Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cologne and Belgium from a guest blogger

I have been a bit remiss at the blogging - once again, we are without a reliable internet connection. Nonetheless, today we will feature a guest blogger - Liz!

Hello to the potential visitors of Wayne and Diane in Wiesbaden. Prepare with aerobics classes and bring your walking shoes. It has been a wonderful 5 days, but we have packed two weeks of stuff into less than one. I highly recommend it.

Travel notes: On water input – you have to pay for it everywhere so bring your own. On water output – you have to pay for it many places so plan ahead. Apparently this family of vegetarians travels on water, excellent bread with cheese and the periodic injection of French fries. My kind of people.

Anyhow-I plan a quiet day today, my poor brain. I have seen so much in such a short time that my head is spinning.

Day 1 - hang with Diane, lunch, get Abby, and visit the Thermalbad.
I assumed this would be some rocky area with a spot to get your feet wet, but no. This is a huge modern spa facility with a warm pool (~ 4 ft deep) that has jets and sprayers and bridges and inside and outside. This is a great cure for jet lag – light exercise in the sunshine, but be sure to bring a friend in case the warmth lulls you to sleep. The water is all (supposedly) spa water and you can taste the minerals. [But how much water does one spring generate? Sorry, couldn’t help the skeptical question]
Day 2 - hang with Wayne - see Mainz (1 cathedral with a very old early Romanesque part and later Romanesque with some gothic chapel additions), 2 smaller churches (Gothic & Rococo), one museum with no sensible labels and no dates on the pre-Roman and Roman artifacts. Nice museum, but only for the determined and previously educated.
Day 3 - You know it is a long day when the travel log will require outline format.
1. train to Köln (Cologne) up the Rhine. Very pretty, very cool. Small towns (Arkansas size) wedged between the hills and the river. Vertical vineyards. I will drink Rhine wines with more appreciation of the landscape in the future.
2. 3 h in Köln
a. Huge Cathedral (very nice - has bones of the Magi – Lovely gold case - I just knew they were real.) I had some bad moments with some of the stained glass windows. I know my historical and biblical knowledge is a little sparse so I always assume I am confused but I had trouble reconciling the picture of the stoning of a saint with the description of the holy spirit with the holy family. In time, I realized that the pamphlet had the window descriptions reversed. [Ha- not my mistake.] Wayne, Diane and Abby scampered up a large tower (509 steps) while I wrestled with my lack of familiarity with Scripture and stain-glass – hampered by the addition of many local saints.
b. And a museum with Roman artifacts (the WWII bombing of Köln uncovered a large number of Roman ruins), Great Museum and the displays were amusing and interesting. I highly recommend it.
c. And a tour though the Praetorium ruins - an important Roman guy's house. Wayne tells me it was the Roman Prefector. And a tour of some Roman sewers..and we got back in time for the next train. (Phew, and the day is not done).

3. train to Bruges, Belgium and a lovely little house we rented. Abby and I had the attic. The attic stairs were everything a good gothic novel would have them be, narrow, short, and steep – a close cousin to a ladder. Walk in the city and a lovely little dinner in the neighborhood. I was very happy to see no less than 3 eel main dishes on the menu. My eel were excellent (a little over cooked). No one wanted to share… I wonder why?

Day 4 - Walk one end to the other of Bruges. Fabulous architecture from 1400-1600's. Cute canal system, charming on every corner and designed to part the tourists from their Euros. I am sure this was the original design intent of the founding fathers. City walk, canal tour (chilly but lovely), climbed the central square tour (300+steps - no big deal for this crew), lunch and a museum that specialized in Jan Van Eyck and Flemish primitives. Saw some ghastly paintings designed to hang in the public governance rooms to remind the officials not to take bribes. [[A note on the canals: they are designed to move goods, and there is no actual flow of water. What are these like in the summer?]

Day 5 - train to Brussels - 6h in town. After a lovely stroll along a city lake where there were stalls of fabulous things to eat (breads, fruits, a stall full of olives, meats – both raw and ready to eat). Here we specialized in viewing art Nouveau. We took a walking tour of the city area where there were many original Art Nouveau homes and even went into a Art Nouveau museum (the home of designer Victor Horta). Stained glass, curved and airy metal and wood –mostly in gold, beige and brown.

As is the style of these folks, we were nowhere near done. We then took a tram to another side of the city and saw the Hotel de Ville at the Grand Place with the famous guild halls on the square. You know Louis 14th tried to bomb the Hotel, specifically, to dishearten the people. He missed and trashed everything else.

You will be delighted to know, we found a chocolate shop - where everything was 1/2 price! The floors were being redone, a dusty job, and she had a lot left that had to go.

Finally, we took a speed train home (299 km/hr!) and got in at 10:30 pm last night. In Brussels, a late train from Köln was clearly described has having been held up on the German rails.

Everyone is leaving me alone this morning and I am thrilled. My suitcase is now full of chocolates and Wayne’s books – time to go home.

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