Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Top 10 Places and Things Worth Experiencing in Germany

1. Olympic Tower (The Olympiaturm) in Olympiapark, Munich Germany has an overall height of 291 m and a weight of 52,500 tons. At a height of 190 m there is an observation platform as well as a small rock and roll museum housing various memorabilia. Since its opening in 1968 the tower has registered over 35 million visitors (as of 2004). At a height of 182 m there is a revolving restaurant that seats 230 people. A full revolution takes 53 minutes. The tower has one Deutsche Telekom maintenance elevator with a speed of 4 m/s, as well as two visitor lifts with a speed of 7 m/s which have a capacity of about 30 people per car. The travel time is about 30 seconds. The tower is open daily from 09:00 to 24:00 hrs.

2. Olympic Stadium was the site site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. The stadium was built by Bilfinger Berger between 1968 to 1972 in a pit made by bombings Munich suffered during World War II. The design of the stadium was considered revolutionary, with sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by metal ropes, used on such a large scale for the first time. The peaks were to illustrate the Alps. The 1972 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad had many memorable events.  Mark Spitz set a world record winning 7 gold medals in a single Olympics, a record that stood until 2008 when Michael Phelps topped him by winning 8.  Olga Korbut, the Soviet gymnast became a media star and household name after she fell and failed to win a team gold medal came back and won two individual gold medals. The men's basketball final was the most controversial game in international basketball history.  Doug Collins, current coach for the Philadelphia 76ers, made two free throws with three seconds left.  The US was leading 50-49 despite the horn going off during the second attempt. The Soviets frantically asked for a time out, additional time was added with mistakes made to the time clock. Te Soviets scored in the last second of the The U.S. team voted unanimously to refuse the silver medal, and to this day still has not accepted them. They remain in a vault in Lausanne, Switzerland. HBO has a documentary called 0:03 Seconds from Gold about it.

3. The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics to be held in Germany, after the 1936 Games in Berlin, which had taken place under the Nazi regime. Mindful of the connection, the West German Government were anxious to take the opportunity of the Munich Olympics to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by the Games' official motto, "the Happy Games." The emblem of the Games was a blue solar logo (the "Bright Sun") by Hungarian artist Viktor Vasarely. The Olympic mascot, the dachshund "Waldi", was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The Games also saw the introduction of the now-universal sports pictograms designed by Otl Aicher. Soon, however, the killings of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen in an event known as the Munich massacre took center stage. A video found on youtube tells the horrible story of that day.  Another youtube of that chilling statement from sports newscaster Jim McKay, "They are all gone". It is the first time in my life that it wasn't just a created movie on television, terrorism was a "real" threat to our society and it was live.

4. BMW, (literally English: Bavarian Motor Works) is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916. It also owns and produces the Mini brand, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. . BMW is known for its performance and luxury vehicles, and is a global leader in premium car sales. BMW Headquarters is a Munich landmark.  The Tower was built between 1968 and 1972 and was ready just in time for 1972 Summer Olympics. Its inauguration followed on 18 May 1973. The building stands 101 m (roughly 331 feet) tall, is located in direct proximity of the Olympic Village.  The large cathedral exterior is supposed to mimic the shape of a tire in a race car, with the garage representing the cylinder head. Both buildings were designed by the Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer. BMW entered existence as a business entity following a restructuring of the Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft engine manufacturing firm in 1917. After the end of World War I in 1918, BMW was forced to cease aircraft engine production by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty. The company consequently shifted to motorcycle production in 1923 once the restrictions of the treaty started to be lifted, followed by automobiles in 1928–29. The circular blue and white BMW logo or roundel is portrayed by BMW as the movement of an aircraft propeller, to signify the white blades cutting through the blue sky. BMW along with Mercedes-Benz is the car of choice that I saw driving along the Autobahn.

5. The Autobahn is your typical highway, expressway, roadway, freeway.  Well, not exactly.  The Autobahn has no set speed limit in most places and drivers appeared to be safe and to have a handle on the high rate of speed, there was no evidence of reckless driving. As is typical in the United States, we ran into road construction and delays. Something unique in Germany with road construction we are told, is that they are very careful when they dig, on numerous occasions they have unearth bombs from WW II and those situations have to be handled very gingerly by special squads.  After the war, in order to rebuild and start over many of the town people drug all the debris out of the towns and the sprawling hills and mounds you are looking out are many times just a cover up for the sins of war. That I just couldn't even imagine so I googled it and found several situations that are still occurring when these bombs are discovered. Here are a couple of links to stories and

6. The only official remnant of the war that I saw, was what I believe is called a Flak Tower. This one stands just outside the Olympic Stadium area in Munich. With concrete walls up to 3.5 metres thick, flak towers were considered to be invulnerable to attack with the usual ordnance carried by Allied bombers, though it is unlikely that they would have withstood Grand Slam bombs which successfully penetrated much thicker reinforced concrete. Aircraft generally appeared to have avoided the flak towers. The towers were able to sustain a rate of fire of 8000 rounds per minute from their multi-level guns, with a range of up to 14 km in a full 360-degree field of fire. However only the 128 mm guns had effective range to defend against the RAF heavy bombers.

7. I am a proponent of trying the local cuisine whenever I go to a new area and I found Germany to be a pleasant surprise.  The scrambled eggs in most European countries, I found were a little too watery and running looking for me so I experimented at breakfast.  The cheese, I can't identify the type was delicious, the roll or biscuit was most flavorful, the salami was different but I ate it.  Yogurt in a miniature ice cream come?  I am coming back for more. Putting a pickle on your plate for breakfast even if you are not pregnant is just different so I went for it and the butter cake, out of this world with that magic ingredient "butter".

8. Of course the worse case scenario would be to come home from Germany and have some one ask, "how was the beer?" and not have a good answer. "Das bier is gut", the beer is good and you should absolutely try the wurst.  I went with the bratwurst but there are many types of German sausage, study before you go. The salad was delectable as well with a homemade dressing also gut. We were in Germany incidently during the suspected "sprouts scare", fortunately not one of our meals contained any nor did we suffer any food borne illness.  The food was great!

9. Traveling through these different country there were subtle hints that you were not in the United States anymore.  Typically these names Henrik, Jorg, Ingo, Markus, Raif would not be available on souvenirs in our country.

10. Rest rooms are common all over the world, however in some European countries you must pay to use the facilities and the common name and sign to identify just where your intended destination is would be the WC.  I am assuming that means "water closet".  The first country that charged to use the bathroom was Belgium. We were forewarned before leaving the bus to have change ready.  In Belgium, there was a very pleasant young lady sitting there just before you entered the area for the men's or women's room collecting the fare.  It was her responsibility to keep the facilities clean and clean they were no complaint here.  You definitely got what you paid for.  So what is the obsession with the toilet in the above picture? I was hoping to have a video of this, another one of my fellow travelers had the foresight to take it.  I have however yet to receive a copy.  I will plug it in if  I receive it at a later date.  The motion is the tell tale. As you rise the entire seat rotates and that blue-green gizmo circles the area with a sanitizer.  A bit of a winding gear sound incurs.  If you are new to this practice you might wonder what you have done.  It is just the toilet doing its job and it is clearly a fascinating procedure to watch and they also recycle the water. It is all hands free. You receive a ticket when you make your seat selection and depending on how much you pay you can use that amount towards a purchase in the gift shop.

If you are planning a trip to Germany, I hope I have pointed out just a few of the many places and things worth seeing.  As the Germans would say....

Have a good trip!

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