Germany Tour

The last 7 days I have had the pleasure of traveling throughout Germany.  Starting last Sunday night, I took a train from Zurich to Mainz and made my way along the Rhine, across the country, and up to the coast.  What follows are my miniature journeys.

Monday – Mainz

Mainz is somewhere I have had the pleasure of visiting before.  The hotel I was staying in is located directly on the Rhine and I could see it from my window, even when lying in bed.  Mainz is an extremely adorable and lovely place.  When I think back to how I used to imagine Germany, pre-visits, Mainz resembled exactly what I pictured.  Cute homes, ginger-bread looking buildings, cobblestone streets, blonde people smiling.

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Wikipedia tells us that Mainz was a “Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and became the provincial capital of Germania Superior. The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main; in the modern age, Frankfurt shares much of its regional importance.

The city is famous as the home of the invention of the movable-type printing press, as the first books printed using movable type were manufactured in Mainz by Gutenberg in the early 1450s. Until the twentieth century, Mainz was usually referred to in English as Mayence.”  Well thank goodness they changed the spelling!

Coming back was a treat, especially with warmer and sunnier weather compared to the last time I was here.  I was disappointed I waited too long to grab dinner because all of the stores were then closed (it was Sunday evening after all).  But I was still able to enjoy a lovely meal outside while the sun set over the town.

Tuesday – Cologne

Tuesday evening I arrived in Cologne after a scenic hour and a half train ride.  The entire voyage along the Rhine found me looking longingly out the window at multiple little towns.  What was funny was that the layout for these little towns all looked very similar – cute house, cute house, cute house, church & steeple, cute house, cute house.

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Entering the city I instantly knew this was very unlike Mainz, the very cute and quaint city I had just come from.  The buildings were all covered in very cool, very bright and very much intended graffiti art.  The gothic church steeples (more steeples) rising in the background from the Kolner Dom made for an interesting and oddly beautiful contrast.

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When I exited the station, I was standing right in front of the Kolner Dom.  It was absolutely magnificent.  Based on the church’s website it has been around at least since 1170 and was hit by and survived 14 aerial bombs from WWII.  It made up the entire square.

I very slowly walked towards the cab queue because I kept looking back at this stunning structure with my mouth open like I was trying to catch flies.  By the time I got to the hotel only 5 minutes later, I realized I was just on the other side of the Rhine and was able to walk across a quick bridge to head back that way for more photos.

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Now according to the marvellous Wikipedia, Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany.  I found it to be very urban and chock full of younger people and hipsters, which included hipsters that were rock climbing up the bridge itself.  Never seen anything like that before but why not?

Unfortunately Cologne was also one of the most heavily bombed cities during WWII.  Much of the original city center was wiped out, but thankfully the Kolner Dam survived the attacks.

As I made my way across the Rhine, I noticed hundreds of love locks on the fenced sections of the bridge itself.  This continued along the entire length of the Rhine, which is much wider than the Seine, and some of the locks looked so old that I was convinced this idea of hanging love locks was invented in Cologne rather than in Paris.  It was such an urban image, but amazing and eye-catching – the different colors, sizes and metals of all of the locks, again with the Kolner Dam in the background, made for some interesting pictures.

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Cologne is a great city and one I would definitely visit again to properly explore.

Wednesday – Dusseldorf

The weather took a negative turn on Tuesday and started to resemble the Zurich weather from February – cold, rainy, and grey.  My day went fine and I got to the train station early to head from Cologne to Dusseldorf.

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Upon arriving I quickly grabbed a cab and by the time I arrived to the hotel, was pleasantly surprised at it’s beautiful location on the Rhine.  My room even overlooked the entire river.

Sadly I wasn’t able to do much exploring given the weather, however, trusty Wikipedia has told me that is it an “international business and financial center” known for it’s fashion.

One of the best parts about Dusseldorf was of course, being in Germany for the Brazil vs. Germany World Cup Match, when Germany totally WAILED on Brazil!  5-0 in the first half?!  What!?!  Makes me feel better about all of the other losses experienced.  I definitely picked a good week to be in Germany.  🙂

Thursday – Berlin

Berlin is one of those amazing cities that everyone in their life should visit once.  I was so thankful Tony and I had already spent some time here last year otherwise I would’ve been very sad at how little time I had this trip.  While Mainz, Cologne and Dusseldorf are relatively close together, Berlin is on the other side of the country.  I went from close to Switzerland to close to Poland.

My blog post from my visit last year does a pretty good job summing up the things I loved about Berlin.

Wikipedia of course regales us with stories of the wall and how it was built and then torn down.  I prefer to talk about the awesome Asian food, thrift stores, graffiti, leather, Doc Marten boots and Berlin Bear.  Such is Berlin.

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Friday – Hamburg

Hamburg was where I finished my trip, and the weather turned around just in time.  Tony was meeting me here and I couldn’t wait because I had heard so many incredible things about this place.

Wikipedia says Hamburg is “a major transport hub and is one of the most affluent cities in Europe.”  I call it nautical.  It is on the coast of the Baltic and North seas and as a major transport hub, felt a bit overwhelming – like I was Ariel trying to find Eric on dry land with brand new legs.

However, Hamburg was an expected treat.  Tony felt it was similar to Chicago in many ways, and I appreciated how close it was to water.  Tony arrived late Friday night and we ventured to Schanzenviertel at the recommendation of some friends.  This was the edgier part of town and we ate at a place called Harati.  The quarter had graffiti covering most of the walls and the streets were lined with individual boutiques and liquor stores. The restaurant itself had a very cool vibe.  There were actual cardboard cut outs of random images on the walls.  The beers were delicious.  However the hamburgers, for being in Hamburg, were just okay.  They were yummy but I’ve had better.  Maybe my expectations were a bit high?  I mean, Hamburg, right?

We popped around to a couple different bars and were back at the hotel by 1am, ready for our noon boat ride the next day.

Hamburg itself is split in half – one part is all land with a “beach” coast (yes they have a beach) and the second half is more similar to Amsterdam with canals of water running through it.  We boarded the boat at one of the docks and floated around the port.  We saw a ton of ship loading docks and it was unlike anything I’d seen before.  These ships were gigantic and watching the machines load heavy, heavy cartons was fascinating.  More fascinating than I am probably making it sound.  Guess you have to see it for yourself (shameless plug for Hamburg).

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Fish market

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The boat tour was also a great way to see parts of the city.  There were many church steeples (again, steeples – comes full circle) and cool looking buildings.  It was so lovely, sitting in the sun and floating around the city taking in the sites.

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Parliment

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We explored a bit more of Schanzenviertel to do some shopping before heading back to the hotel for dinner.  It was a quick trip but relaxing and new, which is just what I was looking for.

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I would definitely go back and recommend everyone to give it a try.  What a wonderful way to end an already incredible visit to Germany.  Danke, Germany!

German Words That Are Fun to Say – Part 2

In honor of the victory over France in the World Cup, I present to you more fun German words to say:

Fußball = Soccer

Zahnpasta = Toothpaste

Die =The

Ich = I

Mich = Me

Krakenwagen = Ambulance

Eisschokolade = Chocolate milk (had one tonight, very delicious)

Menschenmenge = Crowd of people

 

Let’s go Germany!  Go Deutschland!

Swiss Blues and Other World Cup Woes

Tony and I have been diligently following the World Cup from the beginning.  This is a first for us, but living in Europe has magnified the importance of the event.  The World Cup is everywhere and the thing to do after work is to go to the nearest bar or restaurant to watch the matches.

However, I’ve found myself rooting for the underdog and getting way too emotionally invested in the event.  This has proven to be problematic for my mood day to day, which Tony doesn’t really appreciate.

As a former high school soccer player, I have knowledge of the game and a high level understanding of the teams that tend to remain in the top.  These consist of the Frances, Brazils, Argentinas, Spains, Italys of the world.  The expected and the previous power houses.  The best of the best.

This week has really pulled at my heart strings and my tear ducts given the results of the matches.  I will break it down for you, starting with last Saturday…

Brazil vs. Chile

Brazil is the host country.  Neymar is the popular player, being showcased in the widely watched “Game Before the Game” commercial for Beats by Dre.  Brazil is of course favored to go far, not just because they are the host, but also because they have done so in the past.

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I was not rooting for the standard – Chile was my preferred team in this particular match as two of my very best friends are Chilean.  The game was great.  Chile held Brazil for the full 90 minutes, and then 30 minutes more in overtime.  It was strong defense and a tremendous effort.

Given the games have now moved into the elimination rounds, someone had to go.  A tied score after 120 minutes meant on to the penalty kicks.  Kick after kick after kick – my anxiety grew.  Finally it was down to one last kick for Chile.  If it was made, the teams remained tied, and Chile still had a chance.  If it was missed, Brazil would win.

Well the ball hit the post and did not go in.  Win for Brazil.  Watching some of the Chilean players collapse into tears made my heart hurt for them.

Mexico vs. Netherlands

Sunday night was Mexico vs. Netherlands.  I of course wanted Mexico to win given that my mother-in-law is from Mexico and my children will be a quarter Mexican.

The commentators kept discussing the heat – about 90 degrees fahrenheit that the players were dealing with.  I felt this gave Mexico an advantage over the Netherlands given the average temperatures of each of their countries.

Thus far in the tournament, the Netherlands had been playing very well.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but Mexico quickly proved to me they could handle it.  In fact, Mexico could more than handle the Netherlands.  The majority of the game was spent on the Netherlands side  of the field.  You could see how red the NL players faces were, both from the heat and probably from the embarrassment.

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Mexico scored first building my confidence up, but it started to go down hill after the Netherlands themselves scored and tied it up.  Both teams were escalating their unsportsmanlike behavior, but the refs were missing, or at least deciding to ignore, many of the fouls.

Sadly for Mexico, the refs decided it was good idea to make up for this on a foul in the box that wasn’t actually a foul and gave the Netherlands a perfect penalty kick opportunity.  This of course went into the net at the 94 minute mark, and Mexico couldn’t come back in time.  Netherlands won, 2-1, removing Mexico from the tournament.

Again, after seeing Mexico pour their heart and soul into a match only to loose in the final minutes, I wanted to cry.  Tony of course told me I was taking it way too seriously, but I couldn’t help myself.  After all of their hard work, it seemed so unfair.

Switzerland vs. Argentina 

After the spanking France gave Switzerland a couple weeks ago, I didn’t have high hopes for this game.  However, by halftime the game was still tied 0-0.  How were they doing it?  Against Messi?  No goals?  Incredible!

I sat completely still for the next 45 minutes while Switzerland kept the score at 0-0 into overtime.  They played amazing defense and found Argentina flailing about.  For such a powerhouse team, Argentina’s soccer was sloppy and for anyone not invested in either team, it could’ve been considered a fairly boring match.

Into overtime, the Swiss continued with their hardcore defense.  The game quickly moved on to the final overtime and at the 118 minute mark, with a stroke of luck, Argentina found their chance.  A swift goal, almost like a hit from the guillotine.  As in the Mexico game, there was not enough time left for Switzerland to recover.

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I couldn’t hid my sadness any longer.  At that point I didn’t even want to watch the USA game because I had exhausted all of my emotional investment.  After hearing the USA also lost, I feel I made the right decision.

At the end of the day, it’s only a game.  But a good game, a fair game, ends with those working the hardest as the prize winners.  While I didn’t expect any of the 3 losing teams to make it “all the way”, for them to get into the next round would have been reward enough.  And for all of their effort and hard work, to lose in the final minutes just made me sad. At this point I am curious to see how the rest of the tournament shakes out.  Maybe these winning teams will prove me wrong.  I sure hope so – it will make me feel better about the losses.