Monday, September 26, 2011


After 283 steps, this is the view from the top of the Victory Column in the heart of Berlin's park - the Tiergarten. It was a bit hazy this morning, but you get the idea.

Strasse des 17 Juni links the tower with the Brandenburg Gate.

This is the gate in 1945.

In 1989.

This morning.

Unless you have an interest in 19th century Prussian geo-politics, and a powerful magnifying glass, my advice is to ignore this picture.

We walked from the Victory Tower to the Brandenburg Gate through the Tiergarten.

This is the line of the former Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie.

And this afternoon we visited the astonishing Pergamon Museum.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Potsdam is just 20 minutes by rail from our headquarters in Mexikoplatz.  This is an attractive city with a fascinating past.  It was the summer home of Prussian royalty until the 1950s, although the empire disintegrated at the end of World War I.  More recently, it was home to thousands of Russian troops, who did not fully withdraw until 1994.  The KGB also had its German headquarters in the suburb of Berlin, near the Glienicker Bridge which used to mark the border between east and west, and over which spies were exchanged during the Cold War.

This is Schloss Cecilienhof, the last of the Prussian palaces.  Built in the style of an English country house, it is now a hotel.

This is the Orangerie which is associated with the enormous Sanssouci Palace in the vicinity.  Sadly, the building is falling apart, with the towers held up by timber struts bolted together. 

Potsdam has a pleasant shopping street, with a punnet of strawberries for just 1 Euro. Bananas are about 1.99 Euro/kg everywhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Friday was spent travelling from Amsterdam to Berlin and a little exploring of our new home at Mexikoplatz, a quiet, leafy suburb about 30 minutes by S-Bahn south west of the city centre.

Today (Saturday) found us in central Berlin, finding our way to the TV tower at Alexanderplatz for our Fat Tires tour of Berlin.

For 5 hours we cruised around Berlin on comfortable bikes, visiting the major sites including a part of the wall still in place, Checkpoint Charlie and a very nice beer garden at the Tiergarten.

The memorial to murdered Jews.

Yes, this is Sylvia, a good way into her 10km ride.

The city was crowded in places today, particularly around the Brandenberg Gate, because of the Berlin Marathon.

This is Potsdamer Platz.

The marathon is not the only event being held here this weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Volendam, Marken and Edam

Up to a point, the travel guides are right: these former fishing towns 20km north of Amsterdam are touristy.  But they are also charming places to visit; each with a distinct character, and a full range of sticky pastries.  We travelled to Marken by ferry from Volandam, but it can also be reached by a causeway road built in the 1960s.



Edam (yes, as in cheese)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


We took the train to Leiden, a university town not far from the North Sea.  Canals, bridges, drooping houses, bikes, and a windmill or two made the journey worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Castles on the Rhine

Castles (many of which are now youth hostels) and quaint villages lie between Rudesheim and Boppard.  Wonderful.

Yes, this is not actually a castle, but it greatly impresses our cruise director, Bart.  The only way into the church is through the pub, and the priest is the publican. 

Frankfurt to Rudesheim

Earlier, on the River Duchess...

Bart, our cruise director warned us that our tour guides, when passing through Frankfurt on our way to Heidelburg, would invite us to admire the Frankfurt skyline.  He was right, and here is part.

Overnight we cruised to Rudesheim, a town at the gateway to the Rhine castles.

Our included excursion was to a mechanical music machine museum, possibly (nay, likely to be) the only one in the world.

They were all incredibly expensive and this one, being from a fairground, was very, very, loud.  It took four years to restore, and stands about three metres tall.

A gondola links the town to a hilltop monument which is hidden by scaffolding.       

Later that same day

In Amsterdam


Gentle and patient reader, full services have been restored.  If you listen carefully, you may hear the bell from the No.25 tram on Weteringschans, two floors below.

River Duchess docked in Amsterdam yesterday morning, and we disembarked (or debarked as Holland America insist on saying) this morning.  Yesterday we visited the Rejksmuseum to see the Rembrandts (mainly) and took a canal cruise, all as part of the ship's excursion package.

Today we visited the Van Gogh museum on our own (no pictures).

This is the interior of parts of the ship.

River Duchess is approaching its dock near the central railway station yesterday morning.