Saturday, July 05, 2008

Heading Uit

Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate, Belgian waffles...we have to leave while we can still button our pants. I'll catch you up with the day trips I've yet to write about after we get home. This trip was different, though, and there was less time for writing. Wall-to-wall sightseeing, visiting, and just relaxing were the goal this time, hence the radio silence. It's been a great trip, all too short.

Bye Antwerpen, hope it's not too long til we see you again!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cologne (Koln) by car

Tuesday morning we got up fairly early to hit the road for Cologne in our rented dark blue Kia cee'd DIESEL compact family sedan, yowza! Our friends S & I even lent us their GPS device, which has a voice not unlike Alec Guinness (I kept waiting for him to tell John to use the force while we drove the Autobahn).

It took about 2 hours to get there, and we found the Meininger City Hostel easily with the help of Obi Wan Kenobi. The rooms only have two twin beds apiece, so we had two rooms next to one another, each with a small tv and with a shower/toilet in the room. Big windows overlooked courtyards and a construction site (who cares? we weren't there to see out the hotel window). The manager recommended a good place to park, so John moved the car while I settled the girls into our rooms.

John got back and we headed down to the Dom (Germany's oldest cathedral) on foot. Partway there John had second thoughts about the parking place, so the girls and I played at the fountained courtyard of the very modern Sparkasse bank building while he went back and moved the car. A little German-speaking girl wanted to play, so the three of them ran around the trees and fountains for a while. She wanted to know how old the girls were, and when I told her that MeiMei was indeed "funf" she was confused because MeiMei is just a hair over a meter tall (see Plopsaland entry yet to come). I loved the conversation because it went something like "funf?" "Ja, funf." "Ich bin funf!" "Ja, she is funf too." Try saying "funf" out loud and you'll have a moment of mirth.

We got to the pedestrian area leading to the Dom, which (according to Rick Steves) has been a pedestrian shopping district since at least medieval times, maybe even earlier. The girls stopped to watch street performers playing harmonicas, accordions, doing one-man-band puppet shows, the whole bit. We had a cold drink and found the nearest WC in the Roman-Germanic museum just past the Dom. Both of the adults in our party were salivating over the thought of what wonders awaited in this museum, but knew not to push it with the little ones, who were tired from travel and walking, and in no mood for ancient relics. It went on the list "for next time." That's the deal when you want to travel with kids as young as ours.

The girls enjoyed walking around the inside of the cathedral and trying to spot interesting things in the stained glass. They always want to light a candle in cathedrals, and are very solemn when they do it, too! It has become a thing we always let them do when we visit a cathedral--and there are so many to see in Europe, it's probably good to have a ritual. We tried attending an actual service once though (see Easter 2007) and...well, it's not a good idea at this juncture, shall we say.

John and I were both bummed to learn that the next night there would be a performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in that very cathedral, which itself was one of the few buildings to survive WW2. 95% of Cologne was decimated, since it is such a key transportation hub along the Rhine for both rail and shipping. Can you imagine hearing such a stirring work, in such a perfect location? It was like last year when we visited Aachen - they were going to do the St. Matthew Passion by Bach in the famous cathedral there. One of these trips, the stars will align and we'll get to see and hear a great composition in a great venue.

We went back to the hostel by taxi (knowing better than to say the word "walk" out loud) and found a place across the street for dinner, just a basic pasta/pizza place that was cheap and good. The girls fell asleep pretty easily that night, and John followed soon after, but I was hot (no a/c) and there were loud students on our hallway. Finally at 12:30 I called the front desk and they came up to tell them to please be quiet, ending with an ominous "alles klaar?" I heard the voice that had been doing all the obnoxious laughing and storytelling say "Ja" and the noise stopped.

Breakfast at Meininger was good for the price (about $5). Yogurt, muesli, bread, cheese, meat, fruit, juice and coffee. I had bread with a shmear of braunschweiger, yum.

And we were off to Koblenz...but that's another entry.

Belgian Springsteen Fans

A while ago I had mused about what a Belgian Springsteen fan would be like. You know that footage of polite audiences watching Jim Morrison on staid 60's tv shows? The contrast is comical. It wasn't THAT calm, but compared to audiences I've been a part of at Giants Stadium (beer throwing, spontaneous brawls, too much drama out in the audience), the audience on the 23rd of June at the Sportpaleis Antwerpen was well behaved AND enthusiastic. The people in the scrum at the front of the standing-room-only floor section (pictured) had dutifully written requests on random pieces of cardboard, and Bruce happily took their requests and even played some of them. At the end, he played "Glory Days" and brought the house down. Great concert - glad I saw The Boss before he gets any older...

You can search FTJ for past posts, e.g. China info...