Monday, August 2, 2010

Long recap of my Eurotrip

Let's take a journey...

July 9- I arrived at the airport and was greeted by an authentic German band playing for the people exiting the International terminal. Took a drive back to Regensburg. During the drive I was watching the corn, wheat and hops fields. There is a lot of countryside in Germany.

We arrived at Alex and Tanya’s and they had already begun preparing a wonderful BBQ spread for us. After dinner (and a MUCH NEEDED shower) we headed into Regensburg. Regensburg was a beautifully kept city with cobble stone road, nice-looking residences with flowers in the window boxes and of course history. The city has a beautiful cathedral and an old bridge (Alex said it was from the 12th century). There was a jazz festival going on so there was literally thousands of people walking the streets enjoying their gelato and beer. Around midnight I was too tired and we had to go home.

July 10- Today we drove from Regensburg to Gemund. We stopped at an ancient castle forlunch (I think Chris said it was the oldest in all of Germany).

I got to see a lot of the countryside. We had dinner at local hotel (not where we were staying) when we arrived to Gemund to watch the Germany vs. Uruguay game of the World Cup. Germany won! Gemund, which is in Eifel National Park, is where our timeshare was. It was on the top floor with no A/C! Big thunderstorm this night kept me awake an extra hour!

July 11- Today we drove to Maastricht, Holland tour around the Dutch town for a few hours. Man it was HOT, but we saw some lovely churches, ate lunch on the waterfront and walked clear across the town, taking in the vibe.

Then we drove 45 minutes away to Eindhoven (a larger city). We parked near the city center, preparing for the Holland vs. Spain final for the World Cup. We walked around the soccer craziness for an hour waiting to meet up with Martin (Alex’s dad) and Alex for dinner. Once we had diner, we headed to enclosed square before game. With many sweaty/drunk people rubbing up against us to get by, Cathy and I decided this particular square was too crowded.

We left, Chris, Alex and Martin and headed to a more open square. After a completely scoreless game (with half the crowd leaving at halftime) Holland loses. Despite the loss I was so grateful for the wonderful experience. I had no idea what the world cup really meant to everyone else in the world. Long three hour drive home this night, did not hit the hay until 2 a.m.

July 12- Chris had to renew his passport at the US Embassy outside of Germany so we traveled to Brussels, Belgium for the day. Long three hour drive. When we arrive we are in the business part of the city. Cathy and I walk from historic looking monument, to a church to the city hall. We walked for almost three hours!

Got lost trying to meet Chris back at the car, walking through similar looking residential neighborhoods. Overall impression of Belgium, nothing is really Belgian, but French, Greek or something else –one big melting pot. We ended our visit with a quick stop to the World Fair Atomium display which was built in the 1960s. On the drive home we stopped in a small town for Belgian fast food.

July 13- Today we went into town at Gemund and visited the shops in the main street. I checked out the leather store, but all their purses were from Italy, so I didn’t buy anything. We had lunch in town then headed to a local pool facility where we swam at an indoor/outdoor pool. That night we relaxed, watched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Chris cooked us dinner at the timeshare.

July 14- Today we began our day after a lengthy drive to the fortress city Huesden in Holland. Huesden was a city surrounded by a moat. We walked around its cobblestone streets, took photos of the remains of the old castle (which unfortunately was covered in graffiti) and had lunch in one of the main squares.

After lunch we headed toward Kinderdijk, the town with the amazing windmills. We took a long walk in the muggy weather toward the windmills and once we arrived we walked up a path, which was situated between the two rows of windmills. Chris told us that in WWII the windmills were pointed in a particular direction to guide the planes one way or the other. We were going to head to the coast after the windmills, but we were tired and weather started looking rather ominous. On our way home we drove in about an hour in a large thunderstorm with strong winds.

July 15- Only an hour’s drive away, this day we set out toward the fourth largest city in Germany – Cologne, or Koln. After parking we took the subway into the city center and were immediately awe struck walking out of the subway station to the main cathedral. The cathedral was gigantic and beautiful in the noon sun. We spent about an hour walking around the interior of the cathedral, admiring the stained class, mosaics and other various tributes of art.

Cathy and I then went shopping for about an hour down the main shopping drag. Later, we took a train tour of the city and just missed going to the chocolate factory (which had literally closed three minutes before we arrived). Then we met up with Alex and Martin again and sat out at a beer garden and talked for awhile. Chris and Martin put away many of the little glasses of local beer they were serving.

July 16- Today, being the last full day at the time-share, I wanted to spend relaxing (because the rest of the trip I knew we would be on the move). So after a morning spent sleeping in (SO needed), we all headed into to town for a nice lunch. After lunch we returned to the time-share and Cathy and Chris did some laundry while I read. NOTE: I did a lot of reading on this trip, perhaps I’ll do another post just talking about the books I read. Also I learned how to read in a moving vehicle without getting sick!) After laundry, Cathy and Chris did some geocaching and hiking and I continued being blissfully lost in my book.

July 17- Well rested after a day of relaxation, we got an early start today leaving Gemund and heading toward the Holland coast. Around lunchtime we arrived in Scheveningen and ate in the neighborhood’s international quarter (we had Italian). After lunch we walked to the beach, which was GORGEOUS. Had it been better weather I would have changed into my bathing suit and insisted we spend the day on the beach. Because it was so windy the coast was littered with wind surfers and kite surfers, so we spent awhile watching their tricks.

After we headed to Den Haag, the capital of Holland. We didn’t really get out of the car here, but we drove around a fair amount. After Den Haag, we drove to Delft, the city known for the blue and white porcelain Holland is so famous for. I’d have to say out of all of the places we went to, Delft was my favorite. We were there on a Saturday so there were all sorts of artists’ markets and farmers’ markets going on and every piece of property was practically waterfront because of all the canals. We stopped in the main square and had some afternoon tea. Delft really felt like a European town I could see myself living in if I had another life.

After Delft, we headed to Martin’s apartment in Rotterdam (Martin was traveling in Germany for the weekend with Alex). We were hungry and so we started walking in the neighborhoods around Martin’s apartment, we walked for about an hour until we found a decent place to eat dinner. We were quite the novelty there as we were all speaking English in what looked to be like a neighborhood restaurant in a non-toursity area of Holland. All in all I’d say this was my favorite day of the trip- a cute town, a beautiful beach and pleasant weather for the most part!

July 18-
Today we left Martin’s apartment and headed toward Amsterdam! We parked outside the main city at our hotel and headed into town via public transport. I love Amsterdam. The architecture was beautiful, all these old warehouses that have been converted in to gorgeous, narrow row homes. The first thing we did was take a tour of the city via boat.

The boat tour pointed out all the historical churches, the Ann Frank House, the great house boats, the interesting bridges and neighborhoods of interest. After the boat ride we stopped for lunch where we watched part of the top ten countdown on Holland’s music channel (we found this rather entertaining as none of us really watches music videos anymore). After walking around a bit we headed toward the Red Light District, which is an experience. There are literally women of all shapes, sizes and colors standing behind glass doors in lingerie trying to sell themselves. Oh and the air in this part of town is perfumed with weed wafting out of every dank bar you pass. One awesome thing about this neighborhood is that I turned a corner and tada! I found a fantastic leather shop where I bought my beautiful new purse (or as I like to call it – a writer’s bag)! After the Red Light District we hoofed it to the other side of town toward the Ann Frank House.

After waiting in line for 30ish minutes we were let inside and the museum was a really cool experience. I got to see where the families lived (which was so much space, in my humble opinion) and I got to see videos of people talking about the Franks and I got to see the actual diary and pages from it. It was a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city! It was getting to be close to dinner at this point so we returned to our hotel, checked in to the first and only air conditioned room of the entire trip, and then headed out to the artist’s square for dinner.

July 19- This morning before heading out of town we went to the Van Gogh Museum. I really enjoyed my time here, finding myself getting lost in the wonderful brush strokes and many different phases of Van Gogh’s life. It was so great to see so many Van Gogh pieces in one place. My one question about this museum, I know that he was Dutch but he studied in Den Haag and as far as I could tell he never went to Amsterdam. So why is the museum in this town? I never got my question answered, so I’m still wondering about it.

After the museum we got a quick lunch and hit the road for a six hour plus drive to Bad Saarrow, Germany where Chris’ dad and step-mom were staying. When we finally arrived, sometime around 9 p.m. we had a late dinner on the lake in Bad Saarow which Heiner and Michele. After that we went to their place on the lakefront and called it a night.

July 20- Today, exhausted after a long drive from the day before, we spent the day at the lake. Relaxing, reading and taking much needed naps. Cathy and I went for a swim in the large lake. We found that it was muddy and shallow for a long distance toward the center of the lake. The weather was finally mild, which was great for catching some rays! That night, once Heiner and Michele returned from the city, we all went out to eat at a Greek restaurant. This place was crazy. When you sat down they gave you a round of Ouzo (black licorice liquor), after salads they gave you another round, after your meal they give you a round of some other type of liquor. Chris and Heiner, because Michele, Cathy and I weren’t really having our shots, had the whole table’s shots split between them. Plus they had two tall beers. It was a fun night.

July 21- We started today off with Michele taking us on the train to Berlin. She was quite the tour guide and I feel by the end of the day we really did see a lot of the sights of Berlin. We started the day of in Alexanderplatz, which houses this tall landmark (a TV tower), which the locals call the Asparagus.

Throughout the day as we went to different landmarks, I could always tell where we began by looking for the Asparagus. We begun the day by going to the Berlin Wall museum – which featured the history of the wall and the only piece of the wall left standing. After the wall museum we got on a bus and Michele started pointing various things out to us on the bus. Then we had some lunch at a Kartoffelhaus (potato house) near the town’s city hall. In Berlin we did some shopping around, I think we went into four different H&M’s looking for Cathy’s great pants she got at the beginning of the trip. During our walking/bus tour we saw a number of landmarks, including the Berlin Cathedral, several embassy buildings, a church which still features some of the destruction from WWII boming (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), the Bradenburg Gate, the German parliament building, Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial, the Russian Memorial and the Teir Garten. It was a full day, I felt almost overwhelmed with all the sites of Berlin. And it was HOT, very hot and muggy.

July 22- Today we hit the road again, heading back toward Regensburg. On the way we stopped in the city of Dresden, most well known for being a city of civilians which was bombed during WWII. This town was full of dark, older building, mixed with white blocks. The white blocks were the restored parts of the old buildings and the black blocks were the parts of the original structure. They were definitely trying to modernize the city, while keeping its old European charm. We had lunch here and walked around for about an hour, listening to the various street musicians and taking in all the great sites.

After this we hit the road again for Regensburg, finally meeting up with Alex and Tanya for a nice Italian dinner outside of the center of Regensburg. Later that night there was another thunderstorm, while Cathy and I watched New Moon (and also checked out the German voices dubbed over the characters … interesting).

July 23- Today we toured around Regensburg, looking at the sites again (so I could take pictures during the day) and went shopping for various gifts. We ate lunch at a Beer Garden, with a gorgeous view of the cathedral and old bridge. Took a walk around the royal gardens on our shopping quest. It was raining on and off all day today. Alex cooked us dinner that evening and we spent the rest of the evening saying farewell to Chris’ family that lives in Regensburg.

July 24- Arrived at the Munich airport only to find our flight was delayed 2 and a half hours. Finally got home at about 9:30 p.m. Vacation over. Post over! You made it all the way through! Thanks for caring enough to read this WHOLE THING!