Saturday, July 12, 2008

Koblenz and the Hotel Brenner

On Wednesday, June 25, we checked out of the Meininger City Hostel in Cologne / Koln, and set the GPS for Koblenz and the Hotel Brenner, our lodgings for the night. The forecast was for a rainy day (Cologne photo taken that morning) but nothing too dastardly.

We made it to Koblenz quickly and found the hotel, no problem. What a GREAT little hotel!!! Very welcoming and friendly when we arrived, the staff invited the girls to play in the garden while the manager parked our car for us. I went with them to the sweet garden with its goldfish pond, swings and slides, and breakfast tables (too bad the breakfast was too 10 euros per person + terrible exchange rate, not an option!). They were happy for the chance to play for a bit.

They were even happier to see our room, which was ready for us even though we arrived early. In retrospect, we really should have stayed in Koblenz at Hotel Brenner for all three nights of our Germany sidetrip, and fanned out from there to Koln and Trier. This hotel was so comfortable, and the room was one of the nicest I've EVER stayed in as far as layout, amenities, etc. A large bedroom area contained a "princess bed" as the girls called it, with a pretty canopy over the top, and there were two rollaway beds for the girls. They put up a BIG stink about being denied the princess bed, but to borrow from American Express..."Adulthood: Membership Has Its Privileges". If you're nodding your head, you need to read The Three-Martini Playdate - that woman is right up my alley.

Our lovely room also had a spacious bathroom AND a sitting room with a view of the garden / courtyard. We put our luggage in the room, sat for a moment, and then asked the front desk attendant about taking a train to the little town of Bacharach in order to catch a K-D boat for a cruise downriver back to Koblenz. They directed us toward the train station, just 10 minutes' walk away. As we walked out, it began to sprinkle. By the time we got to a little sandwich shop across from the train station, it was raining steadily. We had some panini-type sandwiches at this ice cream / panini place before heading across the street to buy our tickets to Bacharach, which cost only about 16 euro for the whole family. The train was a double decker train and we had an observation-type car all to ourselves! What a great train ride, right along the Rhine and through picturesque villages along the way.

We spent about 2 hours strolling around Bacharach and climbing part of the way up to Burg Eltz, which is now a youth hostel. I'm sure the view and the fortress itself are worth the full climb, but with our girls being so little (6 and almost-5), we just knew better, so we went as far as we thought they could go before turning back. We almost lost MeiMei along the way, too...part of the dirt/rock path was eroded away, and no sooner had John warned her to be careful--she tends to be accident prone--than she became fascinated with something above and almost walked right off the path...she would've slid about 20 feet down a steep, stumpy, rocky tree-studded hillside. John scolded her emphatically (okay he yelled), she dissolved into tears, and we made our way another few steps to see a view of the Rhine, hold our girls and get their minds off the tears.

Before making our way to the K-D boat dock (the rain had let up and our time in Bacharach was overcast but dry) we walked to one of the old city gates and showed the girls how these cities used to have walls all around them and you'd have to have permission to come in. They found that interesting, and we showed them where the big heavy doors of the gate would have been (the gate/tower is in great shape!).

At the K-D dock, we bought our family ticket for 50 euros, and got the girls an ice cream treat. We chatted with a couple from California who were touring the area.

Our boat arrived, we boarded, and snagged a window seat in the first-floor dining room / cabin--yay! Comfortable bench seats along the windows made a perfect spot for the girls to watch the fortresses, castles, buoys and boats go by (they have a thing for buoys that almost surpasses their interest in castles). We all ordered something to drink and some nuts to snack on, and settled in for a GREAT trip down the Rhine. The current on that river is really something, too. I can't recall any river I've ever been on with such a strong current. I resolved to hold tightly to the girls if we went to the top deck.

It rained off and on, but when the sun finally came out, we did venture up to the top deck and all I can say is, if you ever have a chance to take a Rhine boat trip, DO IT. With K-D, you also have the option of borrowing a bike from the boat, getting off at a particular town, and biking your way to the next landing to catch a later boat. What a great idea! That's my kind of biking too, along the river where it's FLAT.

About 5:30 we got back to Koblenz and found a lovely restaurant for dinner, right next to the public theatre and overlooking a public square. Our waiter described Koblenz as "a nice place to live, slower pace but with all the things you need right here." Ah, the Harrisonburg of Germany, I thought! Dinner was delicious and really quite affordable, which we found to be the case in general, when compared to Antwerp. Entrees here were 12-13 euro, rather than 19-23 euro. The girls liked the waiter so much, they drew flowers to give him, and he was charmed.

We saw all kinds of soccer fans, some dressed in red-gold-black for Germany, others in red and white for Turkey, heading out to watch the big semi-final European Cup game. We went back to the hotel to settle the girls in and watch the game on our hotel room tv. Germany won, and when we threw the window open we heard horns honking, impromptu firecracker celebrations, and lots of shouting and cheering.

Breakfast the next morning was coffee and pastries a few blocks away, and we were off to Trier.

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