Photos From My Visit to Germany in September 2006

 

In September 2006, I traveled for a week to Eastern Germany with the objective of promoting cooperation in various graduate programmes in engineering subjects between my university COMSATS Institute of Information Technology and the universities at Cottbus and Wildau. Accompanied by two colleagues, this was my second visit to Germany in 2006 (the first being in January and which is the theme of a separate webpage), and took place from September 12th to 16th. It was my first sojourn in the Eastern part of Germany.

Aside from our hectic official itinerary, our hosts - the Institute for International Cooperation in Education at the University of Applied Sciences at Merseburg (or IBK for short) - graciously put some time aside for us to visit a few tourist hotspots along the way. The photos contained on this webpage were taken on the occasion of our brief visits to Germanís capital city Berlin, Dresden, Merseburg and the huge shopping mall NOVA EVENTIS, and in the famous town of Halle where my colleagues and I stayed at the comfortable Dormotel for that memorable week.  

(Click on any photo thumbnail to see its larger version)

The photos below were taken in Dresden

  It was early evening when our vehicle reached Dresden, that famous baroque-style city on the banks of the River Elbe renowned for its baroque style of architecture. I had heard a lot about this famous city - which is one of Germany's largest - and I was a bit disappointed because I feared I wouldn't see much in the looming darkness. But what I saw impressed me tremendously and I intend to revisit when the opportunity arises again.

Visit Dresden's official website here.

 
 
  The photo on the left features Dresden's famous landmark "Frauenkirche" (Church of Our Lady) which was built in the baroque style of architecture and completed in 1743. It stands on a site of older churches which have stood there since the 11th century. Sadly, this enchanting baroque building was virtually reduced to rubble in the wake of the savage Anglo-American fire-bombing of Dresden on the night of February 13th-14th, 1945, which killed upwards of 30,000 innocent citizens and refugees who had crowded into the city. Until the German reunification in 1989, the ruins were left standing by the former East Germany as a memorial to the destruction and horror of war. Through donations collected in Germany and outside, the Church has, fortunately, since been constructed over an eleven year period using original plans and some original stones and was reopened to the public on October 30th, 2005. Unfortunately, it closed for the day shortly before we arrived. 

 

 
 

  The Statue in this photo in front of the Frauenkirche is of the German reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546) who is considered the founder of Protestantism. Luther was from Eastern Germany. Many statues of him can be seen across Germany. By causing the split in the Roman Catholic Church, Luther changed the course of western history and is considered one of the most influential men of all time.
         
  After having a look at the outside of the Frauenkirche, we moved on to see some other cultural attractions in the Dresdner inner city. The colourfull wall on the right is called the "Fuerstenzug" (procession of princes or sovereigns) and depicts the rulers of the Kingdom of Saxony from medieval times starting from Konrad the Great who ruled from 1127-1156 and ends with Friedrich August III who ruled from 1904-1918 when the monarchy in Germany collapsed. In total, some 35 sovereigns are depicted, all dressed in period clothing, some on horseback.  
 
  Another famous landmark of Dresden, and one which too fell victim to bombs in the fateful February night in 1945 but was later reconstructed and reopened forty years to the day later, is the Saxon State Opera House (Photo on the left). It's website is here. The building on the right stands opposite the Opera House and - if I recall correctly - is part of a complex of baroque structures called Zwinger-Palast which was built in the early years of the 18th century and used for court festivities and tournaments.  
 
  Dresdnen is a real treasure trove of baroque buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly reconstructed in their original form after the destruction caused by the allies in 1945. I don't know what these buildings are but their appearance speaks a thousand words. People, you must visit Dresden if you're in Germany. I've seen countless cities and towns in the 12+ years I've lived in this country, but I've never seen so many fabulous structures concentrated in such a small area. A panoramic view of Dresden and her illuminated imposing baroque buildings at night from the Elbe river is something no mortal soul should miss in his or her lifetime!  
 
  Seeing all these fabulous landmarks made us all really hungry! It was also dinner time by the time we finished walking around and had seen the major sights and our hosts steered us down the brightly lit up street seen in the photo on the left. Somewhere on the left side, there was an entrance and a staircase descending into a basement which was filled with beautiful pieces of art and antiques. In the middle of the room, there were a few tables and we sat around one of them.

In the photo on the right, a figure in local attire greets guests with a mug of beer in his hand.

 
 
  Our IBK hosts, my colleagues and myself dining out in the Dresdner restaurant.

In the first photo on the right: Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Chughtai, Dr. Shaukat Ali Hayat, Professor Dr. Mattias Ehrsam, Mr. Sohail Nawaz Choudhury and Mr. Michael Rueckert.

In the second photo on the right, I'm posing next to a bust of Germany's "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck.

 

   
 

 

The photos below were taken when we reached Berlin

    We arrived in East Berlin by car and, after taking lunch in a resteraunt, we went for a little walk.This imposing TV Tower (Fernsehturm) in the first and last photos was the pride of Berlin in the days of the former East Germany. My two companions gaze at it in awe in the photo on the left. 

The building in front of the TV Tower is St. Marien Church - an old landmark in Berlin.

   
 
  These five photos were taken inside St. Marien Church which we visited briefly. It is now a protestant Church and can look back at a proud history going back almost 750 years. Fortunately, it suffered only minor damage during the second world war.

What impressed me the most about this Church was the beautiful stonework and figures on display there (see photos on the right). The church organ (photo on far right) is a splendid specimen to look at and is a testimony to the quality of workmanship of those bygone days. 

     

     
   
 
  Moving on after seeing St. Marien Church, shortly thereafter we came across the red townhall (Rathaus) which, unfortunately from a photographic perspective, was under renovation at the time. This is where Berlin's Mayor has his office. Construction of the building started in 1861. The "Neptune Fountain" in the front of the townhall was a real treat.    
 
 
 
The "Neptune Fountain" was built from 1886-91 and is a exquisitely shaped structure. In the midst of several figures and water cascades, the ten meter high sea god Neptune reigns supreme in an enormous shell carried by tritons and surround by nymphs. Four female shapes, each sitting at one edge of the fountain, embody the four rivers that once ran through Prussian territory; the Rhine (with a fish net and wine leaves), the Weichsel (with woods), the Oder (with goat and skins), and the Elbe (with fruits and cobs). The fountain's creator was possibly inspired by the Roman fountains of Bernini and by the Latony Fountain in Versailles. The Neptune Fountain was originally found on the south side of the City Palace and moved to its current location in 1969.
 
 
 
    A visit to Berlin, however short, would be incomplete without at least passing by the famous Brandenburg gate and the German Bundestag (former Reichstag). The last photo shows Berlin's main railway station and shoe sculpture.      

 

The photos below were taken in Merseburg

  On our sightseeing itinerary was the town of Merseburg. Despite its small size (approximately 35,000 inhabitants), Merseburg, the existence of which was first documented already as early as around 850 A.D., sure had a heck of a lot to offer! I liked the buildings, most of which were quite imposing and built in the classical style like the one in the two photos here on either side (the "Staendehaus" (a marriage party was standing there when we walked past it)). Merseburg is also of interest because it is where our hosts, the IBK-Consortium, have their office at the University of Applied Sciences.  
 
    These photos were taken near Merseburg castle. The story they depict is sad. Apparently, in bygone days, a Bishop discovered that a ring was missing from his household. Accusing his servant, he had the unfortunate executed. Later, it was found out that the true culprit was actually a raven which had flown off with the ring and dropped it in its nest. As "punishment", ravens are being permanently kept in this cage.  
 
  These three photos were taken at the beautiful castle of Merseburg which encompasses several structures erected in different periods of time since about 1470. It has four wings, one of which is Merseburg cathedral. We didn't have time to stay long there and didn't go inside but we saw enough outside and it was a memorable experience. There were other tourists there too.    
 
    After finishing with the castle, we walked through the adjoining grounds. There was plenty to see here too. The building in the photo on the right ("Schlossgartensalon") is used for musical performances.    
 
  My, what a high horse this gentlemen is sitting on! If you look closely at the foundation, you'll see that it is of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm (Fredrick William) the Third who ruled from 1797 until his death in 1840. If I recall the story correctly, the allied army confronting Napoleon in the early years of the 19th century, left from this place en route to defeat the famous French General at a famous (and very costly in terms of life) battle which was fought near Leipzig. This was around 1813.

I don't know what the monument in the photo on the right depicts. It looks like a war monument to me. By the way, Merseburg sustained very heavy damage in World War II and it is said that approximately two-thirds of its population perished then.

 
 
  On passing by this ancient structure I asked our host to stop driving so that I could take a photo of it. I later learned that it is called St. Sixti and was founded in 1045. Later, in the 13th century, it was incorporated into Merseburg's city wall system. It has been in ruins since the Thirty Years War (1618-48). In 1888/89 the imposing tower was converted into a water reservoir but fell into disuse in 1986. Some nice photos of it and other tourist hotspots in Merseburg can be found here (in German).

Good information on tourist attractions in Merseburg can, among many other interesting details, be found at the town's official website here (in German). A brief summary of the town's history can be found here (in German) and here (in English).

 
  These few photos were taken at the German Chemical Museum in Merseburg which is in very close proximity to the university of applied sciences and is unique in Europe, if not the world. On display in the open grounds are a large number of machines and instruments used in the chemical industrie extending back to over 100 years. A must to visit if you are in Merseburg.    

 

The photos below were taken in Halle an der Saale

 
 
    The tower seen in this set of four photos is the famous 44 (or 30 according to another source) meter high Lepziger-Turm which was erected around 1450, with subsequent architectural modifications following in later years, and which formed part of Halle's medieval wall system. The stones are around 2.80 meter thick at the base and the diameter of the space inside is 3.30 meters. The clock was added in the 16th century. The Leipziger Turm is Halle's highest tower.    
 
  Approaching the main market square in Halle, one can see two of the main architectural highlights Halle has to offer. The square is known as the home of the "five towers" of Halle. These five towers can be seen in the photo on the right. Four towers belong to the Marktkirche - or Marienkirche as it is also known - while the other tower is represented by the "roter Turm" or red tower. Many buildings in the market square are built in the classical style and are wonderful to look at.

Halle has approximately 235,000 inhabitants and was a major industrial centre in the former East Germany. Standing on the bank of the river Saale, Halle has a rich history extending back 1200 years. The word Halle is derived from the Celtic word for salt which was the "white gold" of the middle ages.

 
 
  This bronz statue standing proudly in the main market square in Halle is of the famous musician Georg Friedrich Haendel (1685-1759) who was born in Halle and is renowned as one of the most famous composers in the eighteenth "baroque" century. The imposing statue stands 3.2 metres high and faces towards England which was Haendel's "second home" and the place where he died.

The photos below show buildings erected in the classical architectural style with beautiuful stonework on their facades.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 
    A few photos of the Marktkirche and the red tower. I tried hard to get an inclusive shot of both but couldn't find a spot in the whole square despite much searching. But, judging by the gigantic dimensions of these structures, I trust you get the point.  
 
Three photos of the Marktkirche taken from various angles. The building is quite big and it is difficult to get a all inclusive shot from the relatively small confines of the square.      
 
    The statue in the two photos on the left stands in front of the red tower. The knight it symbolizes is Roland. According to my research, criiminal cases were decided in medieval times at the base of the tower and convicts were executed there.

On one side of the red tower there was a hole in the pavement from which shone a red light. Standing in front of it gives you a reddish hue which can convey different impressions to different people. To me it conjured up an image of hell!

 
 
  The building and park in the photo on the left were located just across from a post office I visited. The flower bed is awesome to look at. The photo on the right shows the wuerttembergische Bank and the wavy concrete and orange-white coloured shape in front of it. It was made in the days of the former German Democratic Republic and must have been quite a difficult undertaking.   
 
    While walking through Halle I saw this magnificent public building (photos on the left) and just couldn't resist the temptation to explore them a little more. The photos on the right show the front facade from up close. Look at the stonework and colour. What splendid workmanship!    
 
  These four photos were taken from my room 509 in the Dormotel which commanded a splendid view. I took these photos without the help of the tripod which I bought later and I have provided for a fair degree of overlapping. By the way, the building with the heart symbols on it is a bordell and quite popular with hotel visitors I'm told ;=)
 
This beautiful painted wall is in the Dormotel's car park. I took it from the buildings second or third storey. The painting shows numerous scenes from different historical epoches and, if I'm correct, features personalities associated with the city of Halle.   

 

Towards the close of our eventful visit, and on my request to our hosts, we were given the opportunity to visit Eastern Germany's largest shopping mall Nova Eventis. This huge mall, which is located outside Leipzig, houses scores of shops where one can find all kinds of cool stuff. It's a consumers paradise! At the electronics store MediaMarkt, which has outlets across Germany and which used to be a favoured haunt of mine when I lived in Speyer, I bought some camera accessories which was impossible to find in Islamabad, including a 2 GB SanDisk CFI card for my Canon Digital Rebel XT and a tripod with panorama head. Wandering in a few shoe shops I bought myself a pair of Docker hiking boots which I needed for my periodic hikes in the Margalla Hills in Islamabad. The few hours I spent at the mall also gave me the opportunity to purchase several small items and a lunch at one of the fast food joints on the upper floor. My colleague Dr. Chughtai and our hosts did plenty of shopping too.  

 

  Photos taken inside the Nova Eventis. A beautifully designed place mall full of light and life. As you can see, besides shops it houses plenty of greenery, comfortable chairs and even a small pond too.     
             
  Outside the entrance to Nova Eventis, there was this tunnel built in a futuristic style - and with music to go with it. On exiting the far side. there was a large pond where visitors can sit and relax.    

 

 

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