Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe Hotel – Dominican Republic – a poor arrival experience


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5th December update: I didn’t hear anything back from the hotel director – it’s not clear whether my messages have been passed on or not. The Club Premium desk won’t confirm receipt of my emails. On a positive note we now have the complimentary bottle of rum were also given a late checkout to 6pm without charge – I thought it might be $50. The hotel grounds and beach are beautiful, the staff (with a few exceptions) friendly and helpful, the restaurant food is good quality although there are plenty of flies around and I’ve tended to stick to fresh-cooked dishes rather than those left sitting uncovered.

I’ll be reviewing this hotel (which has plenty of positives) when I return from my holiday, but wanted to describe the poor experience when we arrived on Thursday 29th November.


We booked and paid in full for an Ocean Front Junior Suite with Club Premium, direct with Barcelo where I’m a MyBarcelo mid-tier member. This was our second visit to the hotel and we’d previously booked the same level suite.

On arrival, we were pressured to accept a lower-grade ‘block 1’ ground-floor room. It took over two hours before a suitable room was provided and then only after I googled the name of the hotel director and told staff that I was going to call him. We eventually got to bed at what was for us 4am.

I’ve written to the hotel director with a link to this article and will update with the response.

Full Story

The Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe Hotel is all-inclusive and ‘Premium’. ‘Premium’ hotels also have a ‘Club Premium’ that provides a separate guest lounge, high-end drinks, free use of the al la carte restaurants and some other benefits.

We’d previously stayed at this hotel in March 2014 for five nights, all-inclusive, Ocean Front Junior Suite with Club Premium – I wrote a glowing review at the time and copied the same to my trip advisor account.

This time I booked the same but for seven nights. We flew BA Prague – London – Punta Cana and got to the hotel at 20:15 Thursday evening. I’d booked the hotel direct with Barceló where I have their mid-tier status (doesn’t offer that much) and paid in full in advance.

We were tired but relaxed when we arrived – it was nice to be back at a familiar hotel we’d previously enjoyed. We headed straight for the club premium check in.

I explained to the lady on the desk that we were returning guests, last time stayed in suite 5370 and hoped to be near that location. She said that they had an ‘ even better’ room in block 1 (the closest block to the lower-level adults-only Bavaro Beach hotel) with a king bed instead of two doubles and we’d benefit from being away from the kids. I replied that if I’d have wanted to book the adults-only Bavaro Beach sister hotel then I would have done that – but we liked the block 5 location. Then we were told dismissively that there weren’t any suites available in those blocks.

After some more discussion, we reluctantly agreed to take the keys – although I said I’d be back if the room wasn’t suitable.

It was a ten minute walk to the room in block 1 – our porter led the way. As soon as the door was opened we could see the room was a lower standard – it was also a ground floor room (which I should have guessed by the number if I wasn’t tired) – with the sea view blocked by a hedge and a shower facility. There were several mosquitoes on the ceiling. I don’t even believe this was a club premium room – but even if it was ‘officially’ a premium room, it didn’t look like one and certainly not like the one we’d previously enjoyed, nor the picture from the Barcelo website.

I went back the next day and took this picture of the view from the room – and yes I’m sure you think it still looks lovely, but that isn’t what we paid for.

We told the porter that the room wasn’t right and he called the club premium reception – I spoke to them and they said they’d see what could be done and they’d call back in a minute.

We waited ten minutes – I realised that any room change would require new keys and so I asked the porter to take us back. Another ten minute walk later and we were sitting with a friendlier lady who really seemed to be trying her best to accommodate us.

We’d lost maybe an hour – so for us it was now 2:15am.

Another 30 minutes past as the lady tried to sort out suitable accommodation for us. She was on the phone but nobody seemed to be doing much for her – or us. It seemed that a room had been found but was being ‘cleaned’.

Another 20 minutes and I said that we really needed to speak to a manager. We were desperately tired and nothing seemed to be happening. I searched on Google for the name of the hotel director and found ‘Javier Cordero Gilsanz’. I showed his name and said I’d like him to speak to us and if the hotel wouldn’t do that, I’d call him myself.

This had some effect and a surly manager named Elvis presented himself. I explained our issue, that we had arrived two hours ago and still didn’t have a suitable room. Elvis said “well you were offered a suitable room and just didn’t like it”. I was pretty angry. Elvis advised that they were working on cleaning the room. I asked how much longer and he shrugged. I asked how long room cleaning took – he said up to one hour. I said, well it’s been that already so it must be ready.

Eventually 5264 was made available. The porter, who had been waiting all this time took us there – I tipped him for the second time.

We eventually got to bed at what was for us 4am.

Here is the view from 5264.

I’m outraged that any customer would be treated this way, particularly a returning customer who booked direct with Barcelo. Let’s see what Mr. Javier Cordero Gilsanz says.

I also forgot to mention that there is normally a welcome bottle of rum in the room – I think on our last visit we also had some cava and glasses. Our room didn’t have this, maybe because of the late cleaning – but nobody fixed that yet and I must ask about it.

We’ve avoided the Club Premium lounge since as it just brings back bad memories.

If you are visiting this hotel, I’d recommend contacting them in advance to specify the room and block you want.

Martina Krupičková on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018


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The UK Sky Arts channel has two ‘Artist of the Year’ shows; Portrait and Landscape Artist of the Year. The format is the similar for both shows; a group of selected artists have to create an artwork within a set time and three judges choose the winner. The winning artists from each heat then move on to a semi-final and then final.

The first episode was aired in November 2013. The original presenters were Dame Joan Bakewell and Frank Skinner. This year, Frank Skinner was replaced by Stephen Mangan. The judges have remained the same throughout: British art historian, curator and arts broadcaster Kate Bryan, head of contemporary art at the Fine Art Society, Kathleen Soriano, director of exhibitions at the Royal Academy, and portrait/landscape painter Tai-Shan Schierenberg.

My partner, Martina Krupičková, was chosen to appear in this year’s screening of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year Season 4 Episode 6 first screened 8pm 20th November 2018. This was her submission painting.

Martina was asked to join seven other artists and paint Inveraray Castle on the shore of Loch Fyne in Scotland. All artists had to be on set by 7am and so we booked a stay at the nearby Loch Fyne Hotel.

We arrived the next morning and artists were given breakfast – guests of artists weren’t invited! Luckily I was able to go back to the hotel for a while and have a delicious breakfast. When I returned, Martina was in one of the pods – still time to arrange the easel positon and oil paints.

This was how things looked from the pod.

Here are the pods looking back from the castle.

As the day progressed, the presenters and judges interviewed the various artists. Martina was interviewed by Dame Joan Bakewell and Tai-Shan Schierenberg – only the Dame Joan interview was included in the show. The four-hour timer is stopped for interviews and lunch.

I was also invited to interview with Dame Joan Bakewell and spent about ten minutes on camera. I obviously don’t have star quality as none of that was included in the show. It was still fun though.

Martina’s painting was progressing quite well.

The judges met to discuss their opinions of the artwork produced so far.

All too quickly the day was over and there was the familiar call for artists to put down their equipment and step away from their work.

Martina’s finished painting.

Visitors took photos.

The artists lined up on the other side of the castle and waited for the judging to be announced.

Sadly Martina wasn’t chosen, but we enjoyed the experience.

The Sky team wrapped Martina’s painting for transport.

We arrived back at the hotel at 7pm – a long 12-hour day for the artists. At least there weren’t any midges biting while we were there.

Martina Krupičková

SpaceX Falcon 9 Es’hail-2 Mission – Launched 15:46 EST 15th November 2018


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SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Es’hail-2 satellite, from the Kennedy Space Centre Florida today (Thursday November 15th 2018).

I watched the launch from Max Brewer Bridge and Parrish Park, Titusville. I recorded a video on my phone – the video isn’t that good as I wanted to actually watch the rocket and not on my screen. You may also be disappointed at how far the rocket is away from my viewpoint, despite this being the best location outside the space centre.

I used this site to discover places where I could view

The Falcon 9 rocket is re-usable – in December 2015, Falcon 9 became the first rocket to land propulsively after delivering a payload to orbit. Today, 16th November 2018, following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 landed perfectly on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1960s. Originally built to support the Apollo program, LC-39A supported the first Saturn V launch (Apollo 4), and many subsequent Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 in July 1969. Beginning in the late 1970s, LC-39A was modified to support Space Shuttle launches, hosting the first and last shuttle missions to orbit in 1981 and 2011 respectively.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease with NASA for the use of historic LC-39A. Since then, the company has made significant upgrades to modernize the pad’s structures and ground systems, while also preserving its important heritage. Extensive modifications to LC-39A have been made to support launches of both commercial and crew missions on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles.


Here is a replay of the launch webcast.

Here is the official mission patch:

Arby’s Fast Food Restaurant Chain


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Arby’s was founded in Boardman, Ohio, on July 23, 1964, by Forrest and Leroy Raffel, owners of a restaurant equipment business who thought there was a market opportunity for a fast food franchise based on a food other than hamburgers. The  name ‘Arby’s’ is based on RB (Raffel Brothers). There are now 3,342 outlets almost all in the USA.

I’ve been visiting the USA since 1978 but only tried Arby’s this last week while in Florida – specifically the Arby’s on 6296 West Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy. Celebration, FL 34747.

Arby’s sell a variety of meat sandwiches – their slogan is ‘We Have The Meats’® . In 2015 they opened a support line for Vegetarians who were tempted to go to Arby’s – 1-855-MEAT-HLP.

There is a bell by the door and Arbys encourage customers to ring the bell when they have experienced good food and service.

We tried a classic Beef and Cheddar sandwich

and a Greek Gyro

Both really delicious and pretty good value compared to the other fast food chains. I’m amazed how the market outside the USA is dominated by McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Subway, whereas the best fast food is In-N-Out Burger, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and now I’ve found Arby’s. Don’t forget to ring the bell!

95 Years of CSA Czech Airlines Cabin Crew Uniforms


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Czech Airlines is the World’s fifth oldest airline still in operation. The airline was founded on October 6th 1923 – it was originally called ČSA Československé státní aerolinie (Czechoslovak State Airlines).

Just in case you wondered about the older airlines: KLM (1919), Aviatica (1919), Qantas (1920) and Aeroflot (1923).

To celebrate their 95th birthday, Czech Airlines produced a video that shows changes in cabin crew uniforms over the last 95 years. The Czech Republic doesn’t suffer from unnecessary political correctness and so you’ll find only female cabin crew featured.

Models used in the video are real Czech Airlines cabin crew members.

Flying during a firework display


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On November 5th 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding explosives that were placed beneath the UK House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Since the UK has celebrated Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night with bonfires and fireworks.

When I was young, we would made a fill-size ‘Guy’ effigy from old clothes stuffed with newspaper. We’d then wheel him around the streets in an old pram begging change ‘Penny for the Guy Mister?’ from passers by. Come the 5th we’d sit him atop the bonfire – not surprisingly that doesn’t happen much these days.

You may have wondered what it’s like to fly on a commercial jet flight during a firework display. Is there any danger? Would you see fireworks whizzing past the window? The answer is probably not.

Most store-bought fireworks only reach 400 feet/121 metres, display-grade fireworks can reach at most 1400 feet/426 metres. A typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft is 35,000 feet/10km. Obviously as they come into land, they get lower and for that reason, there aren’t major firework displays close to airports.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority asks display organisers to register their displays and pilots are notified. Nonetheless, since 2000, fireworks have struck at least eight aircraft as they landed at UK airports. The pilots of a further 28 passenger jets reported fireworks exploding in close proximity, often dazzling flight crew during critical phases of flight. All reported incidents happened in late October and early November.

Endangering an aircraft with fireworks can lead to criminal charges. In 2006, a 20-year-old man was convicted by the Scottish Crown Office after setting off fireworks in his garden under the approach to Edinburgh Airport.

I’ve flown before on around the 5th November and have seen some dazzling displays beneath me – usually the top of the mushroom. I’m flying British Airways to London this evening and have a window seat reserved. I’m going to attempt to film the fireworks from above and post here afterwards. It may be that it’s too cloudy or I just don’t see any – I’ll update the post either way.

Post-flight update: The sky was quite clear but there weren’t many fireworks. This first video shows some fireworks a long way below.

I then waited until we were much lower but there were even less fireworks – still you may enjoy watching the flight land.

Crispin Glover’s Chateau (Zámek), Konárovice, Czech Republic


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Crispin Glover is an American actor known for playing eccentric roles such as George McFly in Back to the Future and the Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels. Here is a classic scene from Back to the Future where George tries to tell Lorraine that he is her destiny.

I found Crispin’s chateau (zámek in Czech) on AirBnB and decided to book two nights there end of June 2018. The Airbnb account is managed by someone called Anna-Michaela, she advised that all the double rooms were under reconstruction but could offer two singles with a connecting door – we decided to take them. It was quite expensive considering the location:

$121.47 × 2 nights $242.94
Cleaning fees $42.51
Airbnb service fee (includes VAT) $43.60
Total: $329.05

That’s the sort of price you’d pay for two nights in a five-star hotel in Prague. But we thought, hey, this is a chateau and probably pretty nice if Crispin Glover owns the place.

The day of our booking arrived and we took the train from Prague to Kolín – journey less than an hour. A taxi from Kolín to the chateau in Konárovice was 150/200Kc and took about 15 minutes before we found ourselves outside the electric gates just before 4pm.

The path led to the main chateau building which looked impressive. Anna-Michaela met us and pressed a button to open the main doors.

The building is on two floors, surrounding a square courtyard. Anna-Michaela was friendly but a little bit ‘away with the fairies’. She explained that her and her Mother often spend several of the Summer months at the chateau, although there is someone else who manages the place and it’s maintenance/reconstruction full time.

We were taken on a small tour. The kitchen was a little more rustic than we had anticipated. We’d brought some food and put that in the fridge.

Our rooms were odd; weird furniture, dusty floor with some dead bugs, cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. I should have said something about cleanliness at that point but we didn’t want to make a fuss. The first room had a narrow single bed within a wooden unit.

A connecting door led to the second room; more weird furniture, narrow bed, dust and cobwebs. Both rooms had their windows wide open and so there were a number of flies circling. Luckily I’d brought my electric bug zapper racquet so I knew I’d be able to dispatch them later.

Another connecting door led to a huge black bathroom, with several washbasins, showers and toilet cubicles. Imagine a black toilet basin and seat in a black cubicle.  Even the light switches were black.

It felt like we’d arrived the Addams Family house.

I asked about the odd furniture and all black bathrooms. Anna-Michaela said that the ‘owner’ went to local auctions and bought unusual furniture. The ‘owner’ also wanted all the bathrooms black. There was never any mention of Crispin Glover and so we didn’t mention him either.

The tour had lasted almost an hour and we were keen to pick up some provisions, especially wine and beer. Anna-Michaela directed us to the local mini-market. We went out through the electric doors….

…through the electric gates…

…only to find that the mini-market had closed five minutes earlier. The shop closes at 5pm weekdays and noon on Saturday. If you decide to stay here, bring provisions or ensure you make it to the shop in time.

We closed the windows in our rooms and spent 30 minutes with the electric bug racquet taking out the flies. Then took a walk around the grounds.

There are quite a few peacocks wandering around.

An old church that looks un-used is next door.

There’s obviously a regular gardener maintaining the grounds.

Steps lead down to a small lake with swans.

It is a really unusual and interesting place.

We went back inside and explored the corridors and upper floors before heating up some food in the grubby kitchen oven. Wherever we found ourselves in the chateau, Anna-Michaela would magically appear – it was a little disconcerting and I decided that she must be using a secret network of corridors and paintings with moving eyes!

We took a stroll through the village and discovered that there was a celebration at the local sports ground. There was a barbeque, country-music band and best of all Czech beer.

The evening sky was amazing.

Back in our spooky room, we pulled back the bedding of the first bed to find at least 15 moths and killed them. We then tried to take a shower but there was no hot water. I messaged Anna-Michaela about the moths and hot water and she came very quickly. After first initially offering the use of her shower, which we declined, she realised that the hot water had been turned off and resolved the issue – she also replaced the bedding. I decided to discuss the overall cleanliness – Anna-Michaela observed that perhaps she should be stricter with the cleaning lady.

We both slept badly. The beds were uncomfortable. I was already creeped out about the moths and other bugs, then I was buzzed by a mosquito. It took 15 minutes to find it and zap it with the racquet. Back to bed. Another buzzing in my ear. Another 15 minutes. This happened three times. I was getting so desperate that I was thinking to call a friend in Prague and ask if they would come and get us. At first light we were woken to sound of peacocks.

We decided to leave the next morning after the breakfast we’d brought with us. Anna-Michaela, with her flower-child demeanour, was mystified by our desire to leave – she said that she wore earplugs so the mosquitoes didn’t disturb her. I asked if she was bitten and she said ‘Oh yes, all the time!’.

We were worried about importing the moths back to our home and had tried to keep all our clothes locked in our case – nonetheless we found some when we arrived home and put everything we had with us in the washing machine.

I realise that this is an old chateau and not a modern five-star hotel, but the prices charged should mean at least a clean room, working shower and absence of insect infestation. Finding the moths among our clothes at home was the final straw and I requested a refund via AirBnB. In the end we agreed to a two-thirds refund.

Obviously, I’d never stay again. But, if you want to stay somewhere really unusual or you’re a fan of Crispin Glover and you don’t mind paying hotel prices to rough it, this chateau may be of interest to you.

Anna-Michaela’s Airbnb page:

Crispin Glover’s website: – it’s an odd website that looks like it was made in the early days of HTML, but maybe that’s the look he was after?

Lime Electric Scooters arrive in Prague, Czech Republic


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26th October 2018 update: Lime Scooters ‘temporarily’ banned by Prague 2. Apparently, Lime didn’t ask Prague 2 before deploying the scooters also Prague 2 residents have been complaining about riding on pavements and leaving scooters in a random places. The Prague 2 website (in Czech) has the announcement

I checked the Lime app this morning and found that Prague 2 is now shown in pink (see below) – still quite a few scooters are parked there, but I guess these will be swept up by the Lime ‘juicers’ – those paid by Lime to pick up and recharge scooters. I’m not sure what happens if you drive a scooter into the ‘red’ zone – it would be very sci-fi if the thing refused to move into the zone eh?

Original Post from 17th October 2018:

Lime green electric scooters have appeared in Prague over the last few weeks. People whizz past on them. You can spot them parked unattended in the streets and nobody seems to steal them. I decided to find out what the deal is with these scooters.

I found – quite smart to use the .me extension to make the word lime as I’m sure would cost a lot more. It turns out that this US company has placed electric scooters across the US and now Europe.

I downloaded the Lime app from the app store, entered my details and looked for a scooter.

I’m amazed at how many scooters I could find, although several looked a bit low on battery.

I found a scooter and clicked ‘scan to ride’ – there was a QR code on the scooter. The Lime app linked with Apple Pay and took 25Kc. The app also warned that I needed to obey local regulations, be over 18 and have a full driving licence. It’s a bit surprising that I was able to get so far without anyone actually verifying my age or driver status. I also have no idea what the local regulations are for riding an electric scooter in Prague.

I decided to take the scooter to a quiet side street – it started beeping and I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. Then some guy appeared and asked if I’d rented the scooter and did I need some help. I was initially amazed that they had people around to assist – but then it turned out he was just some guy who wanted to rent the scooter and had pressed the bell button in the app in order to find it.

First issue with Lime: It doesn’t look like you can reserve a nearby scooter so it’s still there when you find it. You could see one on the map, walk to it, only to find that it’s been rented.

I rode the scooter – controls were quite easy, just accelerate and brake. The cobbled streets of Prague made the journey a bone-shaking experience.

Second issue with Lime: I don’t think they’ve considered the terrain in Prague.

I decided to park the scooter. This ‘How to Park’ Matrix-inspired video is pretty good, although it talks about cycles rather than scooters:

I left the scooter on a wide pavement and clicked ‘lock’ and ‘end ride’ in the app.

Within seconds, a couple, one on a Lime scooter, one running, had rented the scooter. They drove off and didn’t seem to mind being shaken about.

Well I have the Lime app now and I assume it works for any Lime scooter in any city. I’m not sure if I’d bother renting another scooter in Prague, unless it was to ride around a park that had smooth paths. But if I found myself somewhere else, I might use Lime for sightseeing.

The Documentation Centre, Nuremberg, Germany


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Our visit to the Documentation Centre was part of our German Road trip (that page has links to all the hotels, restaurants and places visited).

I would say by far the most interesting places to the visit in Nuremberg are the old Nazi rally grounds (Zeppelinfeld) and the Documentation Centre. We were staying at the Hilton Nuremberg, which is walking distance to both – we visited the rally grounds first. If you are travelling from the centre, there is a tram that stops just outside the Documentation Centre – you then need to walk around the lake to the rally grounds.

The Documentation Centre has a modern entrance.

Admission is 6.00 € and that includes an audio guide – you enter the number shown on the area you are viewing for audio description in multiple languages.

The centre contains some harrowing historical scenes, some posters and memorabilia and a record of war crimes.

I thought this first picture was interesting as there was a small child calmly sitting next to it,  This despite the Documentation Center website advice: The exhibition at the Documentation Center is not suitable for children under the age of 14.

I suppose the history can’t be considered complete without this reference.

This art installation that shows the names (on cards) of those sent to concentration camps

All the installations are presented really well.

There is also a terrace where you can look out to the Congress Hall.

You exit the centre via a long sloping walkway.

We stumbled into a room behind the café with supporting columns and an alternate view of the sloping walkway.

But someone from the museum appeared and made it clear that this wasn’t open to the public. I’d love to take a tour of the hidden spaces.

If you turn left at the exit, you can walk around to the Congress Hall entrance – there isn’t any signposting and you find yourself walking along a deserted portico.

That leads to the entrance.

Inside the place is vast – the plan was to add a roof, but the war was over before that happened.

Here is a 360 video that I took while there:

We retraced our steps and returned to our hotel.

I would definitely recommend a visit but make sure you visit the parts that are unpackaged; Congress Hall and Rally Grounds.

Documentation Center
Bayernstraße 110
90478 Nuremberg

Admission 6.00 Euro

Monday to Friday: 9 am – 6 pm
Saturday, Sunday, holidays: 10 am – 6 pm
Last admission 5 pm

The Former Nazi Rally Grounds (Zeppelinfeld), Nuremberg, Germany


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Our visit to the Rally Grounds and Documentation Centre was part of our German Road trip (that page has links to all the hotels, restaurants and places visited).

I would say by far the most interesting places to the visit in Nuremberg are the old Nazi rally grounds (Zeppelinfeld)and the Documentation Centre. We were staying at the Hilton Nuremberg, which is walking distance to both. If you are travelling from the centre, there is a tram that stops just outside the Documentation Centre – you then need to walk around the lake to the rally grounds.

What is interesting, although understandable, is how the rally grounds aren’t part of any tour, nor are they signposted when you visit the Documentation Centre. Equally, the huge Congress Hall, that the Documentation Centre is attached to, is something you need to find by yourself.

From the Hilton Nuremberg, we turned right, under a railway bridge, then right again to reach the rally grounds.

At the front of the building, there was a sign that said ‘Enter at your own risk’. I suppose because the steps have been left to deteriorate and some are now broken and uneven.

The place was pretty deserted. The old rally grounds now sports fields.


It’s amazing how accessible the place is – you can easily stand on the main plinth and imagine looking out on the rallies.

There was a small information poster at the top of the steps.

An image on glass allows you to look back in history.

The building used to have a large swastika at the top – this was blown up by the allied forces.

On either side of the parade grounds are building that provided toilets and a place for the large lights that shone upwards.

Having past the rally grounds, we followed a path around a lake. The Documentation Centre and Colosseum on the other side.

The Documentation Centre review is here.