Saturday, 27 June 2015


We had been wanting to visit Berlin for as long as we can remember and late last year we were planning our trips for 2015 and we thought it would be fun to plan a short break in the city.  Our daughter was really keen to come with us as German is one of the languages she is studying at University, so we decided to book our trip for when she had broken up for the summer.

As this was primarily a sightseeing trip we decided to short-list just a handful of must-do caches, half a dozen max (quality not quantity) .... to which Mark mysteriously added some Wherigos for the last day

So this is a blog about some of the places we visited on our 4-night break and the very few caches that we found.


We got up at the ridiculous hour of 3am and left the house just over an hour later for our flight from East Midlands airport at 6.30am.

Arrived at 9am CET at Berlin Schönefeld airport.

Even though we would be using mainly public transport in the city we decided to hire a car just to make things a little easier and to give us a bit more freedom ... also we got a good deal from the hire company .  The funny thing was that we'd booked a polo-sized car (not the mint ) and the girl on the desk asked if we needed a larger car, we said it would be fine unless the upgrade was free-of-charge of course, to which she replied 'nein'.  She also asked if we needed GPS etc etc but we said we didn't, when she realised that we weren't going to be talked into an upgrade at extra cost she then handed over the keys to a shiny new Ford Focus Estate complete with built-in sat nav!  Not bad at all, a nice free upgrade.


First stop on our sightseeing itinerary was Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, this immense park is situated 25 miles south west from Central Berlin in the city of Potsdam and according to the Lonely Planet guide book is the most popular day trip from Berlin.  It's been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1990, along with all of its other buildings.
The New Palace

Here's just a little bit of the history - Sanssouci Palace was the idea of Frederick the Great (1712-86), it was his favourite summer retreat, a place he could be 'sans souci' (without cares) and is an example of what happens when a king has good taste, plenty of money and access to the best architects and artists of that time.
Chinese House
We spent the rest of the day in Potsdam wandering around and exploring the park - there was a good 2km walk between each palace so we clocked up a few kms by the end of the day.  We found just two caches as we happened to be walking near them in the park.


Woke up to torrential rain which was far from ideal for city sightseeing but I'd already pre-booked tickets for the Reichstag Building weeks ago and these couldn't be changed so we had no option but to head out in the rain and make the best of it.  Once we were out in it it wasn't too bad and we managed to avoid getting too wet by stopping for regular Kaffee and Kuchen breaks.


The Reichstag building is the seat of the German parliament and probably most well known to tourists for its elaborate hi-tech glass dome.

The security to get into the building itself was tighter than at an airport!  The large glass dome at the top of the Reichstag building has a 360 degree view of Berlin city - although it was hard to make out any landmarks due to the torrential rain but we got the general idea.  The glass dome serves more than just a decorative purpose and tourist attraction - it has 366 angled mirrors which deflect daylight down into the parliament chambers below.

The visit was really interesting and included a free audio guide to listen to as we walked up the spiral walkway to the top of the dome and back down again.

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)

Brandenburg Gate is probably the most famous landmark in Germany and is frequently used as a backdrop for news broadcasts and travel guides so we were really pleased to finally see it in real life.  There was an earthcache here too so we gathered the information as we looked around and took photos before moving on to the Holocaust Memorial.
Brandenburg Gate
The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial  to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  The 2711 concrete slabs (stelae) are arranged in a grid pattern on the 19,000 m2 sloping site.
Holocaust Memorial

A quick look around the Sony Centre then onto the Lego Discovery Centre where there is a very well known cache outside - incidentally this was featured on's blog and FB page only the day before - this cache is a must-do as it is the most favourited traditional cache in the world with 5866 favourite points so far.  We'd been searching a couple of minutes when we were joined by Robriki from the US so we all searched together and luckily Mark made the find after 5 mins - brilliant and definitely worthy of another favourite point.

The Topography of Terrors is an outdoor and indoor museum on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime, from 1933 to 1945, were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS.  A very interesting, informative and moving exhibition, we spent a couple of hours here before moving on to Checkpoint Charlie.

Topography of Terrors

Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War and has become one of Berlin's primary tourist attractions. Tourists can have their photographs taken for a fee with fake US soldiers dressed in military uniform standing in front of the guard house. The whole area was a little over-commercialised for my liking which is a shame but it's what we were expecting as the guide books had warned of this.

There is also the most favourited virtual in the world here so another must-do. 


We spent most of the day hopping on and off the U-Bahn:

Our first stop was The Berlin Wall Memorial - which is situated at the historic site on Bernauer Strasse, it extends along 1.4 kms of the former border strip. The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it.  You are able to see how the border fortifications were developed and maintained until the end of the 1980s.  The free to enter visitor centre screened two really interesting and informative 15-minute films which explained perfectly the origins and the eventual fall of the wall.

The area also has a memorial to the 138 people who were were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the East German border regime between 1961 and 1989.
Memorial to the Victims at the Wall

Very moving when you realised just how young some of the victims were.

We also completed a short multi here that has been on our to-do list ever since we first started caching, over the years we've been watching it, it has been disabled and re-enabled several times so we were glad it was in place for us to find today.
Stasi Museum Entrance

Continuing our tour of the more grim side of Berlin History and landmarks we visited the Stasi Museum.

The museum is housed in the original Haus 1 building of the Stasi Headquarters - the Stasi took over a vast number of buildings but only Haus 1 was open as a museum.  The fixtures and fittings are as it was when they abandoned it in 1990 although they wouldn't look out of place in a 1960s John le Carré film adaptation.

The museum was spread over several floors but a rather vast amount of space was given over to the history of the organisation and the leaders with only a small number of counter espionage devices on show but it was extremely interesting all the same.


After a wet couple of days finally the sun came out today.  We took a trip out to the East Side Gallery.  The Gallery is 1316 metres long and consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world including the well known Brezhnev and Honecker painting.  It is the longest segment of the Berlin Wall still standing.  It was painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall.  It is thought to be the largest and longest-lasting open air gallery in the world.  The paintings depict hopes for a better future for people all over the world.  Over the years many of the images became greatly weathered and in 2009 forty of the murals were restored. Here are a selection of photos:

So, having been on the U-Bahn, buses and trams, we now decided to give the S-Bahn a go. The S-Bahn is a rapid transit light railway dating from the 1930s and we reckon some of the rolling stock dated from then as well! To all intents and purposes it operates the same as the U-Bahn with sections running both above and below ground.

We took the S-Bahn back up to Alexanderplatz and then made our way to The Dom

and then the Radisson Blu hotel - not to check in , but just to check-out the enormous aquarium in the reception area

Radisson Blu Giant Aquarium

Next stop was a stroll around the Tiergarten which is a 520-acre urban public park located in the middle of the former West Berlin.

As we walked up the Unter den Linden towards Brandenburg Tor we became aware that there was a high Police presence and quite a few news crews and photographers in the area so we approached one of the photographers to ask what was going on and he said that they were waiting for the Queen to arrive but they didn't know when, we stood around and waited for a little while but as there was no sign of her we continued on our way.  We had just crossed over from Brandenburg Gate when all of a sudden the traffic stopped and all fell quiet so when a Police helicopter flew over we knew her arrival must be imminent so we stood around and within a few minutes she went past in her Bentley.

We spent the rest of the day just generally chilling out and enjoying this great city before heading back to our apartment ready to pack for an early start on Friday morning to get our flight back home.

All in all a brilliant few days away in a fantastic city.  We would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys sightseeing with one or two quality caches thrown in .

Now where to next?...........

Monday, 8 June 2015

Giga Event Xanten

The Plan

We really enjoyed the last two Giga events in Munich and Mainz and had considered attending  the Xanten Giga but we didn't know how feasible it would be to fit it in around other non-caching commitments so the decision to attend was only really made 3 weeks ago, in fact it was after chatting to some caching friends, Cache42bears, at the Mainz Giga event that we were persuaded to attend.  They told us what a great location it was going to be held at and that it was really worth a visit so when we arrived back home we decided to put the wheels in motion.   All our holiday and time off work has already been booked for this year so we knew that if we attended then it would have to be only for the weekend.  We managed to get flights from Luton to Dortmund for a fairly reasonable price so then we had a couple of weeks to plan our trip.

The actual drive from Dortmund airport to Xanten is only about 60 miles but that would have been far too easy for us   We had passed through Dortmund last year and had already done the nearby webcams so Mark had planned a different route further afield taking in three webcams and a couple of Wherigos and likewise, the return trip on Sunday would take in two webcams and as many Wherigos as possible.


We travelled down to Luton for our 16.10 flight, arriving in Dortmund an hour later!  We had booked a small hire car which we thought would be a Corsa or similar but when we went to pick it up we’d been given a free upgrade to a rather smart BMW – thanks Hertz!

We set off in the direction of Munster to do a webcam stopping to play a Wherigo on the way and as we approached the webcam we noticed there was someone behaving suspiciously like a cacher - it was Ovaron. We chatted while waiting for the picture to refresh and it turned out that he was a German cacher who lived in America, he had returned for the weekend and was finding mainly webcams.  It was nice to meet and chat to another cacher who was focussing on the rarer stuff.

The journey took a bit longer than planned and after stopping for another Wherigo and another webcam we started to get concerned that we wouldn't get to the accommodation before the arranged late check-in time between 11pm and midnight.

After experiencing such cold weather in the UK for so long it was lovely to finally enjoy some sunshine.  The weather was a lovely warm 20 degrees, it had struggled to get above 10 degrees back at home this week. However, the downside of nicer weather is possible thunderstorms and we drove through a real beauty! It absolutely threw it down and each flash of lightning lit up the landscape to reveal silhouettes of the trees and hills...
11pm - Driving through the thunder and lightning storm

Our accommodation was at Landhaus Spickerman a guest house about 3 miles out of Xanten.  We finally checked in at midnight then up again at 6.30 ready for breakfast at 7.30.  As it turned out our accommodation was big enough to sleep 6 and was lovely and spacious.


Breakfast was served a couple of minutes drive away in a pub which was run by the guest house owners.  There were quite a few other cachers at breakfast so plenty of people to chat to and everyone was there to attend the Giga.

View from our room

We headed to the event next and as it was before 9am we joined the queue to buy tickets.  We had attempted to pre-book tickets but unfortunately the organisers didn't accept PayPal so there would have been a bank charge of around £9 so we had decided to risk it and purchase on the day but frustratingly this meant we weren't able to buy the official event geocoin.
Queue for the giga

We knew there would be bike hire available but we didn't hold out much hope as we hadn't pre-booked so we headed straight for the bike hire station after buying our entry tickets and we were in luck!  The bikes were brilliant fun and made very quick work of the 30 lab caches.  The lab caches had been released over the 3 days with the intention of doing 10 each day but we wanted to get them all done on the Saturday.

The venue for the Giga was the LVR-Archaeological Park in Xanten which was on the site of the ancient Roman city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana and is Germany´s biggest archaeological open-air museum, a very spacious area that could more than accommodate the number of geocachers attending. The partially reconstructed buildings had quite a surreal appearance.

The Lab caches were of three types, one set guided us around the town of Xanten itself  and involved answering questions relating to historic properties and locations.  The next set which we did simultaneously were available for just the one day and they had a Roman theme involving solving a puzzle at each one.  Some of these were pretty tough but the number of cachers meant the there was always someone to assist if need be and was a great way to get chatting to other cachers.

It's always good to bump into caching friends at these type of events and it was lovely to see cachers we know from back home in the UK... DesGStompy and Stampy, Linda of the_Dolans and Emma.  It was also really great to bump into our German caching friends Kikilotta who we first met at The Great War Mega Event, then bumped into them again in Munich and even at a CITO event in the UK!  It was lovely to meet up with Ovaron again, the German cacher we'd met yesterday at the webcam near Munster.
Event log book

After completing the two sets of Lab caches we embarked on the third set which were located around the Xantener Südsee (Xanten South Sea lake) and interwoven with a series of Traditional caches. We had planned just to circumnavigate the Südsee but as it was so much fun on the bikes and the weather so lovely we decided to go round the Nordsee  as well.

By now we'd work up quite an appetite - having only had a coffee and a piece of apple tart since breakfast so we handed back the bikes and headed to the cafe in the grounds of the park only to find they had just stopped serving hot food.  Oh well, Maccy's it is then!

We stopped off at McDonalds en route to webcam #3.

Is that the tallest McDonalds sign ever?

 On the way to the webcam I checked the picture on my phone and saw that it was virtually impossible to see anything due to the low sun so, to kill a bit of time we decided to play another Wherigo - of course!  A nice easy one and we were soon back at the webcam where the sun had dipped behind the buildings making for a much better picture.  Two more Wherigos before heading back to the our room. The end of a brilliant, fun-packed day and what has to be the best Giga event so far!


Bit off a lie-in until 7.30 as breakfast was served from 08:30 after which we headed south to the first Wherigo of the day.  We had half-planned to attend one of the four or five morning events but that didn't start until 10:30 and it would have meant killing time which would have been better spent doing... you guessed it, more Wherigos and Webcams

The next webcam was in a market square in an area of Düsseldorf .  We couldn't find anywhere to park again so I had to jump out to get the picture while Mark waited with the car hoping that we weren't going to get a telling off, the picture only refreshed every 10 mins but luckily I got there on the 9th minute! The next webcam was a similar situation and it was even busier this time so another one grabbed quickly by myself and with this one the picture refreshed every every few seconds.

Just time for a few more Wherigos on the way back to the airport.  By the time we handed back the hire car we'd driven 330 miles and used about  £27 worth of diesel.  Pretty impressive as we weren't exactly crawling along on the autobahns!

So, back on the plane to Luton and then home to start planning the next trip...

Can't wait!