Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wrap up

Being that it is my last night in Europe, I thought it might be fun to recap or summarise a few things. Enjoy.

Total Days in Europe: 57
Countries Visited: 8 - Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Germany
Flights: 7 - Miami to Scotland, Scotland to France, Spain to Italy, Italy to Denmark, Denmark to Ireland, Ireland to Germany and Germany to Miami
Trains (long distance): 5 - 1 in France, 1 to Spain, 3 in Italy 
Rental Cars: 3 - Scotland, Ireland and Germany
Estimated Kilometers driven: 1,500km TBC
Hotels: 24 different hotels and I never once forgot my room number! 
Nights with free accommodation (thank you friends and family): 18

Favorite Meals
Breakfast: Hotel breakfast at Berghotel Kocklesberg in Trier (I'm not big on breakfasts, but this one was good)
Lunch: Los Caracoles in Barcelona (thanks Stefan)
Dinner: Ciro & Sons Ristorante in Florence 

Favorite sights per country 
Scotland: The A82 highway. Amazing mountain views.
France: Waking up from a nap and seeing the Eiffel Tower
Spain: Casa Battlo, especially the blue stairwell
Italy: The David
Denmark: Tivoli Gardens
Sweden: That piece of street art on my walk (Remember the sculpture of a woman looking up, so I looked up to see another sculpture of a boy hanging from a flagpole)
Ireland: The Wild Atlantic Way (drive by the ocean).
Germany: My relatives and the Rosenbaum name on so many things (homes, street sign, etc)

Most interesting or unique thing noticed per country 
Scotland: Isolation. I could be on a one lane road in the middle of the country and literally park there without seeing another person for 20 minutes.
France: Gardens in Paris. There is always a place to sit down with your friends and enjoy a lawn/lake/sculpture garden.
Spain: Gaudi/Architecture. I'd be walking along, checking stuff out and all the sudden BAM! Amazing architecture like nothing else on Earth.
Italy: How different each city was from the next. Milan is nothing like Venice which is nothing like Florence which is nothing like Cinque Terra. They are all Italians. They all love their football teams, their families and their food, but each city is unique.
Denmark: I want to say the blonde, beautiful people. Not even Southern California can compare. 
Sweden: Only being there for lunch didn't give me much time to see what was unique about the place. I will say that the lunch at the women's co-op was unique to me. And awesome.
Ireland: Green! So many shades of green! Green everywhere! Also, the Poison Garden in Blarney was unique.
Germany: Windows. Seriously. A typical window in a house or hotel opens in two ways (depending on the direction of the handle) though there is only one hinge. The window can open like a door. Or it can open like a laundry or garbage chute as if the hinge was as the bottom...but it isn't!

Things I wasn't expecting by country
Scotland: Seeing the actual desk that the "King's Speech" was written on
France: To love espresso, and be spoiled with amazing homemade meals (recipes/inspiration from Togo)
Spain: Delivery sushi!
Italy: To be moved to tears by fans singing at the Roma vs Genoa match
Denmark: To learn so much about Viking history
Sweden: To be there at all.
Ireland: Adorable and colorful towns
Germany: To see Highland Cows 

If you have any questions you'd like answered on the blog, let me know: sportik@gmail.com

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Germany: Hüsten

Another big day.

To update:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Germany: Cologne to Hüsten

Today was a HUGE day. It's 2am. 

Highlights (because it's super late and I need to sleep):

  • Cologne Cathedral
  • American couple from Boston bought me breakfast after a great chat
  • ATM (I'll explain later)
  • GPS (user) error made me get stuck in the biggest motorcycle parade I've ever seen
  • Arrived Arnsberg (Hüsten) where family were waiting outside to greet me. Nice warm welcome.
  • Toured the town: Local church, RSL equivalent, cemetery where family is buried, etc
  • Old family photos where I recognised myself as a 2 month old!
  • There is a Tough Mudder competition a 10 minute walk from here
  • A nice long walk in the forest
  • Eurovision party with a bunch of Tanja's girlfriends from school
  • Great chats in English with family and new friends
Tons more to come...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Germany: The Black Forest to Trier

This blog is a catch-up for May 20th and 21st. 

I woke up in Hotel Diana, looked out the window at the beautiful dark trees and then checked the forecast. SNOW! Ok, I didn't end up seeing any, but Feldberg (where I was) is the highest range in Germany outside the Alps. It makes sense that it'd have some brisk air in mid-may. 

After one of the best breakfasts yet, and a cold water shower (no choice, the hot was NOT coming), I packed up and departed. I had no destination in mind for the Black Forest, so I plugged in "Trier" into the GPS (having booked a hotel that morning - destination!) and was given a route that took me north on the west side of the forest. 

I feel like I missed an opportunity to see something spectacular in the Black Forest, or to have cake, but alas I was on a mission. 

Trier, I had learned from Google, Tripadvisor and Wikipedia, was likely to be the oldest city in Germany. It was founded in the late 1st century BC by the Romans. This is a town with some history. The other thing I learned was that a cathedral claimed to have the actual "Holy Tunic" or "Holy Robe" - the garment Jesus wore as he died on the cross. The garment has a recorded history from the 12th Century. 

You can't read something like that and NOT stop by to see it!

The drive itself was going to take 4 1/2 hours (adding an extra hour to avoid tolls and inadvertently France). This was a big ask after the day I'd had before. Not only that, but the heavy rain I'd been warned about had arrived. It was not a solid 4 hours of rain, but it came and went for most of the day. Around the 3 hour mark, I'd had it. I had stopped a few times for fuel and food but I could not drive one more kilometer. I pulled over at a rest stop, took off my shoes and launched/squirmed my way into the back seat where I went into a coma for 45 minutes. I don't know if I slept, but I powered down and that was enough. When I sat up, the sun was shining and I felt refreshed. As they say in Australia. Stop. Revive. Survive.

Upon arrival in Trier, at the Berghotel Kocklesberg, I found that I'd made a great choice with the reservation. The hotel restaurant and wrap-around deck overlooked the town of Trier from a 300m elevation (Thanks Mom for making me look that one up).

As you may remember. I had "limited" wi-fi in my room. I could get wi-fi on my phone (not my tablet) in the restaurant, but only if my phone was flat on the left side of the table. I found a spot in my room where my tablet could connect, but only long enough to get frustrated. 

Hanging my tablet half out the open window seemed to work
I stacked everything I could find to make it easy to type, but the reception just wouldn't stick around
Oh well, no blogging for me that night. Instead I watched How I Met Your Mother in German and had a fantastic night's sleep. 

The following morning, I drove down the hill to the town of Trier. My GPS didn't recognize "Trier Cathedral" so I looked up "places of worship". There were three. I picked one and parked in an underground lot.

For the next two hours, I was in love with this town. Where I'd parked turned out to be perfect. Not because I'd picked the right church (because I hadn't) but because I was in the tourist path. I saw signs pointing this way and that, so I wondered around.

Electoral Palace
Interesting sculptures outside the palace

Man sized walk-thru holes in the shrubbery, leading to an open field/park
This path lead me to the back of the Imperial Baths 

I have seen A LOT of graffiti in Germany, but this struck me as talent rather than criminal

There were walking tour groups everywhere, with leaders speaking English, German, French, Chinese. I followed one of the English speaking tour groups into the church I had chosen. It was a simple church (no pictures allowed) but I learned (by eavesdropping) that the church organ had 6,000 pipes! Wowzers.

I exited, leaving the group, and looked around. To my left, maybe two blocks away, I saw the spire of a church poking into the sky and decided to make my way towards it.

I passed this archway while walking to the Cathedral

This was the Cathedral I'd been looking for
The one that claimed to have the Holy Robe
Holy Rollers
(caption by Megan)
Abraham bringing Isaac to God as a sacrifice
The figures in doorway arch reminded me of Notre Dame

In the middle of the church grounds was a cemetery. Most graves were from WWI (1910's, 20's)
I know it's not a great picture, but inside this room is the Holy Robe's resting place

The room in which the Holy Robe rests is off limits. You can't get to it or see inside it. They do show the robe every decade or so. It was a little bit of a let down, but still this Cathedral (built in 1270) had interesting designs and sculptures, the likes of which I hadn't seen. And I've been seeing a lot of churches.

This tall, smooth column had these hands at the bottom. 
Camp Jesus. "I don't know. Do you think this makes me look fat?"
This dome blew my mind. The detail. So intricate.
I've never seen a sculpture with it's back to me.
This is clearly Lot's Wife looking back, turning into a pillar of salt
I then went for a 20 minute walk thru the city (in a direction I had not come from). For a moment, I thought I was lost, but at the end of the road, I found that I was back at my parking garage. A miracle. I didn't get lost!

Here are a few more cool things I saw in Trier on that short walk. 

Trier was a winner for me. If I make it back this way, I would stay at that same hotel and spend my days overlooking the town or parking and going on walking adventures, exploring. I'm sure Trier has much more than what I was able to discover.