Author Archives: Lindsay Sydenham

Nazi Architecture at Zepplin Field, Nuremburg

Architecture built by the Nazi’s in the early 20th century can be spotted easily for their stale, concrete structures and the massive size of each building.  There are many different reasons for visiting Europe destinations but it is interesting to travel Germany with a mindset of looking out for obvious Nazi architecture. You will find it mixed in amongst buildings that are modern and buildings that have been around for a few hundred years. While the Nazis no longer occupy these buildings, the buildings have been purchased and are used now for other purposes. This post features Zepplin Field which is located in Nuremberg, Germany. Zepplin Field is a classic case of Nazi architecture.

In the 1930’s, Nuremberg became the nesting ground for political hype and Nazi party rallies.  The grounds are located in the southeast area of Nuremberg and rallies were frequently held between 1933 and 1938.  Most impressive stands the former Zeppelin Field, located near the unfinished Congress Hall.  The large field has a width of 400 yards and gives off a sense of intimidating size when standing above.  The area surrounding the field provided for about 200,000 spectators, while thousands more were rallying on the field itself.  During the infamous Nazi rallies, 150 strong floodlights beamed straight up into the sky.  The building was made of concrete and brick with lime slabs covering the face of the brick.  The field was named after a landing of one of Count Zeppelin’s airships in 1909 – the naming choice made by architect, Albert Speer.

Albert Speer served as Hitler’s main architect for the Third Reich.  He was chosen by the fuehrer to specifically take the job as architect for the Nazi party.  Zeppelin Field was one of Speer’s first works created under Hitler’s direction.  Many of Speer’s works were modeled or thought after other classic works from history.  Zeppelin Field was specifically designed after the model of the ancient Pergamon Alter.

Zeppelin Field was most popular for its mass parades of the German Labor Service.  In 1935, the Third Reich created a law requiring all men between 18 and 25 years of age to do six months of service for the government.  Most of the service included cultivation work and the building of highways.  These were the men who would parade around Zeppelin Field during one of Hitler’s brainwashing rallies.

Unfortunately for Hitler, the death of the Nazi party symbolically took place at Zeppelin Field on April 22, 1945 when the US Army held a victory parade on the grandstand.  The swastika was blown up, showing the world that National Socialism had come to an end.  Ironically, the former rally grounds are still used today as both a memorial fighting against political propaganda and as a soccer field.

If you’re going to be in Nuremberg and you’d like to visit somewhere that’s a little off the beaten track, head over to Zepplin Field for a chance to stand inside of a massive stricture that symbolizes a very dark park of world history. You don’t want to miss it!

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Rich History at Hackesche Höfe in Berlin

Hackesche Höfe, a busy and popular place to shop in Berlin, was designed in the early 18th century.  It’s not a common site that tourists visit, however it is a bustling area for locals. The rich history of the area might be interesting to tourists so it’s tip for those who want an experience off the beaten path.

The Spandau city commander, Count von Hacke, wanted a market built to extend Berlin’s urban area during the 18th century.  The apartments surrounding the market became popular and respectable addresses. The tenants were proud of their large complex with eight rear courtyards.

The market progressed after it’s construction and by 1900, the market was a prime example of the Art Nouveau period.  The façade facing Hackescher Markt included a large, round arch and long, skinny windows.  The market included many courtyards and shops with a mixture of services offered.  The courtyards especially show the age of Art Nouveau, with many green vines mixed with modern, artistic shapes of glass to enhance the courtyard.  Today the Hackesche Höfe has a very lively atmosphere.  Rebuilt to emulate the original market, it offers many shops, courtyards and coffee shops to add to the busy atmosphere. A great way to experience Berlin.

Hackesche Höfe is also the home to the first ever S-Bahn station in Berlin. The fact that this is where the first train station was built shows the amazing popularity and high traffic that moved through the market during earlier days. The S-bahn station is a great example of the Historicist movement. Often when we think of Historicism, we think of grand buildings such as the Reichtag or the Berliner Dom.  These buildings are truly Historicist, however Berlin hides many more examples of Historicist architecture that we often overlook.  The S-Bahnhof at Hackescher Markt is a prime example of this kind of architecture.  In 1882 the first S-Bahn train traveled, with Emperor Wilhelm I as the guest of honor, through a new railway route.  The urban railway station at Hackescher Markt was an impressive station built to excite Berliners about the new train system.  The hall measures about 100 meters in length and 16 meters in width.  It has a low-arched roof and originally offered a skylight in the middle.  The side facing Hackischer Markt is richly decorated with low arches above shops and an upper story with round windows.  The side panels of the walls are ornate and detailed.  Hackescher Markt was built to reflect the beauty of the Renaissance.

Hackescher Markt is not only a beautiful structure revealing aspects from the Renaissance, but it also is home to one of Berlin’s most important historical milestones.  The addition of a street train was essential for the rapidly growing Berlin.  The railways allowed Berliners to travel from easy to west without causing traffic.  The new railway line symbolized Berlin’s movement to become an ultra modern city.  There was a demand for public transportation, due to the population increase.  Hackescher Markt and the first ever S-Bahnhof stands today as a reminder of the beginnings of a well thought out city.

If you’re interested in exploring Berlin further and stepping away from the typical sights, take the S-bahn to Hackescher Markt to see the beginnings of a bustling city.

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Free Berlin Attractions: Berlin Cathedral

Most buildings in Berlin suffered greatly after two World Wars. Some of you may have visited the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin where merely a tower still stands today. There are reminders all over this European city of two harsh wars that left the city in ruins. However, some buildings were miraculously undamaged by the wars and still stand today. One of those buildings is the Berlin Cathedral – a stunning cathedral located in the heart of the city, one of the highlights of  Berlin sightseeing.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral by Phil Hoare

The neo-classic design of the cathedral is modeled after the baroque movement – meaning the structure is extremely detailed with ornate statues, gold highlights and intricate designs. While living in Berlin I took many treks out to the cathedral to admire it’s beauty. With so many detailed designs, I found that I noticed something new during each of my visits.

It costs nothing to visit one of my favorite Berlin attractions. Best times to visit Berlin Cathedral would be during the morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. Most people tend to stay about an hour or so. Travelers tend to spend time sitting in one of the pews at the cathedral while admiring the ornate design of the building. This is a working church, not a museum, so be sure to dress and behave accordingly.

There is also a large lawn located directly in front of the cathedral. Berliners love to eat their lunches on this lawn on a sunny day and some tourists like to follow suit. For avid cathedral enthusiasts, look for a program for an opportunity to visit during an organ concert. Listening to an organ concert underneath such an ornate, large structure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It also costs nothing to attend an organ concert!

Don’t miss visiting Berlin Cathedral one of the top free Berlin attractions on your next visit to this wonderful European city.

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Heidelberg Sightseeing

Heidelberg is easily one of the most charming cities in Germany. Recalling my last visit takes me back to memories of red roofs and fresh, warm summer air during walks along the Neckar River. I see that it’s been mentioned on Europe a la Carte previously as one of Amanda’s favourite German destinations. My trips to Heidelberg have never been packed with busy itineraries, but have been opportunities for a relaxing visit in a beautiful city. Here are my Heidelberg sightseeing tips.


Enjoy a walk through main street – evidently the street is one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe. The long street is filled with street vendors, artists, cafes, shops and many beautiful Baroque and Renaissance facades. Grab yourself a pretzel from one of the many vendors on your walk. You’ll be amazed at how many people walk the street at all hours of the day. The city is also home to a well-known university that houses nearly 30,000 students year-round. Because of the many students attending university, Heidelberg has a youthful energy that many other old towns lack. You’ll find university students playing games along the Neckar River and you’ll notice an energetic nightlife after dark. Take an opportunity to check out the old university and be sure to admire the Baroque architecture of the structure.

One thing that I think tourists often overlook is the opportunity to bike ride around the town. You’ll notice that many of the university students get around by bike. Follow their lead and rent a bike during your stay in Heidelberg. There are multiple venues to rent a bike for the day. Take a ride along the Neckar River or through the old town. You’ll be able to see more of the old city than on foot and you’ll be traveling in style.

Heidelberg is most famous for the beautiful castle that overlooks the city. Marcus has already illustrated some of the great views from Heidelberg Castle. The castle is rich with history and certainly worth a visit. Notice the various areas in the castle and how they differ aesthetically from one another. Over the years the castle had many repairs and add-ons to the original structure. You’ll notice that each of the add-ons are created in the style of their time. You’ll see Baroque and Renaissance architecture, as well as other eras of beautiful design. Entrance to the castle is a minimal fee and the gardens are always free to visitors. My advice? Visit the castle twice – once during the day and once during the night. The garden is open at night and the view of the old town is gorgeous from up high.

If you’re looking for a charming city to visit in Germany, Heidelberg might be the option for you. The city is rich with history and luckily undamaged from past wars. Since the structures still stand throughout the city, you’ll notice many different styles of architecture. Dump the touristy activities for a few days to have a relaxing time walking and biking around one of the most beautiful cities in Germany.

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Ghost Bus Tour in Dublin

Dublin is known to be a haunted city with a great history of supernatural occurrences. The Dublin Ghost Bus Tour is one of my Europe travel tips as it takes brave visitors on a tour of the darker side of Dublin. Riders on the bus will learn the legends about how Dracula came to be, they will visit the infamous haunted steps and have an opportunity to stand in the middle of Dublin’s most haunted graveyard as they learn about the art of body snatching. The tour lasts a little over two hours and costs 25 Euros per person. Tours can be booked online or up to an hour before departure.

Dublin Ghost Bus Tour

There are many beautiful and interesting places to see in Dublin, such as the Guinness Brewery Tour and even plenty of free Dublin attractions but if you’re one for spooks then this will be one of your Dublin favourites.

In my opinion, the spooks offered on the Dublin Ghost Bus Tour are more cheesy rather than scary. My girlfriends and I took the tour and had ourselves a hoot. The hokey ghost stories and the live storyteller made us laugh which made our experience quite pleasurable. The highlight of the tour takes place in a cemetery where the storyteller shares tales of body snatching and robbery. While the tour may seem a bit silly, it was a great way to learn the history of Dublin from a different perspective. The legends shared are ones that have been shared among the Irish for centuries. And the information about Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, is completely factual and quite interesting.

If you’re only in Dublin for a few days, I wouldn’t worry yourself with trying to get on the Ghost Bus Tour. However, if you’re in town for longer and are looking for a fun evening activity then I would suggest hitching a ride on Dublin’s only haunted tour bus.

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Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, Germany

On your next trip to Berlin, one of my top tips is to take a day-trip to visit the castles of Potsdam. Many people overlook this historically significant city when they visit Germany, but Potsdam is a gem that is sure to excite any history buff. The city is located about thirty minutes outside of Berlin in the former East Germany. Potsdam includes several magnificent castles that survived WWII largely without damage. One of my favorites? Schloss Sanssouci.

Schloss Sanssouci was a summer residence for Frederick the Great. Designed in the eighteenth century, the palace has a rococo feel with a French twist. Take a tour of it to see for yourself. Cost is reasonable considering tourists get to not only tour the palace, but also have a guide: 8 Euros for everyone or 5 Euros for students. Most people spend about an hour and a half exploring the palace, but one could easily get lost in history and spend a half of a day there.

Each room in the palace is decorated and styled differently. Explore from room to room and listen to the tour guide tell stories of the palace. One of the greatest rooms in the palace is one that was designed specifically for Voltaire. The walls are painted with visuals of birds and trees.

Locals of Potsdam love to share a story about the time Napoleon visited the place. During his visit, Napoleon was welcomed at the back entrance of the palace. However, he was unaware that he was welcomed into the back at the time. He was impressed with the grandeur of the building and was quite content with the welcoming. When it was mentioned to him later that he was welcomed in through the back, he threw a steaming fit and left at once.

After a tour of the palace, tourists should be sure to walk around the grounds of the palace. The garden is gigantic and worth walking through. There are many stairs leading down to the garden. This is where your best photo-taking moment will be. Have your photographer stand lower on the stairs to get the perfect photo of you with the beautiful Schloss Sanssouci hovering in the background.

On your walk through the garden, make sure you take a look at Frederick the Great’s grave. He was buried with his nine pet dogs.

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Käthe Kollwitz in Berlin

If you’re headed to Berlin, you probably know by now that the city is full of museums. One museum that tends to be overlooked is the Käthe Kollwitz Museum located in the Charlottenburg area. The museum houses a collection of works created by Berlin’s most acclaimed female artist, Käthe Kollwitz.

The loss of her son in World War I, the lost of her grandson in World War II and the many sick, poor and afflicted people she worked with inspired art that many would describe as dark and depressing. Kollwitz’s work depicts heavy themes of poverty, sickness, death and fear. Visiting the museum is by no means an uplifting experience, however a visit does provide many powerful and thought provoking moments about the horrors of mankind. While the museum may seem rather small, the villa actually houses nearly five decades of work that depicts the oppressed, the sick, the needy and the dead. You’ll find an array of charcoal sketches, lithographs, sculptures and woodcuts throughout the villa that opened in 1986.

The Käthe Kollwitz Museum is easily one of my favorite museums in Berlin and one of my top “off the beaten track” European travel tips. Kollwitz inspired me to give more consideration about the sick and the needy living in the world today. She was a true humanitarian and was never blind to the harsh realities facing her people during war. It’s nearly impossible to leave the museum without wanting to make a huge difference among people in the world. If you find that you enjoyed the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, then I suggest heading over to the Neue Wache on the north side of Unter den Linden. The building has been used as a war memorial ever since 1931 and houses one of Kollwitz’s best works — Mother with her Dead Son. This powerful piece depicts a mother holding her dead son who died in World War II. You may notice that the sculpture mirrors the Pieta located inside of the Vatican in Rome – which depicts Mary holding Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. If you noticed this parallel, then you’re right on target. Kollwitz wanted to create a statue that showed the ultimate pain felt from a mother mourning the loss of her son. Also notice the oculus on the ceiling of the building. Kollwitz’s sculpture is placed directly under the oculus so that it is exposed to harsh weather. Being exposed to rain, snow and cold temperatures is supposed to symbolize the suffering from two World Wars. If you love art or if you consider yourself a pacifist, then you won’t want to miss seeing work created by Germany’s most famous advocate and female pacifist, Käthe Kollwitz.

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Wittenberg: the Birthplace of the Protestant Reformation

Those looking to visit a city rich with religious history should certainly visit the charming town of Wittenberg, Germany – a gem to historians and religious scholars. The quaint town stands as a critical milestone in the history of Christianity. Wittenberg was home to Martin Luther, the man responsible for starting the Protestant Reformation, and most travelers in Wittenberg come to see his legacy.

All visitors in Wittenberg must take time to see the church, known as the Schlosskirche (the Castle Church), where in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the massive doors of the church. These theses included his arguments against the Catholic Church, which triggered the Protestant Reformation. Visitors can see the doors, now in bronze, with the 95 theses written in Latin.

The Schlosskirche of Wittenberg is quite possibly one of the most important churches in the history of Christianity. Construction of the church began in 1490, headed by architect Claus Roder. The first phase of building included the large tower, the central wing and the two stair towers. By 1502 the external walls and buttresses were finished. The church was actually built during the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance period – meaning you’ll find details from both eras added to the beautiful structure. Many details of the church scream a traditional Gothic appeal, such as the ceiling vaults and the windows, but some of the other elements reflect the Renaissance style. The ceilings and walls of the church are ornately carved, painted and gilded. Paintings adorn the rooms and fireplaces made of hewn stone decorate the interior of the church. The interior was first designed to be more Gothic in style, plain with large windows separated by buttresses. But as the construction of the church progressed, the interior became more and more ornate, reflecting the style of the new Renaissance period.

Admission to the church is 3 Euros. The church can be visited from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Those who enjoy organ concerts should be sure to attend on a Tuesday for the weekly organ performance.

Visitors should take the time to explore the rest of the city in further detail. Look at the carefully restored and cared-for medieval buildings and appreciate a city that has not been bombarded by fast food, shopping malls and modern culture. Visit the city church, known as the Stadtkirche, to see an example of another medieval church. Notice the Judensau (Jewish sow) on the roof of the church. Martin Luther had this derogatory statue placed there to warn Jewish people of what he believed were sins. Seeing this church provides great insight into the progression of German culture over hundreds of years.

Wittenberg is well-known to Germans for its medieval and cultural events. Visitors would be wise to try to attend the city during one of its cultural festivals or markets. Specifically, the Wittenberg Reformation Festival is well-known for music, theater and the market that sells foods and goods created exactly as they were hundreds of years ago. I have been to this festival twice and each time had myself a ball! Locals dress in traditional medieval clothing and the entire town literally transforms. Be sure to check out the goods sold at the market. You’ll find jewelry, cutlery, wooden figurines and other collectibles from your trip to Germany. Other notable times to visit are for the Christmas Market in November and December, and the reenactment of Martin Luther’s wedding during the summer.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber: The Night Watchman’s Tour

Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber is like stepping into Snow White’s village at Disneyland – only this is where it all started and here it’s all for real. On my first visit, as a seventeen-year-old, I joyously shouted, “Rothenburg looks like Disneyland!” I was immediately scolded by a German family member and told, “No. Disneyland looks like Rothenburg. Don’t get that mixed up again!”

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is easily one of my favorite cities to see during visits to Germany. I have visited many times and each time have discovered something new and charming about the city. Travelers typically visit Rothenburg to enjoy an authentic, medieval and often romantic experience.

There are many beautiful, old buildings to enjoy around the city of Rothenburg. These buildings date back to the 1100s, and even the so-called “newer” buildings date back to the 1800s.

One activity that should not be passed up is the Night Watchman’s Tour. For only six Euros per person, anyone is welcome to meet in the market square, next to the Rathaus, at 8:00 p.m. daily to take the tour. For approximately one hour, the night watchman will take the group through the dark streets of the medieval town. The night watchman shares stories and teaches the group with the perfect blend of history and entertainment.

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My advice? Be sure to come with questions! The Night Watchman has been doing the tour for many years and can answer nearly any question about the history of Rothenburg. Take advantage of his knowledge and come prepared!

Also – try to keep with him. He walks at a fast pace and you will want to be in earshot of his story telling. He tells stories of fires, battles and of being stuck outside after curfew. He shares the stories with a humorous tone, but every story and fact is true.

The Night Watchman Tour is the perfect way to spend an evening in Rothenburg ob der Tauber! Don’t miss it!

Visiting a Concentration Camp: Sachsenhausen

Those who are looking for a powerful experience, those looking to find closure or those seeking an understanding about the Holocaust should take the opportunity to visit one of the concentration camps still standing in Europe today.

Arbeit Macht Frei, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen by robertpaulyoung

While an experience visiting a concentration might be heavily emotional, it allows many people the opportunity to ponder historical mistakes and to commit themselves to make larger strides in the future.

For a small glimpse into Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, some travelers visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp located just outside of Berlin. The camp is smaller, in comparison to Dachau or Auschwitz, but it provides a very strong visual representation of a gruesome chapter of human history. Most everything in the camp still stands today as it did over 60 years ago. Travelers can visit the entire camp, including the gas chambers, the barracks and the infirmary.

Both Dachau and Auschwitz are busier with more travelers on a daily basis – probably because they are larger and more well-known. I preferred my visit to Sachsenhausen because the camp is hardly ever bombarded by a crowd – in fact, the two times I visited was rather empty and almost eerie. Having less tourists around gave me a better opportunity to think and learn.

Many travelers don’t know that Sachsenhausen exists such a short drive outside of Berlin. There are a handful of informational exhibits throughout the camp. These exhibits provide an excellent insight into the workings of the camp. Visitors will read personal experiences and see documents and photos left behind of the camp. However, these exhibits are only offered in German.

Entrance is free to Sachsenhausen. This attraction exists for the sole purpose of providing future generations with a glimpse into the past. Depending on a traveler’s interest level, visiting the camp takes anywhere from a few hours to a half day. Some find the experience to be overwhelming and are unable to visit the entire grounds of the camp.

It may feel uncomfortable to visit Sachsenhausen, however most travelers find the experience to be very powerful and even life-changing. For any history buff or traveler interested in societal/cultural issues, this attraction should be included during a visit to Berlin.

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