I was supposed to edit the end of this so Matt wasn’t even remotely in it but my editing software wasn’t co-operating so don’t let him know. (If you are Matt reading this then I am sure it was an error of the blog site that this video is on here 🙂
Falling In Love In Switzerland (Day One)
Thursday Matt and I boarded an ICE train (German high speed train) in Koeln to head towards Bern, Switzerland to attend the wedding of our close friends, Simona and Bruno. We were very excited to finally be on our way there for many, many reasons. One reason being, well, hell it’s a wedding!! Who doesn’t get excited by a wedding?? Especially when it’s a close friend’s wedding AND you get to be with those close friends AND you get to see other close friends in Switzerland AND…well hell….IT’S SWITZERLAND PEOPLE!!
So we cozied into our comfy seats on the ICE train and sat back and enjoyed the smooth, quiet, fast, five hour ride while napping, taking in the beautiful country side views and listening to our I-Pods.
Upon arrival at the train station my chic flick, frequent coffee shop companion, very close friend AND bride, Simona, was standing at the platform waiting to greet us. After lots of big hugs and kisses that were long overdue for all of us (although we did see each other three weeks ago in Koeln when she surprised me by accompanying Matt to the airport to pick me up when I arrived in Germany but in my opinion you can never get enough hugs and kisses from the people you love) we made a quick stop to pick up some last minute things for the wedding the next day and then headed to the hotel where Matt and I were staying.
The Ibis Expo hotel in Bern is really conveniently located at the end of the number 9 tram line that takes you right into the center of Bern in only about five stops (5 minutes maximum). It is a budget hotel but is really clean and has everything you need to enjoy your stay. The quality of the hotel was exceptional in my opinion and the view from our room was of the Alps looking over the National Equestrian Center right behind the hotel.
After our check in we went to the restaurant next door to have a meal and Simona filled us in on everything we needed to know about how to get around Bern in her absence as she was going to be a bit busy the next few day what with getting married, entertaining friends and family and shuttling people back and forth to and from the airports, train stations, etcetera. After instruction us on by whom and where we were going to be picked up the following afternoon for the big event Simona headed out to await her family’s arrival.
Matt and I lounged in the restaurant for awhile afterwards finishing our meal and trying to decide what we would like to do next. It was raining out and we were really tired but we decided that we would take a little nap upstairs and then head to the city center for a little bit to see what was happening there.
Bern center was bustling due to a Busker Festival that was happening for the next few days so there were musicians of all types on the streets singing and playing their hearts out for the eager crowds. People were having dinner in the outside cafes under umbrellas and enjoying themselves despite the rain that was coming down quite steadily. Matt and I kept putting the intention out in the universe for a dry day the following day so it would not challenge the outdoor ceremony and festivities to come on Simona and Bruno’s big day.
Because of the rain neither Matt nor I wanted to take out our cameras to take pictures so we just scouted out things that we would come back to on Saturday for photos. After about an hour we decided to return to our room in order to get a good night’s rest for the long day ahead of us.
When we returned to our room we took a few more pictures from our hotel window of the view including a great photo of the sunset reflecting on the snow peaked Alps. What a beautiful country!!
Stay tuned for Day Two of ‘Falling In Love In Switzerland’
Our Walk To The Chocolate Factory Part Two
Everywhere you go in Germany it is apparent that they are very fond of glass. From buildings to staircases to the hallway that you come out in the airport everything is glass. I don’t think that is bad but sometimes the glass is overlooking the outside and that outside is really high off the ground. My guess is that no one here in Germany is afraid of heights or if they are they don’t live in any of the modern looking buildings that are all around the city.
Koeln is an interesting city in that there are remains of the old Roman city everywhere but they live right along side of modern buildings that have been being built since the end of WWII.
We came across an archeological dig in our explorations of the city of Koeln. It was pretty interesting to see up close several people gently dusting of parts of the old Roman city that lay underneath our feet and we didn’t even know it was there. They had certain parts of the uncovered treasure labeled as ‘Jewish Synagogue’ and ‘Baths’.
After that we moved on to find other treasures. When we came across two bronze statues in a out of the way alley and Matt’s patient, Monica, explained to us that they are fictional characters that are part of the Koeln sense of humor and that there are jokes told in the pubs there that have contain these guys as the main characters. One is tall and skinny and is cross eyed, the other is short and cubby and clown like in appearance. They looked like a take on Laurel and Hardy to me.
I don’t remember what the name of these characters were but I’ll do my best to fill that information in at a later time for you all.
Next we came upon a bust of Josef Cardinal Frings who was the Cardinal during the years of 1942 to 1968. Monica explained to us that this Cardinal was very well loved during the post war years because the people of Germany were starving and many of them would steal food so that their families would survive. Cardinal Frings pardoned those people who stole food in order to save their families by telling them that it wasn’t a sin to do that sort of thing during tough times like those that Germany was going through post-WWII.
The next statue we came upon was a depiction of a woman looking down a staircase and on the staircase were these little people. Monica told us that the story of that statue was that there was once a Taylor in Koeln that was so popular that he had so much work he couldn’t keep up and he was wondering how he was going to do all that work.
Then these little elf like creatures began showing up at night to help him and every night he was able to get all his work done. His wife began to get suspicious of how the man was getting all this work done every night by himself. So she put peas on the stairs so that she would be able to catch who ever it was that was helping him with the work and one night she caught these little creatures on the stairs with the peas. From that night on the little people didn’t come back to help the Taylor.
I guess if the wife would have minded her peas and Q’s her husband wouldn’t have had to work so hard…but nooooooooo!!!! J
After a lot of sightseeing we all were hot and tired so it was a great excuse to find a nice outdoor café to enjoy a nice refreshing cold drink. It is here that I discovered the German Iced Coffee. It is a Coffee topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whip cream on top. It was so decadent and refreshing at the same time. The perfect antidote for sweaty, hot, pedestrian tourists in need of energy and something cool to drink.
Where we live in Rodenkirchen we are just a few blocks from the Rhine and because of that we can walk from our apartment and follow the Rhine right in to the center of Koeln. It’s a really pretty walk and very peaceful too. Along our walk we can stop and watch the boats going up and down. Some are carrying coal and other products for delivery to some mystery town up or down stream and some have tourists enjoying a cruise on the river and taking in the sights.
Well, until my next report we send our love to you all and thought you might want to view a video that I threw together with some more sights of Koeln. The music is by Beethoven which probably would be better suited to a video of Bonn but it was a quickly assembled video and that’s the music I grabbed. The next video will be better. Enjoy!!
Where The Heck Do You Live Already???
Many of you may be thinking ‘Okay already, every time you write where you live it is spelled a different way. What’s up with that?’ So let me explain that to you.
The name of the city I live in is Koln (with the two little dots or Umlauts over the O). That is the correct German way to spell the name of this city. It is pronounced Kooln with a bit of a throaty ‘r’ sound that is really not second nature to English speakers. It actually sounds like someone is clearing their throat, mumbling, or started to say something and then decided it wasn’t worth it after all and gave up.
The spelling Koeln is pronounced the same way but is an alternative way to spell the name of the city if you don’t have access to the double dots or umlauts or don’t know any better.
The spelling Cologne, which you will find when making reservations on an airline or various other places is the English way to spell the name of the city and is pronounced Cologne as in eau du cologne which, by the way, originated in this city. Apparently Napoleon used to stay here and the cologne 417 Eau du Cologne was made for him in this city. It can still be purchased here as well.
On Monday Matt, Allen, and I went to the German City of Bonn. This used to be the Capital City of Germany until the Berlin wall came down. Bonn is also known as the city that Ludwig von Beethoven was born in and lived in until he was around 22 years old. He then moved to Vienna to study with Joseph Hayden.
Upon arrival in Bonn we immediately found the statue that commemorates the city’s most famed citizen right in the center of the square that leads you to the house Beethoven was born in.
It was not hard to figure out why Beethoven always seemed to have such a stern look on his face in all of the photos and replications of him. One look at the statue and the residents that were perched on his head to figure out that after awhile I would be a bit annoyed too. I mean think of the constant laundering that would have to take place with those types of inhabitants. J
After following the signs to the Beethoven house and a brief stop for lunch Matt, Allen, and I found the infamous spot where the music began…the house where Beethoven was actually born. He was born up in the attic which is the top most window in the house. It is just a very little room with one little window. Records are not sure the exact date of Beethoven’s birth but he was baptized on December 17, 1770 which means that he was born either December 16th or 17th.
Every room in the house contained items that belonged to Beethoven like his manuscripts, scores, letters written such as the now famous love letter addressed only to ‘My Immortal Beloved’. Other rooms contained instruments that actually belonged to Beethoven such as his viola, an organ, and several pianos made especially for him with his name inscribed in them. Unfortunately we were unable to get photos of most of that stuff because our personal photographer…Matt…was scolded for taking photos after only about three were taken.
After we saw all of the house we took part in an interactive display of Beethoven’s music in the theatre that was built in to the basement. It was a different, if not interesting, modern performance of his music using 3D light effects that were controlled somewhat by the participants (us and 15 others) wearing 3D glasses. The music was great of course and the idea of making the show interactive was nice (as was the coolness of the cellar on a hot European day) but the performance was somewhat perplexing as it really didn’t add anything to the music in my opinion.
After we were done with the Beethoven house we continued our journey through Bonn city center and admired all the wonderful outside cafes that are so European. Here in the summer people love to take their meals outside in the plazas and people watch. It’s a great way to cool down, enjoy a meal, or have a cool refreshing iced coffee (with ice cream…yummy!) or local beer.
Walking through another little plaza in the center of Bonn we came upon a statue of children chasing geese. I don’t know the story behind the statue but can imagine it is probably relating to some sort of children’s story or possibly a story about some thing that happened in Bonn that they wanted memorialized.
As we continued our journey towards the train at the end of the day we came upon one of many churches that you find in Europe with elaborate artwork and sculptures on the outside of the building. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to go in I can only imagine what treasures were inside considering the elaborate gold murals on the outside of the building.
I know we didn’t get to see everything that Bonn has to offer but I know Matt and I will probably take another day trip there to do some shopping. Bonn is known as a great place to do shopping and enjoy a great meal and it is only a half hour train trip from our apartment in Rodenkirchen, Koeln.
Well that’s it for now. Stay tuned for my report on our trip to Frankfurt. We will be going there on Saturday. Until then I send all my love to all of you.
Yesterday Matt and I went for a walk from our apartment in the cute little village of Rodenkirchen (pronounced: Rodenkeerken) just on the outskirts of the city of Koeln (Cologne in English) to see the sites.
Our first stop was the Lindt Chocolate Factory that sits right on the banks of the Rhine River. We were told that originally the factory was owned by a local chocolatier but over the years was bought out by the Swiss chocolate company, Lindt.
We managed to remain in control and not buy any chocolate at all but we did have a lovely lunch of a French style pizza (very thin cracker type crust with mozzarella, scallions, and pieces of ham) and a local Koeln beer called Kolch. All was quite tasty and fortified us enough to continue on our journey into the center of the city.
As we left the chocolate factory we happened upon this statue. I am not real sure what the significance of it is but I am sure it has something to do with the Rhine due to the fact that the character seems to be pulling on a rope like the type that one would have on a boat. The butt view was nice too but I’ll leave that out of this post for now. 🙂
Next we continued our walk along the Rhine and watched as the boats from Holland and Germany chugged down with loads of coal and other merchandise for the masses.
As we continued on our way to the city we found the remains of the Roman wall that used to surround the center of the city. All over the city of Cologne you will see reminders of the Roman’s control of this city centuries ago. We even came across an excavation site in the center of the city where they were uncovering Jewish baths and a Jewish synagogue. It seemed really strange to have this site being uncovered in the center of a city while a couple was being married at the fairly modern city hall just 500 feet away. History is always being made and constantly being uncovered every day.
Next we continued on to the famous Cologne Cathedral. This cathedral is huge and nearly impossible to get in one picture. It is over 2000 years old and is constantly being updated. Once they are done updating it it is time to start all over again.
One of Matt’s patients was kind enough to show us around the city center and she brought us in to the cathedral and showed us the latest stained glass window.
Apparently the artist who created the new stained glass window used precise mathematical equations to decide where each color would be and the frequency of each color’s appearance.
We were also told that the current, I believe, Archbishop doesn’t like the new window at all. He feels that it is to modern and doesn’t match the rest of the cathedral. I wonder if they are going to leave it or eventually replace it with something more in style with the rest of the building? Regardless I thought it was interesting because of the way it was created but I do admit that it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb in comparison with the rest of the cathedral.
Another interesting thing about the Cathedral is the fact that there is a monument to the ‘Three Kings’ or ‘Three Wise Men’ in there. The moment is encased in Gold and is now fenced around it because apparently people were trying to take chunks of it home with them.
I plan on attending at least one Sunday Mass there just to really get the feel of being in a historical place like that an imagine all the people through the ages that have sat in those same pews.
Outside many of the young (and not so young) kids use the plaza in front of the Cathedral as a great skateboarding terrain. I wonder how many of them realize the history that they are skating on and in front of. It’s amazing how we tend to take for granted the things right in front of us and I can imagine some of those kids thinking that that big church is such a waste of skateboarding space. It makes me wonder what things I walk right past in my hometown that I think are a bother or a waste of space but if I really payed attention would tell me something of my history if I would only look and listen.
Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part Two of our walk to the Chocolate Factory. Until then Matt and I send our love to you all!
Here in Germany they are very conscious of recycling and it is very refreshing to see. At the grocery store you can either bring your own bag from home (recommended) or buy a new bag (about 10 euro cents or 18 U.S. cents) every time you go shopping.
After forgetting your bags at home several times and having to buy new ones it really reinforces the habit of thinking about the environment in every thing that you do daily. Now we have bags that we just keep in our jacket pockets. This way on the way home from a day on the town if we decide we need something from the supermarket we are prepared and being environmentally conscious. It feels good to do that all the time and not have people look at you like you are strange when you proudly pull out your very own bag from home.
Other things that they do to recycle here are in our apartment building there is a room that we have a key to that houses several different garbage cans marked ‘Paper’ ‘Glass’ and ‘Regular garbage’ and you just put your garbage in the appropriate can and they take care of the rest.
The plastic bottles you take back to the grocery store and there is a machine in the back where you insert your plastic bottles and get your deposit back. We had these machines in New York too but I haven’t seen them since then. Apparently Florida doesn’t think recycling is that important.
Carbonation and the Energy Crisis
Germans apparently have a love and fascination with carbonation. It seems it is nearly impossible to find regular, plain ‘wasser’ (water) with out bubbles. I imagine that if they bottled the energy from all the gas everyone is running around with there wouldn’t be an energy crisis at all.
In the local supermarket called Toom there is a huge aisle of different types of water but really only one type of plain old non-fizzy water. For someone like me who hardly ever drinks carbonated drinks it’s been a challenge.
Most times in restaurants they will bring you fizzy water unless you specifically ask for something else which I don’t really know how to say ‘without bubbles’ yet so I continue to drink mostly carbonated beverages for now. I really have never seen a nation so attached to drinking carbonated water as they are in Germany. All I can guess is that either the German nation doesn’t drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day or they do and they are really a gaseous bunch. J
Well, Matt has been in Germany since Thursday and started his new job Monday and is reporting back to me that he really likes it there. He secured us our first apartment in a section of Cologne called Rodenkirchen in a really convenient location close to groceries, stores, train stations, and bike trails among other things but in the process we’ve learned a few things that we would have never thought of.
For example, at the first apartment that he looked at he was baffled to learn that there was no kitchen! Apparently in a lot of German apartments you have to buy your own kitchen appliances, counter tops, sinks, etcetera and when you decide to leave you just take it all with you. Boy, that makes the move I just made look like a cinch. I mean, imagine if I would have had to pack up my refrigerator, stove, microwave, sink, and counter tops too? And to think that I had a meltdown last week because I felt like there was too much to do in such a little amount of time…boy, was I naive!
Very few apartments have closets either (but that’s kind of a European thing and I kind of knew about that one) but on top of the kitchen thing it was just an added challenge.
But Matt and I were set on renting a furnished apartment in order to avoid the above challenges and fortunately found one in Rodenkirchen where the woman who was renting left us just about everything we needed to move in and start living in Germany including spices, dishes, a bed, and yes, a fully equipped kitchen. So we have by passed that challenge for now.
The next challenge is getting high speed internet set up in the apartment which the landlord is working on for us. Being I work from home on the internet and Matt and I are depending on the internet for emails and Skype to stay in contact with everyone this is a major thing to us both. If the Germans are as serious about superior service as I’ve been told then I am sure this won’t be much of a challenge either.
Well that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more adventures in Germany!
Until next time Tschuss!