I had better write something about my last trip before I leave for the next one in May! My March adventure through the Beneluxstaten was the most exciting trip I’ve been on so far. We stayed no more than two nights at any one location, and we covered almost 700 miles by train! I met some new people, drank some good ale, ate some tasty chocolate, and explored 12 cities in four countries over only 11 days.
From the very beginning I could tell this would be a great trip. The day I left, my mother happened to be in town so she drove me to the airport. My direct flight to Frankfurt was rather empty, I had an entire row to myself, and I slept almost the whole way there. Upon arrival I hopped on the ICE richtung Mannheim. We had a little hiccup at the train station because the Angie got lost on the way to pick me up which caused her to be late. After we found each other, we drove to her grandmother’s house for some lunch with Angie, her mother, and her grandmother. After lunch it was back to the Mannheim train station and then off to Cologne to meet Angie’s friend Ju and to climb the very tall Cologne Dom.
After a night in Cologne at Ju’s place we were off to Amsterdam to meet Angie’s sister, Teresio. Two days in Amsterdam were filled with the Anne Frank house, tulip museum, Heineken experience, boat rides, good food, and a lot of walking. I really liked the leaning buildings, but I was very afraid of getting hit by one of the many crazy cyclists.
Two days in Amsterdam had us longing for some clean air and less crazy cyclists so we were very happy that our next stop was Brugge. After a quick 10 minute stop in Antwerpen to check out a few diamond rings we arrived in Brugge. I was surprised to find Brugge a moderately bigger city than I had imagined, and it became one of our trip highlights. We really loved Our Lady’s Church, the bell tower, the boat tour (much better than the Amsterdam boat tour), the mussels, and the chocolate. We were quick to obtain the Brugge chocolate map of 49 different chocolatiers, and out of the 49 we managed to visit Dumon, Galler, Leonidas, Neuhaus, and the Chocolate Line, yum!
The next stop was Brussels which was a trifle less relaxing than Brugge. Brussels was a fun city, but it was full of traffic and seemed smoggy. I enjoy the European cities with pedestrian only city centers, which I couldn’t manage to find in Brussels. With the exception of the Grotke Markt, there were cars everywhere. The highlights of Brussels were the Grotke Markt, manakin pis, EU capital, chocolate, and meeting some of Angie’s friends for dinner and a walk around the town.
When I met Rick Steves he didn’t speak very highly of Luxembourg, but I’m very glad we stopped there for a few hours on the way back to Germany. The central city is awesome because it’s on a huge fortified plateau. Being a climber, the stone walls were really impressive, and I could help but imagine trad climbing them. The ruins of the old castle and the walk down to the river were my favorite part of our Luxembourg stop.
We had to hurry back to the station to catch a train to the small town of Bullay on the Mosel. It was just a quick overnight stop with enough time for a walk and a shot or two of some Bullenschluck. We woke early the next morning and headed to Moselkern for a hike to Burg Eltz. Unfortunately we were about 3 weeks too early because the Burg doesn’t open for tours until the 1st of April. Although we couldn’t go inside, the outside views of the Burg through the crisp morning air were spectacular, and the quiet walk through the sleepy town and the empty woods was quite peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable.
The peaceful walk was followed by the craziest leg of the journey which consisted of a 30 minutes run through Trier, a two hour stop in Koblenz to see the Deutsche Ecke and eat some Apfelstrudel, and then an overnight stop at the Bacharach youth hostel. The hostel is a castle on the top of a hill overlooking the town and the Rhine which was (except for the climb up the hill) awesome. They served us a delicious Späztle dinner and a great German breakfast, and those were some of the best meals of the trip. The next morning we enjoyed a walk through the hills and the little town before heading back to Frankfurt for what was supposed to be the last night of the trip.
Our first night in Frankfurt was peaceful and easy going. The next morning I felt ready to fly home, but we spent a crazy four or five hours at the airport without ever boarding a plane. It so happened that my flight was overbooked, and after three hours of waiting and running back and forth three times across the entire terminal and clearing customs three times to make sure Angie was still there I went back to Frankfurt with a hotel voucher with free breakfast and dinner, a direct flight to San Francisco the next day, and 600 Euros cash, thank you Lufthansa!
Our second day in Frankfurt was great. I’ve flown in and out of Frankfurt a few times, but I’ve never seen the city. I had pictured it as a boring business city, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable city with a lot of friendly city squares, good restaurants, big shopping centers, and tasty coconut rum filled pastries called “Cubaners”. The last day in Frankfurt was a wonderful finish for the excellent trip, and I can’t help but feel either incredibly lucky or fortunately blessed to have had such a great time, to enjoy wonderfully sunny weather, the great company of Angie, her family and friends, and perfectly executed travel arrangements. And since it all ended up being free (or kostenlos in German), courtesy of Lufthansa, I’m going back in May!