Here's the itinerary:
Antwerpen to Cologne (Koln), Germany's oldest city
Cologne to Koblenz, where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers come together
Koblenz to Trier, site of Roman ruins
Trier to Antwerpen
After many disappointments with hostels already being booked when we hoped to travel, it suddenly occurred to me--what about Etap and Ibis hotels??? Faithful readers will recall our stays at these modular bare-bones places on our trip to Strasbourg/Paris. I looked up Accor Hotels (the same chain that owns all the high-end Sofitel and Novotel establishments) and sure enough, they have great places to stay, centrally located, at just a notch above hostel prices.
So no, it ain't the Hotel Melba (see the Bastogne post) and we won't have the ISH experience (see London) BUT we can set the itinerary first, then book places to stay. With the dwindling availability of hostel rooms, we were starting to go at it backwards, based on hostel availability. That's just dumb, because it means you could be setting yourself up for a logistical nightmare in terms of distance from train stations ("just a little further, honey...can you carry your own Dora backpack up the mountain, you big five-year-old? It's just like the end of The Sound of Music! Val-der-i...val-der-ah...come on, sing honey!") so this is much better.
Thanks to mom for the Rail Map of Europe you gave us like 12 years ago (happy birthday by the way MOM!). It helped a lot to see where the major routes are as we plotted our course. Thanks also to Google for the great maps and translate functions. I'm able to email the hostel and hotel operators in English AND clumsily translated German! What a great world we live in.
Now that we've got the thumbtacks in the map, it's time to play everyone's favorite game, "Train, Boat, or Bus?" Hurrah!