Koln, and The Rhine River: Germany

Friday, September 9th, 2011:

We leave Amsterdam, packed and ready and headed off to Germany.  I fell asleep early in the ride because my nose was still clogged which was upsetting to me.  I didn’t want to be sick during this tour.  Ninety minutes into our ride, Elzo tells us we are making a pit stop to stretch our legs.  It’s our first pit stop in German country.

Elzo prepares us by telling us we have to pay to use the bathroom and sure enough, in the store there is a turnstile where you have to put .50 cent euro to go through.  The toilet…is a self-cleaning toilet.  What do I mean by that?  After you flush a wet sponge comes out and wipes the seat…it was a bit strange and I don’t know how sanitary that is!

After relieving ourselves we decide to buy a bottled water for the road and what do you know, another tour bus has pulled up and a bunch of other tourist enter the store, Americans.  How do I know?  Josh and I were discussing which water to buy and I recall Elzo saying Naturale is still water and an American man confirms it for us.  Thanks guy!

We stand outside for awhile and Elzo points out that the front row parking is for women only…say what?  They do that so they don’t back into busses or trucks. I listen to a bunch of men speaking German, all light haired, tall and pale skinned.  I realize as I listen that nothing they say is familiar to me.  I don’t know any German at all.

We assemble in the bus again and take off.  My impression of Germany is that it is industrial and Elzo happens to talk about how Germany is doing well economically and is largest economy in Europe, the 4th largest economy in the world AND the 2nd largest exporter…I never knew they were doing so well.  But why am I surprised?  VW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, sound familiar?  I have Bosch appliances in my house and I never knew it was German until we passed the warehouse.  The germans are innovators which is kind of awesome to know.

Now Germany has an ugly past but they are trying to move beyond it and I think they have moved past it pretty well.  Elzo said after World War II, the older Germans became introverted and kept to themselves because of the smear on their history, but the younger generation who haven’t forgotten the past, has moved on and are friendlier towards foreigners.  The Germans have finally emerged again as a world power.  They are hard working people and with all the things they build, I believe it.  Elzo also mentioned that people in Germany live very well, jobs are abundant and real estate is cheap!  Foreigners could buy houses for about $300,000 u.s. dollars but they don’t because no one wants to live in Germany with the stigma acquired from World War II.

Another wonderful thing in Germany is the Autobahn, which is basically a two lane highway.  Josh had this expectation that the Autobahn would be huge with 8 lanes or something when it’s actually just 2 lanes but with no speed limit.  Josh also was expecting people to be zipping past us but I think most people were going at 75 mph.

We reached Koln or Cologne at 11am and have been on the road for awhile now.  The skies are gray still so when we see the Gothic Cathedral it looks ominous and amazing!  It was built in the 13th century and it looks like it.  It’s so dark and dirty from the pollution of the coal factories.

See the scaffolding?  They are trying to clean it, but I like it dirty like this!  It’s spooky looking!

It’s a catholic church so here’s a message from the pope

I lit a candle to pray for those that died in World War II, since I was in Germany

An interesting thing I found on Wikipedia about the cathedral was that in World War II it suffered 70 aerial bomb hits but it never collapsed.  Allied forces used the twin spires as a landmark during the war.  Germany was devastated in the war and it’s really fantastic to see how prosperous they are now.

We left the cathedral in search of food since as always we only had one hour to sight see and eat.  We walked outside and I heard music and not any kind of music.  There were four men, one with a violin, two with accordions and another with a tuba.  And they started to play in front of the cathedral on a dreary day and I loved it!!!  This was Europe to me.  We stood there and listened for awhile and I gave them a Euro then Josh and I went in search of food.  He found a pretzel, I decided to wait until later to get food.  Some of our group went to McDonald’s.  Did I already say that McDonalds is everywhere?

We left Cologne and headed to catch a boat on the Rhine River so I fell asleep once more and when I opened my eyes we were in the country…so beautiful.

We got on a cruise boat but the rain was coming, I was cold and my nose was still dripping and honestly I just wanted to find a bed and sleep my cold away.  But I couldn’t do that so we got on the boat and took cover as we started the leisurely cruise down the Rhine.

There are a lot of castles on the hillside, some are now hotels.  Some are just ruins.

Do you know the story of Loreley or Lorelei?  There is a strong current right here that has caused many boat accidents.  But the legend goes that a girl was betrayed by her love and in revenge she lay on this rock bewitching men and luring them to their deaths.  A little morbid.

Lots of vineyards along the Rhine

I was happy to be off the boat because I was freezing and we boarded the bus once more and headed to Heidelberg, Germany a very picturesque city that Josh fell in love with.  There were many mansions along the hill, mansions occupied by professors.  And we learn from Elzo that education is highly valued in Germany, which is another great thing about the country.

After the short stop we finally head to our hotel which is a Renaissance Hotel (Marriott brand) and the room is nice, clean and not making me sneeze.  Thank goodness!

We have dinner at the hotel and it was very, very good.  The water, which was from the tap, was so fresh I wondered if it’s because we were so near the Alps, but it’s SO good.  And they had a hot vegetable soup, which was like a mashed vegetable soup..I had two bowls full because it was So good….I’m trying to find the recipe.  The only other place we had the same soup was in Switzerland…even Josh was helping himself to it and he’s not a soup person.  The dinner buffet was fantastic, I had the pork which was really tasty.  It was a really good meal but my nose is still dripping and I found someone else in our group who has a cold. I pray that Switzerland is warmer because I am ready to defrost!

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