We arrived in Germany just a few short days ago after an absolutely terrible flight from the Charlotte, NC. There was nothing especially wrong with the flight, it was just that I couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t sleep a wink the whole way over. I also cramped up in my legs and had the worst time sitting still – even after getting up a few times to walk around a stretch. The only good thing that I can say about the flight was that I watched two excellent films: The Big Year and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Both of them were terrific and had me laughing and crying (perhaps it was also the leg cramps). Actually, I think The Big Year only had me laughing, but I did think that all the stars (Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson) turned in solid performances that were a joy to watch. The story was entirely formulaic, but because the story wasn’t really the story, it was easily ignored. All I really wanted to watch was the character development and interactions and enjoy the ride. Jack Black was the character that we are, lost in the world -and even if we aren’t completely swallowed by it, the current sweeps us away from what we want in life rather than towards it. Steve Martin is who we want to be, successful in his career and his marriage and an all around good guy. Owen Wilson is who we worry we might sometimes become, wrapped up in our own world and missing the bigger picture in our relationships.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, well, again, the story is not important – except when it is. What I enjoyed was the way that people found strength in one another and learned that they did have something to offer the world and that their mistakes were greater in their own minds than in anyone else’s.
We arrived in Frankfurt – Oh No! Frankfurt! I thought we were flying into Dusseldorf?! Well, it didn’t matter, we still had a car reserved and drove up to Dusseldorf to meet a co-worker of my wife for kaffee und kuchen at his new home not far from the Bayer offices.Our son enjoyed the company of their children and got his first taste of playing with kids who don’t entirely share his language. To our relief, it didn’t seem to matter at all to him. We also enjoyed our visit and then went into town to our hotel.
Hotel #1: The InterCity Hotel (ICH): I don’t know what we spent for this hotel, but it was probably too much. My impression was not the best, although there was nothing wrong with it at all – except that I was lost in time from jetlag and there wasn’t a clock to help me out when I awoke in the dark of the night. Regardless, it was close to the HauptBahnHoff, a large number of casinos and a good helping of adult stores. Maybe this is common to many cities here, but it made me feel like we were in the wrong part of town.
We saw some of the town during a long walk and a short streetcar ride and even caught some of the T3 Dusseldorf Triathlon (I’ve raced a number of tris and I thought this one looked great – except for the idea that they probably had to swim in the Rhein, which doesn’t look so clean). Mostly though, we bopped from cafe to cafe to stem the hunger-crankiness and I probably had about 2000 calories in cakes alone.
The next day we went to Koln (Cologne). Our stay in that city was almost entirely restricted to a visit to the Dom, including climbing the tower and visiting the treasure chamber. Harry really enjoyed the climb and my legs were so happy to be exercising that it really brought me to life. The Dom is fabulous. I could spend a day or more there taking it all in, but this was an extra and not really a part of the itinerary.
From Koln, we traveled south to a little town on the Rhein called Trechtingshausen, where we are staying in the castle on the hill (Berg Reichenstein). I could stay here for the remainder of the trip easily. It’s a small town with not much going on, but it’s also just what I love about this country – it is old and beautiful and comfortable in its ways. We sat at a family restaurant overlooking the Rhein and had a great traditional German meal and met a sweet old man who brought his dog along for dinner (the dog is 17 and must have garlic with his schnitzel otherwise he just doesn’t know it’s there).
Tomorrow we are hoping to have a nice breakfast, hike along the river and tour the castle we’re staying in before driving to another castle and then ending up in Heidelberg staying in the shadow of a third.
All in all, this has been a great trip. I would prefer staying in one place much longer, but that’s the trouble with traveling so seldom: you want to do so much that it’s easy to schedule out the time to just enjoy any one place. Next time though… next time.