Hello, I’m back

As is usual for me I didn’t bother telling people I was going until now when I’m back. We went for a three week sojourn in Germany and surrounds. I’ll share some of our journey with you in due course, this will just be an opening. I have a book to share with you next week. I will include some pictures just to prove I was there and had someone to take photos for me. It was a whirlwind trip and at times I got quite confused.

This trip goes some way to explaining why I stopped writing my blog, not only did I have uni assignments and classes, but I also wanted to finish all my assignments before we left to give me a good chance of actually having a holiday, it also takes time to organise a holiday. I had four assignments due in a week apart, two were due two days after our departure and the other two a few days later. Thanks to taking some advice and some excellent group members this was achieved.

I spent the first week away doing little more than keeping my eyes glued to the screen watching stupid movies on the planes or sitting watching the scenery wander by at the speed of the ICE trains. I did a bit of Facebook and occasionally read a little, although only a handful of pages. The only thing I managed to achieve was to start writing on my blog again. While It felt good to be writing again I decided to start as I mean to go on for the next few months and only wrote once a week, this means you’ll get a total mixture of my writing until I have more time. I will continue to give you my thoughts on books I read, as well as some details of our trip and some thoughts about the writing and publishing industry. I am considering writing an obituary about a friend who died while I was in Europe, being a writing friend this is entirely appropriate but I’ll see if I can muster the right words.

We had quite an intense trip travelling through four countries in twenty days. We came into Frankfurt airport which is quite civil as it has a train station attached to it. The food options are fabulous, even the most basic of foods I could see looked really good, we bought pastries which sent my tastebuds into raptures. Our next destination was in the Rhineland and we needed to take three trains to get there. I was quite sanguine about this, with all my assignments submitted I was on holidays. My intentions at that time were to get to our hotel, drink water, get some vitamin D via the sun and some exercise, anything else was a bonus.

Jetlag sucks in the biggest way. Neither of us sleep much on planes and the idea is to get sun, water and exercise in order to change our body clocks. The theory works fine for me and I was adjusted within a couple of days, but not so well for my travelling companion. The other theory we were told is that it takes one day for the body clock to adjust for each hour difference in time zones, this is what worked for my travelling companion despite using our own theory every day of our stay.

Our trip covered Kempen in Germany, Amsterdam in The Netherlands, Antwerp, Brugges and Brussels in Belgium, Frankfurt in Germany, Luxembourg in Luxembourg, Trier in Germany and finally Frankfurt again. Why Frankfurt twice? I’d managed to secure tickets to see 2Cellos in concert at the Festehall so we travelled from Brussels to Frankfurt (yes, changing countries) and the next day from Frankfurt to Luxembourg (another change in country) just for a concert. As I write this on the 14th June I am secure in the knowledge this might not have been necessary as they’re coming back to Australia and I have another chance to see them in November, but it was an awesome experience and I might consider writing something about this for Facebook. If I was confused as to where I was I can’t say I’m surprised. At one time it was three consecutive nights spent in three different hotels in three different countries. Confused? Me?

Things to be careful about in Europe.

They drive on the other side of the road. Even after three weeks I still got confused as to which way to look I spent a lot of times muttering to myself ‘which way to look?’. Bikes, watch for bikes. I noticed this most particularly in Amsterdam but applicable elsewhere. There are more bicycles than cars and they don’t necessarily follow the road rules. Sometimes they stop for red lights, but very few bikes stop for a zebra crossing. They park and lock their bikes everywhere. So much bike parking at train stations, sometimes room for hundreds of bicycles.

Eurail Pass

Although we travelled to four countries, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combine to be called Benelux and are treated as one country in a number of ways including the Eurail Pass. This is a ticket that enables us to travel on any train throughout these countries for a certain number of days. We bought a pass that gave us nine days travel, they can be done consecutively or separately. It’s proved invaluable, planning our travel carefully we ensured we’d have nine days of travel. We could take as many trains as we liked on each day. That meant we were able to stop off in Liège to walk up the stairs before getting on another train heading to Frankfurt. The extra train cost us no more. We had bought first class tickets and while we could sit in second class if we wished in first class we only had to watch for people who had reservations. We found very few reserved seats, mostly we sat together with an extra seat for our suitcase (being too big and heavy to put up on the luggage rack above our heads). In order for the pass to be valid for a particular train we had to fill out the paper (technically before we entered the train but in reality just after we sat down) which a ticket inspector may or may not look at. The details we had to fill in were very specific, some of them could be found in the app. Oh, the app! I loved watching someone else deal with the app, but this was also very detailed and included which platform we needed. There was one exception where we’d get to the platform and the app would tell us to go elsewhere, this happened three times for one train, by the time we finally got to the platform the train had departed.

Trains and stations

Trains and stations throughout the parts we travelled were amazing. Mostly well signposted with some odd exceptions. The app would tell us which platform and sometimes even the carriage we wanted. Bearing in mind we paid for first class tickets and we mostly wanted to sit in first class, especially when there were a lot of people wanting the train. Some of the trains were very long and when we only had a minute to board with the carriage we wanted at the other end of the platform it must have looked rather ‘interesting’ to see us sprinting for the right carriage. I don’t sprint at the best of times and I’m not a slight person so I suspect my flab bounced as I ‘sprinted’. But we made every train and every carriage. Back to the long carriages. Sometimes the trains were made up of two smaller trains. One train would arrive at a specific station and after uncoupling two trains would take off to different destinations. Occasionally the passengers would ask each other if they knew if the carriage was going to the right station or if they’d have to get off and change carriages.

Food

Especially in Germany the brötchen (rolls) and pastries are addictive. Much nicer than I remember from our last visit in 2001. I’m sure my waistline has done its normal job of expanding due to the food, although we did a lot of walking. Not wanting to risk driving on the wrong side of the road we took trains between towns and walked from our hotel to most of our touristy destinations within each town. The day with the least walking is more than three times greater than my normal days back home.

That’s all for today. I’d apologise but it feels good to be back.