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Posts tagged Germany

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The NY Times piece on what is happening to the Nazi sites in the historic city of Nuremberg is a look into the conundrum of up-keeping history while not honoring it.

In this city, the rallying point for Hitler, is the largest piece of real estate bequeathed by the Nazis, and a burden only increasing with time.

First comes the sheer physical size: a parade ground bigger than 12 football fields. A semicircular Congress Hall that dwarfs any structure at Lincoln Center. Great Street, more than one-and-a-half miles long, with no structures on either side — a modern Appian Way where the storm troopers strutted between the old Nuremberg of Albrecht Dürer and the rallies idolizing the Führer.

Then there are its troubled history and the far stickier question of what to do with it. “These are not simple memorials,” said Mathias Pfeil, chief curator of historic sites in Bavaria, “because they symbolize a time we can only wish had never happened.”

I have visited Nuremberg quite a few times and the Nazi sites always strike me as a strange intersection of history, hatred, and remembrance. Last time I visited I was with my dad and grandfather and there happened to be a heavy metal festival taking place on the site, with Metallica being the headliner. It was strange to hear metal being played as you read about the horrors of the Holocaust. During my second visit to the city, I even wrote in the caption for this photo about the strange dichotomy at the Nazi rally grounds.

Hitler stood here multiple times to give speeches during Nazi rallies. On this particular day it’s being used for a children’s marathon. The German people are torn on how to use these landmarks, they cannot be forgotten, yet they should not be glorified.

Zeppelinfeld Stadium
So where is the line between teaching younger generations about the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich and glorifying it? The story touches on the fact that most Nurembergers under the age of 25 have no historical context with which to view the rally grounds. They have always been there during their lifetime and associated with nothing that resembled war or struggle.

If you do visit Nuremberg, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center at the Nazi Rally Grounds) is a fascinating and sobering look at how the Nazi party took hold in Nuremberg, Munich, and finally Berlin. The center also tells the story of the Holocaust, the eventual loss by Germany, and the Nuremberg trials. It is on the site of the rally grounds and you can walk around them after visiting the exhibit.

One of Lufthansa’s side projects is restoring vintage airframes and showing them off at airshows and museums. One of the airframes is a Junkers Ju-52 that saw service in Germany and Norway before being sold to Ecuador. An American bought the aircraft after that and in 1984 Lufthansa bought her back, restored her and now flies her on sightseeing trips. A while back I wrote about my desire to ride on this plane and during the summer I did just that.

Ju-52

Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung offers sightseeing flights and an option for point to point flights. The point to point flights take you from one airport in Germany to another, giving you a chance to explore some of the smaller airfields in the country. I decided to buy a ticket and a seat on one of the point to point offerings. Choosing the flight ended up being the challenge. Some of the airfields are merely grass strips with no nearby German rail stations, leaving passengers relying on taxis or family/friends to pick them up. The other issue is that a lot of the flying is done on weekdays. I needed to be in Germany on a Friday and back in New York City by Monday afternoon, again, limiting my choices on which flights I could take.

I found a flight from Köln to Egelsach, a small airfield south of Frankfurt, on a Sunday and booked it. I decided to fly Newark to Stuttgart since there was decent upgrade space available then take a train to Munich to visit friends, then take another train to drop my stuff at the Frankfurt airport and continue on to Köln on Sunday.

On arrival to Köln I did a little planespotting. They have a great visitor deck with three tiers of viewing space. Visitors get a great view of two of the runways, the passenger terminal area and tarmac and a perfect view of the cargo area. There were a number of families visiting and a ton of spotters (around 30-40).

The Ju-52 was actually doing a few sightseeing flights over Köln and it taxied out while I was on the viewing terrace. Everyone was in awe and the noise of camera shutters filled the air.

Boarding the Ju-52

Eventually I walked over to the meeting place for the flight, the general aviation terminal, and collected my boarding pass. Soon all of the passengers were gathered and led through a quick security check before heading for the aircraft in vans. The pilots, flight engineer, and flight attendant were waiting for us and the passengers made their way around the plane for a quick set of pictures in the beautiful weather. The crew was trying to gather everyone and I was unable to take any good shots in Köln (more on this later).

The pilots gave an introduction, in German, of the plane and their experience, they are all Lufthansa pilots who do this for fun. Our crew today consisted of a 747 pilot and an A330 pilot. I did not catch what aircraft the flight engineer operated. My German is so-so and I have trouble following some conversations and when we boarded they started giving some very detailed descriptions of the safety procedures and I wasn’t able to follow all of it. I asked the flight attendant if she could give some of it in English. She apologized profusely and explained they don’t get a lot of non-German passengers on these flights. My hat is off to her for taking a few extra minutes to point out the finer details of what should be done in an emergency in English.

Ju-52 Briefing

We taxied out and were off. The pilot took us on a bit of a scenic tour of the Rhine and overflew a small airfield on our way to Egelsbach, then he doubled back and gave a low pass to a large number of glider pilots and bystanders (all of whom seemed to have their cameras out). We continued on to Egelsbach and on the way the flight engineer left the cockpit and we were told we could visit the flight deck. I made my way forward and pilots handed me a headset and said they understood I spoke English. I asked a few questions and they pointed out the window that the weather was starting to deteriorate and that I should make my way back to my seat.

The entire flight experience was, put simply, incredible. The roar of the radial engines was drowned out a little bit by the modern insulation in the plane, but the noise was still fantastic. As we flew through light turbulence you could feel the plane react as the pilots compensated. Making wide turns you could feel the pilots working the pedals to make sure the turn was coordinated. It was classic stick and rudder flying and I think I was smiling the entire time.

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The ceiling kept dropping and dropping. My understanding is that they can fly the aircraft purely on instruments but like to stay out of the clouds for the passenger experience (the entire flight we never really climbed higher than 1,500 feet). Eventually we flew by Mainz and Wiesbaden and made a wide sweeping turn to Egelsbach before making a pretty cool landing.

Junkers Ju-52 Landing at Egelsbach from Stephan Segraves on Vimeo.

The weather was terrible when we landed and I got some raindrops on the lens while trying to grab some photos of the Ju-52. None of the shots really came out the way I wanted and I am still kicking myself for not grabbing more photos while in Köln. If you have a love of aviation and aviation history I highly recommend you find a way to take a ride on this plane. From the cabin to the sound of the engines to the enthusiasm of the crew, the whole experience was fantastic. You can learn more about the rides and the aircraft itself by visiting the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung website.

I have shared some pictures below and will be uploading more as I have time. If you’d like, you can see the entire set by visiting it here, on Flickr. I should note, if you take this trip, don’t bring a backpack. There is very little room onboard, especially near your feet. You are much better served just bringing a camera.

Egelsbach Airport
Egelsbach Airport

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Ju-52 Interior

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Ju-52 Cockpit

Junkers Ju-52
Ju-52 Parked At Egelsbach

Before I took the trip to Berlin a few weeks ago, one of my readers suggested I try to get a flight on a Junkers Ju-52. To be honest, I did not even know such flights existed. I started poking around the website that I had been sent and found a very large schedule for this year (German).

Junkers Ju-52

The Ju-52 has a storied history, being one of the early commercial aircraft for the new airline Luft Hansa, now known as Lufthansa. Being able to enjoy a ride on such an amazingly well restored piece of history is on my bucket list, if you can call my list of travel wishes a “bucket list”.

My mission to fly on the Ju-52 started in earnest immediately after being informed of the service and realizing that it would not be possible during the Berlin trip. I have now started looking at multiple dates and options for hitching a ride on the trimotor. The best prices to get to Europe are in May, but the Ju-52 schedule that month is not very good. I have started exploring options in June and July but due to the summer demand, the transatlantic prices make it difficult to justify the trip.

I will continue to watch the airline prices and if for some reason the prices drop, tickets will be purchased in a flash. The Ju-52 schedule is unique in that it doesn’t just offer sightseeing flights but also point to point flights as they move the aircraft around Germany. I would love to get in a couple of destinations. While pricey, it would be completely worth it to fly on such a beautiful piece of history.

photo by: bagalute

Over Spring Break we flew to Europe. By the time of our trip, the routing had changed to Houston-Frankfurt-Berlin in Lufthansa first class on the A380, returning Berlin-Frankfurt-Dallas, also in Lufthansa first class. The outbound was unbelievable. I have not flown a lot of international first but Lufthansa’s A380 first class is now my favorite “hard” product flying. The crew was stellar, providing prompt service and making sure that everyone on-board did not have any needs that were not met. The return longhaul flight was close to being a polar opposite.

Between Frankfurt and Dallas Lufthansa operates the Airbus A330-300. These particular planes, the ones based in Frankfurt, are just now undergoing conversion for the new first class seats. I knew this when I booked the tickets but ignored it because we needed to get home. Seats aside, the service from the crew was a 180 degree difference from what we experienced on the way to Germany. One flight attendant was attentive and helpful but the one who spent the most time in the cabin was as nonchalant and lackadaisical as they come. After lunch I had asked that the seat be made into a bed so that I could take a nap. The flight attendant put the seat into “lounge” mode rather than “flat” mode and kind of just tossed the mattress pad onto it. She didn’t take the time to make the bed or even get out the pillow and blanket. I searched through the overhead bin and found both. To top it all off, the food choices were not very good and the food itself was actually of poor quality (surprising since the flight was catered in Frankfurt).

One last thing. In Dallas, our flight was met by a Lufthansa representative holding a sign with a few passenger names. We saw our name and stopped to speak with her, thinking maybe we’d get taken to a quicker immigration line. She asked if we had checked luggage and said we would wait for a couple more passengers. After more standing around, the representative turns to me and remarks, “I can’t escort you to an expedited immigration line, you might as well go”. Well that’s a let down. What is this person’s role? To simply see if you have checked bags and put them to the side so you don’t have to wait for the carousel?

To be clear, I understand how fortunate I was to be flying in first class. I was simply a little surprised in the contrast between my outbound flight and the return. The flight crews were on opposite ends of the service spectrum. Had I known the service was going to be so poor, I probably would have saved the miles for first and just flown in business class. Will this keep me from flying Lufthansa again? No. Their A380 product out of Houston is certainly one of the best first class experiences in the sky. I file the whole experience under the crew having a bad day and the catering just being off. In the world of travel this is one of those, “sometimes you just have to realize you’re hurtling through the air in a metal tube” moments. It happens. It makes for a less than desirable experience but there is always the next flight.

On Monday I flew Lufthansa between Budapest and Munich on one of their Airbus 320 aircraft (registration D-AIPP). When I sat down I started looking through their magazine and noticed an extra insert in the seatback pocket. On the insert was a description of the new in-flight entertainment system that is being tested and how to use it on this particular flight. I read through and downloaded the required application for my iPhone, called “my mediaworld”, to test it out. I registered the application (required before using the system) and was all set.

The system works off of a wireless signal that starts transmitting as the aircraft passes through 10,000 feet. You select the network and launch the app. You are presented with a number of options including WatchEnjoy (television, movies, etc.), ListenRelax (music, spoken work), eJournals (newspapers, magazines), and FlyLufthansa (flight information).

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I played with each of the options just to see what was provided. The only one that did not really work for me was the magazines and periodicals section. I could never get it to actually load. I ended up selecting a movie to watch and it immediately started playing. The video quality was great and there was no lagging video artifacts that one usually sees with streaming video.

When I watched a few of the TV shows, they were only in German and there was no option to for subtitles. Not having subtitles was a little disappointing, but they are a German airline so having such content isn’t all that surprising.

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The video quality was just as good as what you would have if you downloaded the content yourself.

Video Quality Screenshot

There is also an inflight moving map that shows your current position and a few flight statistics. The application launches the web browser, in my case Safari, and presents the flight data and map there. Great information if you’re an aviation nerd like me.

Moving Map Launch Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

One of the neatest features is that when an announcement is being made over the aircraft’s intercom, the system pauses the content you are in. I was still a little sick and could not hear well enough to tell if the sound from the intercom was being piped through my headphones as well.

Public Announcement in Progress Screenshot


Overall it’s a very cool system and if this is the direction that United is headed with their inflight entertainment, passengers will be very happy. The only concern I had with the Lufthansa system was the lack of power ports in their short haul product. If you are doing some of their longer flights on a short haul aircraft, there are no power ports. Heck, even on Lufthansa’s new A380, there are no power ports in coach, meaning you’ll only be able to watch content until you run out of juice.

This really is the future of inflight entertainment and it’s good news for passengers. No more giant content boxes under the seat in front of you, no more watching movies on a tiny screen three rows in front of you, and no more watching the same content over and over on a loop.

Next time you are on a Lufthansa flight, be sure and check the inflight magazine, you may just have a wireless content delivery system installed on the aircraft (currently, this particular A320 is the only one with the system)! Also, I have included a few more screenshots of the product below. Lufthansa also has a full description of the “my mediaworld” system and available content on their website.

eJournals Screenshot

TV Series Screenshot

 

Movies Screenshot

Moving Map Screenshot

Music Screenshot

 

There is something about Berlin and I have yet to put my finger on it. It is hip, peaceful, busy, and reserved all at the same time. From walking through Tiergarten to exploring the neighborhoods in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, the city has something interesting from block to block. All I am sure of is that when I leave, I want to return. That says a lot about a city and its people.

How can you say “no” to random strangers enjoying great weather, great beer, and each other’s company?

Fronts Harden in Lufthansa Labor Dispute (Der Spiegel) →

 

As expected, thousands of stranded passengers were none too pleased by the first strike on Friday at Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest. Lufthansa had to cancel nearly half of the 360 flights scheduled to take off on Friday morning, and the airport almost ground to a complete halt until 2 p.m. Lines of waiting passengers in Terminal 1 wound their way through several parts of the building.

There was even uproar in the luxurious and normally serene first-class terminal, as furious frequent fliers ranted at Lufthansa staff. To add to the disarray, flight crews waved placards with anti-Franz slogans directly opposite, at one of the entrances to the airport site.

Things are kind of getting back to normal but Tuesday’s A380 flight from Frankfurt to Houston was canceled due to the strike and the effects of the strike will probably roll into next week. All of this stemming from the flight attendant’s union wanting an increase in pay and the same group being disenfranchised by the prospects of cost cutting by Lufthansa.

The Gulf-state carriers (Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, etc.) are a real source of “hard to beat” competition due to their seemingly bottomless coffers and their willingness to go into a new market and take it by storm. Lufthansa is attempting to cut costs to compete on lower fares. It’s just a question of how far are they going to take that.

Dresden Frauenkirche

We were halfway through our meal before the flight attendant serving us became talkative. The Lufthansa flight attendants on long haul flights are always a little reserved until they know the customer is alright with conversation and even then, they are focused on their jobs. She asked whether or not Frankfurt was our final destination. When I said “no” and explained we were going to Dresden, I got received a puzzled look. “Christmas Market”, I said. Then she understood.

Between the nights of February 13 and February 15 1945, four raids were flown against the city of Dresden by British and American air crews. 3,900 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices led to a firestorm that engulfed the entire city center, leaving an estimated 25,000 people dead and reducing much of Dresden to rubble. To this day the justification of the indiscriminate bombing of the city is still called into question (by this time in the war, the USAAF had focused on strategic bombing of specific military targets).

Dresden

At first glance, Dresden does not look like much. A simple Altstadt (old town) on one side of the Elbe River and a more modern and in some cases, Soviet looking, new[ish] town on the other side. Lining the river are a myriad of historic buildings, most rebuilt using the rubble from the 1945 bombings. The city is not well known to Americans, except for those who happen to use the stop to stretch their legs while taking the train from Prague to Berlin or maybe to visit the transparent Volkswagen factory. But once you dig into Dresden a little, you find a very kind people very happy to have visitors gracing their city.

Our trip took us to Dresden in mid-December, when the Christmas Markets are in full swing. Europeans flock to Germany to visit the country’s plethora of markets, but Dresden gets special attention being the largest and oldest of the markets. Having first opened in 1434 and known as the Striezelmarkt, entering the market is a little overwhelming. The smell of sausage, Glühwein, and Lebkuchen fill the air while people mill about with their children and extended family. From time to time a group of carolers starts singing and all of the people around join in the chorus. Buy a cup of Glühwein and a few slices Christstollen, a bread with dried fruit that melts in your mouth, and just enjoy the market. A special treat is the parade, known as Bergparade, put on by miners from the surrounding mountain communities. The miners chant and sing while walking around the Altstadt. Seeing all of the different mining “companies” was our first experience in Dresden on the night we arrived and it was a great introduction to the spirit of the city and of the Christmas Markets in general.

Sausage, Sauerkraut, and Bread

Other attractions in Dresden? We listened to an organ concert in the rebuilt Frauenkirche, visited the “Hygiene” museum, and enjoyed a few cafes and people watching around the city. Dresden is very walkable and the tram system is great for those further jaunts around town. There are a number of good brewpubs/beer halls, including Brauhaus Am Waldschlösschen and Feldschlößchen-Stammhaus. Needless to say, a few days in Dresden are well worth it, especially before Christmas.

Dresden has had a turbulent history, but the city and the people have weathered it well. If you are ever in eastern Germany, a visit to this fine Florence on the Elbe is worth it.

I write about this day almost every year, but it’s a day that deserves such an honor.

My post from 2006 is probably the best reminder of that day, so I am re-posting it here.

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944

The uncertainty of the success of the invasion and the possible repercussions if the invasion was a failure is clearly on the mind of the President. 12,000 Allied soldiers gave their lives that day, and many more did the same until the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945. Their sacrifice and the service of those who made it home can never be overstated.

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy seem to be dead-set on getting their way at the G20 summit in London. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, and President Obama have sort of joined forces to push their agenda for economic recovery, which includes more bailouts. Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said multiple times that she wants nothing to do with bailouts on a global scale. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has also echoed those sentiments.

This is an impasse of sorts. Both Germany and France have experienced government intervention in the free market and have first hand knowledge of the effects of economic socialism, yet both Brown and Obama are not taking notice. Merkel seems to be jumping up and down and waving her arms at a person across the room while the person just stares past her. Her qualm is not with doing more socially, it is with taking money from healthy companies and markets and injecting it into dying companies. It is a form of evolutionary ethics and no one is taking notice.

Europe also has its own best interest at heart. If the Obama plans for more government healthcare and less military bases abroad actually come to fruition, the European way of life takes on a completely different form. For years Europe has been dependent on U.S. bases abroad to subsidize their domestic policies, if the money was to significantly reduce or dry up, the governments would be forced to make cuts and in some places completely remove programs that people rely on. This is not a cut and dry issue by any means, but Merkel and Sarkozy are trying to make it obvious that the path Obama is proposing is not the correct one. What Obama decides to agree on puts in motion what happens next here in the U.S.