A lot of our friends and acquaintances in Germany invited us for a visit on several occasion, but only last year in March we decided to take up on those invitations.
We were planning a month long trip to Croatia to see the family, so I came up with the idea to do a road trip through Germany to visit our friends before we fly out to Zagreb.
If you know us, you know that we like to travel. We use all sorts of transports and we don’t mind being on the road. But now with baby on board we had to do some smart planning.
Five locations in three different German states required a rented car with a child seat. Can we pick up the car near Hamburg and leave it in Cologne airport? Yes, we can! Perfect! Let’s fly direct flight from Oslo to Hamburg, visit S & T in Hohnstorf, drive two hours while M sleeps to Braunschweig, stay two days there to hang out with T & D, drive two hours to Leipzig to visit H, drive four and a half hours with a break to Dortmund to visit S & O and finally drive hour and a half to Ittenbach to with D for another two days. It’s half an hour away from Cologne airport from where Eurowings has direct flight to Zagreb. It looked something like this:
After landing in Hamburg, a friend of ours picked us up and drove to his little village on Elbe River.
Hohnstorf is a municipality in the district of Lüneburg, in Lower Saxony. It’s a small village with no more than couple of hundred people living there, a pharmacy, a grocery shop and a gas station. Oh, and a restaurant, but since our friend is a chef we didn’t have the need for dining out.
While Hohnstorf sits on the left side of the bank, its opposite neighbor, Lauenburg, is very popular summer vacation spot. Closed at the time of our late February travel but still worth while a visit.
Situated at the right northern bank of the river Elbe, Lauenburg, is a town in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Easy reachable by crossing the Elbbrücke Lauenburg, we decided for a stroll through the town.
Although founded in the late 12th century most of the towns houses are from 17th century. Once home of the sailors, now summerhouses, restaurants or hotels.
Since it was Monday off the season time, the town was pretty much deserted. We managed to find a small coffee pastry shop where we set down before returning to the village. Tomorrow we were off to Braunschweig, Lower Saxony.
At a perfect distance of two and a half hours from Honhstorf lays Braunschweig. Or so we thought. The plan was to pick a car from near by rental station after breakfast and be on our way for the M’s first nap of the day. He had two when he was a year old. Anyway, the usual morning routine got out of hand so M fell asleep in a stroller walk before Debeli managed to get the car so on the way to Braunschweig M was wide awake, looking out of the window, nibbling on the blueberries, watching photos and being entertained by his mother when nervous. We survived. 🚗👶
As our friends in Braunschweig were in their last days of expectancy, we rented a cute Airbnb close by so they can peacefully enjoy their last days as a couple 👫 🙂
Once a powerful and influential center of commerce in medieval Germany, and a member of the Hanseatic League from the 13th until the 17th century, Braunschweig today is the second-largest city in Lower Saxony with a population of a quarter million. It’s known for biotechnology, transportation technology and finance.
Ah, spring! Well, that’s what we thought off it, only to be greeted with snowflakes in Leipzig 🤦♀️
Second most populous city in the area of the former East Germany after (East) Berlin, Leipzig is situated two and half hours from Braunschweig in the German state of Saxony.
Once important trading city after the Second World War and during the period of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) Leipzig remained a major urban center in East Germany, but its cultural and economic importance declined.
Our main goal during this trip was to hang out with our friends so we haven’t planned any sightseeing. If it happens, great if not, fine, we’ll do it some other time.
As we only had an afternoon with our friend in Leipzig and he wanted us to see bit of the city where he was living at the time, we took a ride across the city to the, probably, biggest monument complex we have ever seen.
Gigantic Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) commemorates the defeat of Napoleon’s French army at Leipzig in 1813.
Sponsored mostly by donations and the city of Leipzig it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle at a cost of six million goldmarks.
Situated in the southeast part of the city where some of the bloodiest fighting occurred, both during Napoleonic wars when Napoleon ordered the retreat of his army and WWII fighting when Nazi forces in Leipzig made their last stand against U.S. troops, the monument was erected on an artificial hill and designed architect by Bruno Schmitz.
The construction of the monument started in the late 1800 and the material used was concrete, a relatively new material at the time, but the budget did not allow use of more stable iron. The facing, made of 26 500 granite blocks and the rest of 120 000 cubic meters of concrete makes the entire structure weights 300 000 tons. TONS!
Two separate avenues surrounding the reflection pool leads to the 91 meters high central piece making it still the tallest monument in Europe.
The monument that depicts the battle and has many symbolic sculptures was inspired by the architecture of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt rather than classical style used at the time.
Five hundred steps to the top offers a magnificent view while the crypt on the first floor, meant as a symbolic tomb for the fallen soldiers of the battle, was closed for the visit at the time we came. Still worthwhile a walk around.
Our next friend stop was Dortmund, but since it was four hour drive from Leipzig we were thinking on spending one night somewhere half way, but M surprised us with his first nap during the first leg of the way so we had lunch / crawling brake in Kassel (half way) and continued our ride all the way while M had his second nap.
Once a home to the Grimm brothers, now a residence for the Documenta exhibitions of contemporary art, Kassel is a vibrant multicultural city, but we had other places to be, so Grimmwelt, palaces, parks and museums will have to wait another occasion.
A friend and a fellow colleague of Debeli owns a restaurant near Dortmund, his then girlfriend now a wife and him, and their cute frenchie were our hosts for a few days.
They spoiled us with great food and good company and M had the best time driving toy cars around the empty restaurant or steeling gummy toys from the dog 🐕
Once a farmers and miner town, Heeren-Werve is a small district of Kamen in the eastern Ruhr area, counting around 8 000 people.
Although old documents tells us about a settlement during Roman empire, the oldest still standing structure is the protestant Gothic church.
Early baroque moated castle with a square tower and a water ditch surrounding the rectangular building was built in early 17th century.
It has been privately owned by the von Plettenberg-Heeren family since 1767., but today is used mostly for conferences or as a wedding venue. 🐔🐓🐥
After couple of days hanging in Dortmund area, we continued our trip to the last and final stop; Ittenbach.
It was not my first time in this little village in North Rhine-Westphalia. I have been coming here since to work with D on a private artists archive since 2008. D’s vibrant personality was actualy the reason from me to come here year after year, so this jobb became more than work. It was a fantastic insight into an artist world. I have learnt so much about his late husband and the movement of Nove tendencije, as we shared personal stories when finishing the work we had.
My last time coming here was 2014 and I was planning to come again, it’s just I did not plan to bring my boys with me. Well at least not both of them. 😂 But life had different plans and I was actually very excited for D to meet my baby boy.
During my stays in Ittenbach, I have explored all of its corners and the neighboring cities like Aachen, Bad Honnef, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Königswinter.
The only thing missing from my to-do list was Schloss Drachenburg.
Drachenburg Castle is a private villa styled as a palace and constructed in the late 19th century. Baron Stephan von Sarter, a broker and banker, planned to live there, but never did.
Since Sarter died without heirs one of his nephews realized the potential of the building as a tourist attraction and bought out the other legatees for 390 000 Marks.
The business was successful at first but it failed to cover the costs so the castle was sold to Egbert von Simon, a cavalry officer.
The officer was killed during the First World War so the estate was acquired by the businessman and arms dealer, Hermann Flohr, who lived in part of the castle while the rest was used as a women’s convalescent home.
After that, the owners were Christian Brothers who established St Michael’s boarding school and the German Labour Front who established the Adolf Hitler school there. That didn’t go well, as you may assume.
After the WWII the castle became property of the State of North-Rhine, Westphalia, who rented it out to the Federal Railways as a training facility until 1959. When the FR moved out, the castle was left empty and it started to deteriorate.
Major restorations were carried out in early 70ies by a textile merchant, Paul Spinat who used the Castle for entertaining and visitations. After he died in debt (funny how no one figured out that an estate like this is money spender not maker 🤦) the State of North-Rhine, Westphalia took over the plot and restorations.
The building is now administered by the North-Rhine, Westphalia Foundation and it is served by an intermediate station on the Drachenfels Railway that runs from Königswinter to the summit of the Drachenfels mountain at an altitude of 289 m.
Although a bit kichy, the castle looks a nice place to live, especial for the amazing views on the river Rhine 🏞️
So, after ten days on the road, it was time to continue the travel but now we were heading to Croatia! With so much memories shared with friends we have decided that this will not be our last road trip. Germany will wait a bit for another visit, but driving in the care we’re gonna do that soon!