Monday, August 31, 2020

Pottery and Pig's Knuckles...Repositioning from Berlin to Prague

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) The Ford Mondeo wagon is a nice car. It's got sat/nav, air conditioning (a rare treat in this country), a nice stereo with iPod dock, and cruise control. This will be a nice break in public transit for a couple of days as we journey eastward for a detour to the Czech Republic for a few days.

I just wish I'd checked with the Hertz agent at the counter on how to put it into reverse...

Watch the Video!

I'm in a narrow lane, with a tight turn, trying to exit the garage in a station wagon that's just a tad too long to make it in one pass. The manual shifter says reverse is way to the left and up. Every time I try that, I end up in first gear and edge a bit closer to the wall.

Pretty soon, there will be no more room to edge.

I figure there must be a button or something to press but I can't find it. I can't find a manual, either, in this dark car in a darker garage. Finally, I see a small ring at the bottom of the shifter...lift that...and I'm in reverse.

Whew! that was a close one.  Now, I just have to do this for five more floors in this cramped, little parking garage until I have to make a blind exit onto a busy, Berlin street.

I manage somehow and find my way back to Lindemann's Hotel on Postdamerstrasse...our home in Berlin...where the manager kindly let me park out back to pack our bags, wheelchair, and Tim into the car.

Before we leave, we notice that it would only be about fifty miles out of our way and only add about 45 minutes to our drive to take a detour through a corner of Poland. We hadn't planned on going there but we can add a checkmark to our list (we add a new place to our list if we do something significant there such as eating a meal...changing planes at an airport doesn't count).

Once out of Berlin, I see my favorite German road sign...a circle with five diagonal lines through it...that says there is no longer any speed limit. Yes, we're on one of the country's famous autobahns with little traffic.

The cruise control is set to 160kph (100mph) and, in no time, we've crossed the Polish border on a very smooth, well paved, high speed highway (Note: be sure to watch the video, above, to experience this).

Then we crossed the Polish border...

Suddenly, the smooth pavement turned into a cracked and potholed disaster. Speed limit was dropped to the equivalent of 45mph, and even that may have been too high. It felt like the tires on our car suddenly became square.

After about 40 miles of this stuff, my wife found a side road that would lead south about 20 miles to the highway we'd need to take back towards Dresden, where we'd turn off towards Prague.

This road's much nicer. Just a two-lane country road, it winds through some very nice scenery.  My wife tells me the map shows a village up ahead.  The village turns out to be Dabrowa Boleslawiecka.

The village has an interesting history. Before World War II, it was part of Germany. After the war, it became part of Poland and the German population was expelled so that Poles could move in. Despite the ugliness of the war, it's a picture perfect European village in the rolling, green, tree covered hills.

It's time for lunch. There's a restaurant in the center of town but parking there looks iffy as does the wheelchair access. We saw a little 24 hour, truck stop diner at the edge of town so we turn back to go have a quick bite there. There's plenty of parking and wheelchair access at the Zajasd Lesny.

We quickly realize we're not on the tourist trail anymore when the server does not speak more than two words of English and we speak even less Polish. Somehow, we manage to get our point across and, luckily, the restaurant has had the foresight to print one menu in English. Pointing will help at this point.

Tim orders a plate of cheese and potato pirogies, I get a plate of the meat variety. The plan is for each of us to eat half of the other's meal so we can have both. Letty goes with the pig knuckle and some red beet tea.

The guys get their pirogies and they're heavenly. Steamy little puffs of dough with such tasty fillings.

The star of the show, though, is Letty's pig knuckle.  It's a softball sized mound of pork that is tender enough to slice with a fork.

Happily, she agrees to share some with us. The savory broth that covers this dish up adds to the joy our stomachs are feeling after this meal. This will turn out to be one of the most memorable meals from this, at a little roadside 24 hour diner, far off the main highway in a corner of Poland.

Before we venture back into Deutschland, Letty wants to visit one more town appearing on the Polish map, this time Boleslawiec.  Expecting just another pretty Polish village, this is clearly a bigger town with old Communist factories and smokestacks dotting the landscape.

Some of those factories specialize in ceramics, a tradition in this town going back several hundred years, making this a hotbed for the product. My wife immediately wants out.

Tim and I pass the time in the parking lot while she shops for some plates to take home, picking up a nice little haul for only around twenty bucks.

Done with our side trip, we get back on a much smoother highway for the trip back across the border and on to tonight's destination, Prague in the Czech Republic.

Stay tuned for that adventure.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Cocktail Hour: Biergartens of Germany

Beer is a way of life in Germany and the neighborhood biergarten is a way of life in the warmer months when all the people want to do is go outside and enjoy the fresh air.

You can find them almost anywhere, especially in Munich where over 400 biergartens call the city home and are almost on every corner.  They are more numerous there than Starbucks is in the states.

Here are some of the outdoor brewpubs we visited while we were in country, in the order we encountered them...

Luftgarten (German for Air Garden) sits on the perimeter of the former Tempelhof Airport. It's relaxing, sunny spot. You can even sit in their beach chairs.  Shade is a bit of a premium here because most of the area is open field without too many trees. A barbecue trailer cooks up specialties such as currywurst and there's a nice selection of Berlin brews to choose from.

It's also quite a walk from the nearest U Bahn station.

Berlin Zoo has a biergarten in the center, next to the kid's playground.  As in most, there's a nice, shady outdoor area to relax with your brew and a snack from the adjacent cafeteria.

Nice, but maybe just a step up from your average zoo snack bar.

Café am Neuen See is the 'biergarten in the tiergarten.' It shows up on many 'best of Berlin' lists including this 7 Best Places to Eat in Berlin from Wanderlust. I can't vouch for the food...we just had dessert and beer there...but it is an amazingly relaxing place with tables set around a small lake under a forest of nice, shady trees. One of the few biergartens we found in Berlin that serve beer in liter glasses.

Moving on to Munich, the biergartens multiply exponentially here. Literally, we'd find one around every corner.

We had two in the immediate vicinity of our hotel, one of which we made our local while we were there, the Alte Heide.  I did pretty much an entire post extolling the virtues of this tiny neighborhood biergarten that serves the best food we've ever had in Munich.

The Aumeister Biergarten sits at the north end of the massive Englischer Garten. Dating from 1810, it's big but not as big as some of the other biergartens in town. Very traditional space with plenty of outdoor tables and snack stands along the beer line. One of the places you can get the very delicious Auszogne (also called a Bavarian donut), though here they use regular sugar instead of powdered sugar to coat it. My wife really likes the dough they use here best, however.

It's at the top of the very forested north end of the park where there are dozens of trails for hiking and biking. It's very popular with both of those groups as a place to take a break in their activities.

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) The Chinesischer Turm is a massive biergarten towards the south end of the park. The name means 'Chinese Tower' and is overshadowed by a 25 meter tall pagoda. Thousands of drinkers can fit here, sometimes listening to musicians playing up in the tower.

Several food stalls surround the beer stand with all kinds of goodies to eat. Know that your price for beer includes a deposit for the glass. Return it to the counter around the back to get your fee back.

After passing the south end of the park, past the surfers on the Eisbach, eventually you'll reach the city's main plaza, Marienplatz. Just another block or so beyond that is a destination that every traveler to Munich needs to visit, the Viktulienmarkt.

This 2-block long market is where you can find just about any food or drink you can imagine from individual vendor stalls.  The New York Times said is was worth flying across the Atlantic just to visit this market and I have to agree, it's a wonderful place full of fascinating smells and tastes.

The biergarten in the middle of the market is where you can indulge in all those goodies you're going to buy from those vendors, along with food you can buy at several surrounding snack stands and, of course, the beer counter.

This is one of the best places to make friends with locals over a bier and a wurst.

Across from the Haupbahnhof (the main train station) is the expansive Augustiner Keller biergarten. One of our very favorites, this is the place to come for massive schweinhocken (pork shanks with very crispy and tasty skin) and a fluffy, pillowy Auszogne.

One of Munich's oldest breweries, Augustiner (not available in the U.S.) pours from old-fashioned wooden kegs into giant liter glasses.

Help yourself to a giant pretzel in the baskets near the cashier.

Eagle's Nest has a notorious past. This small, mountain top spot south of Munich on the border of Austria used to be Adolph Hitler's personal getaway. He was painfully afraid of heights so he only made the trip up here a few times.

Today, it's open to everybody and commands a spectacular view to go with your brew.

Back in the Schwabing neighborhood of Munich, there's another market that is as yet untouched by tourists. It's much smaller than Viktulienmarkt but Elisabethplatz still has everything you'll need or want, including a beer garden in the corner.

This is Wintergarten and serves some of the best sausages we had here, along with more great Augustiner beer.

There are hundreds more but the three of us can only make so much of a dent. The biergarten culture in Germany is alive and well, I only wish they'd export it over to us in the states.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 28, 2020

Jesse Owens and the Fuhrer: Olympic Stadion, Berlin

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) Our last, full day in Berlin. We've pretty much seen everything on our list. Now, it's a free day and we're looking for a way to pass the time.

"I see an Olympic stadium here on the map," my wife says while perusing another amazing Turkish breakfast.

Watch the Video!

The Olympic stadium!  I'd's another big moment of Berlin history and I almost let it slip through my fingers.

It's a bit of a ride on the U-Bahn to the Olympicstadt station. From there, it's another long walk under a tunnel, up a little hill, through the woods, until you finally emerge at the stadium's parking lot.

An admission is paid at the visitor's center and then we're on our own (tours are available but we'd rather just explore at our leisure).

We find a ramp and a tunnel into the stadium. It's huge and imposing. It's also made out of marble, the height of Nazi chic at the time.

While the walls and façade are original, everything inside has been modernized. There's a well-maintained blue rubber track (that's being scrubbed by a beast that looks like the lovechild of a street sweeper and a Zamboni) and a flawlessly green soccer football pitch.

The Fuhrer's box has been replaced by some VIP seats and suites but it's not hard to imagine Adolph fuming from up above as a black man put lie to his 'master race' shenanigans.

The seats are serviceable metal folding chairs, bolted to the concrete. No armrests or cupholders.

The ever-present beer bar is open so we quaff one as we admire the view.

To the side, we find the old swimming and diving stadium, now being used by local kids to cool off in the crystal blue waters on this hot August day.

Eventually, we make our way to the other end of the stadium where we pose at the Olympic torch.

On the other side, we spot a bell from the old bell tower (it was destroyed in World War II and the current one is a rebuilt tower).

Although the swastika is illegal in Germany today, you can still see something suspicious on this old bell that the welders couldn't quite hide completely.

Closer to the stadium than the U-Bahn station is an S-Bahn station. From here, we catch a train back to central Berlin where we can walk through the Tiergarten.

We've been toying around the edges of this giant park for days but on this last day, we decide to walk through until we find a little lake with...of course...a biergarten at it's edge. It's here we'll have one more before signing off from Berlin.

Tomorrow, we'll go to the Hertz office and pick up a car to continue on.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Caregiver Chronicles: The 5-Hour Rule

You've heard of the five-second rule?  Here's my story about the five-hour rule...

When you're on a long road trip, you try to plan and be efficient.  You might know that your car's range between gas fillups is 400 miles so you plan your refueling, bathrooming, and meals around those parameters. 

If everything goes as planned, your trip pretty much flies by and you're at your destination ready for action but if not...say you get a flat tire, get stuck in an unplanned traffic jam, bad weather, find yourself falling behind fast and sometimes it gets very hard to recover from.

Dealing with a person in a wheelchair who cannot take care of himself can be similar.

I tell people we live live 3 to 5 hours at a time.  What that means is that when we get Tim's needs taken care of, we're usually good for 3 to 5 hours of smooth sailing but at the end of that block of time, we have to start over for the next one.

For example, when he wakes up in the morning, we have to help him with his bathrooming needs. Then dress him and put him in his wheelchair. Then make his breakfast and feed him. Then give him his medication. Then brush his teeth and maybe a shave. 

Only then are we able to relax a little bit but a few hours later, it starts over again.  Tim needs to go to the bathroom.  He needs to eat. He needs to be cleaned up, and so on and so on.

If Tim is able to accomplish all of this (and at home, he usually is), no problem.  It's done, it's taken care of, and now we move on to the next 3-5 hour block.

If not, then things can start to derail. Usually it's a bathroom issue, especially if we're out somewhere. When it's time to go, we'll take him to the nearest facilities. He goes? No problem, we move on to feeding etc., but there are times he can't go and then the pressure starts to build.

We'll usually just try again a little later but if that doesn't work, then pain might set in.  On top of that, Tim's anxieties start to mount and he starts to fear that there will be big problems if we continue on our present path of plans. This worry and anxiety just complicates the ability to go even more and it's like a snowball rolling down a hill...getting bigger and badder all the way down.

Sometimes, we'll have plans with people and we'll have to cancel and get back to where he's comfortable and we can walk him back from the ledge to get back on track. It's something we're working on to make better...and it is getting we all continually deal with the issues in our lives.

It can be a pain but it's not too big a's just one of those things you have to deal with on occasion.  

The only thing I feel bad about is others who might not understand why we cannot always commit to meeting up with, or when we have to cancel suddenly, or explain why we just cannot do certain things with them.

It's all about the five-hour rule and the road trip of our life.  Everything goes as planned? Great! We'll get there and enjoy the destination but occasionally we hit those unexpected bumps in the road that keep getting in the way of that goal.

I hope something like this post can help explain that it's not that we don't want to do those things, it's just the realities of our lives means it cannot physically be done because the five-hour rule dominates our lives.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 24, 2020

You, Belong in the Zoo...the Berlin Zoo!

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) After a few days of Very Important History touring, we're dialing it back a bit. This morning, we've learned about the joys of menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs) at La Fiamma near our hotel. Then, it's off to the nearest U-Bahn station at Bulowstrasse.

It's only three stops to our destination, the Berlin Zoo, just a short walk from the Zoologischer Garten Station on the U2 line. I also notice that the Hertz rental car office is across the street, which will come in handy in a few days.

Watch the Video!

The entrance to the zoo is Chinese themed. Once inside, it's broad avenues and pathways provide easy access for Tim's wheelchair to gently cruise through the park.  We pause at a convenient bench near the entrance to get our bearings and look at the zoo map.

Laid out in a large circle with various spokes running through the middle, we turn off into the primate area first.

The colorful macacques are in the first enclosure while a moping orangutan is next door.

Letty is taken with the chimp mom with a tiny baby on her back.

Tim and I take in the mountain gorillas and capuchins.

A small mountain is full of, what else, mountain goats.

Elephants browse their enclosure while giraffes ignore them across the way.

In the middle is a very large and fun looking playground for the kids with the ever-present biergarten next to that for the adults.

The lions and other big cats are inside their houses being fed so we get to hear a few good roars before their handlers shoo them back into their outdoor enclosures.

Before leaving, it's hot and we have some ice cream on a quiet bench. I look over my should and see an impala a few feet away looking at it hungrily.

Back on the U-Bahn, we head to the other end of Tiergarten...the vast, main, central park of the city...and hike a little along the banks of the river.

Soon, we exit that path into the driveway of a large, white palace. This is Bellevue, the official residence of the country's president, Joachim Gauck as of this writing (Angela Merkel is Chancellor).

No tours are available but we do notice a sign for an upcoming Open House...I guess this is the opportunity to see inside if you're interested.

Across the street, we enter the vast park and wander in the general direction to the south edge, where we can make our way back to the hotel.

First, we pass by the Victoria peace monument and a few naked Germans taking in the sun.

Next, it's through the heavily forested grounds until we come upon a small lake with...what else...a biergarten on it's shores.

We take advantage of the relaxing views to have a little dessert and a brew before calling it a day.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 23, 2020


It's just about time! Come along as we go on location to Southern California's biggest and best...

Watch the Video and Come to Oktoberfest with Us!

This is one of our local versions, at least. The Phoenix Club is a private German cultural club in Anaheim, California...just up the street from Disneyland. Each year they have one of the largest celebrations in Southern California.

Come along and watch the video as we drink German beer, each German food, and have a great time.

PS...Oktoberfest at the Phoenix Club ends the last weekend of October, that's today, so hurry! Or, make plans to see us there next year. Click on the link to go to their website for more details.



Friday, August 21, 2020

Ishtar and the Topography of Terror: Berlin, Germany

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed) We're on the Cold War and Nazi trail here in Berlin. Earlier today, we visited the seat of the country's government at the Reichstag, visited for formerly forbidden Brandenberg Gate, and remembered the innocents slaughtered at the Holocaust Memorial.

Watch the Video!

A few blocks away from Checkpoint Charlie's tourist horde, we find a more manageable leftover piece of the Berlin Wall.  About 200 yards of the barrier have been preserved as an open-air museum called the Topography of Terror.

An accessible path takes you along this section of wall, separating what was the bombed out ruins of the Third Reich's administrative buildings and the apartment buildings across the street in what used to be East Berlin. There is a chunk missing, where the first section of the hated wall was broken through giving access to the west for the Berliners of the east.

Many more holes are punched through the wall, exposing the rebar in the concrete, giving evidence of the citizens of the city rushing to tear down the wall with hammers, picks, and crowbars.

Ramps lead to a section below with many photos exhibits of the Nazi era events and locations that took place in this mostly vacant field.

The history here is enveloping and, since it's completely free, devoid of the tourist trap atmosphere that pervades the Checkpoint Charlie area on Friedrichstrasse.

It's time to break for lunch so we find a very nice Italian place, Ristorante Marinelli, across from the Anhalter Station.

There is still a façade standing at this old train station, the only thing left standing after World War II bombing raids. The only trains now are the S-Bahn trains running in the station underground.

During the war, Jews were rounded up and brought here to board trains to their awful fates in the concentration camps. This façade, and a few interpretive displays, were left as a memorial.

Below, we board a train heading for the eastern side of the city where we'll visit Museum Island to end our day.

It's a short walk from the Hackescher Markt station then a walk on a bridge across the River Spree, hard by the Berliner Dom cathedral, to reach Museum Island. Here, five state museums form a UNESCO Heritage Site where visitors can see some of the great treasures of this city.

Some parts still show war damage from seventy years ago.

Our destination is the Pergamon  Museum, which features very large, reconstructed buildings from the ancient age. It's star attraction, the Pergamon Altar, is closed for renovation for a couple of years but we are able to see it's other great restorations.

The deep blue tiles of the Ishtar Gate, recovered from Iraq and brought to Berlin to be rebuilt, brick-by-brick, used to guard an entrance to Babylon. Three thousand years have not dulled the brilliant colors.

This was a "small" gate into the old city but we are dwarfed by its massive dimensions.

Dragons, lions, and other beasts are depicted on it's walls. The hall leading up to it is a reconstructed street that led up to the gate.

A model shows just how puny this reconstructed section is when compared to the entire gate complex.

Behind the gate, a Roman temple has also been brought to Germany and rebuilt in this massive hall.

Columns, mosaic floors, and busts of leaders who thought themselves gods adorn the walls.

I'm a bit blown away by the large temple but even more so when I turn around and notice the other half is behind me.

Our long day of Berlin touring, hitting all the major stops on our Cold War and World War II lists, has come to and end. We make our way back to the S-Bahn and on to Potsdamerstrasse to have another delicious Turkish dinner at Café Neffes near our hotel.

We'll rest up, drinking some great German Riesling while watching corny German language gameshows and continue on tomorrow.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved