Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles...."

Being retired with plenty of time to travel is good.

I recommend it for everyone.

Not being smug, but in the past I have been to London and Glasgow.

Dublin, "Northern Ireland," and a weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich.

Amsterdam and a picturesque train ride down to Bruges. All fine destinations.

But I wanted to revisit Berlin. Last time I was there in 1981, The Wall was up. November 9 will be the 25th anniversary of it coming down. It was a divider between Communism and Democracy for 28 years.

On this visit, my hotel was located in what used to be East Berlin and I was able to go up to the rooftop terrace and inside the glass dome atop the Reichstag Building, home of the German Parliament.

Ramps let you walk higher and higher for a spectacular view over the entire city.

It was a clear day and the photos were rewarding.

It's also open for evening/night photography. All require advance planning and registration.

The 8-hour flight from Newark was tracked on individual screens at each seat.

We reached an altitude of 40,000 feet and - with a tail wind - hit 600 mph. The images even showed us where daylight would appear again.

This part of the journey was aboard a United Boeing 757 and the return would be on a 2-aisle widebody Airbus flown by Lufthansa.

The foreign carrier differences included sandwich snacks, a hot meal served along with metal silverware and free wine, beer and Cokes.

Our domestic airlines have gone in the opposite direction, charging for basic amenities I used to take for granted.

Unless you fly first class, meals, free alcoholic beverages and being handed hot towels for your hands, are in the distant past.

On the way to Germany, the sun rose just as the small screen said it would and a sense of excitement and anticipation could be felt.

The short nighttime period had ended and this was a new day.

Literally.

The soap bubbles were in our future like these I saw in Prague in the Czech Republic on Old Town Square.

I visited many of the well-known popular places in five countries and joined the merry throngs.

But also sought and found off-the-beaten-path sights and experiences.

Yes, travel is fulfilling and educational.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

My successful diet was put on hold for this trip. The different beers, new ways to have coffee prepared (with a slice of cake) and spectacular meals were offset by 4-mile fast-paced walking tours, hikes up stairs in castles and palaces and wandering through churches and opera houses.

I regained only 3 pounds!

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