In the Summer of 2018, I spent a week in Germany and Austria, accompanied by my father, visiting various aviation and technology museums. Our tour started at London’s Luton airport with a flight to Berlin Schoenfeld, followed by a flight to Salzburg, train to Munich and flight back to London Stansted. All of our flights were with EasyJet and the train journey was with Meridian (who I travelled with in 2017 – read that post here!).
Unfortunately, the time of our trip coincided with the June half-term school holidays in England and so Luton’s departure lounge was what can be best described as chaos! Pro-tip – if you can choose when to travel, avoid school holidays! Our flight was comfortable, although bear in mind that if you choose to sit in seats 1A-C onboard EasyJet aircraft, there is no partition between your seat and the door meaning a draft throughout boarding. I’d certainly recommend going for seat 1D-F if you want the front row!
Landing at Schoenfeld, you’re able to see the large terminal of the new Berlin Brandenburg airport that will eventually share a runway with the existing airport. Intended to open in 2011, the airport has been beset by delays and is now due to open in either 2020 or 2021. Originally intended to replace both Schoenfeld & Tegel airports, it is now planned to only replace the latter, with Schoenfeld being expanded to handle and increase in passenger numbers. Currently Schoenfeld’s security checkpoint is housed in what can only be described as a marquee and the lack of gate lounges can cause chaos when adjacent boarding queues merge within the narrow departure lounge, so expansion is desperately required if the airport is to have a long-term future. In terms of getting into the city, Schoenfeld has an adjacent railway station with direct connections to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof as well as Ostbahnhof and Alexanderplatz, with journeys taking between 20 and 30 minutes depending upon the destination.
Our first destination upon arriving in Berlin was to head to another airport, well a disused one at least! Berlin Tempelhof is famous for its iconic curved terminal building and until it’s closure in 2008 also had the world’s smallest duty-free shop! The terminal building itself is now accessible via tours, however the site of the airfield is now a public park meaning you can stand in the middle of the disused runway! At the front of the terminal is a memorial to the 70 British and American aircrew that lost their lives in the Berlin airlift in which Tempelhof played an integral part. During the airlift, American Engineers were able to two new runways in four months to facilitate the more frequent use of the airport by heavier aircraft. In its peak, more than 1500 aircraft were landing in Berlin each day to supply the city with more than 5000 tons of cargo as part of the airlift.
After checking in to our hostel, we headed across to Alexanderplatz in search for something to eat and drink and to explore the city. To our surprise, there was an African/German market being held within the square with various African wares being sold alongside traditional German food and drink! Alexanderplatz is named after Russian Tsar Alexander I and was pedestrianised in the 1960s as part of the German Democratic Republic’s redevelopment of the centre of East Berlin. Close to Alexanderplatz is the Fernsehturm (Berlin TV Tower).
At the start of our first full day in Berlin, we split up and whilst my father headed to a military aircraft museum (Gatow), I decided to stick to what I know and go on a bus tour of the city. Starting from outside the Hauptbahnhof, the tours cover all of the main sites within the city including the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and parts of the Berlin Wall. Near to the East Side gallery, (where part of the Berlin wall has been painted with various murals and artwork), is the Oberbaumbrüke, a bridge crossing the river Spree which has amazing architecture. Completed in 1896, the bridge joins the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg and also the former American and Soviet sectors of Berlin. With the building of the Berlin wall, the bridge was closed to traffic and U-Bahn trains and so in modern times the bridge has become a symbol of the re-unification of Germany.
After regrouping for lunch, we headed to Gleisdreieck U-Bahn station and our destination for the afternoon, the German Museum of Technology. Covering all aspects of technology and transport, the museum has two engine sheds full of historic locomotives and carriages, as well as floors dedicated to Aviation, Space and Maritime technology. The museum is easy to find after leaving the U-Bahn, primarily due to the C-47 displayed on its roof!
With our visit to Berlin coming to an end, we headed back to Schoenfeld ready for our intra-Schengen flight to Salzburg. The flight was brief at just over an hour and we were provided with some beautiful views of the Austrian Alps and countryside upon approach to Salzburg airport. Travelling in the summer, we were in the ‘off-season’ for Salzburg (the ‘peak-season’ being the ski season) and with just our hand luggage and no passport control we were quickly through to the stop for the city-bound tram.
The tram takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the city centre and about 25 minutes to Salzburg Hauptbahnhof near which was our hostel for the night. Throughout this trip we stayed with A&O Hostels, which although not the cheapest, we had both stayed with before and had found were reasonably priced and provided clean, comfortable rooms. Also, in all three cities the hostels were easily accessible from the city centre and so allowed us to enjoy the evenings without having to worry too much about transport.
Our stay in Salzburg was just for one night, with it being a city we had both previously explored, so we headed straight into the city centre to maximise our time. My father is notorious for meticulous planning of holiday and produces an infamous ‘white folder’ for each trip containing things to do, suggestions on where to eat and travel information etc. Unfortunately, on this occasion the folder let us down and the two restaurants we tried were either overly busy or closed for the day. After working up an appetite hiking around the city centre, we went for what we knew was a safe bet and headed to a restaurant we had eaten at during our last visit to the city (read about that trip here.) Following our exhausting day of travelling, we headed back to the hostel for some sleep, in preparation for what we knew was going to be another long day and the main purpose for our trip to Salzburg, a visit to Red Bull’s Hanger 7.
Hanger 7 is on the east side of the airfield, across the runway from the commercial airport terminal. The rather futuristic looking glass & steel construction is home to the Flying Bulls display team and contains a display of various Red Bull racing cars, bikes and aircraft. The Flying Bulls team maintenance facility is in the adjacent hanger 8 and the large glass windows allow views of aircraft using this facility as well as the wider airport. As well as containing numerous exhibits, Hanger 7 is also used as a events venue and contains a café, bar, restaurant and shop selling Red Bull merchandise.
Although extremely interesting and well worth a visit, Hanger 7 only takes a couple of hours to visit and fully take in, and so we headed back into the centre of Salzburg with a few hours left before our train to Munich. After the previous day’s debacle trying to find food, we abandoned the advice of the “white folder” and headed into the old town to find a traditional Bier Haus to eat at. Settling with the Zipfer Bierhaus on Universitätsplatz, we filled up on Austrian sausages and apple strudel before going for a final explore of the city en route to the Hauptbahnhof.
Arriving in Munich about 8pm, rather than venture into the city centre, we decided to grab a Currywurst from a vendor within the station before taking an S-Bahn train a few stops to our hostel. Of all the hostels on our trip, this was probably least practically located for the city centre, however, was en route to one of the museums we were planning to visit and so was a happy medium in that regard.
Our first destination in Munich was the Technology museum, part of the Deutsches Museum group, which is located on an island in the middle of the Isar river, near to Isartor ‘S-Bahn’ station. The museum has a range of exhibits covering all areas of technology from Transport and Communication to Materials, Energy, Humanity and the Environment. Whilst we visited primarily to view the Transport exhibit, which includes the only surviving example of a Wright Brother’s Standard Type A aircraft, we also explored some other parts of the museum including a replica brick production line which produces mini-bricks to be taken home as souvenirs!
Most of visit to Munich was going to be exploring the various museums of the Deutsches Museum group and so we headed to our next stop, the Verkehrszentrum or ‘Transport Centre’ which is the where most of the ground-based vehicles within the museums’ collection are displayed. The entrance to the museum is via a quiet square at the northern edge of Bavariapark, which oddly contained a statue of a giant snail with a traffic cone on its head! The sculpture is by the American artists Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy, and is officially called ‘Sweet Brown Snail’, but other than that I couldn’t find any info as to why it was there?!?
The Verkehrszentrum had three halls of exhibits with Hall 1 being dedicated to ‘Urban Traffic’ and had a mix of transport modes including subway cars, trams & buses as well as cars and lorries. In an area outside this hall the museum was also running cycling safety lessons for local school children in conjunction with the local police. There was the cab of a HGV set up within hall 1 to show to pedestrians and cyclists what a lorry driver can and cannot see in their mirrors and how dangerous it can be to be in a blind spot. From the basic information in English, I was extremely impressed with the museum’s work in regard to road safety and education.
Hall 2 of the Verkehrszentrum was dedicated to ‘travel’ and mainly contained railway related exhibits including a number of retired locomotives. The hall was well designed with both walkways between the trains and a mezzanine level allowing a view of the locomotives from above. There were also a number of smaller exhibits about freight within the hall and the evolution of rail travel and the railways within Germany. Crossing into hall 3 from the mezzanine level, officially the hall was dedicated to ‘mobility and technology’ and had a wide variety of exhibits from cars to a large model railway. This hall is also where the museum has its education centre and there was a variety of information regarding the evolution of the German motor industry on display.
Having finished exploring the museum we ventured back out to what we had named ‘Snail square’ and headed to the Bierhaus that we had spotted earlier in the day. With the weather being kind to us, as it had been for all of our stay in Europe so far, we decided to eat outside and ordered half a roasted pork knuckle (which came with delicious potato dumplings!) and one of the locally brewed Augustiner beers each. As with all of our meals, the traditional German dish tasted excellent, was relatively inexpensive and filling (although not to the extent that we couldn’t fit in our sixth Apple Strudel in five days!)
Our final day in Munich and of our European tour dawned with a dramatic turn in the weather. Having been overheating and liberally applying sunscreen throughout our stay we were greeted with an extremely grey and miserable day and a lot of rain! Typically, the final museum of our visit, the Flugwerft Schleissheim, was a 15-minute walk from the closest station and inevitably we arrived absolutely drenched! Based on a World War 1 airfield, the Flugwerft Schleissheim is another branch of the Deutsches Museum and contains the vast majority of the museums’ aviation collection. The museum was opened on the site in 1992 and is accommodated in a restored maintenance hangar and adjacent buildings.
The museum contains more than 110 exhibits ranging from aircraft engines and gliders to Cold War jet aircraft and rockets. The main hall is laid out surrounding its main attraction, a Dornier Do31. This vast aircraft takes up a large area of the floor space within the hall and the aircraft is open for exploration of the main deck and a view into the cockpit. In addition to the main exhibition hall, there is also a smaller hall in the restored hanger showing historic aircraft from throughout the airfield’s history, the old Operations building with an exhibit about meteorological forecasting and a smaller hanger in which the museum undertakes restoration of historic aircraft. The museum is well worth a visit, although if you’re travelling by public transport then I’d recommend checking the weather forecast due to the walk from the station.
With a few hours left before our flight, we headed to the airport to take a quick visit to the airport Visitors Park. This park is located a short walk from the ‘S-Bahn’ and can be accessed by alighting one stop before the airport terminals at Besucherpark station. There are a number of attractions at the Visitors Park ranging from historic aircraft to a restaurant and also a number of high points to view the airfield activities from. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing poor weather, we were unable to fully enjoy the Visitors Park and so headed to the terminals and viewing terrace located there (see this blog for a review of that!).
I thoroughly enjoyed our five-night European tour and would recommend that you undertake something similar if you get the opportunity. Ours was all self-organised and relatively inexpensive, however we stayed in hostels and didn’t take any hold luggage (bringing the flight cost down significantly). I’d recommend looking at the various order in which you can do any tour you plan as we ended up doing ours in reverse to our original plan due to the limited days that we could fly from Berlin to Salzburg. I have visited a number of German cities and always thoroughly enjoyed my time in them, and Salzburg provides a wonderful taste of Austrian culture and history.