Subject: Berlin - Dresden - Prague trip report
Hello Ziners,

When we left home (Salem, Oregon) on March 20, the weather was beginning to get warmer and the cherry trees were starting to blossom. But Berlin was still in mid-winter, it seemed; rivers were frozen, there was snow on the ground, and it was cold!

We had never been to Berlin, Dresden, or Prague before, so we focused on the major attractions in each city. Berlin is a city of museums, and we each had our favorites. Karen liked the Gemaldegalerie so much that she went back for a second visit, and I was fascinated by the Jewish Museum, for both architecture and contents. We both loved the Pergamon, and the castles in Potsdam (Sans Souci and New Palace). The park between the palaces would have been much more beautiful in spring, but the streams were still frozen, the statues were covered, and the fountains were dry.

By the time we left Berlin things were beginning to warm up a little, and in Dresden we saw the first signs of spring. Dresden is celebrating its 800th anniversary this year and there are huge banners on many of the large old buildings. Our top attraction there was the Frauenkirche, newly rebuilt this year since it was destroyed by bombs in 1945. We took a day trip to Meissen and toured the porcelain factory there - it's an amazing place.

With spring came the floods - the Elbe was overflowing its banks in Dresden, and as our train followed it down into the Czech Republic (where it becomes the Moldau/Vltava) we saw more and more signs of serious flooding. In Prague they had the flood barriers up (newly built since 2002) but they were not yet in use. The first beautiful sunshiny day we had was April 1, the day we went to Cesky Krumlov and Castle Hluboka. We think that Prague has more beautiful buildings than any city we've seen, and we have the photos to prove it. A complete report of our stay in Prague, with lots of pictures, can be found at our website.

Things we learned on this trip:

1. An iPod is a wonderful thing to take along on a trip. We each had a digital camera, and there were days when both of us took over 200 pictures. Each night we off-loaded all of the photos onto the iPod and erased the memory cards. The iPod stored all of the photos with no problems. Oh, and it's nice for listening to books, podcasts and music too!

2. A personal guide adds a lot of value to the trip. We were very fortunate to get Sárka Pelantová, whom we hired for two days - one in Prague and one day trip to Cesky Krumlov. She is a terrific guide and greatly increased our understanding of the Czech region and the people.

3. Travelocity is a helpful and reliable service, in my experience. We've used them for airfare and hotels for the last two trips, and we have not had any trouble. I am always able to find the best rates there.

4. It's good to buy some tickets in advance - like the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Semper Oper in Dresden. We would not have been able to get into either one had we not bought tickets on their web sites before leaving. Events aimed primarily at tourists - like the marionette version of Don Giovanni that we saw in Prague - will almost always have tickets available on the day.

5. Our decision to reduce travel time and stay longer in our chosen cities proved to be a good one. We found it easy to make day trips from each of our three cities, and we had more time for sightseeing since we weren't travelling much.

6. Karen says "stop and smell the roses" - she means that my lists of planned activities were too long. She enjoys it more when we take time to stop and relax instead of go, go, go. And I do too - because I don't get so exhausted. I promised to add "smell roses" to our future lists.

7. March is too early for northern Europe. Spring starts in April. Yes, we avoided the crowds and the high season rates, but we missed out on some beauty.

What other lessons have Ziners learned?

Dave in Salem