European Trip: The Last 4 Days

December 29, 2011

Medienhafen with the Rheinturm in background

I awoke at 4:50am and couldn’t sleep anymore.  I stared out my hotel window at the Rheinturm, glowing blue in the morning darkness.  Erin was sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb her, so I went downstairs to journal.  As soon as breakfast was available, I poured myself some coffee and had some continuing to journal.  Nathan joined me at the specified breakfast opening time of 6:30am.  When he finished eating, we went on another walk through Dusseldorf timing it so that we would end at the Medienhafen.  We wanted to see this amazing architecture in the daylight.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that the blinking lights on the Rheinturm represented a clock.

The 29th was a very full and very fun day.  We took a short train ride to Cologne, and met up with Werner, a cousin of Joseph’s, and his wife and daughter.  As we were riding in, we caught a good look at “Der Dom,” which nearly took my breath away.  In English, it is officially called the High Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Mary.  It was built over a 600 year span from 1248 to 1880 and survived the war.  No picture in my collection can come close to doing it justice, but the short video to the left almost can.  I first pan in on the actual size top piece replica of Der Dom that is on the ground.  Then slowly, so you can somewhat capture its magnitude, I show the base and work my way up to the top, where I zoom in on the piece you just saw on the ground.  Enjoy. 

Very close to Der Dom is the starting point of bus tours of Cologne.  We took a 40 minute tour around the city and were able to see 3000 year old Roman ruins that really made us feel insignificant.  Kölsch is the beer of Cologne and there are several breweries that produce it (Wikipedia claims 13).  For lunch, we dined at one of the “big 4:” Früe.  I enjoyed two or three glasses of beer, and a mittlewurst with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.  We walked around the old town of Cologne, some of us had some Glüewein, a strong, hot drink that warmed us up in two senses of the word.  As dark approached, we hailed a cab and went to Werner and Gisala’s for one of the most enriching experiences of the trip.

At Werner and Gisala’s in Cologne, Germany
Having a dinner party in a German home took our experience to a whole new level.  The language barrier was tough to get over, but I feel that we did well.  I remeber having some sweet bread, coffee, bread, meats, cheeses, and grapes.  I also remember having a few glasses of Kölsch (Früe, of course).  It was very interesting to find out of the fierce regional rivalry between Cologne and Düsseldorf.  Not only are they rivals in football, but also in beer.  Those from Cologne mock anyone ordering an Alt, just as those from Düsseldorf mock those that drink Kölsch.  I found this the most bizzare, as a lover of beer.  It would be one thing to be a rival among different brands of the same beer brewed in these cities (such as the rivalry that exists between Milwaukee and St. Louis), but different kinds altogether?  Werner’s son and girlfriend gave us a ride back to the trainstation for our short ride back to Düsseldorf.  I stayed up with Trish, Joseph, and Nathan talking about our experience while I had two Schlösser Alts. 

December 30, 2011

The next morning, we had to get up very early for our travel to Brussels.  Comics & comic strips are very popular in Brussels and appear on many walls and buildings.  We passed several on our walk to the Grand Place.  A small detour took us past the Manneken Pis, which was much smaller than I had pictured it.  It wore a running uniform with number, for a 5K run was to happen that evening.  Either because of the winter months, or simply because the little boy didn’t have to go, the fountain was not turned on. 

A la Mort Subite in Brussels, Belgium

While in Brussels, we tried to relive Three Sheets, season 1, episode 1 by visiting A la Mort Subite for lunch and beers and the Delirium Café for several more beers before dinner.  We arrived at A la Mort Subite a little too early, so we took a small detour up the road to the cathedral of St. Michael & St. Gudula.  This was a very nice detour.  The cathedral was gorgeous.  At Mort Subite, I ordered a Kriek, Faro (what Zane ordered), and a Gueze along with a Salami sandwich.  By the end of our lunch, we were all toasty warm and a little tipsy.  All of us decided on going back to the hotel so that we could be unconscious for a while. 

Around 3:30, we hopped on a Metro and went down to the Bourse and walked through a large part of the Winter Wonders fesitval that was taking place.  There were several small vendors selling food and crafts.  I remember trying something that had way too much pepper, but I ate it anyway.  After wondering through all these vendors, we began the hunt for the Delirium Café.  This took us a lot longer than expected, but it was well worth the hunt.  The place was packed, but we managed to find a table in our own little quiet(er) corner. 
We started with four Delirium tremens, and then moved on to several other kinds of beer for our second and third rounds.  I remember ordering a Delirium X-mas ale and a Guillatine Bitter.  I also remember trying tastes of a sour beer, another bitter, and a stout.  We brought home a serving tray with the elephant logo.  I used it the first time one morning to serve Erin breakfast in bed. 
For dinner, we found a place that had outside seating with heat lamps.  It was called Le Vieux Bruxelles.  All but Nathan had a three course fixed price meal.  I had garlic prawns, grilled salmon, and some sweetened egg dessert. Besides dessert, everything else was fine.  Back in our hotel, we enjoyed the beers that we purchased earlier that day at the Beer Temple.  Once finished, I fell asleep in record time. 
December 31, 2011
View of Kaiserdom from the Römer

We slept in this Saturday morning, and then hopped on the train from Brussels to Frankfurt.  It was super nice to have our best hotel stay at our last stop.  After getting situated in our rooms, we took a subway to the Opern Platz and began a slow walk back in the direction of our hotel.  We passed several landmarks such as Paulskirche, the Römer, and the Kaiserdom.  The picture to the right offers a view of the Kaiserdom from inside the Römer.

We had a meal at Zum Standesämtchen on the Römer which was a quaint little place with a spiral staircase to the bathrooms below and a mini-elevator on which the food would come from the kitchen.  I ordered Frankfurter Rippchen and had a few Henningens, which is Frankfurt’s staple beer.

Back at the hotel, we had a 3 hour break before we would join the New Year’s Eve festivities. I purchased 4 bottles of Beck’s to enjoy in the room while we watched a German music video channel that played “Can’t Touch This,” “Ice Ice Baby,” “What I Want” by the Spice Girls, among many others.  Who knew you had to go all the way to Frankfurt to watch some retro U.S. music videos.  Around 9pm we began the slow journey to the edge of the Main River (pronounced “mine”).  It seemed like one in every five people had fireworks and they were going off everywhere.  As we got closer and closer to the Main, the crowd became rowdier and rowdier.

On the Main in Frankfurt

It blew my mind how many people had fireworks.  And not just your run of the mill fireworks, but the big rocket on a long stick kind; the ones that you pay high dollar for in Missouri.  Not only could you count the mischievous teens, but families with young children had large bags of all kinds of fireworks.  Fireworks were going on all around us all the time, and the intensity grew and grew until midnight.   What ensued was one of the craziest firework displays I have ever seen in my life.  The video must have been too long for the blog, so you’ll have to settle for the hazy picture I captured under the shelter of a tree.

We fought through the crowds to slowly make our way back to the hotel through newly littered streets.  The place became a disaster zone.  Erin and I had some delicious Kebops from a place right across the street.  I remember spilling beer on my pants while watching some people blow up fireworks right outside our window.  At 2am, I got tired enough to fall asleep.

January 1, 2012

The 9:15am alarm came way too early and I kicked myself for suggesting such an early time to rendezvous and have breakfast: stupid, stupid, stupid!  We had breakfast at the hotel because nothing was open, and it was one of the nicer breakfast spreads we had experienced.

We journeyed a little further from the city center to see Joseph’s former living quarters, followed by a visit to the Palmengarten.  When we had enough of the hot and humid greenhouses and walking among the plants, we decided to dine on dessert at the Café Siesmayor, where I had a Chocolat Framboise and a cappuccino.  We made our way back to the Römer and toured through the Kaiserdom that we had seen a few times already.  I learned that a bomb came through the roof and destroyed everything inside, although the structure remained.  I ordered some Schwienerschnitzel at Haus Wertheym right of the Römer.  I also had a few Pils.  It was all good.

That was pretty much our goodbye to Frankfurt and to Europe.  The next morning we would be in a mad dash to the airport and through customs, only to breakfast at the airport and have a long flight home.  I would have less than 24 hours at home in Kirksville before repacking for my trip to Boston.  That blog is coming soon.  

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