopped yet. An eight-foot wall cuts through some Palestinian towns and surrounds others, separates farmers from their field and their livestock, and makes Palestinians prisoners on their land. I passed through it in June going to and from the airport in Tel Aviv. It is not a tourist attraction but rather an impediment to Palestinian people and a provocation to them. Hopefully, a two-state solution will be hammered out of this bitter conflict and the wall (or small sections of it) will eventually become a curiosity and tourist attraction too.

The wall was begun in 2003 and is still under construction. When completed (or if completed) it will be 760 kilometers long (430 or so miles -- but correct my arithmetic if I'm wrong).

Another barrier, this one high-tech rather than brick and mortar, is/was a planned “virtual” border fence between the US and Mexico. This Bush administration brainchild, conceived in 2005 and was sold to Congress and the tax-paying public as chain of cameras, ground sensor and radar installations that were to detect “illegals” crossing the 2,000-mile border between the US and Mexico. Boeing has raked in a billion dollars, only about 53 miles of fence were ever constructed. Janet Napolitano is the  former governor of Arizona (you know, the state where Congresswomen, federal judges and 9-year-olds occasionally get shot), knows something about border problems and immigration issues. She is now the Secretary of Homeland Security and announced a few days ago that the project is dead. What took the Obama Administration so long to dump it? It cost $15 million a mile — money that could have gone elsehwere. Looking at previous attempts at fence-building, I wonder whether the bit of “virtual” fence will ever be a sightseeing attraction. You be the judge.

Installations like this were supposed to secure the 2,000-mile-long US-Mexico border. Only 53 miles have been built, and that's it. Have taxpayers gotten their billion bucks' worth?

 With the dream of a high-tech barrier stretching from one end of America’s southern border to the other – originally hailed by then-President George W. Bush as “the most technically advanced border security initiative” ever – officially canceled, I wonder what the next frontier will be to keep people out or in or have something to look at when it’s finished.

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In announcing that it would pull the plug on the troubled “virtual fence” project, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Friday it would instead pursue a region-by-region approach, with different parts of the US border protected in different ways as dictated by terrain and other area-specific conditions.

“This new strategy is tailored to the unique needs of each border region, providing faster deployment of technology, better coverage, and a more effective balance between cost and capability,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement.

Christmas Markets in Germany

From early December through Christmas Eve, Christmas markets in German-speaking cities sparkle

In cities and towns across German-speaking parts of Europe, it’s time for a street market that is called Christkindlmarkt. These markets are not some kind of sales promotion gimmick but a tradition that goes back over the centuries. Vienna’s Dezembermarkt is documented as long ago as 1294, and Dresden’s began in 1434.  A main square, usually beside the cathedral or city hall is festively lit and filled with small stalls each selling a specialty: Christmas ornaments, wood carvings, toys and wonderful seasonal foods. Most universally popular ar Zwetschgamännla (figures made of decorated dried plums), Nussknacker (carved Nutcrackers), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied, toasted almonds), traditional Christmas sweet breads and cookies such as Lebkuchen, Magenbrot and Stollen, sausages and Glühwein, a bracing hot mulled wine. Merry-go-rounds are set up for children and Nativity scenes for the faithful.

When I was in Germany in October, I visited the sites of several Christmas markets. The quiet autumn days have since given to brilliant Christkindlmarkt nights. Tonight is the last for this year.

Munich in October.
Munich in December.
Stuttgart in October.
Stuttgart in December. (Photo by "BuzzWoof")
Dresden in October.
Dresden in December. Leipzig in October.
Leipzig in December.

January will look a lot like October — only colder and snowier. Meanwhile, Fröliche Weinachten to you and yours.

A Sunny Afternoon in Bavaria

Glorious view, easy trail, luscious lunch make for an easy-going Alpine experience

The first part of of my 2 1/2 weeks in Germany were “magnificent-ized” with glorious fall weather under a big blue dome. Then, low clouds and periodic drizzles literally clamped a gray lid over the compelling cityscapes, achingly picturesque villages and wonderful scenery.

But on my last day in southern Germany — just two days ago — the clouds lifted again and the sun shone for one last time. My cousins who live in Bad Reichenhall, not far from the Austrian border, always find excursions. On Tuesday, we took one last drive into the mountains, one last walk on a welcoming path  and one last lunch in the sun on the terrace of an Alpine inn called the Zipfhäusl.

The Zipfhäusl is at one of the many access points to a gentle trail that follows an old wooden pipeline from Berchtesgaden's old saltworks to the "Saline," the salt plant in Bad Reichenhall.
The Watzmann, Germany's second-highest peak, emerging from the clouds, with meadows like green velvet and grazing cattle in the foreground.
My cousins and I on the wide, smooth walking path that is nicknamed Rentner's Rennweg, which translates to "retiree's racetrack."
Germknödel, pronounced with a hard G, is a classic Austro-Bavarian dessert composed of a plum jam-filled yeast dumpling topped with poppyseeds and served with vanilla cream sauce.
I will always treasure two memories of this afternoon: quality time with my cousins and the beautiful Watzmann kissed with the season's first snow.

Yesterday (Wednesday), my lo-o-o-omg travel day, began before sunrise and in the rain with a train ride Munich and ended more than 18 hours in the Colorado afternoon sun. It was easier to leave on a wet and chilly morning — but with memories of the previous day warming my heart.

Stuttgart Train Station, Doomed?

Protests aimed at saving the early 20th century landmark

The main railroad station in Stuttgart resembles an armory — massive stones, small windows, a landmark 12-story tower, an illuminated Mercedes-Benz logo and a commanding presence in the center of the city.  I wouldn’t call it a beautiful building, but it is imposing. Recently, Stuttgart, a key industrial city that was heavily damaged during World War II, once had to choose between  recreating or replacing the old as it rebuilt. Now, it is grappling with another major downtown decision.

Up to this point, the neo-Romanesque station is a terminal station, meaning that the tracks dead-end there so that trains can discharge and take on passengers and then pull out again in the direction they came from. The railroad or the government or both want to make it a through station and reorient that tracks from east-west to north south.  The €4.1 billion project, called Stuttgart 21 to reflect the present century, includes undergrounding rail operations, which in turn would require demolishing the entire station. It was designed by renowned Stuttgart architect Paul Bonatz, who lived, worked and taught through the turbulent 1930s and 4os, but never joined the Nazi Party so was considered political unreliable. He died in 1956, and there is a possibility that this masterwork, which was completed in 1928, will die  of zealous modernization.

Along with demolishing the station, the plan would call for the destruction of hundreds of grand old trees in the park across the street. It could be argued that trees can be replanted, even if they take a long time to mature, but there is no question that the demolition of a landmark is forever. Germany reproduced many of its destroyed and damaged landmarks once and is probably disinclined to do so again.

Preservationists and nostalgic locals began protesting — up to 100,000, according to some reports, met with tear gas and pepper spray. Conservatives surprisingly joined the protest to object to the disruption that this massive project would cost to rail travel and to the city.  UNESCO got into the fray last year by nomnating the building for inclusion in the World Cultural Heritage list. The government will take up the issue. The best scenario would be a compromise that would incorporate the landmark building with modern rail transportation needs.

Stay tuned.