Two more countries are crossed off the list! Krystyn has just one more left now. Her goal is to reach 25 countries by the time she turns 25. She’ll make it.
This trip was, I believe, the most tiring yet. Initially, Dori had asked me if I and a friend wanted to accompany her on a trip to visit her parents back home in Cologne. She was planning to get there Saturday evening and leave Monday evening. Two days didn’t seem quite worth it. I figured that Krystyn and I could leave earlier and make more of the trip. So, we arranged to fly to Brussels early Friday morning, take a bus to Luxembourg where we would spend the night, and then a take the train to Cologne the next day. There, we’d connect with Dori and then come back home with her on Monday.
So, on Thursday at midnight, Krystyn and I boarded the bus for Dublin. Our flight went quite smoothly and when we arrived at Brussels, we inquired about the bus to Luxembourg. The man behind the desk directed us downstairs, where we bought our remarkably cheap tickets (€4.50). We confirmed with the driver and other passengers that the bus was indeed going to our destination. Then, quite tired, we leant back and rested. Luxembourg was the last stop. Having been in Brussels before, we recognized the sights as we drove throughout the city. However, the LED display in the bus soon announced that we were approaching “Luxembourg.” We became a bit concerned. The bus stopped right outside of the European Parliament, which we had visited in October! Unless we had unwittingly been touring Luxembourg on that prior visit, we realized that something must be wrong. Soon enough, we discovered our problem: the bus had taken us to Brussels-Luxembourg Square! Oh, we were annoyed. Now, we had no clue how to get to the actual Luxembourg, plus we were certain it would be much more than the €4.50 we had counted on.
So, we walked up to the Parliament and declared our problem. Thankfully, a very helpful man got us out of our mess. Initially, he told us it would be €69 to take the train into the little country! However, he helped find a better price, so we only had to pay €13. Three hours and a bit of hassle later, we were in Luxembourg! At least the train ride had been lovely, passing snowy fields and forests. Also, I enjoyed the company of my Hercule Poirot novel, Murder on the Orient Express. Rather fitting, wouldn’t you say?
Once in Luxembourg, we found it a lovely city, a bit Parisian according to Krystyn and very reminiscent of Brussels. We toured the city and enjoyed a lovely meal at a nice café owned by an Irish woman! We each had the smoked salmon salad, and were not disappointed. The city is small, but it is most unique in that it is very hilly, and consequentially, multi-level. In the evening, we connected with our couch-surfing host, Brigitta, a 26 year old Bavarian native and transplant to Luxembourg. Krystyn and I really enjoyed meeting her and staying in her lovely flat in the old part of the city.
After a nice breakfast in the morning, we bid goodbye to Brigitta, and walked through the old city into the modern part of the town. This meant that we moved from the valley where the old city lies, to the higher altitude of the new part of town. We had beautiful sunny weather and even shed our coats. Built into the side of the hills were neat walkways and ruins. We enjoyed browsing the Saturday morning market, with fresh produce, cheeses and pastries. We saw the home of the royal family and passed the parliament and a lovely cathedral. Then, of course, we *just happened* to wind up at the Chocolate House. This rather scrumptious establishment is known for its multifarious flavors of hot chocolate – the type with a hunk of chocolate on a wooden spoon that you stir into hot milk or coffee. I got 85% cocoa, and Krystyn got brownie flavor. Yum. The restaurant overlooks the palace and was built into a very old house, so it was a tasteful experience in every way. Then, we enjoyed soup for lunch.
Around 6 pm, we headed to the train station to commence our voyage to Cologne airport to connect with Dori. It was a double decker train, and we enjoyed watching the dying sun and snowy landscape as we passed by. Once at the airport, we met Dori and her parents (Monika and Reinhart) and drove to the latter’s home. Dori’s mother Monika has the same favorite colors as I do (red, orange and yellow – the warm end of the spectrum) and so the house was decorated just to my liking. Monika and Reinhart were so sweet, and although they only knew a little English, they were very welcoming.
In the morning, Krystyn and I went off on a trip to Bonn, while Dori and her family celebrated Monika’s birthday. As we seem to be fated to do, Krystyn and I failed to get off at the right stop, adding an hour and a half to our trip. Alas. If there is one thing that traveling does, it prepares you for mishaps. Eventually, we got to Bonn and enjoyed walking around the quaint city. We enjoyed some lovely lunch, German beer and coffee and cake. We walked along the Rhine, saw Beethoven’s home, the University of Bonn.
Once we were back at home, Dori, Krystyn and I enjoyed some homemade pizza together and some great chats. Eventually, we got on the subject of Krystyn’s appendectomy when she was 13 years old. I asked about her experience, but was not prepared for the amount of detail she gave. Sooner or later, I got one of my attacks of nausea – the kind that unfortunately leads to blacking out if I don’t lie down. Krystyn and Dori didn’t realize that I was actually feeling quite sick when I said “OK, I think that’s enough.” Then Krystyn said I went green, but I got to a bed before I fainted. Its pretty pathetic now squeamish I am!
In the morning, we headed off to Cologne. In terms of size, Bonn is to Derry as Cologne is to Dublin or Belfast. The first attraction you see as you train into the city is the ominous, gothic spires of Cologne’s Cathedral, started in the 1300s. It took 700 years to complete. If you saw its extreme detail and intricacy, you’d believe it! Krystyn got her turn to be nauseous as we climbed the 530 spiral steps to the top of the spire. Afterwards, we toured the inside and catacomb-like basement of the ancient building.
Next, we went to the perfume museum, showcasing the original eau de cologne. We walked along the waterfront and ate at an authentic German restaurant. I got herring, potatoes, sauerkraut and beer. Back at the house, Monika made us delightful wholewheat waffles with sour cherry compote and ice cream. That was quite the proper send-off!
The trip’s being so wonderful made up for the fact that we didn’t get back to Derry until 1:45 am on Tuesday. Of course, Tuesday is my busy day with class in the morning and evening. Needless to say, I was very pleased to get into bed last night!