Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Strassbourg and Colmar: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

The medication that made my throat not hurt also made my heart run fast and beat loudly, and made me not sleep. I remember there are some cold medications that do that to me and stopped taking it, but after a really bad night, I had to tell AdventureMan I really could not go into Strasbourg for the day, I was really sick.

He was shocked. We have been in and out of Strasbourg and Colmar all our grown-up lives. We would stay at the Officers Circle in Strasbourg, just a short walk from downtown. We had so looked forward to this part of the trip, so . . . he knows I am really SICK.

I spend the day sitting up, sleeping. I couldn’t breathe. Remember how thankful I was for the constant supply of really hot water in the showers? I was so sick, I took a 15 minute shower every hour or so, so the steam could help me breathe. I think I ate something in the casual restaurant, or brought some soup back to my room, but I didn’t want to be around people and expose them to me.

By late afternoon I was better. Having stopped taking the pills for my sore throat, I discovered my throat wasn’t that sore any more and that mostly it was all in my chest. I was also able to sleep, well, as long as I was sitting upright, which helped me recover.

So this is what I have to remember Strasbourg by:

 

AdventureMan said he had a rotten day in Strasbourg. It was drizzly, and I wasn’t with him. He ate some Persian food, and found some cookies to bring back as gifts, but his heart wasn’t in it. He brought me this wonderful mug from the Strasbourg Starbucks. Remember, I am a Seattle girl, as well as an Alaska girl. I love the mug.

So. The next day is Colmar, and I am feeling so much better and I am really happy to be feeling better but I know I have a long flight coming up to get us back to Pensacola, and I don’t think I am better enough to risk a relapse by going into Colmar for a whole day. AdventureMan takes off, and this time, he eats mussels in wine for lunch, simple, but one of our favorite French dishes. I spend the day on the boat, but I do eat, and run into one of our friends and we take a walk in the area where the ship is docked. So here is what I saw of Colmar:

You do remember that the French designed and gifted us with our beautiful Statue of Liberty? I believe the sculptor came from Colmar, anyway, this Statue of Liberty parody stood in front of a motorcycle shop we could see from the ship. It was a great walk, maybe a mile round trip, to get a good shot of it, because there were gates and walls we could’t get past on the docks to get there directly, so we had to walk around.

 

 

I felt well enough to attend the ships gala dinner farewell that night, eight courses and I can only remember the dessert, which was flamed, and it took forever to flame the top of the creme caramel for every guest. One of the really good things about Tauck’s river cruises is the small size of the group guarantees you will get to know at least a few people with common interests during the trip. We found many who were independent in nature, as we are.

One thing we don’t understand is why the cruise lines don’t mention some of the more cultural experiences to their groups. I remember when we took the “Empires of the Mediterranean” tour with Viking, and we found the tour in Kotor very slow. We had a book and a map and took off on our own, finishing up at a fabulous archaeology museum. We sat on the steps outside, afterwards, people watching in the place, and several later Viking tours went right by, the guides never mentioning this fabulous museum was even there.

Yes, we like history and archaeology, and learning about how ways of doing thing evolved, and also, I find some of my best gifts in museums, unique items, not available in catalogs, many of them handmade, and lovely jewelry and scarves, authentic and hand crafted. I can only speculate that these attractions cannot be monetized, and are therefore ignored. You could say that it is the travelers responsibility to seek this information for him/herself, but it would be a courtesy to your shipboard guests and an enhancement of the port experience to mention some of these better museums, especially when they are very well done. We had the same experience in Seville; we found two museums that were totally fabulous, a lot of thought and creativity had gone into preparing the exhibits, and there were exquisite pieces on display, if only one knew to look.

I had told one of the women we had met of the Unter den Linden museum in Colmar, and its fabulous Isenheim triptych by Matthias Grunewald, housed in an old convent. They came back to the ship thanking us for the experience. None of the guides had ever mentioned it. Wow.

OK, enough of my travel editorial. Sorry! Sorry! Oh, wait. It’s my blog. I get to say what I want 🙂

Because of our large, roomy closet, packing was a snap, and the next morning we awoke in Basel. Our bags were already collected, we just had our day packs and handbags with us. We chose to have breakfast served in our room, which was lovely, and headed to the airport with plenty of time.

This is what Basel looked like as we prepared to depart the ship:

 

 

It began to rain, more like sleet, and as we headed to the airport, it got heavier and heavier. It was a great time to leave. My staying aboard through Strasbourg and Colmar had enabled me to shake most of whatever it was I had caught, and the trip home was comfortable, except for the normal hellish trek through Charles de Gaulle. We found the lounge in our terminal; LOL, trust the French to have chocolate mousse in their airport lounge, don’t you love it?

We are still talking about this trip. We think we might do it again some year, and maybe with our grandchildren, to show them some of the places we’ve known and loved in a low tourist season.

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Cultural, France, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Baden Baden Christmas Angel: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

AdventureMan is low energy, recovering from a bad cold, and I have a sore throat, so we decide to spend a day relaxing on board the Inspire, and to go into Baden Baden that evening for the opening of the Christmas Market. It is a great decision. We love traveling, and at the same time we are not in control of our schedule. There is little time for rest between tours and activities and briefings about the next days activities, and meals. Lots of meals.

It is a great decision. We feel great by the time evening arrives, and head into town for the opening of the Market. We arrive just before the arrival of the Christmas Angel. We are with a more aggressive shipboard friend who manages to be both aggressive and polite, and she “excuse me’s” our way to a very close vantage point, surrounded by Baden-Badeners who are delighted we have come to participate in this special community event. They explain that the Christmas Angel always used to arrive in a horse-drawn carriage, but now arrives in a beautiful new Mercedes. Somehow, that makes me laugh. Either way, it is an odd way for an angel to arrive!

 

Well, even though we have this great view, I have to hold my camera way up above my head to get this shot, and the Christmas angel is barely visible. She also has to make a very long obligatory speech thanking every possible Baden-Badener who made the Market possible. And many school children come on stage and sing. It is a lot of fun, and it is also very cold.

 

This is one of the loveliest Christmas markets I have ever visited. It has wide aisles, and lovely merchandise, and really cool food vendors with delicious cheeses, special wines, meats, and, of course, gluewein.

Our friend was a really good sport. AdventureMan and I are remembering our young years, and the way we loved currywurst, so we talk her into joining us for dinner at the currywurst stand. This is upscale currywurst, but of course, this is Baden Baden. It is served on a china plate, with potatoes. The currywurst we remember was really just a sausage cut into slices and then sprinkled with curry powder before ketchup was squirted on. This currywurst is a more special sausage, and  there is a lot of it. It also comes with a lot of tiny little potatoes, and a kind of garlic hollandaise sauce. A little of it went a long way.

 

Above are wooden carved creches, and all the carved figures you can put inside. These were really beautiful. I wondered where they came from; you sort of picture little wizened wood-carvers in Bavaria, but I suspect they are machine made in China.

It looks like crystal, but it is all plastic! Some of the stars were faceted plastic, and sparkled, so I bought several, even though I have a wonderful collection of glass and crystal ornaments from our earlier years. I also have two destructive cats, and anything special gets hung on high from candelabras and chandeliers, but plastic stars I can stick to the windows and not worry if the cats fiddle with them. Thus, over Christmas, I have already lost two of them to falls and being batted around.

 

Moravian stars were everywhere, most made with a heavy paper.

A beautiful collection of creches, each in it’s own container, above.

Some were very modern.

One of the speciality food stores.

 

We made it around the entire market, and now it is time to find the bus to return to the boat. I am glad; it is a very cold windy night, as beautiful as it is, clear and cold, and I have lost my voice. My throat is also very sore.

 

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Germany, Travel | Leave a comment

MS Inspire: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Once we board the bus in Heidelberg, we are in new territory. The night before, we had packed all our bags and left them in our stateroom, carrying only a day-pack. This bus will take us south, into France, and to a new ship, the MS Inspire, which will carry us the rest of the way down the Rhine to Basel, where the trip will end, after hitting Baden-Baden, Strasbourg and Colmar, cities we have often visited in the past.

 

Our room is exactly the same, only with brighter colors, the colors of Klimpt, reds and golds. We have a little Christmas tree on our table.

 

 

Down the hall, in the casual restaurant, Arthur’s, is a tree totally decorated in owls, making me think of Hogwarts, and the messenger owls.

 

They have a simple breakfast buffet in the morning, and lots of hot fresh coffee. There is a much more elaborate breakfast buffet in the dining room, but this is close, and handy to our room. From afternoon on, they have a samovar full of gluewein available to all passengers, and boxes of Christmas cookies. So hospitable, LOL.

 

The ship is elaborately decorated. They must have had so much fun.

 

 

 

 

No rain, but mystical French fog and mist.

We didn’t do a lot of real “cruising” on this trip – one time it was 45 minutes!

 

The day we didn’t go to Baden Baden, I tried the hot tub. It was the hottest hot tub I have ever felt, I could hardly get in it was so hot, and couldn’t stay in. But it was beautiful!

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, France, Germany, Travel | , | Leave a comment

We Left Our Hearts in Heidelberg: Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Going back to Heidelberg was one reason we chose this trip. We met in Heidelberg, AdventureMan and I. We married, and lived in Heidelberg our early married years, AdventureMan a dashing young lieutenant in the Army. I had gone to Heidelberg American High School – we knew how lucky we were. We had our proms in the Heidelberg castle. I had my high school graduation in the Heidelberg Castle. We were in and out of the Heidelberg Castle more than ten years of my life. If anyplace is home for me, Heidelberg comes close.

Before we left the ship, I approached the guides and told them we knew the city and wanted to leave the group at the castle – we had our own agenda. Here is what I really like about Tauck – it was no big deal. They just said to be sure to be at the Rathaus by four, and we knew right where that was.

We started out at the Heidelberg Castle:

I love this courtyard in November. There are tourists, but not the hoards of summer time.

 

We had photos taken here when we were newlyweds, from the little cupola on the right:

We were the Heidelberg Lions in high school 🙂

 

 

Down along the main street, the Hauptstrasse, I sat a few minutes in the quiet serenity of the Heiligegeist church, a famous landmark in Heidelberg.

Carousel between Heiligegeist Kirche and the Rathaus.

 

The Christmas Market is going strong on the Market square. When our son was in second grade, he went to a Christmas Market with his school and bought us these beautiful beeswax candles. In a total misunderstanding, after we received them, we lit them, and our son was devastated that we would burn a Christmas gift that he had given us. It has lived forever in our family lore. We bought him a beautiful beeswax candle.

 

 

We had some sentimental inspirations for our day, and we walked down to the Neckar river, to the Marestall, and walked along the river for a while, the way we used to.

 

This is the Hotel Ritter. When I was in high school, my parents would eat there, with friends, and on special occasions. On very rare occasions, I ate there, like before proms. AdventureMan and I can’t remember eating there when we were early marrieds; we were too busy saving for our month-long trip to Kenya and Tanzania. The Ritter was a very historic, very special place to eat, and with great delight, we decided to eat there today, and have some of their famous winter food.


View from our table to the Heiligegeistkirche, across the street.

Interior front dining room of Zum Ritter:

AdventureMan had duck breast and vegetables:

 

I had Ganzenkeule, a goose leg, with huge dumplings I didn’t eat. Also, roasted chestnuts which always sound so good in that old song, but taste mushy and pasty to me, just not my favorite thing, and I revel in being a grown-up who doesn’t have to eat everything on my plate.

A view of the castle from the University platz:

 

Late in the day, I started to have a sore throat, and here was an old pharmacy which had even been there when I was a student here. I went in, and spoke with the pharmacist, who checked that the saline spray I wanted didn’t have anything but water and saline, and then she asked a few more questions and offered me a mild . . . something . . .it wasn’t an antibiotic, and it wasn’t something sold in the United States, but we have often found that cough and cold and respiratory medications have stuff not allowed in the USA that can be very effective. She said it would stop my throat from hurting.

Even though I had a sore throat, I danced for joy. I could still speak German, in a survival situation.

This is the Rathaus, where we all met up at the end of the day.


March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Return to Rudesheim: Christmas Markets Along the Rhine

After spending the night on board the Grace, we head out the next morning, not by boat, but by bus, for Rudesheim.

Rudesheim, as I was in high school in Germany, and later as a military wife, was a place we avoided for one simple reason. We were residents, and Rudesheim was full of tourists. Occasionally, when we had house guests who wanted to visit a quaint town, we might take them to Rudesheim, or to Bingen, across the river, but rarely – there are so many wonderful, less visited villages with fabulous wines we could visit. When we lived in Wiesbaden, we were up and down the Rhine all the time.

Now, we are relaxed and decide to just sink into the tourist role. We are also not bus tour people, but the buses are due to the historic low water levels on the Rhine. You can’t fault a cruise company for the water levels in the river after an unusually dry summer and fall. While we had some drizzle, even some small sprinkles, we never saw a heavy rain, even during this trip.

Driving along, we were shocked by what we saw:

This is what is left of the mighty Rhine near the Lorelei.


 

Arriving in Rudesheim, I took a quick shot across the river to Bingen, where we have visited many times, drinking wonderful Rhine wines, back in the day when we drank a lot of German wines :-). Now, I wish I could go visit Bingen for the honor of Hildegard of Bingen, a great musician of the church.

 

We started out in Rudesheim at the Music Museum, a collection from all over Europe of mechanical music machines gathered carefully together. What a magnificent obsession! The collector would hear a rumor of a machine, and travel to Prague, or to some small village in Germany, or wherever the rumor took him, buying old, broken machines at a good price, freighting them back to his home, restoring and repairing them until they were back in prime condition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the music museum, it was time for lunch. We have to give Tauck Tours a lot of credit. Most tourist companies contract for a “good enough” meal, and when we heard “a typical German meal” we had thought we might go off on our own, as we often do, but the idea of lunch at The Rudisheim Schloss (Castle) intrigued us. We were glad we chose to join the group; the meal was done well, starting with a carrot soup and a good traditional German salad, then a schnitzel made with good meat, accompanied by potatoes (I think) and bottles of very nice wine. At each place was also a cup, a gift of the house, in which we could have infinite refills of the Christmas gluewein, spiced wine, all day long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We aren’t used to eating so heavily, so we skipped dessert (a gorgeous apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce) and headed for the funicular which would take us up to the Denkmal, a memorial built to honor the German dead from (a war?) (wars in general?) They gave us warm blankets to keep us warm in the little bucket we rode up in. It took about ten minutes.

Views from the flying bucket, down into Rudesheim:

 

View up the hill to the Denkmal – sorry for the flat cloudy sky.

 

We bought a few small Christmas gifts to bring back, and the shop owner asked us if we had come on a ship, and we explained “yes” – and “no.”  They were concerned with the low levels, that it would affect the crowds that normally come to the famous Christmas markets.  Fortunately, just as our trip was ending in Basel, the heavens opened, the rains fell, and the waters rose to their normal levels – and more.


 

 

In the shop below, the Poste, I found a map of the Rhine River all the way from its beginning in the mountains in Switzerland all the way to its outlet near Amsterdam. I hid it from AdventureMan, knowing it would fit in his stocking. When it came time to wrap, I couldn’t find it and figured I had already wrapped it, but it didn’t show up. It was only months later I thought to check my suitcase, and there it was. It was fun for him to get it, even so late, and he is still having fun with it.

So after wandering around, we decide to go back to the Rudisheimer Schloss and have some kaffee und kuchen, and the waitress tells us “it’s happy hour” for the desserts. She brings us this one lovely Cherry waffle, and oh, it is so yummy, we share it happily. The whipped cream is tinted green, and has pistachios sprinkled on it. We eat it all.

Then, she cheerfully puts another at our place. It would be rude, and wasteful, not to eat it, don’t you think?

We just laughed. We don’t often eat dessert, and we’ve more than walked it off already. It was totally yummy, even the second time around.

This is one of my favorite pictures. The sun is starting to set, it’s getting time to meet up with the bus taking us back to the ship, and the locals are gathering to drink a cup of gluewein and swap news. It feels like a village again.

 

 


When you take a tour, there are just things you don’t know until they happen. This time, as we leave, we board a ferry which takes us across to Bingen. Maybe Google Earth has told them that the autobahn on the Bingen side can get us back to Koln faster than the one on the Rudesheim side, down which we came in the morning.

 

I loved ending my day this way. On a darkened, quiet bus full of happy tourists who had experienced a very good day, this little Seattle girl saw this on the way back to the ship:

I was an early Amazon addict; it was just so handy. I remember the first year I was a member, they sent us all Amazon.com coffee mugs. Just once. It never happened again. I treasured that mug, until it went the way of all mugs . . .

March 27, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Germany, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Aachen – Christmas Markets on the Rhine

That this trip would go to Aachen is one of the reasons I eagerly wanted to take this trip. We visited Aachen around twenty years ago, and the minute I walked in the church, I was stunned by this candelabra:

It is huge. It is glorious. This was the church of Charlemagne, and it is a very very old church. I don’t know why it is so special to me, but I love this church. Now I can recognize all the Moorish elements; that could well be a part of its attraction to me.

Wikipedia says the Aachen cathedral was consecrated in 805 AD, and is the oldest cathedral church in Europe.

“It is claimed as one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe and was constructed by order of the emperor Charlemagne, who was buried there after his death in 814. For 595 years, from 936 to 1531, the Palatine Chapel, heart of the cathedral, was the church of coronation for thirty-one German kings and twelve queens. The church has been the mother church of the Diocese of Aachen since 1802.”

 

I knew from previous visits that you had to buy a ticket to take photos in this church. You have to find a policeman selling permits, and he puts a permit on your camera. There were a lot of people taking photos and being told they had to pay. There were signs, but they were small and not very visible. I felt sorry for the people who were scolded and told they had to pay.

 

 

 

Looking up int the dome. The black and white arches remind me of the Alhambra in Spain. So simple, so elegant.

 

Guess I really have a thing for those arches, LOL.

Outside view of the Aachen cathedral / church. What is really funny is that it looks like blue sky, and maybe, just maybe for a few minutes, it was. Mostly what I remember is a very cold day and a very chill rain, so chilly that we only wandered around the Market for maybe half an hour and then found a cozy cafe where AdventureMan could get some hot chocolate for his sore throat.

 

The Winter Specials!

Hirschsteak! (Deer steak) Gänsekeule! (Goose leg) Muscheln! (Mussels Alsatian style)

Shops full of the Aachen special spice cookies. Love the way they decorate their windows.

 

People beginning to gather for their shopping, and for drinking Gluewein with their friends.

 

I love this statue. I think it is called Greed, or The Love of Money.

Here is Didi’s Chocolate Shop where we found our tour guides, also having a hot drink and comparing notes while the tour guests shopped. I ordered Mint Tea and got a huge pot of boiling hot water and a bundle of mint leaves. It was lovely, so fresh, so fresh. AdventureMan also loved his hot chocolate.

 

When we left, we were all to gather at the tourist info stop. We were all there, and nothing was happening so a couple people went inside the tourist place, and then the guides showed up and hurried us down a street. Fortunately the people inside could see the end of the line far off down the street and hurried to catch up with us. We know they would have sent people back for them when they were discovered missing . . . or we think so. It felt like a disaster narrowly averted.

We speak the language. Still, we would not want to be left behind in a strange city and have to find some way to get back to a boat that we don’t really know exactly where it is.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Faith, Germany, Hot drinks, Photos, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Walking Tour of Old Cologne

We were spoiled, two whole days to explore Cologne on our own, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to see Cologne through the eyes of an expert. Our guide was hilarious, full of insights and funny stories, and his English was excellent.

We walked down through the oldest part of town, first, to the Rathaus, the City Hall. Inside, there is this wonderful layout of the city and the river, made to scale, with all the buildings of Cologne.

Outside view of Rathaus

I wish I could remember why this statue was significant . . . I think it has to do with their standing on the backs of the people, an unflattering statement.

From the Rathaus, we headed to the Cathedral. I really liked our time at the Rathaus, but I think it was really thrown in to kill time until our group was scheduled to tour the Cathedral of the Three Kings.

Below is a very famous statue of St. Christopher, carrying the Christ Child across a river, and now he is the patron saint of travelers.

I think this was a floor . . .

I loved this triptych.

We had a few minutes, a very few, to shop, and this is when I found two tiny bottles of 4711 cologne, and some small Christmas ornaments of the Cologne cathedral to bring back for little gifts for students AdventureMan mentors, and our grandchildren.

Although the name of the tour is Christmas Markets on the Rhine, it was the destinations that the tour was hitting that attracted us, places we have been and loved. We have years worth of German Christmas decorations and ornaments, enough to lavish our house, just at a time when we decorate more sparingly, and I can’t even use lights indoors because Ragnar (the Absynnian cat) chews the wires through.

We board the bus, head back to the boat for lunch and a quick rest before we head out once again for Aachen.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | | Leave a comment

Wandering the Christmas Markets in Cologne

We slept well at the Hotel Ernst, and wakened early, early enough that we could make the first service in the Koln Cathedral. We had checked times the day before, and as the cathedral is just across the street, all we had to do was to roll out of bed, get dressed and out the door.

 

I truly love cathedrals, and I love them best of all, churches, cathedrals, holy places, when they are quiet and empty and serene. The cathedral at zero-seven-hundred (as military types might say) was spectacularly beautiful, full of shadows and light, and a very few people, I would guess all local, heading toward a side chapel where mass was held.

We are Episcopalian, a liturgical bent of the Christian religion, and once you know the liturgy, you can follow it in any Catholic church in the world, no matter what the language. My heart was thankful just to sit and worship. I had visited The Three Kings (Drei Konigen) cathedral first on Epiphany in 1989, when the relics were carried around the church and children acted the parts of the three kings. It was powerfully moving. Sitting in worship, knowing it was a dream come true, my heart was full of uncontainable happiness.

We were bundled up, as was everyone else. There was heat, but the cold pervaded. People kept their heavy coats on during the mass, even their gloves, which made it hard to turn pages in the missal. We left just before communion, playing by their rules.

This casket contains relics of The Three Kings.

We headed back to the Hotel Ernst for a gorgeous buffet breakfast in their famous Excelsior restaurant.

 

 

 

Forgive me, I was HUNGRY! I didn’t take photos of the restaurant or the buffet. I will tell you that I particularly loved their coffee, strong and rich, served from an individual silver pot on our table, with fresh cream in another little pitcher. The breakfast was delicious, included a huge variety on the buffet, and you could order special things you wanted, eggs to order, etc. I found smoked salmon on the buffet, with all the trimmings, and my little Scandinavian heart was content with that.

We went back to the room, packed quickly, cleaned up and headed back out to explore the Christmas Markets early in the morning before the crowds arrived – and before they opened. We had the city to ourselves, early on Sunday morning.

Yes, I look very elegant until you get to my shoes. The surfaces vary. One minute you might be in the middle of the road, as in this photo, and the next, you will be on ancient cobblestones, or steps. When I was young, I heedlessly wore high heels everywhere. I no longer can do that, and it is misty and slick, so I am glad I have my faithful walking shoes. So faithful in fact, that we noticed that they are falling apart, and we threw them in the trash as we left Basel.

More early morning Christmas Market photos in Cologne:

 

 

 

 

 

The original Cologne water, everyone was buying 4711.

We had lunch at Peter’s Bauhaus. It looked so inviting, all decorated, and people were waiting in groups outside to be allowed in. It paid, in this instance, to be just two people; they took us right away and sat us at a table with another couple. We chatted a little – and then just had our own quiet conversations, sharing space but enjoying our own company.

 

 

 

 

AdventureMan had a schnitzel and house fries, with a salad and a beer. Kolsch, of course.

 

 

 

I ordered a salad with trimmed with bacon, but what I got was bacon with a little salad, and the dressing was very bacon fat. I’m sure it was delicious, but I can’t eat that much fat. AdventureMan was kind and gave me a couple bites of his schnitzel.

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Germany, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Hotel Ernst in Cologne/Koln, Germany

We are refreshed, we have eaten good German winter food, and . . . I am ready for a bath. We check into the hotel and our bags have already been delivered to our room. Our room is a long walk, but we don’t mind. We have discovered that there is THE elevator, and around the corner another, secret, less used elevator. Our room is on a very quiet corridor.

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We can see the cathedral from every window in our room, even from the bathroom 🙂

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Look at that lovely inviting marble bath tub 🙂

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Hmmm. Very clean and modern looking, but . . . not so much for privacy.

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Oh yes! I do love a good closet.

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I remember keys like this when I was a little girl. No no no – no key cards for the Ernst.

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This is the view from the terrace coffee room, looking over the cathedral and the crowds coming and going for the markets.

AdventureMan heads off to see a war museum and I head for that gorgeous marble tub. As I am exiting the tub, AdventureMan returns and we settle in for an afternoon nap. We snooze about an hour and wake up only a little hungry, not big hungry, and decide to try the Chinese restaurant next door.

When we moved to Pensacola, our son sat us down and said “There is something terrible I have to tell you. Pensacola has no really good Chinese restaurant.” He watched our faces for signs of horror.

We love Pensacola’s seafood, and the really good little Vietnamese restaurants we find here. But oh, I yearn for Chinese, and love my trips out to Seattle where I can find a great meal or two.

We leave our hotel and head for the Peking. We know we’ve made the right choice, as we head up to the second story, we are behind a group of about twenty Chinese people, carrying bags of wrapped packages, some sort of party. They are in a separate room.

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The Peking is up above the McDonalds

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Table overlooking the cathedral and square

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Peking Hot and Sour Soup

 

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Peking Crispy Duck – wow! We thought we weren’t hungry, but this duck was so good we ate every bite.

Our first day and evening back in Germany are wonderfully fulfilling.

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As a final bonus, the Hotel Ernst is gorgeous at night.

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I love this misty, eerie photo of the Cologne Cathedral at night.

 

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Germany, Hotels, Restaurant, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Markets on the Rhein

Horrors! I haven’t written since pre-Thanksgiving?? That’s the way my life is going, and I just have to take a minute when I can find it and keep up.

 

You may all think of aging, retiring grandparents as people sitting in rocking chairs on their porches, just waiting to die. The truth is very different. Retirement, at least early retirement, can be one of your most active times of life.

 

It is in our case 🙂

 

We made a choice. We have our grandchildren every day after school. It is delightful, and it is hard work. For me, it means having to carve out time for the things I want to do early in the day. AdventureMan picks up the grandchildren, brings them to our house, makes a healthy snack, supervises their homework and manages their time and experiences. I support AdventureMan, and specialize in hugs, intensely personal discussions, and rough-housing. I can make them laugh uncontrollably. I can cry with them when the world is dark and incomprehensible. I can help them have faith in themselves. I can encourage them to try, try again.

So, from time to time we run away and play, AdventureMan and I.

 

One of our favorite things we get in the mail are travel brochures. Most of the time, we don’t care, but the really good thing is that from time to time we get one that ignites our imagination, and we are both all in.

“Here’s what I want to do,” I said to AdventureMan, thrusting a Tauck tours brochure into his hands. “I want winter food. I want to wear winter clothes. I want to see the Three Kings Cathedral in Cologne again, and that glorious candelabra in Aachen. And look! It goes to Heidelberg! Strassbourg! Colmar!”

Here’s why we are still married after all these years. AdventureMan reads through and his eyes light up and he looks at me and says “You want to do this?” and I say “Yes!” and minutes later he is on the phone and we are committed. And we are dancing for joy.

Although we tend to be frugal by nature, history and habit, we are also pragmatic. If the flights are domestic, under four hours, we go economy. When we go overseas, we go business, and we make sure the seats go flat so we can sleep.

Our flights go smoothly, and we arrive relatively rested and excited. AdventureMan sends me off to change money while it is convenient, and I come back to discover I’ve kept a growing group waiting for me. Yikes. I apologize profusely and then just keep a low profile. Tauck is a little plusher than our Viking trips; we have a limo that we share with one other couple from Dusseldorf to Koln. The trip is quick, and we arrive at the Hotel Ernst efficiently. Our baggage is already there.

 

People check in, and we discover that everyone has a room except for us and one other group, and as things happen on these trips, the other group and us had a special relationship for the rest of the trip. We were both independent travelers. Our room was unlikely to be ready for a couple hours.

I’d like to tell you that I was a good sport, but I was not. I wanted a shower. They offered me to shower in the spa and I was not happy with that. They were really trying to please me, and I was trying, but I was not happy.

 

AdventureMan, who knows me well, said “I think we need a walk,” so I gave the hotel people the number of my brand new International-equipped iPhone, specially bought for times like this, and out the door we went. Out the door of the Ernst looks like this:

This is the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. The Hotel Ernst faces the Cathedral. 

 

The world looks new and fresh. I take a deep breath and smile again, it smells like home. We find our German comes back as if once again, we lived here and spoke it regularly. We walk, I take pictures, and when we find the Fruh, we know it is time to have our first meal back in Germany.

 

There is a method to our madness, when we choose a travel destination. This, for us, isn’t about Christmas Markets, although those are beautiful and fun. This is about feeding a need deep in our souls, a need for winter, a need for winter food and walking in the cold air wrapped in our heavy German coats. No, it isn’t rational. Yes, it’s the way it is.

Walking into Fruh is like walking back in time. We could be in Heidelberg, or Mannheim, or Wiesbaden, or Kaiserslautern, or any of the German towns where we have been so blessed to live.

Cologne is very proud to have it’s own beer, and you find it everywhere. It is served in tall thin glasses. I don’t drink a lot of beer, but I can drink a small glass of Kolsch. AdventureMan says the Bavarians call the glass a “test tube” because of its long, thin shape.

At first, we didn’t know. When AdventureMan tried to order a Pils, the waiter said in a loud, brusque voice “Kolsch! Kolsch! We only serve Kolsch!”

Cologne is not so much a tourist town. The tolerated u with grace; we speak German, but they treated us as outsiders. We know the difference. We didn’t mind so much; we are outsiders now.

I wanted you to see the menu, also known as Tageskarte, or daily menu. I also like to look at it and sigh; these are not foods you find in Pensacola. They are not foods you find, for the main part, at restaurants in the United States that call themselves German. Brusque loud voice and all, we are delighted to be at Fruh. They are all the winter foods I was hungering for so nostalgically, deer medallions, goose, heavy winter cauliflower soup . . . ahhhhhhh. . . .

We know we are in the right place. The locals fill in, with their shopping bags, meeting up with friends, we feel at home.

I had Hirschmedallions for my first meal, little deer steaks, with broccoli. This is new to me. I don’t remember food being served with broccoli before.

AdventureMan had Schweinesteak, pork steak, and a big bowl of home made potato fries. This is more the heavy, vegetable free cooking I remember.

As we ate, the hotel called to say our room was ready. On our way from the Fruh to the Hotel Ernst, the Weinachtsmarkt, the Christmas Market by the Cologne Cathedral, was beginning to open, and I saw my first vendor of roasted chestnuts.

We all sing nostalgically about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but the truth is, no matter how much my French and German friends rave about roasted chestnuts, I don’t like them. I don’t like their texture. I am sort of intellectually delighted to see my first chestnut vendor, but not really excited to eat any of them.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Germany, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment