Today is just about getting here and adjusting to time change and culture. I managed to navigate the Brussels airport and 3 train stations since I had to transfer twice to get here. Now I am just hanging in the hotel while devices recharge before I go explore a little.
The train ride from Cologne (or Koln here) was spectacular: along the Rhein River, with little villages every so often nestled between the river bank and hills, with a castle perched above. Like a Cinderella town come to life. I saw a bunch of those along the 2 hour ride. These photos were actually taken from the train on the way back, between Mainz and Koblenz.
And all of you were right: So Glad I packed light! Dragging big luggage through train stations and cobble streets would be, well, such a drag.
I was a little panicked here and there about technology and language. My phone had died just as I was boarding the plane in Chicago, and because I’d read most of the trip, my tablet was about out of power, too. I had an adapter, but couldn’t find a plug anywhere. In Cologne, I finally ran across a Starbucks with a plug and free Wi-Fi so I was able to get an email to Dan from my tablet to let him know my final train connection was 45 minutes late. Thankfully that announcement was in English as well as German!
I was to meet him at the Mainz in Hilton and his last text to me about that was: “there’s only one Hilton, it’s easy to find, just head straight out from the train station about a mile, then turn right when the street ends. Or just use your GPS.”
By the time I got to Mainz, I had no power, no way to map anything, and the couple of people I asked where the Hilton was had such strong accents I couldn’t really understand them. So I just started walking in the general direction I thought I should based on his text. I came across an internet cafe and, long story short, eventually figured out I was headed in the right direction. Thank God for helpful Brits who take pity on stupid Americans 🙂 It was embarrassing to admit I didn’t even have an address, especially when he said “which one?” to my “do you know where the Hilton is?” question!
I’d never been so relieved to see something as I was that big H on the building when I finally saw it. Dan of course had remembered to leave a key for me at reception so it was smooth from that point on.
10:30pm local time.
Took a great walk along the Rhine River before dinner at an Italian place. It was great, especially the warm chocolate souffle for dessert! This was the view I had, this great walkway along the river, lined with trees. Notice in the second picture there’s a swing set, part of a playground right by the river.
Dan is still at his conference. I just saw him for a minute when I arrived and won’t really see him again until Friday when his vacation starts. But there was something slick and romantic about meeting in a foreign country I had never been to before. It’s an adventure!
Things that surprised me today:
- The customs guy never looked at me and didn’t ask any questions, just stamped my passport and waved me on. I admit to being a little disappointed. So anti-climatic for my first customs check!
- I saw two nuclear power plants on a 4-hour train trip – one in Belgium, one in Germany
- The Cinderella villages. My friend Greg tried to prepare me for this – he called them Christmas villages – but they still took my breath away. Now I know why they call that section of the river The Romantic Rhine.
- You don’t tip in restaurants here
- How disorienting it is when nothing is in English (I know, duh huh?)
- That I managed to navigate two train transfers anyway. Somehow it was reminiscent of NYC subways