Sunday, May 03, 2009

Germany with Jack & Mary

Roxi and I had a fun but busy weekend of travel with my parents through a few German cities. We started our trip on Saturday afternoon with a four-hour train ride from Enschede to Cologne, Germany. It was a long but rather uneventful train ride except for a little trouble we had with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in Enschede. Immediately upon leaving the train station in Cologne, we were dazzled by the size of the cathedral in the adjacent square. It was impossible to capture in a single photo due to the sheer size and fact that it is so closely nestled amongst the other buildings in that part of the city. I've seen several of Europe's great cathedrals but I will never get tired of them as they are all unique and such an impressive testament to faith.

In typical fashion, Roxi and I studied a map in an attempt to find our nearby hotel and between the two of us, we were successful. We checked-in in advance of my parents and made ourselves comfortable at the bar where we asked the bartender for beer recommendations. We started with Dom Kolsch, a light and refreshing beer brewed on Cologne.

Next we moved on to the more internationally known Warsteiner.

As we began our third round, my dad showed up in the bar. My parents had just arrived in Cologne after spending the day taking a boat up the Rhine River from Mainz, Germany. My mom was resting in the room so my dad decided to join us in our beer tasting.

For our third beer, we tried Kostritzer, a very dark rich beer full of flavor.

From there, we moved on to another internationally known beer, Diebels. It was a lighter beer by comparison, but still a nice amber color and again very refreshing.

We finished our tour of beers by having a Erdinger wheat beer.

At that point, my mom joined us in the bar and we began to think about where we might have dinner. Being in Germany, we all wanted a nice dinner of traditional cuisine. The bartender recommended that we try Fruh near the cathedral. So we finished our beers and took the short walk back to the cathedral square.

The cathedral at night was just as beautiful as it was during the day. I tried for some night shots but they are always more tricky with a simple point and shoot camera.

We almost found the restaurant ourselves but needed a little direction from a local to get us there. We were seated immediately and given a round of Fruh beers. They were equally delicious to the other local beer we had tried earlier in the evening. We all put in our orders for food covering the spectrum of what is thought of as traditional German cuisine and when it arrived, none of us were disappointed.

Over dinner, Roxi and I listened as my parents told us some stories of their travels to Bruges, Paris, Mainz and the Rhine River cruise. It sounded like they had a fantastic time and I am glad that they were able to experience such a large portion of their trip without us giving our two cents on what they should and shouldn't do. After dinner, we were all pretty tired and so went back to the hotel to call it a night.

Yesterday morning, we had a fantastic breakfast buffet in the hotel (still nothing can compare with the breakfast in Sweden but definitely the second best we've had in Europe!). From there we took the short walk back to the train station to get our ticket for the day and get some more pictures of the cathedral.

In the past week of the trip, my dad had been doing some reading about Charlemagne and wanted to see Aachen if possible. Our plan for the day was to go to Geilenkirchen before returning to Enschede, but there just happened to be a train schedule that took us through Aachen. So we boarded the train and arrived in Aachen about twenty-five minutes later. There was a rather large police presence in the train station due to, from what we could tell, a soccer game that was happening later in the day. We looked at a map and decided the best place to see on this short visit was the city center. We took a taxi who dropped us off in front of the city hall on the site of Charlemagne's palace. We took the brief walking tour through the building admiring the view of Aachen Cathedral from one of the windows.

We didn't want to delay our trip to Geilenkirchen for too long, so we headed back to the station to catch our train. About forty minutes later we were in Geilenkirchen. The reason for our stop in this small, out of the way town is because my maternal grandparents and great uncles emigrated from the area in the late 1800s in order to avoid military conscription and religious persecution. They settled in south Louisiana around Roberts Cove about twenty miles from my hometown of Lafayette. My grandmother was born and raised in Louisiana in a fusion of German and Cajun culture that still exists today in the small town.

Most business were closed as it was Sunday, so we decided to again head to the city center to see what we could see. After taking some pictures of Saint Mary's Church, it began to rain so we sought shelter in the Jabusch Hotel & Restaurant. We sat down to another delicious German meal with some Jever, a very bitter beer. My mom told our waitress a little bit about her history and the waitress said that her father, the owner, came from an old family in Geilenkirchen and could probably tell her more when he had some free time. A little while later, Willi Jabusch came to our table and told us about the Geilenkirchen area. My mom and dad brought a book about Roberts Cove history complete with all of the family names that settled in the area. Willi reviewed the names and not only could he tell us exactly where my grandmother's family probably came from, he also pointed out that his family name was also on the list! We had a great conversation with him about his travels to the United States and my parents' travels in Europe.

All good things must come to an end and we had to head back to the station to catch our train in order to return to Enschede at a decent hour. We had a short ride to our first transfer station but when we were supposed to catch our next train, none showed up. Eventually we found out that our train had been canceled but the next train going the same way would be leaving in about thirty minutes. So what was supposed to be a short layover turned into a layover of a little more that an hour. Unbeknownst to us, in that time, my dad was starting to feel ill. A little less than two hours later at our next transfer station, he got sick. We all felt very badly for him especially since we had been hustling and bustling around all day. After a forty minute wait in on a cold platform, we got on our train bound for Enschede. My mom had also been feeling badly during lunch, so both she and my dad slept for most of the next hour on the train.

Finally we arrived back in Enschede just before 10:00 PM. We took a cab back to our apartment and put my parents to bed. They did so much traveling the last few days of their trip, it just took its toll on them. They slept in this morning and seem to be doing a lot better for it. This afternoon, we are all going to Amsterdam where Roxi will be flying to Rome this evening for work in Chieti for a few days and my parents will be heading back to the States on Tuesday. All in all it sounds like my parents have had a wonderful trip except for getting sick in the last couple of days. We loved getting to see them at the beginning and end of their trip and having such a great time seeing some new things with them.


Jack said...
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Jack said...

Wes this is a great summary of the time Mom and I spent with you and Roxi in Europe. What a great trip that enabled us to see so many interesting and historically significant points of interest, thanks to the many suggestions you and Roxi offered, not only while traveling with you and Roxi, but also after Mom and I struck out on our own to Brugge, Paris, Mainz and the Rhine River boat trip to Cologne. And it goes without saying we could not have possibly figured out all the complicated train schedules and connections necessary to get us from point A to point B in the shortest possible time without your help, which made the trip that much more enjoyable. (The minor illness Mom and I experienced that we think may have been a reaction to something we ate while traveling to Cologne, is just a minor footnote to an otherwise perfect trip). This was an unforgettable experience that we will always treasure. Thanks again Wes and Roxi for such great hospitality!

A Touch of Dutch said...

Köln! I'm jealous! I've yet to visit there, but one day I will. And the beer looks enticing! I like to try German beers. Cool pictures too! Thanks for sharing all about this :-)