Germany – Part III

***Continued from previous post.

{November 9 – 12:00 pm – Berlin}
On the ICE direct train to Nuremberg. (Cost: €194) The trains are so expensive! It should take about five hours to reach our destination. This morning we were up at 8:30 am (why, on our last day in Berlin, were we able to get up?!) to start packing our things. By 10:30 am we had checked out and walked down to catch the M5 tram to the stop just after Alexanderplatz. Hopped on the S-bahn to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Bought our tickets for the 11:52 am train to Nuremberg (Nürnberg). Grabbed some sandwiches to bring with us for lunch (discount with Welcome Cards).

{November 9 – 7:15 pm – Nuremberg}
Here we are in Nuremberg! The streets are cobbled and the architecture is beautiful. At the Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof, we waited in line at the DB kiosk so that we could ask directions to our hotel, the Sorat Agneshof, and purchased bus tickets. Before leaving the station we found a grocery store and bought a few snacks. We absolutely love these refrigerated Kinder snacks:


Kinder treats (iPhone)

From the train station we hopped onto a local U-bahn train. After going a couple stops, we realized that we were heading in the wrong direction! I find the underground railway so confusing to use. We quickly got off and went to the other side of the platform and caught the proper train to Rathenauplatz. Then we transferred to bus #36 and got off at the Rathaus stop. From there we proceeded to get lost in the dark! We didn’t have a map with us and kind of wandered around, going up and down the cobbled, hilly streets dragging our suitcases until we ended up sitting on a bench in what turned out to be Albrecht Dürer Square. I stayed put, munching on a chocolate pastry and guarding our suitcases, while Jordan went in search of our hotel. Less than 10 minutes later he reappeared and told me that we had walked by the street earlier. Figures! Checked into our hotel. The room is small but it was cheap so no complaints! There is a bed, a television, and a good-sized bathroom, which is all we need.


Jordan & I heading to Nuremberg

{November 9 – 10:20 pm – Nuremberg}
After checking into our room on the second floor, we freshened up and went in search of dinner. The gentleman at reception gave us a few restaurant suggestions. More wandering around in the dark took us back to the square and past the castle, until finally we ended up at “Albrecht-Dürer-Stube”. This restaurant is just around the corner from the hotel and came highly recommended. Everyone sits around communal tables and the atmosphere is very warm and friendly. I ordered the pork shoulder with dumpling and red cabbage, while Jordan had the venison stew. (Cost: €25) We are getting low on cash, better find an ATM soon.


Room (Sorat Agneshof) Bathroom (Sorat Agneshof) Pork shoulder with dumpling and red cabbage

{November 10 – 6:25 pm – Nuremberg}
After being out all day (what else is new?!), we are having dinner at “Karl’s Brückla”, a restaurant we found randomly.

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel to save ourselves some time. (Cost: €14) We got a map from reception and pinpointed where the nearest Deutsche Bank ATM is. Walked over to the Hauptmarkt (main square) and found the tourist info kiosk. Purchased a special group day pass for €8 which we will more than make up for just by taking the bus to and from the Documentation Centre. Looked around the square for a little while; all sorts of tables were set up with fresh produce, cheeses, lebkuchen, etc.


Agnes Sorathof Nuremberg Hauptmarkt Nuremberg

Walked to the Deutsche Bank and withdrew €250. And then returned to the Hauptmarkt to catch bus #36 to the Doku-Zentrum stop. Our plan for the day is to spend some time at the Documentation Centre & Former Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Admission with audioguide to the Documentation Centre is €10 per person. We spent over an hour in there, touring through the exhibits. Although it was very interesting, we got so hot and bored with listening to the audioguide that we ended up hurrying through the last few sections. Most of the information we had already read about in other museums. At the end of the tour we stepped outside to view the inside of the Congress Hall. We handed in the audioguides then went outside for some fresh, but chilly, air and ended up walking around the Congress Hall to take some pictures. Jordan really wanted to see Zeppelin Field so we asked directions inside the Centre, then set out walking again in the drizzle. It is about a 10 minute walk from the Centre. I’m glad we went because it was neat to see. The steps are crumbling and it’s “climb at your own risk” and the immense field is now a stadium.


Strange sculpture On the bus Documentation Centre Congress Hall View of Congress Hall across the water Pausing in the rain for a photo

Caught bus #36 back to the Hauptmarkt. Looked around at a few shops. I bought a keychain for Lori. Walked around for what felt like eternity before finding a place to eat dinner. I ordered the pork cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese (also came with salad and fries) and a delicious hot chocolate; Jordan ordered pork topped with a fried egg (with potato wedges, salad, and 2 beers). (Cost: €27) I couldn’t finish my amazing meal because the cutlets were huge!


Press this button for Breakfast

{November 10 – 10:30 pm – Nuremberg}
After that filling meal we hopped on the U-bahn at Lorenzkirche and journeyed to the train station. Purchased our expensive tickets for tomorrow’s ride to Geilenkirchen. (Cost: €230) Also got a couple snacks then returned to the hotel for the night. Too bad we couldn’t stay here longer because we didn’t get to see very much!


Zeppelin Field Hitler's platform Pork cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese Amazing hot chocolate from "Karl's Bruekla" Warming my hands

{November 11 – 1:25 pm – Somewhere between Wurzberg and Frankfurt}
On the noon ICE train to Frankfurt. Once there we change to another ICE heading to Aachen. From Aachen we will end up in Geilenkirchen where Tammy & Tyler will pick us up. We ate breakfast at the hotel again, then took the bus and U-bahn to get to Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof. We should be in Geilenkirchen by 5:00 pm.

{November 11 – 3:00 pm – Montabaur}
We barely made our connection in Frankfurt. Once we boarded and found our seats there was announcement stating that the train would be delayed 6 minutes. I hope that doesn’t mess up our connection in Aachen. Ate our chocolate cookies for snack.

{November 11 – 6:00 pm – Tüddern}
Made our train in Aachen. Tammy & Tyler were waiting for us in Geilenkirchen, with their dog Doug. Now we are just settling in.

{November 12 – 6:45 pm – Tüddern}
Yesterday we had veggies & dip, various cheeses, herbed crackers, and sliced sausages for a snack at Tammy & Tyler’s home. Later, Tammy made chicken kebabs, rice, and white asparagus for dinner. We sat around eating and watching “Top Gear” on Netflix for the rest of the night.


Trier, Germany

Funky statue (Trier) Porta Nigra Trier's Church of Our Lady

Thermal bath ruins

Today we drove for 2 hours to Trier and walked around the town centre. We bought “cone fries” (aka fries in a cone of paper that we fell in love with in Austria two years ago) and “pizza in a pocket”. Bought a couple postcards to add to my collection. Took some photos of the Church of Our Lady, Porta Nigra (near the tourist information building), and the thermal bath ruins. Beautiful day to be out! I should note that I finally had to pay for use of a toilet today. When you gotta pee, you gotta pee!

{November 13 – 2:40 pm – Tüddern}
Tammy had to work today so Tyler, Jordan, and I drove out to Aachen. We wandered around the area near the cathedral. There are tons of bakeries selling printen (Aachen’s version of lebkuchen). I bought a bag of miniature printen pieces covered in chocolate. The christmas displays in the bakeries are beautiful to look at. Jordan bought a cherry danish for a snack. We found a Starbucks and I had to go in to try the lebkuchen latte; it tastes like a light gingerbread with a lot of cinnamon. Jordan ordered a caramel macchiato and we enjoyed our beverages sitting on a bench by the cathedral.


Enjoying a danish in Aachen Aachener printen Aachen Cathedral

Our main reason for coming to Aachen was to visit the Lindt chocolate factory. Jordan asked for directions in the Starbucks and the girl gave him a free map with the route drawn on. We walked over to the factory, when we probably should have drove. Luckily it wasn’t raining and we all seemed to have plenty of energy thanks to our coffees. When we got near the factory we noticed a huge sign saying “Lindt Chocolate Factory” but neither of us noticed the huge arrow pointing to the left. Instead we kept walking straight and ended up having to walk around the entire perimeter of the factory to find the entrance. Oops! No photos allowed inside the factory and it’s cash or debit only. I went a little crazy seeing all the beautiful chocolate for sale but knowing we could only pay cash, I tried to limit myself. I ended up spending €34 on chocolate! It could have been worse….


Drinking a lebkuchen latte Jordan's caramel macchiato Lindt chocolate factory

Posing in Aachen

We got back to the truck by 1:30 pm just as our parking was about to expire. On the way back to Tüddern we stopped at a gas station in The Netherlands and bought some sparkling Lipton iced tea! Reunited at last with my favourite iced tea. And then the realization kicks in: Oh no, tomorrow we leave!


Sparkling iced tea (iPhone)

{November 14 – 5:30 pm – In the Air}
We’ve been in the air since 2:00 pm. Time to play catch-up.

Didn’t do much yesterday after returning from Aachen. Watched the boys play Forza Horizons on Tyler’s XBox 360. Once Tammy came home from work she heated up some cheesy tortellini for dinner. And of course we snacked on more bread, crackers, and cheese. We talked the boys into turning off their game and instead watched more “Top Gear” episodes that cracked us up. By 10:30 pm we had our things packed and were in bed. I can’t believe how much cramming I had to do to get all that chocolate to fit in my suitcase.


Leaving Germany Plane food A fighter jet outside my window

Tyler came home from work early and drove us to the Köln-Bonn Flughafen. Took about 1.5 hours. He dropped us off at Crew Gate Alpha. After getting the attention of some military personnel on the other side of a glass door, we were let inside and passed through security quickly. We waited outside for what seemed like ages before a bus showed up to bring us to the plane. Sat on the bus with four other people, also for ages, before being allowed to board the plane.

***End of journal.


Welcome home!

The food served on these military flights is so much better than other flights I’ve been on. Each time the stewardess came by, she would give me cookies! The flight home was fine. Jordan and I sat at the front for the first leg of the journey, which gave us lots of leg room. Once we entered Canadian airspace, two fighter jets came up along side the plane and welcomed the soldiers returning from Afghanistan. That was pretty cool!

My chocolate stash and souvenirs:


Kinder and Milka Lindt chocolate bags Yummy Lindt treats

More Lindt chocolate bars

Postcards Magnets

Germany – Part I

Our short trip to Germany in November 2012 was a much-needed getaway. Both of us were feeling the stress of living apart and trying to sell our home, so we really needed this time together. I booked the time off work knowing that we wouldn’t know if we were on the flight out of CFB Trenton until 48 hours prior. We figured that if we weren’t able to go to Germany, we would still use our vacation time and go somewhere tropical instead. The reasoning behind Germany was that our friends are still posted near Tüddern and we wanted to visit them one more time before they come home in Summer 2013.

I had just over a month to save up some cash, and unfortunately I was only able to put aside $500 CAD. Once turned into Euro, that chunk turned into a measly €375, which I knew from our previous trip in 2010 would not get us very far. My darling husband agreed to withdraw cash once my money was used up, though, as the trip was his idea and his “treat”.

On November 3rd (coincidentally my sister’s birthday) we found out that our house was SOLD–I signed the papers at work–and that we were confirmed for a November 4th departure out of CFB Trenton to Köln-Bonn, Germany! Talk about an exciting day. The stress I had about the house selling and my worries about not being on the flight all culminated into a burst of happiness that day. And then I had to rush home to pack! Good thing I had already drawn up an itinerary, including a list of things to do and see. I do love TripAdvisor. 🙂

Once we leave Ontario, all times listed reflect local time in Germany (6 hours ahead). And so, my journal:

{November 4 – 8:30 am EST – CFB Trenton}
Here we are sitting in the waiting area at CFB Trenton. After quite the eventful drive (aka the search for diesel and an open gas station extremely early in the morning en route), we finally got checked in. And even that part wasn’t easy. A slight hiccup occurred and I almost wasn’t allowed on the flight due to my husband not putting my name down on his leave pass that his boss signed off on. Luckily they were pretty easy going and allowed him to login to something-or-other to show proof that I am indeed his wife. Crisis averted!

After check-in, we drove over to long-term parking and then walked over to the Mess Hall for breakfast. Since it was so early I couldn’t eat much, just a bagel with cream cheese. Jordan ate lots. Then we bundled up again and walked to the MP shack to register our vehicle. And yet another walk from there back to the terminal building. They really need a shuttle service in the winter!


Germany

{November 4 – 11:00 am EST – Quebec}
Short flight from Trenton to Quebec. I think we are in Montreal to pick up more soldiers. We are so lucky to be allowed on this military flight! The plane we are on is like a normal Air Canada plane, except that we can sit wherever we want. Just waiting around while the plane is refueled, then we will continue on our way. Next stop, Köln-Bonn Flughafen.

{November 4 – 5:10 pm EST – In the Air}
Just ate our second meal on the plane. The first meal was sweet n’ sour meatballs with rice and assorted veggies. The second one was a sandwich, cole slaw, gouda cheese, juice, and a package of “Ah Caramel”. We should be landing in about 1 and a half hours, sometime after midnight local Köln (Cologne) time.

{November 5 – 2:45 am – Köln-Bonn Flughafen}
Not off to a great start! We had a mishap with the train ticket machine and of course as it’s wayyyyy early in the morning there was no one around to help us. At first the ticket machine was not working at all… blue rebooting screen, loading screen, then it kept repeating. Finally the stupid thing loaded properly and we bought 2 tickets for the 1:30 am train heading to Berlin, only to find out that that train had already come and gone while we were struggling with the machine. We were very tired and irritable at this point. Now we are waiting for the 3:15 am train, hoping that we can still use the €194 tickets. So expensive–there goes most of my cash!


NH Alexanderplatz Breakfast omelet Single rose

{November 5 – 5:15 am – Near Düsseldorf}
At last we are on our way to Berlin after yet another issue. We are finding the tickets to be slightly confusing to decipher. First we jumped on the regional train to Köln Hauptbahnhof (HBF) and then transferred to the ICE to Berlin. We had to pay an extra €45 to stay on that train. Jordan was not impressed, especially after all the problems we’d encountered so far, and he tried to explain our situation to the ticket master (machine not working, original train leaving while we were in the midst of purchasing tickets, waiting around for hours in the cold, etc). I handed over the cash as I just wanted to sit in peace for the next few hours and not have to worry about changing trains during the journey. (The train ride from Köln to Berlin is about 5 hours.) The first ticket master couldn’t understand English but he got another one who could and after speaking with him he encouraged us to go to the customer service kiosk in Berlin since we had photographic proof that the ticket machine wasn’t working properly. I seriously hope we have no more problems because I want to enjoy this beautiful country!

{November 5 – 11:30 am – Berlin}
Berlin! We are sitting down to lunch near our hotel, the NH Alexanderplatz; starving and exhausted! Once we reached Berlin Hauptbahnhof, we purchased Welcome Cards (72 hours / Museum Island) that we plan to use tomorrow. The cards include unlimited use of the city’s transportation system in ABC zones, entry into the Museum Island museums, and discounts at other attractions and restaurants for €36 each. Jordan filed a complaint at the Deutsche Bahn customer service kiosk.

(Side note: We didn’t receive a refund for the extra €45, however a few weeks after our return home we received a DB voucher for €45. That’s great, but we can’t use it as we are in Canada. I ended up mailing it back to Germany to our friends’ place so that they could use it.)


Our room (NH Alexanderplatz) Hawaiian pizza from "Rocco" Halo sign

From the main train station we hopped on Bus #142 and got off at the base of the hill (Landsberger Allee) near NH Alexanderplatz. Our room wasn’t yet ready but they said to come back in a couple hours and it would be. Off we went to find something to eat! I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the waiter was very exuberant and literally scooped us off the street and into his restaurant before we could protest. A huge cheese omelet and Sprite for me; cheese and fruit platter for Jordan.

{November 5 – 11:30 pm – Berlin}
After a very long nap (I think we slept 8 hours), we showered and around 10:15 pm headed out to find dinner. Apparently this is very late for eating, but we were starving again. Got on tram M4 at the base of the hill (€2.40 each) and got off at Hackescher Markt. Found a pub but they were no longer serving food. Walked over to “Rocco” and the guy there said the kitchen was closing soon but we could order pizza or pasta. We ordered a Hawaiian pizza, iced tea, and a Strongbo for €17. Not sure how much we’re supposed to tip around here.

{November 6 – 1:45 am – Berlin}
After eating we walked around for awhile to tire ourselves out. Not too cold, just wintry enough that we needed thin mittens and a hood to cover our ears. Walked by three prostitutes, which Jordan found amusing. Saw a Starbucks advertising lebkuchen latte; might have to try one of those! Finally we made our way back, on foot, to Landsberger Allee.


Ready for our first Berlin day

{November 6 – 11:30 am – Berlin}
So much for getting up early! I’m so jet-lagged, it’s unbelievable. All I want to do is sleep. Finally we are heading out for the day. Plan for the day: Find breakfast, er, lunch and visit some museums.

{November 6 – 9:10 pm – Berlin}
We spent the entire day walking around and exploring the city. I will write about our adventures once we return to the hotel. Right now we’re sitting down for dinner at “Roma” on Friedrichstrasse near the Orianienburger U-bahn stop. I ordered tortellini with tomato sauce, smothered in cheese, with a Sprite; Jordan had chicken and broccoli pizza and fries. The food is good but I’m so tired that I can hardly eat. After the waiter cleared our plates, we waited another 10 minutes and finally asked for the bill. Time to head back out into the drizzle and head home.


Statue in the lustgarten Berlin Cathedral Unter den Linden Pergamon Altar 087_2012_11_06_5534 Sitting with part of Pergamon Altar Ishtar Gate Vessels Islamic horn

{November 6 – 11:30 pm – Berlin}
Now that we are back, I will write about the day. Once we left the hotel this morning we walked to the grocery store at the base of the hill and purchased yoghurt with granola, 3 beverages, and a snack-size baguette sandwich filled with ham, mayo, tomato and lettuce. With our tummies full, we used our Welcome Cards to catch the tram to Hackescher Markt. From there we slowly walked over to Museum Island. Strolled through the lustgarten by the art museum and took some photos. Somehow we ended up missing the Pergamon Museum, which is what I really wanted to see, by walking right past the kiosk for the Neues Museum and turning down a long path lined with tall trees. The path lead to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral). We kept walking and eventually turned right onto Unter den Linden; after walking past the DDR Museum I realized we were going the wrong way. Sat down on a bench to consult our map and figured out that we needed to head back toward the Neues Museum kiosk and then keep going down the road to the Pergamon Museum. (All the construction going on is confusing.) Entry to the Pergamon Museum is included in the Welcome Card. We spent most of the afternoon in there, perusing all the neat artifacts. Photography is allowed so I took quite a few pictures. Bought a couple postcards and a bookmark on the way out.


Berlin Cathedral

After the museum, we wandered over to the Cathedral and for €4 per person (discounted with Welcome Card) we were allowed inside. Once we entered the sanctuary it was very quiet and awe-inspiring. The domed ceiling is beautiful. Non-flash photography is allowed. We sat in the silence for awhile, then continued our exploration of the cathedral; there are a lot of exhibits and things to see. Finally we walked up to the dome of the building using the indoor walkway; once outside, the views are unbelievable! Jordan took quite a few pictures. After that we did a quick visit of the crypt and then bought a couple cookies from the basement cafe.


Domed ceiling Town hall seen from Dome View from Dome 211_2012_11_06_5661 Brandenburg Gate at night The Reichstag at night

Back outside into the cold. Hopped onto double-Decker Bus #100 and got off near Madame Tussaud’s and walked to Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate). As it’s dark, pictures are difficult without a tripod. Walked by the Reichstag government building as well. Back-tracked a bit and discovered the outdoor Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The stelae are different heights and seem to go on in a maze. Once again, pictures were difficult in the dark. We ended up getting lost trying to find Checkpoint Charlie and ended up walking around the Sony Centre and the Topography of Terrors building. The outdoor exhibit was closed so we went into the Documentation Centre to warm up and use the free washroom. We viewed some of the exhibits but there is so much information to read that it would have taken us all night.

Finally found Checkpoint Charlie at Friedrichstrasse. Not that impressive. Decided to get dinner first before going in the museum. We walked and walked and couldn’t seem to find any restaurants that weren’t fast-food until we came upon “Roma” close to Orianienburgerstrasse. We decided not to return to the Checkpoint Charlie museum due to tiredness.


Berlin Wall memorial Sony Centre Reading info at Topography of Terrors Checkpoint Charlie Cheesy tortellini from "Roma"

After dinner we just missed the M6 tram and ended up walking back to Hackescher Markt. Caught the M5 there which goes past our hotel. However we didn’t realize that the tram doors don’t automatically open at each stop; you have to hit the “STOP” button to open the doors. Seems straight-forward now, but at the time we assumed the “STOP” button meant the tram would stop and the doors would open. We ended up going 2 stops past our hotel before we figured this out, and as soon as we managed to get off the tram we couldn’t stop laughing about it. Maybe the button should say “OPEN” instead of “STOP” for silly tourists like us?!


Reflection (iPhone)

Reflection (iPhone)


Back in our room. There is only one towel in the bathroom and the duvet on the double bed is twin-size. During our nap yesterday we must not have realized how little the blanket was. And there’s no way we were sharing one towel. I went down to the lobby and asked for more towels and a second blanket. The guy at reception didn’t seem to think it was strange that our double room only had one towel and one twin duvet, but more were sent up later.

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part V

***Continued from previous post.

{October 17 – 11:45 am – Bruges, Belgium}
We got up around 8 o’ clock to pack up our things. My bags are getting pretty heavy. Ate breakfast in the hotel at 10 am, then checked out for eleven. Caught the #12 bus at Markt Square heading to the train station. Stood in line for 15 minutes to buy two tickets to Amsterdam (94€ total, put on VISA). Looks like an hour ride to Brussels Midi station and then another 3 hours from there to Amsterdam Centraal.

{October 17 – 3:15 pm – Rotterdam Train Station}
Train just pulled away from Rotterdam station. We should arrive in Amsterdam sometime after 4:15 pm. The ride to Brussels Midi station was fine. We got off the train and went looking for a restroom and something to eat for lunch – only twenty minutes until our next train. Cashiers at the fast-food restaurants there were really slow; finally just bought two slices of pepperoni pizza (8€) and ran for platform 7, only to realize we were at the wrong platform! The train tickets are confusing. Ran back downstairs, pulling our luggage, and realized we needed to be at platform 19 in the next couple minutes. Train already there but we managed to get on and find a seat before it left. So far the weather looks good.



{October 17 – 11:50 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
At the train station we caught a tram heading toward Museumplein and got off there. Took awhile to find our way to Koninginneweg with my map printed from Google (didn’t have all the streets labeled). When we finally found our hotel we checked into the Park Plaza Vondelpark close to 5:30 pm. Unpacked. Around 7:30 pm we went down to the lobby to use the free wireless. Then headed out looking for dinner. We ended up walking all the way to Leidesplein where a whole bunch of restaurants are situated. Pretty crowded for a Sunday night. Decided on a Mexican restaurant, “Mathias”. I ordered an iced tea (carbonated, of course) and chicken enchiladas while Jordan had a Hoegaarden and a huge plate of nachos (27€, on VISA). Food was very good. We paid the bill at 9:18 pm and then proceeded to get lost on our way back to the hotel. We finally made it back, in the freezing cold, at almost midnight. My body feels terrible.



{October 18 – 11:30 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up late so we’re just heading out to breakfast now. This hotel doesn’t include breakfast with the room rate and wireless internet is only available for free in the lobby. My throat is sore and nose is running. Pretty certain I’m catching a cold, after last night’s two hour adventure trying to find our hotel.

{October 18 – 6:45 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Found a bakery just down the street and bought a sandwich to split and a blueberry muffin (5€). Good price to fill our tummies before lunch. We ate in the lobby while checking emails, etc. Then we walked up the road to Museumplein to the Van Gogh Museum. I purchased tickets before we’d left Canada so we didn’t have to wait in the long line, just walked right in. Looked at the paintings and checked out the exhibition downstairs. Nothing in the gift shop caught my eye. After we left the museum we started walking toward the Jordaan neighbourhood where Anne Frank House is located. Found a free city map at a tourist kiosk. It was quite a walk, a little chilly, but we were determined to use our feet rather than pay for trams. Lined up at Anne Frank House and waited about half an hour to get in (around 3:30 pm). I hadn’t purchased advance tickets because we didn’t know what day we’d do the house. The cost is 8.50€ per person. Very moving experience and incredible to see. The walls inside are covered in excerpts from “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and there are short videos to watch as you walk through. Hard to believe the Frank family, and the other people, lived in these little rooms. In the bookshop at the end of the tour I picked up some postcards, two of the softcover diaries (one for Stacey), another book about the Frank family, and “The Last 7 Months of Anne Frank” (51€, on VISA).



When we came outside it had started to rain lightly so we ran up the street and I found a shop called “Boathouse”. Spent 30€ on three pairs of wooden clogs, a picture frame, and keychain. By then the rain had stopped and we walked back down Prinsengracht. Stopped for dinner at “De Oude Wester”. Delicious hamburger, fries, and hot chocolate for myself, and beer, a Dutch dish of meat, potatoes, and cabbage for Jordan (27€). Raining yet again so we caught the #2 tram to the Emmastraat stop, then walked the last few minutes to the hotel. Asked at reception if the hotel can book a tour for us, but the man handed me a pamphlet and said I could call myself to book. I asked how much the phone call would cost and he said “not a lot”, whatever that means. Not very helpful.

{October 18 – 9:00 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Very chilled after our excursions so after washing up some underwear with liquid Tide, I felt like getting a hot tea or chocolate. We bundled up again and walked for 15 minutes trying to find a place that sold hot beverages to go. That was a bust, nothing really available in this end of the city. Ended up buying bottled water, juice, and a Snickers bar. Now that I really want a take-away hot tea, I have noticed that no one seems to be out carrying coffee cups. Maybe people just don’t do that here? I feel like crap. Why must I be sick in Holland? I have wanted to come here all my life and I am miserable.



{October 19 – 10:20 am – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Woke up with my throat still dry and sore, nose running, sneezing, etc. Lymph node to the left of my throat feels tender. Don’t have any cold pills left, as I gave them to Jordan when he was sick in Belgium. Already showered and waiting for Jordan so we can grab some breakfast somewhere.

{October 19 – 10:30 pm – Amsterdam, The Netherlands}
Walked down the main drag from our hotel toward the Rijksmuseum. There’s a park and a strip of souvenir shops, and a huge “I AMSTERDAM” display that people are climbing on. Stopped for a hot sugar waffle, an apple turnover, and a cappuccino. Then we made our way to the “Tickets & Tours” information booth near the Marriott Hotel. We booked a countryside tour of Volendam and Marken for 74€ (on VISA). From there we hopped on the #1 tram to Centraal Station and then went to the “Tickets & Tours” building to exchange our tickets for passes. At 12:45 pm we boarded a big bus and left the city through the tunnel under the harbour. Passed the “sleeping village” of Monnickandam, called this because there is a housing shortage in Amsterdam; people will work in Amsterdam and commute to the village to eat and sleep.



Our first stop was in the former fishing village of Marken, where the bus dropped us off. It’s started to pour and my umbrella is sorta broken, but Jordan’s managed to fix it for now. The guild led us on a walk through the village, pointing out all the green houses, and she explained that the water used to be salty but after the dike was created it gradually turned to fresh water. We walked to the ferry that would take us over to Volendam. While we waited for the ferry, we were allowed to go into the souvenir shop (I bought a magnet). At 2 pm we hopped on the boat for the half hour ride across the water. At Volendam we were given until 4:20 pm to do whatever we wanted to. Jordan and I strolled through the village, enjoying the beautiful day now that the rain had stopped. We ate fried cod pieces with lemon and tartar sauce and fries for lunch. I tried some Dutch pancakes called poffertjes while Jordan had an ice cream cone. At another store I purchased a pink bag with “Amsterdam” all over it, a couple magnets, and a postcard for 19€ (on VISA, as I’m short on cash now). At 4:30 our group walked over to the Volendam Museum (boring), then we boarded our bus and drove to the cheese factory! We were introduced to Iwan, who showed us how Dutch cheese is made. He wore wooden clogs with Nike symbols painted on them which Jordan thought were cool. Joking around, Iwan gave me a piece of cheese as he was demonstrating the slicer, and asked me if I was married. I laughed, said “yes”, and Iwan pretended to look embarrassed and replied, “Oh is that your husband behind you? So sorry!” We tasted a whole bunch of flavoured cheeses and they all tasted amazing. After that we walked over to the clog shop across the parking lot for a short demonstration. At 5:45 pm we drove to the windmill village of Zaanse Schans. The windmills there aren’t active anymore but the people who live in them must maintain them. Our group was given time to walk around for a half hour, taking photos. We were back in Amsterdam by 7 pm.



The bus dropped us off at Centraal Station. Walked to Leidesplein and ate dinner at “Mai Thai”. I love Thai food! Spent 34€ on iced tea, Sprite, Heineken, spring rolls, a huge bowl of rice, sweet n’ sour chicken, and a spicy coconut dish. After eating all that delicious food, we walked back to our hotel (about 15-20 minute walk). I think I need to find some cold medication tomorrow. I’m exhausted!

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part IV

***Continued from previous post.

{October 14 – 12:00 pm – Munich Airport}
Got up extra early this morning to shower and we were down in the lobby to check out by 7 am. Jordan grabbed a croissant to go and we walked to the bus stop for the #2 heading toward the train station. Once there we boarded the train to Munich OST at 7:51 am. At Munich OST station (which we almost missed), we transferred to the S-Bahn #8 that goes directly to the airport. Checked in with Lufthansa and passed through security. At 11 am we sat down for lunch in the airport. For 21€ we had water, mango juice, cheese and ham on toast (for me), and eggs with ham and croissant (for Jordan). We have a half hour before we need to be at our gate to board the plane to Brussels, Belgium!



{October 14 – 3:25 pm – Brussels, Belgium}
Short flight from Munich to Brussels on a little plane. We were confused where to go for baggage claim; once we finally made it, our bags were just coming out so it was perfect timing. Bought our train tickets for 16.20€ each – this is a train to Brussels North station and then a transfer to another train heading to Bruges (Brugge). Once at the North station, we realized our ticket doesn’t state what platform the next train will be at so that was also confusing. I found a map that listed all the train destinations and the times and we finally figured out that we needed to be on the train with end destination of Knokke / Blankenburge. Now we’re on that train, on our way to Bruges.

{October 14 – 9:15 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Jordan and I arrived to a drizzly, grey Bruges. It wasn’t cold, exactly, but the rain chilled our hands. We boarded a bus at the train station (a difficult feat with our small suitcases and other bags) and ended up getting off at the wrong stop. We really had no idea where we were going so we got off the bus and started back-tracking to Markt Square. Finally, after wandering around in circles, miserable, tired, and cold, an older gentleman told us how to get to our hotel. We are staying at the Hans Memling Hotel on Kuiperstraat and we kept coming really close to the street and then somehow getting off-track. What a nice man to help us tourists! During check-in we were told that our room was near the street on which some construction is taking place and that it would be noisy; however, the lady offered us the studio “triple” room for the same price since it would be much quieter. That made is quite happy! We dropped off our luggage and explored the little studio: on the bottom floor is a tiny room with toilet and sink, another room with tub/shower, a wardrobe, and a desk; and up the steep, winding staircase is the bedroom with one queen bed and one twin (like a loft).



Went out looking for dinner, armed with a map from the hotel. Once again, we walked quite a distance, sometimes seemingly in circles, before deciding on a restaurant. Ended up at “De Gouden Kroes”, which was not crowded at all and very warm inside. I ordered iced tea with a ham and cheese omelet; Jordan ordered the Flemish stew and a couple beers. The food was perfect and just what we needed after a long day of traveling. The iced tea I ordered ended up being carbonated, which surprized me at first, but then I decided that I really like it! For dessert we had a Belgian waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce. Our bill came to 40€, our most expensive meal so far in Europe. After eating, we roamed the streets and found ‘t Zand Square (maybe a ten minute walk from our hotel). Right in the middle of the square is a giant floating inflatable naked man! Weird. Admired the fountains and took a few pictures with Jordan and the naked lady sculptures in the fountain. Getting very dark by now. More walking and we popped into a chocolate shop for some chocolates (what else?) and stroopwafels. We ended the evening with a scoop of ice cream before heading back to our studio room. There will be lots more to see tomorrow! I hope the weather improves because I’m already sick of rain.

{October 15 – 8:10 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Quick entry before we head out: A few weeks before leaving for this trip, I booked us on the full-day “Triple Treat” tour with Quasimodo Tours. Totally recommend this company, they are great! The tour cost 120€ for both of us. Unfortunately, Jordan has the beginnings of a cold but he says he’ll be fine for the day.



{October 15 – 6:05 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
What we learned today: It’s Brugge, not Bruges! The guide was very adamant about that, but I’m sticking with “Bruges” for this journal. Jordan and I walked to Park Hotel at ‘t Zand Square to meet the van for 9:15 am. Very small group, only 6 of us! Philippe, our guide, was very amiable and knew all sorts of historical facts. First we drove out to the moated Castle Tillegem. There are two black swans living in the moat. The castle is now used as offices. (So far it hasn’t started raining, but the sky is grey and it definitely feels like it will later.) We walked around to the back of the castle and took some photos. Next we clambered back into the warm van and headed out into the Flemish countryside to Chateau Loppem. After hearing some history about the building, our group explored inside the chateau. Around 12:45 pm we came to the town of Lissewege where we saw some Belgian Blue cows. Learned that these cows usually give birth through Caesarian section because the calves are too large. In Lissewege we had lunch at a restaurant (after viewing the tithe-barn in the backyard) at a farm. Inside, we were served ham, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches (yum!) and one free beverage; everyone had beer except me. I drank the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had the privilege to sample! It was so creamy and tasted just like a chocolate bar, but not too sweet, either. The Belgians know their chocolate! For dessert we each had a crispy waffle with icing sugar and whipped cream – what a treat! I’m in love with waffles!



After lunch, Philippe drove us back to Bruges to “Roose’s Chocolate World” on Havenstraat. He gave us a demonstration on how the praline chocolates are made. Then we tasted some samples and were given some time to look around the shop. I bought a bar of milk chocolate, one of dark, and a package of thin wafer chocolates for 8.50€ to bring home. The next part of the tour brought us to the town of Damme (north-east of Bruges) around 3:15 pm. We parked by a canal with a beautiful old windmill in the background and walked to the town’s city hall. Philippe told us about the history of Damme and then we walked some more, admiring the houses and scenery, and finally stopping at the Church of Damme to inspect the cemetery. (At some point during the tour we also saw bunkers from WWII but I can’t remember where.) And to end the day, we went to a pub for beer-tasting and sampled four different kinds of beer. I tried them all but of course didn’t like any of them, not being a fan. The Kriek Max tasted like alcoholic cherry blasters.



{October 15 – 11:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
Walked around looking for a place to eat dinner around 8:30 pm after watching a movie back at the hotel. I ended up falling asleep and woke up starving. Of course, when we went outside it was pouring rain! Found a restaurant called “Brasserie Strijdershuis” and decided to give it a try. Food was expensive but tasty and the meal cost 40€. I had chicken breast with mushroom sauce, fries, salad, and iced tea (carbonated!); Jordan ordered rabbit in cranberry sauce, beer. Waiter was not helpful when we asked for explanations of some of the meals, nor was he friendly, and he seemed to avoid our table. I had to actually go up to the bar and ask for the bill after we finished our meal; we sat there for a good twenty minutes trying to catch his attention, but no luck. Good thing the food was delicious! Still pouring when we left…



{October 16 – 10:30 am – Bruges, Belgium}
Slept in this morning; we really were exhausted. Jordan’s still not feeling well. Don’t have any crazy plans for the day. Another rainy day; the weather really sucks right now, it’s hard to enjoy ourselves when we’re constantly wet and cold every time we leave the hotel.

{October 16 – 3:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
The streets were packed today, probably because it’s Saturday. Rained off and on throughout the day, good thing I have my purple umbrella. Ended up at ‘t Zand Square this morning and bought some danishes for later. Vendors are set up in the Square today. Jordan found a really warm, nice hoodie for 25€ (made in France, not China). I found some stroopwafels for 1€ a pack. Also bought ten Christmas cards for 3€. Did lots of browsing, but it was too cold to stay out for long. Walked some more and found HEMA department store – 2 sets of earbuds (8.50€ each), salty licorice (1.60€), spekulaas cookies (1.95€), warm gloves for Jordan (7.75€). On our way out the door I spotted a “Best of Krezip” CD, how could I resist for 8.95€? Popped into a couple souvenir shops and bought some postcards, magnets, and a little ceramic figurine of a boy and girl kissing (typical Belgian touristy stuff). Had lunch at a panini restaurant: two cheese, tomato, chicken, pesto, pineapple paninis, an iced tea, and Sprite for 15€. Oh my goodness, it was tasty! Took lots of photos during our trek around town. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at “Dumon” to get some chocolate wafers (7€) and truffles (2€ for four). Ahhh, I only have 15€ cash left, need to find an ATM!



{October 16 – 9:30 pm – Bruges, Belgium}
I fell asleep once we got back to our studio and Jordan ended up watching a movie while I napped. When I woke up at 5:30 (after sleeping two hours), we watched “The Score” on the Netbook. Then went on a search for dinner. Found an ATM on the way and took out 350€, the last of my travel money which needs to get us through Amsterdam as well. Food here has been ridiculously expensive. Finally we found a fast-food place serving double cheeseburgers with medium fries for 9.50€ (per meal). Going to bed soon. I’ll pack in the morning, I don’t have the energy to do it now. Check out is at 11 am tomorrow.

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part III

***Continued from previous post.

{October 12 – 8:20 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Another long, productive day. We haven’t spent much time in our little hotel room; too busy exploring! This morning I got up at 7 am to get ready. Ate breakfast a little after 8 o’ clock. After food, I purchased for each of us a 24 hour “Salzburg Card” (50€ total). This is a great card for the price – free bus rides and entry to a whole bunch of attractions in the city. This is a great website with lots of information about the city and the “Salzburg Card”. So, we walked down Linzer-Gasse, crossed the bridge to Old Town (Altstadt), and waited for the #25 bus in front of the police station. It came at 10:20 am. The #25 bus goes to the Untersberg cable car in Grödig / St. Leonhard and even though the bus ride is outside of the city, we were still allowed to get on for free when we flashed the “Card”. We reached our destination sometime after 11 am if I recall correctly. Inside the station we showed our cards and were given tickets for the cable car. We waited for the next car and climbed in with a huge group of people – it was quite packed! I’m afraid of heights, so I was apprehensive about going up the mountain, but there was no way I could go to Salzburg and not go to the top of the Untersberg! Luckily it was really foggy so I didn’t see much of the ascent. Jordan took pictures for me. Once we reached the top at 1776 m in altitude and went outside to the trails, I noticed it was much warmer than down at ground level.



We walked up the trail to the first peak marked with a huge cross and took some photos. Then we decided to walk the trail to the next peak, which was quite a hike! Probably took us a good 30-45 minutes to get there. I got so warm I removed my light jacket, and I had to constantly stop to drink water and catch my breath due to the altitude. But it was a wonderful walk and I’m so glad we did it. Around noon we climbed back down the trails to the station and hopped on the cable car for the next descent. At the main station we bought apple & cheese danishes for a snack. What a morning!



Our next stop on the #25 bus (free with the cards) was Schloss Hellbrunn. We got off at the right spot and walked down the long road to the palace grounds. Remembered this place from the “Sound of Music” tour from the other day, although this time we can explore on our own and spend as much time here as we want. First stop: souvenir shop! I bought a “Sound of Music” book, a book about Hellbrunn Palace, a postcard, and an Austria flag patch for 26€. Then we went into the palace and picked up two English audio-guides for the self-guided tour. I found the audio-guides were a little boring; I enjoyed just walking around and inspecting the rooms without it. Next we found the booth for getting tickets to the Trick Fountains show (included with the “Salzburg Card”). The next show was at 2:20 pm so we had a bit of a wait. The Trick Fountains were pretty cool. Had to keep my camera tucked away when I wasn’t using it so that it wouldn’t get wet. First we were led to see the stone table and seats that were the brainchild of Markus Sittikus. He got a kick out of his guests being sprayed in the bum by water jets when they were sitting down to dinner! The guide led us through the grottoes to see the statues, etc. As we walked through many of us got a little wet from the hidden water-jets spurting water at us – usually when we were stepping through a doorway or some other inopportune moment! The mechanical theatre was cool, too. It was fun, though, and worth the 40 minute stroll.



After that little adventure, Jordan decided to wander down a path that looked like it went into the woods, but actually led us to the Folklore Museum on the grounds. Free entry with our cards. Neat to poke around in there for a bit. Left there and found ourselves near the Salzburg Zoo so we used our cards for free tickets and had a great time exploring the zoo. The animals are so close and easy to spot for the most part. Took lots of photos, of course. The highlight of the zoo, however, was definitely when I came around the corner of the lemur pen and suddenly about four or five lemurs started jumping over and running around the path in front of me – way cool! For a light snack we ate some delicious French fries at the buffet. In the souvenir shop I purchased a miniature snow leopard stuffed animal for my sister (2.60€). We spent a long time at the zoo but finally returned to the palace grounds to take some pictures in front of the “Sound of Music” gazebo (no crowds this time). Then back to the bus stop to catch the #25 back to town around 5:30 pm. Transferred at the bus terminal to the #3 and got off in Old Town. We walked over to the elevator that takes you to the top of the Mönchsberg at the “Museum of Moderne” and got tickets to go up because they were included in the cards. (We discovered the elevator after our trek up the mountain on that first day.) However, once we reached the top we were told that the museum was closed for a special event so back down we went – good thing we didn’t pay for the tickets!



Found a “McCafe” while looking for dinner. Bought a caramel macchiato for myself and a slice of chocolate cake for the husband. Kept walking and stopped at “Spaghetti & Co” around 7:30 pm for dinner. We always have a difficult time deciding on restaurants, even here in Canada. By now I am starving! Jordan ordered Hawaiian pizza and beer, and I had the carbonara pasta with ham and bacon. Our dinner only cost 16€! And finally, back to the hotel after that amazing meal. So tired!



{October 13 – 4:30 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
We tried for another early day but we’re still so tired that we slept past 8 am. After eating breakfast at the buffet, we headed out into the grey, foggy streets through town to the funicular (cable railway) for Hohensalzburg Fortress. If we’d had time to go to the fortress yesterday, it would have been included in our “Salzburg Card”. Use of the funicular cost 10.50€ each. Once in the fortress we explored the grounds, checked out the panorama views, even though it was cold. Definitely the worst day for weather, our first yucky Europe day. We walked into the fortress and inspected the state rooms, etc. Signed up for audio-guide tour of the inner rooms to see things like the torture chamber, which was actually used to hold convicted prisoners. All in all, we spent a couple hours at the fortress and then took the cable railway back down in the afternoon.



Next we ended up at St. Peter’s Cemetery & Catacombs. For 1€ each we were allowed to walk up the steep stone steps into the catacombs and explore. It wasn’t that interesting. The view from the windows on the way up is pretty nice, though. After finishing there, I bought a yummy pretzel for a snack (2.50€). Went looking for lunch and by 3 pm we finally found a place that looked alright, “Il Centro”, an Italian restaurant. Very cozy inside, great to warm up the hands. I ordered black tea, Jordan had a beer. For food I had tortellini in a creamy tomato sauce with mushrooms, ham, and salami (divine), while Jordan ate a bowl of vegetable soup and pizza bread, all for 20€. I’m quite pleased with the cost of food here in Salzburg. Back at the hotel to drop off the days purchases (water, snacks, etc). Shortly we’ll need to catch a bus to the train station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s journey to Munich Airport.

{October 13 – 7:15 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Went out around 5 pm to catch the #2 bus to train station. Purchased our tickets to Munich Airport (66€ for both of us) and caught the next bus going to Altstadt. Found a toy store and decided to check it out. Bought a Disney Princesses sticker book for Jeena (9€) and a small notebook for myself. Then to the grocery store for Sprite and some Lindt chocolate. Next, we found the store “Interio” and I bought a whole bunch of small glass Christmas ornaments in my colour scheme (dark purple, red, and silver) all for 34€. Time to head back to the hotel to make sure everything is packed!

***Continued in next post.