Europe – Part I

Jordan returned home from his deployment the evening of November 4th, almost a month early. I am overjoyed to have him home and I hope that he won’t be sent away again for a good long while. As I mentioned many times before, we planned a trip to Europe during his vacation days: October 6th – 23rd. It was just a fluke that he came home only a couple weeks after this! Just as I did during our trip to Thailand, I wrote in a journal each day of our Europe adventure. And once again I’ll re-create that journal here, for myself and for anyone else who wants to read about our trip. Except for the first entry in Toronto, all of the times I have listed are local for the cities we are in.

With only two and a half weeks for traveling together, we had to narrow down the cities we wanted to visit. After much thought, we decided on the following: Tüddern, Germany (basing ourselves at our friends’ home); Salzburg, Austria; Bruges, Belgium; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. By choosing only a few destinations, we allowed ourselves to spend a good amount of time in each city to relax as well as explore.

{October 5 – 7:00 pm EST – Toronto Pearson Airport}
Dad picked me up at 3:30 pm and we drove in the pouring rain to the Toronto Airport. I think we arrived around 6:30 pm. Dad dropped me off and I brought my baggage inside: one large suitcase (filled with autumn-weather clothing for Jordan), one carry-on suitcase (filled with my own clothes and toiletries), and a big pink zippered purse crammed with two cameras, a book, notebook and pens, snack foods, passport, Euros, etc. Dad had parked at the entrance closest to the KLM counters, so once I went inside it was easy to spot where I needed to go. My flight was scheduled for 10:35 pm and I was four hours early. A woman with an Air France uniform showed me how to check in at a kiosk and print my boarding passes. Then I waited another half an hour until we were allowed to line up to check our baggage. After that it was a quick trip through security. My boarding pass says I need to be at my gate at 9:20 pm. Bought an over-priced bottle of water to drink during my wait. I seem to be the only person in the waiting area of my gate. This first flight to Amsterdam should be about 7 hours; then a quick flight to Düsseldorf, Germany, where I will be reunited with my husband! I guess I will read for awhile.

{October 6 – 12:30 pm – Amsterdam Schiphol Airport}
The flight out of Toronto left 10 minutes late. The flight itself was uneventful; minimal turbulence. I had an aisle seat. The food was alright, nothing fancy. I drank a lot of water and attempted to sleep most of the journey. The late departure meant a late arrival in Amsterdam. I was in a rush to get through Passport Control (huge lines), security, and then to my gate which seemed to be at the far reaches of the airport! The man who stamped my passport asked me if there was anything else Dutch about me besides my last name. I explained that my father was born in The Netherlands but I wasn’t taught to speak Dutch. The lines through security took forever as well but here I am, at the gate, with 15 minutes to spare before boarding! I am starving and so tired. This airport is very stuffy and warm, my throat feels very dry but there’s no point buying water when I can’t bring it onto the plane with me. All I can think is that I will see Jordan this afternoon!



{October 7 – 9:30 am – Tüddern, Germany}
Very long day yesterday and I didn’t have time to write, but here’s what went on. Once my flight was called for boarding, we were herded onto a bus and driven to our “City Hopper” plane that would be flying us to Düsseldorf. During the short 30 minute flight I was asked to complete a survey. We were served orange juice and a cookie for snack. I hate orange juice but I was so thirsty I drank it anyway. Now, this plane was very small and us passengers were crammed in together. The landing just about turned my stomach because I could feel every drop in altitude. I much prefer the bigger planes for their smooth landings! Anyway, we disembarked onto the tarmac and headed into the “Schengen” building (no passport control), away from the gloomy overcast sky. I could hardly believe I was finally in Germany! Proceeded to Baggage Claim (sometime after 2 pm), collected my big suitcase, and headed to the Arrivals hall. And there they are, Jordan and his friend Tyler, waiting for me! During the journey from the airport to the little town of Tüddern (lots of farmland, wind turbines, and sugar beets), we got pulled over by the police. Apparently there was a sign indicating “no over-taking”, and Tyler didn’t see it. I’m not sure what that even means. Anyway, Tyler ended up with a ticket, but he wasn’t really bothered by it. He and his wife have lived there for over a year now (military posting) and it was their suggestion that we stay with them for a few days. At some point, before or after that little incident, we stopped at a gas station to buy something to drink for Jordan and myself. I used the washroom as well, which cost 0.50€, but a machine issued me a ticket that offered the same amount off any purchase. Finally we arrived at their house and were shown around. The toilet is weird and I couldn’t figure out how to flush it the first time, haha! While Tyler & Tammy went out to pick up groceries for dinner, Jordan and I showered and changed. Later, while Tammy prepared dinner, Tyler, Jordan, and I sat outside around the firepit in their backyard. The weather was cloudy but not really cold, and the warmth from the fire was perfect. For dinner we had garlic chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, garlic potatoes, salad, and fresh rolls. The food was delicious, especially after all that airplane food! Rest of the night was spent around the fire. Around 11 pm, utterly exhausted, we finally went to bed. Now it’s the morning of our first full day in Germany and time to shower and change!

{October 7 – 11:10 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Yet another long day! After getting ready and eating breakfast (cereal for me, fried egg on toast for Jordan), the four of us drove to Monschau, a quaint town untouched by the ravages of WWII. We parked outside the town and walked in. Cobbled stone streets, canals, picturesque houses and shops, but very touristy. We spent the whole afternoon walking around without realizing it. The weather was absolutely perfect, with only a few clouds, bright blue sky, and a warm sun, definitely better weather for October than back home in Ontario! We wandered through a flea market, walked down the narrow lanes, window-shopped – I ended up buying a postcard for 0.40€. In the square we sat down at an outdoor table; everyone ordered a tall glass of beer, while I had a tall glass of water. Then we moved to another table whose associated restaurant actually served food and we ordered lunch: personal pizzas for each of us. Tyler helped to translate the menu. My three years of German courses back in university helped a little bit, as well. Pizza mit Käse und Schinken seemed to be the best option and it was delicious. Jordan also ordered a side of fries. I love fries and was not disappointed in these; they were certainly better than any I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it’s because they were German? I believe the pizzas each cost 7€ and Tyler insisted on paying for the meal.



We decided to walk around some more after lunch. Found a free public toilet. Walked up some steep stone steps that eventually brought us to the ruins of an ancient castle. All this time Jordan had been munching on the fries that he stuffed into his pocket from lunch, because he didn’t want to throw them out. These came to be delightfully known as “pocket fries”, yum! Fries are always better when they’re from somebody’s pocket. lol By 4:30 pm we made it back to the truck and drove back home, stopping at the train station in Geilenkirchen first (closed). We sat outside by the fire again, drinking Caesars (which I tried for the first time) and hot chocolate. Leftover chicken sandwiches for dinner. Now it’s bedtime and tomorrow’s adventure is Maastricht, Holland!



{October 8 – 6:00 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Woke up early this morning. First we headed over to the train station in Geilenkirchen so that we could purchase our tickets for tomorrow. Then we were on our way to Maastricht! It wasn’t a very long drive and once again we lucked out with beautiful weather. The streets are very narrow with other cars, buses, and cyclists coming at us from every direction. I’m glad I wasn’t the one to parallel park the big truck Tyler was driving! We walked around and explored the streets and shops, and stepped into the “VVV” (tourist information) to buy a map of the city. Took some photos of the ancient Third Wall of the city, walked up the Helpoort (donation of 5€), and walked down by the water looking at boats. Everything was so lovely, I didn’t want to leave! But we only had parking until 2:30 pm, so we eventually had to walk back to the truck.



We decided to drive over to see Fort Sint Pieter but it was closed. Although we couldn’t go inside, we did climb the steep hill for a great view of the fort. Very hot after this uphill walk. Getting hungry, so goodbye Maastricht, we are heading over to Sittard for some food and easier parking! Once in Sittard we sat down at a restaurant called “Luna” in the square. Ordered beer and water, of course. Jordan tried a Hoegaarden “Rose”, which looks like a girly cocktail when poured in a glass. For lunch I had a ham and cheese panini, with salad; Jordan ordered a Hawaiian panini with twister frites on the side. Our meal cost 25€ including tip. After this delicious food, the four of us walked over to the grocery store “Albert Heijn”. I picked out some salty black licorice candy, Belgian waffles, and milk chocolate sprinkles to bring home to Canada. Now we’re back at the house, with laundry on the go, and watching a movie. We’ll have to pack tonight because our train is at 7 am tomorrow morning!



***Continued in next post.