Miniatur Wunderland

By Ross in Travel on Sat 26 July 2014. Tags: Germany

The title "largest model railway in the world" does not begin to describe the Miniatur Wunderland. The MiWuLa is an entire intricate, miniature world constructed with painstaking attention to every minute detail. Not just trains, but cars, trucks, boats, and even airplanes go about their daily business in the Wunderland. Day and night continually cycle (one day is 15 minutes); nighttime at the Wunderland is spectacularly lit by thousands upon thousands of LEDs. All the operations are controlled by custom-built computer hardware and software (except for the boats, which are for the time being manually operated). The photos I took do not do it justice, so you will just have to visit for yourself!

Here are some of the highlights from my visit. 

This is Las Vegas during the day:

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And at night.

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Here is the main terminal of Knuffingen airport. It looks an awful lot like Hamburg airport.

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You can see the mechanism by which planes take off and land. The takeoff angle is appropriate for each airplane.

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Here are some more photos of the airport. Planes take off and land on a schedule which is shown on arrival and departure boards.

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This is an elevator for boats.

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Here is a railway turntable.

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Someone made each of these sunflowers by hand and postioned them ever so carefully.

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Fans cheer for the football team in the stadium.

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Here is the Hamburger Dom, with a train in the background.

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This is an industrial area in Scandanavia.

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There is snow in Scandanavia too. (Small pieces of glass are used to make the snow sparkle.)

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The Flying Dutchman makes an appearance.

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Here is a train station. (It is a model train setup, after all.)

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There are even balloons!

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The ski lifts are operational.

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I won't get a chance to see Neuschwanstein Castle on this trip, but I saw it at the MiWuLa.

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There is even a prison. A button triggers an attempted prison break.

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Fire engines respond to a fire somewhere in Knuffingen.

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Here is a container ship underneath a suspension bridge.

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Here is a closeup of traffic on a bridge.

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This is one of the radio-controlled boats.

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We got a behind-the-scenes tour in English, which was awesome. Here is one of the charging stations for cars and trucks.

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No detail is spared, even in parts of the MiWuLa which are not ordinarily seen by visitors. Here are some nuns hanging out at the end of the world.

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Move along, nothing is going on here.

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The Miniatur Wunderland even contains a model of the warehouse in which the Miniatur Wunderland is housed. If you press a button, a tiny train runs inside the building.

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Finally, here is the command and control center for the entire MiWuLa.

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Words cannot describe how amazing this place is. You do not have to be a model train enthusiast. There is something for everyone at the Miniatur Wunderland.


Hamburg

By Ross in Travel on Fri 25 July 2014. Tags: Germany

From Berlin, I hopped on a bus to Hamburg to visit my friends Cat and Stefan. The bus company I used, MeinFernBus, is similar to MegaBoltBus, and is substantially cheaper than the train (although not nearly as nice). Cat met me at the bus station, and then we took a city bus to their lovely apartment. 

I told Cat and Stefan to show me their favorite things in Hamburg, and they planned a wonderful, fun-filled weekend for me. (It was nice not having to do all of the research and planning myself, for a change.) We spent most of the weekend walking around and talking about all sorts of geeky things (from Doctor Who and Star Trek to Arduino and Rasperry Pi), which was excellent.

Highlights of the weekend (other than exploration and conversation) include:

  • A visit to the Miniatur Wunderland, the world's largest model railway
  • A tour of Hamburg's harbor, the second largest harbor in Europe and one of the busiest ports in the world
  • Amazing baked goods at the local bakery
  • Fantastic Italian and Portugese food, some of the best meals I have had on the trip
  • Dinner and a drink at a local, non-touristy biergarten

I took enough pictures during the first two of these that they merit their own journal entry. Here are some photos from some of the other things I did while exploring Hamburg.

This is the Hamburg rathaus:

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Here is the upper portion of one of the canal locks near the rathaus:

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This is one of the historic warehouses in the Speicherstadt, the largest warehouse district in the world. 

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Here are some ships docked in the Speicherstadt.

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One of them is the J. R. Tolkien, a topsail schooner from the Netherlands.

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Here are some closeups of the ship:

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The Ricker Rickmers is a three-masted barque which is now a museum ship.

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Here is one of the oldest streets in Hamburg.

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This is the canal-facing side of Deichstrasse, another of the oldest streets in the city.

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This is the remains of the Church of St. Nicholas, which was bombed in World War II.

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On Sunday, we climbed the tower of St. Michael's church, and got a panoramic view of the city. In the background of these photos is the Alster, a tributary of the Elbe which has been dammed to form a series of two artificial lakes in the middle of Hamburg.

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Unlike in Berlin, you cannot climb the TV tower.

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Here we see the rathaus again, viewed from above. The tower covered in scaffolding is the remaining tower of the Church of St. Nicholas.

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The Hamburger Dom is a large carnival which is active about half the year.

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The concert hall for the Hamburg Philharmonic has been under construction since 2007 with no end date in sight. The version at the Miniatur Wunderland, however, has been completed.

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Finally, here are some views of the harbor.

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On Saturday night, we drove out to the port. Here is a large container ship being loaded.

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On Monday, Cat accompanied me on the S-Bahn to the airport, which looks remarkably similar to the one at the Miniatur Wunderland. I like this warning sign above the tracks.

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Many thanks again to Cat and Stefan for a great weekend!


East Side Gallery

By Ross in Travel on Thu 24 July 2014. Tags: Berlin, art

The East Side Gallery is a 1.2 km section of the Berlin Wall which was painted (on the east side) by artists from all over the world in 1990. Much of it has been covered in graffiti, but it is still an amazing sight. Here are twenty four images (out of around 105) from the gallery, presented without commentary.

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Berlin

By Ross in Travel on Wed 23 July 2014. Tags: Germany

Berlin. You could spend a week here and barely scratch the surface. Since I was going to be meeting friends in Hamburg for the weekend, I had two nights, which was hardly any time at all. I arrived at my hostel (East Seven) almost exactly at noon, just in time to drop off my bag and join the free walking tour of Berlin. After my great experience with the walking tour in Prague, I figured why not try it again. Once again, I was not disappointed.

Here are the Altes Museum and the Bode Museum on Museum Island.

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Mother with her Dead Son by Kathe Kollwitz at the Neue Wache.

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The very similar French and German cathedrals sit opposite each other on the Gendarmenmarkt.

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Everything is made of chocolate at Fassbender & Rausch.

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You can rent an East German Trabi for the day.

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Here I am touching the Berlin Wall. This is the largest intact section of the wall other than the East Side Gallery.

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On the wall of a nearby building is this East German propaganda painting (this is only a small section of it).

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This is Checkpoint Charlie. The sign is a replica, but the frame around the sign is original.

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The East Side Gallery is on the other side of this section of the Berlin Wall.

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The iconic Brandenburg Gate was rebuilt in the late eighteenth century.

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe consists of 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid. The designers wish for it to speak to each viewer individually, and thus provide no official interpretation for the memorial.

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Nearby is the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under Naziism. (There is a movie playing inside the alcove on the left.)

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Across the road is the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism.

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In the Tiergarten, there is a statue of Goethe as well as a monument to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (Beethoven is not visible here).

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Finally, here is some more modern architecture in Potsdamer Platz.

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My first night in Berlin, I stayed up until 4 am talking with Frank from Darnstadt and two lovely Canadian university students. We turned out to all be sleeping in the same four-bed dorm, which was convenient. I was quite exhausted the next day, but it was well worth it.

There are layers upon layers of history in Berlin, and I left feeling like I had only gotten a glimpse. There is so much to explore, from unusual museums to abandoned buildings. Next time I visit Gemany, I would like to spend at least a week in Berlin.


Weimar

By Ross in Travel on Tue 22 July 2014. Tags: Germany

I never intended to go to Weimar. My original plan was to head straight from the Harz mountains to Berlin. This made perfect sense, but there was one glitch. I booked my hostel beds for Berlin while I was in Leipzig, but I was unable to find a bed for the first night I wanted to spend in Berlin (Tuesday, 22 July). I figured I'd figure it out later. This proved more difficult that I had hoped, since I had no WiFi where I was staying in Quedlinburg. When I finally managed to get a signal in a hotel parking lot in Wernigerode, I still could find nothing decent in Berlin, and the areas around Berlin were booked up as well. There was plenty of room at a hostel in Weimar, and since the hostel looked really nice, I decided to go for it. It didn't hurt that Weimar had been an important center of German culture, or that Bach had worked there early in his career.

After a convoluted commute involving four trains, I arrived in Weimar. Labyrinth Hostel is the nicest hostel I have stayed at to date. The people at the reception desk were warm and friendly and gave me many suggestions of things to do in the city.

After dropping by bag off at the hostel, I took a nice stroll through the Park an der Ilm. This is one of the many bridges over the river Ilm in the park.

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Goethe had a garden house in the park.

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There is also a statue of WIlliam Shakespeare in the park.

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Just outside the park, there is a bust of Bach commemorating the time he spent in Weimar.

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During the afternoon, there are many vendors selling wurst of all shapes and sizes outside the rathaus.

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I really like this chair planter.

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These are the onion domes of the Russian orthodox chapel, located in the historic cemetary.

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Finally, next to the theater is a statue of Goethe and Schiller. There was lots of scaffolding surrounding the statue, but I was able to get a photo anyway.

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All in all, Weimar was not amazing, but it was a relaxing place to spend a day, and the hostel could not have been better. I concluded the day with online bridge with my NYC bridge cohort, which was fantastic.