Archive for the ‘weekend’ Category
It was our first weekend in five weeks free of visitors. We don’t mind having everyone here — it’s been lovely to make new friends, better friendships and catch up with old ones, but it gets hard. We’re excellent hosts and part of that is being game for doing anything your guests want to.
I can do the tour with my eyes closed, timed out by number of paces or pedals on my bike. I can tell you who built the Holocaust Memorial (Peter Eisenman), when the Brandenburg Gates were built (1788) and the significance of the parking lot near the state representative offices (site of Hitler’s bunker). I will go out to the break of dawn or while away an afternoon shopping*.
But five weeks in a row of this is quite enough — so Josh and I took leave of our little inn and went north to the Mecklenburger Seenplatte on the border of the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Lower Pomerania or the Land of Ladybugs.
We stayed in a little hotel next to the Plauer See that not only included breakfast, but also a bowling alley and a petting zoo — complete with baby goats! Yes, you know why I picked this place. We drove up Friday evening, enjoyed some fresh fish at a local restaurant and walked around the town with our ice cream dessert from the local hotspot — Janny’s Eis.
Saturday’s rain led to a not-so-well thought-out drive to the city of Schwerin, where a difficult parking situation led to a drive-by of the castle and a game of mini-golf, which I lost.
Nature! Germany can be very un-PC. Also: Canoe translates to German phonetically: Kanu!
Finally giving up on the city, Josh and I drove back to our little town to rent a canoe and zigzag across a river as we tried to figure out how to steer the paddle boat. We made it work and managed to fit our little adventure into the exact two hours that held no rain for the area. Success. Finished the day with a trip to the hotel’s bowling centre for three rounds… which I also lost.
Sunday’s morning showed promise and we resolved to go to the biggest lake in the area, the Müritz See, for some Kayaking. For the last three years, Josh and I have made a point to go kayaking in deep cove in the summer. This was nothing like that — there were no seals or jelly fish but there were also no motor boats and between camp grounds, no signs of human life on the shores.
We paddled over the Caarpsee, Woterfitzsee and Lepensee, each lake (see) connected by the most peaceful water you can imagine. We saw fish, loon, swan families and a hunting hawk. But what made this the German wilderness was that there were no places to pull up and enjoy a quiet picnic — the shores are guarded with reeds that keep paddlers out of the surrounding forests. However, where you can pull up your boat are German camp grounds (re: Car camping and small cottages) complete with an Imbiss where you can order a bratwurst in a bun.
German wilderness is just that: non-existent. Germans love coming to Canada to see the wilderness, to drive for hours without seeing a town while worrying if they have enough gas in the camper van to get to the next one. Yes, they actually find this thrilling and thousands flock to Vancouver or Calgary every year to do just that and explore the Rockies.
Germany has 237 people per square kilometre, while Canada has a mere 3.62 people per square kilometre. If you were to put Germany over Canada, our little European nation would cover a little more than half of Saskatchewan, yet has 80 times more the population than that province. You’re starting to get the picture of why “wilderness” is a term used generously here.
The weather held out as Josh and I paddled back up through what we called the bayous, deciding that we were definitely better kayakers than canoers. We ended our trip with an hour on the shore of the Müritzsee, reading books and eating apple turnovers.
You’re welcome for not posting those.
We came back to the city relaxed after a weekend of doing just what we wanted, recharged for the next round of visitors (they come Thursday!).
*Seriously though, if this is what you want to do, you’re welcome anytime.
In the not-so-distant past, as the gray skies still hovered over Berlin, I wanted a warm, sun-soaked holiday for Easter. We got on the websites, looked for deals and where did we come up with? Budapest, Hungary (pronounced Budapeshd, we learned).
Not at all tropical, but we did enjoy 24 C weather the whole weekend.
Looking at maps, we were worried we were going to be visiting Prague 2.0 — a city that disappointed us. There is a river that the city centres on, a castle on a hill, bridges everywhere. Fortunately, geography is all these cities have in common. Budapest is an amazingly beautiful city, gritty streets running alongside the glamourous ones, full of historic sites with a truly western feel. Not at all what we were expecting from a former Soviet state.
The trip started out well: we checked in late but got upgraded to business class. We were there by noon and made our way up to the castle. Whenever we go to a new city, we start off somewhere high up to get a panorama of the place, get a feel of where we are, what we want to see. We walked around, snapped photos, strolled through market stalls peddling handmade lace and enjoyed the sunshine.
Budapest was originally three cities: Buda and Pest make up the city centre, while Obuda is the northern outskirts. Buda is hilly, while Pest is flat. Here is Fisherman’s Bastion, Castle Hill, in Buda.
Our trip included no visits to museums or guided tours, but we still felt that we saw a lot and learned a lot. Budapest is an open city, with many of its historical sites, like cloister ruins and the castle, open to the public to wander around for free. It’s a small city centre, and getting around is easy with the three Metro lines, including Europe’s oldest underground rail line. Yes, the oldest Subway is not in London, but Budapest.
Like Berlin, Budapest had repurposed it’s Christmas Market Stalls for Easter. In a few squares, we found delicious food and Hungarian entertainment. In a square near our hotel, there was even a Jazz and Wine Festival, where visitors could enjoy the concerts for free and sample famous Hungarian wines for cheap.
But our first night in Budapest was the best for food. We went to M., a restaurant recommended in our guide book, and, thus, it was full of tourists with the same book. But the restaurant was in the book for a reason and that reason is delicious. It’s a French-inspired Hungarian restaurant that has a constantly rotating menu, based on what the chef got at market that day (for us, it was duck). It was delicious. We ate so much. We washed it down with wine from Villany — the famous wine region. We went to bed in a food coma that night.
Josh was really looking for some relaxation so we went to the spa on Saturday, but were thwarted by an early closure. Instead, we rented an electric vehicle and rode around the park. We returned Sunday morning fsaw us dipping into the many pools of Szechenyi Baths — one of the largest complexes of its kind in Europe — and even getting massages for 13 Euros. The spa culture in Budapest goes back 2,000 years and all of the city’s pools are fed by natural hot springs.
As it was Easter, Great Market Hall was closed, being the one disappointment of the weekend. We filled the rest of our days visiting St. Stephen’s Basillica, which held the first king of Hungary’s mummified right arm. We spent an afternoon wandering around the Danube’s Margaret Island, finishing our last evening in Budapest on it’s west bank, watching the sun set behind the hills of Buda.
We did a lot of walking, ate a lot of street food and saw a lot of sites. It was still a relaxing trip for us and we were delighted that Budapest was far from being Prague 2.0.