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Germany: Driving the Romantic Road and Rhine Valley

Germany: Driving the Romantic Road and Rhine Valley

Old May 23, 09, 12:38 pm
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Really nice report so far.

Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer View Post
Traffic came to a standstill, all three lanes, and did not move. Over the next two hours, we moved 3 km. We’re not sure what it was, either an accident or a chemical spill. Around 6:00 p.m., we were directed off the A555 at the Godorf exit, just in time for the stretch of road to reopen! ]
There was a very bad accident. A 40t truck crashed into the end of a traffic jam and smashed at least four cars. The police had to close the entire autobahn A555 for several hours. I was lucky to hear it on the radio to avoid the area.
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Old May 23, 09, 3:11 pm
  #17  
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Originally Posted by caspritz78 View Post
Really nice report so far.

There was a very bad accident. A 40t truck crashed into the end of a traffic jam and smashed at least four cars. The police had to close the entire autobahn A555 for several hours. I was lucky to hear it on the radio to avoid the area.
Thank you, and thanks for the info. I hope no one was seriously injured, and am grateful we were only inconvenienced in the aftermath and not involved in the accident. We commented a couple of times how rough it must be for commuters who had just finished a day at work to have to spend a couple of hours stuck in that jam. I am glad you were able to avoid it!
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Old May 23, 09, 3:17 pm
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Back up the other side of the Rhine: Köln to Mainz

Saturday started with breakfast at the Hilton’s buffet. After we had fully gorged ourselves, we went to the cathedral and took a long look around the beautiful interior. From there, we walked to the Alter Markt. Someone in our group (me) thought he had read about a big market in Köln, but apparently there was no such thing. Instead, we picked up some pastries at the Kamps backerei near the hotel for our drive up the west bank of the Rhine.

Our first stop was Boppard, and the detour from the road the nav system told us to take to another that appeared to be more twisty and narrow was nothing compared to yesterday’s traffic jam. We had a hard time figuring out where to park, but we found the parking decks and set off through the remnants of the city wall to explore the town. We happened to catch Boppard during an antique auto show, and classic BMWs, Mercedes, Opels, MGs, etc., were on display in the square. We wandered among the vehicles, took pictures of the church, and did a lot of people-watching.

After a light lunch at Café am Markt, we headed back to our car and continued up the Rhine. The next stop was Rheinfels Castle, just outside of St. Goar. We admired the other castles in the valley from afar, but we decided to take a closer look at this one. The parking lots were crowded, but the castle was big enough to give everyone there space to roam around. And it’s difficult to imagine a better place to view the Rhine Valley – overlooking St. Goar on the west bank, and St. Goarshausen and Katz Castle on the east bank.



Unlike the Bavarian castles we visited, Rheinfels really was a castle, not a king’s palace. What’s left of this castle is enormous, and you really have to admire the ability of people who were able to plan and construct something of this magnitude nearly 800 years ago.



I didn’t mention that I smashed the little toe on my left foot at the Novotel on Thursday night. Mr. FB was really concerned when he saw it swollen and purple last night, and his parents wanted me to stay off it. I tried to minimize it: When am I going to visit the Rhine Valley again? But they seemed to notice every slight wince of pain as I walked along the uneven grounds of the castle. They all suggested that we drive directly to Mainz and check into the hotel. However, as we approached Bacharach, I talked them into this one last stop.

We didn’t find much to do in Bacharach. It was charming, but we couldn’t find any reason to linger too long. We stopped for ice cream, and my Riesling ice cream was deliciously different.

We made it to Mainz a little after 4:00 p.m. and checked into the Hilton on Rheinstrasse. Both of our rooms have views of the Rhein, but I was a little miffed when I found out that my in-laws got a bottle of wine, a fruit plate, and chocolates, while we got nothing. I am a HH Diamond, as is my father-in-law. As we prepared to go to dinner, I asked the person at the front desk what was up. She apologized and said it was probably because of a room change and that she would look into it. She also suggested a place for dinner nearby.

We walked past the Mainzer Dom and down Augustinerstrasse. We found the place she had suggested, the Augustinerkeller. The warm evening was perfect for eating outside, and we had a(nother) traditional German meal that we thoroughly enjoyed. Afterward, we sat and watched people walk by.

Back at the hotel, we still didn’t have any of the welcoming amenities that we were supposed to have in our room. If it was a room change, I hope whoever got our stuff is enjoying it. Right now, though, we are concentrating on what to do tomorrow, our last full day in Germany.
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Old May 24, 09, 11:15 pm
  #19  
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Sunday, May 24

We met at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast. The Hilton’s buffet and the view overlooking the Rhine were both fantastic. My father-in-law had not been feeling well since late Saturday night, so we put the day’s plans on hold. A little after 10:30 a.m., we decided to check out of the Hilton and see if our next hotel, the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers, Conference Center would let us check in. That way, we could leave FB’s father in their room to relax while we did some more exploring.

Anyone who has been to the Hilton Mainz in the past six months or so knows that checking out is a good cardio workout. We had to walk from our room in the River Wing to reception in the City Wing and back to our car in the River Wing. My mother-in-law and I did the honors while Mr. FB and his father waited in the garage. While I was checking out, the pleasant lady at the front desk ask if everything was OK with my stay. I told her that not getting a diamond amenity while my father-in-law did, and not having anything done about it after I had brought it to someone’s attention, made the stay less enjoyable. She apologized and told me she hoped I would return. Oh well, I will write a letter.

During the short drive to FRA, we were still trying to decide what to do: Stay close to FRA or stick with our original plan, which was to go to Trier. After we got to the Sheraton, both of our rooms were ready, so we all checked in. We dropped our bags off in the room and met my mother-in-law back in the lobby. We were off to Trier!

The drive took less than two hours, even with a stop for diesel. We parked and began our whirlwind exploration of Germany’s oldest city. We started with Porta Nigra.

Picture of Porta Nigra


This gate is all that is left of a four-mile long wall that used to surround Trier, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From there, we strolled down Simeonstrasse to the Hauptmarkt, reading the history behind each of the buildings. For lunch, we stopped at Zum Domstein. After I had said I wasn’t going to have any more pork, I ordered the Hunsrucke Kartoffelklosse. As far as I could tell, this was a couple of pork meatballs surrounded by potato pasta – Think giant gnocchi – and covered in a cream sauce chock full of smoked ham. At least it was served with a salad. Really, it was very good, and we could not have asked for a better view for lunch.



After lunch, we walked toward the Cathedral, which, according to Rick Steeves, is “the oldest Christian church in Germany” and was commissioned by Constantine in 326 A.D. The Dom is certainly impressive, but we were only able to glimpse it from the outside, because some type of ceremony was taking place there.

Picture of the Cathedral

We decided to come back after whatever was going on was finished, so we took about a 15-minute walk to the house where Karl Marx was born. It seemed kind of funny that they charged admission and had a museum store, but the audio tour was extremely informative. Maybe too much so, because we spent a little too much time there. When we left, we had maybe 40 minutes left to see the rest of Trier. We walked quickly to the Konstantin Basilica, which (again, according to Rick Steeves) is “the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome.” I imagine that Porta Nigra is older, but it’s not intact. Anyway, the Basilica looks quite plain on the outside and inside, but it is still quite impressive.

Picture of the Basilica


We were not allowed to take pictures inside. I am sure that in the days of the emperor, it was quite spectacular. The Basilica is located next to the Electors Palace, which is much more ornate, but we could not go in there.

Finally, we headed back to the Cathedral, but it was still packed with people from whatever ceremony was taking place. That left us with time for one last ice cream in Germany, which we enjoyed on the way back to the car.

The drive back to FRA was my last chance to drive the S320, so I took the keys from Mr. FB. The autobahn out of Trier makes a steady climb, but the S320 did it at 160 km/h without any difficulty. At one point between Kaiserslautern and Mainz, Mr. FB pointed out that I was cruising at a safe speed. I glanced down and saw that I was going a little over 180 km/h. Even at that speed, we were being overtaken from time to time.

After a brief stop for diesel in Mainz, we returned the car to Avis. The agent asked how the car was, and all I could say was, “I don’t want to give it back.” She smiled, inspected it, and printed the receipt. The charge of €455 (plus another €165 for diesel fuel) was a small price to pay for a week of experiencing a chunk of Germany with this car.

We made our way up to the terminal, took the train back to Terminal 1, and walked over the pedestrian bridge to the Sheraton. We told Mr. FB’s mother that we would meet back in the lobby 30 minutes later and find someplace for dinner.

After a little rest, we went back downstairs. My father-in-law was feeling much better. We walked to the terminal and found a sit-down restaurant. I felt kind of weird ordering a hamburger and French fries, but it at least I had a big German beer with it. Afterward, my mother-in-law noticed a “Supermarkt” sign, so we went downstairs. After what seemed like a walk to Wiesbaden, we found the supermarket and were surprised by its excellent selection of items and its uninflated prices. We had wanted to buy some more Ritter Sports (and Ritter minis) for gifts, but supermarkets in Germany are closed on Sunday. There are exceptions, but this was the only one we found. We loaded up and headed back to the hotel.

We said our goodbyes in the lobby. We will see Mr. FB’s parents again in late June when we go to Colorado for a wedding, but our time together was still much too brief. Back up in the room, we packed our bags. I set the alarm for 5:00 a.m., watched the second period of the Blackhawks – Red Wings game until I was sleepy, and fell asleep sometime around 11:00 p.m.
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Old May 25, 09, 4:56 am
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Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer View Post
After lunch, we walked toward the Cathedral, which, according to Rick Steeves, is “the oldest Christian church in Germany” and was commissioned by Constantine in 326 A.D. The Dom is certainly impressive, but we were only able to glimpse it from the outside, because some type of ceremony was taking place there.
The introduction of the new archbishop of Trier.
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Old May 25, 09, 5:48 am
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Awesome trip review making me excited about my trip to germany in sept/oct may do a cruise from koln to koblenz
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Old May 25, 09, 7:33 pm
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Originally Posted by tom tulpe View Post
Thanks, tom tulpe! That's what I love about FT. There's always someone who knows the answer to a question.
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Old May 25, 09, 7:35 pm
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Originally Posted by Jazman777 View Post
Awesome trip review making me excited about my trip to germany in sept/oct may do a cruise from koln to koblenz
Thanks Jazman777. I can only imagine how beautiful the Rhine Valley is that time of year. As much as I enjoyed driving it, I think a cruise would be the best way, because you don't have to keep your eyes on the road!
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Old May 25, 09, 7:58 pm
  #24  
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The long trip home

Monday, May 25

Lufthansa 4670
FRA-AMS
Scheduled Departure/Arrival 8:00 a.m./9:05 a.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival 8:03 a.m./9:10 a.m.
B-737-300
Seats 4A and 4C


Our reservation at the Sheraton, which was booked using the free night I selected when SPG offered me a Platinum gift, was upgraded to the Club level. However, we did not use the lounge on Sunday night and breakfast didn’t start until 6:30 a.m. this morning, a little too late for us. We checked out a little before 6:00 a.m. and walked over to Terminal 1. The wait in the LH Business Class queue was short, and we checked our bags to TPA and received all three boarding passes. We killed an hour or so in the LH Business Class lounge by having a light snack (and posting yesterday’s trip report). We arrived at the gate a few minutes before boarding began.

We had to be bussed to our plane, and then we had to wait for the next bus to arrive before we could depart. The door closed a few minutes past scheduled departure time. After a long taxi and hold, we were airborne. Within minutes, the FAs were serving a breakfast of rolls, ham, cheese, and excellent muesli to the C cabin.



Not long after, they were serving drinks. Less than 25 minutes after takeoff, our trays were cleared away and we began our descent from the cruising altitude of 22,000 feet. I always enjoy the approach into Schiphol, because it is a study in how the Dutch have made the most of the land that they have and have reclaimed from the sea.

After landing and a short taxi, we were at our gate. A long walk and a few stops to browse in shops, we went through passport control to the Servisair lounge. Whenever I visit lounge number 42 at AMS, I enter with low expectations. The lounge never fails to meet those expectations.

After an hour in the lounge, we decided that walking around Schiphol would be a more pleasant way to pass the time. We did a bit of looking in the shops but no purchasing. At around 11:15 a.m., we proceeded to gate G-5 for the security interviews and screening. By the time we made it through, we had only a brief wait before our flight began to board.

United 947
AMS-IAD
Scheduled Departure/Arrival 12:20 p.m./2:47 p.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival 12:11 p.m./2:25 p.m.
B-767-300
Seats 2A and 2C


When we booked this journey on December 5, 2008, the AMS-IAD flight was supposed to be on a 777. Sometime in February, the equipment was changed to a 767. Normally, that would be a cause for disappointment. However, when I looked at the seat map, I saw that the 767 would have the new F and C seats, something none of the UA 777s we had flown or were scheduled to fly had.

When we boarded, we saw that the F suites were far superior to the F seats we had on our IAD-BRU flight. We settled into our seats while boarding continued. The door closed about 15 minutes before scheduled departure and we pushed back a few minutes later. After a taxi out to the runway, we were airborne at 12:30 p.m.

Menu

First Course

Appetizers
Saffron poached scallop
Goat cheese tatar in a roasted zucchini parcel
Red pepper coulis

soup
Creamy porcini mushroom soup

salad
Fresh seasonal greens with English cucmbers, julienne carrots, red peppers and croutons
Served with your choice of dressing: Creamy Garlic or Asian Sesame Ginger

main course
Grilled Filet Mignon with Dijon Mustard Sauce
Roasted rosemary potatoes and a mixed vegetable medley

Pan Fried John Dory with a Citrus-Cilantro Infused Fish Reduction
Basmati with red rice and green bean pepper medley

Dutch-Style Lamb Stew
Apple compote mashed potatoes and spicy red cabbage

Pasta Primavera with Roasted Vegetables and Tomato Sauce

dessert

Ice Cream
Haagen-Dazs ice cream with sundae toppings: hot fudge, caramel, summer berry compote, sliced roasted almonds, whipped cream

Cheese Selection
Served with red grapes and crackers
Klaver Rucola – a semi-hard Dutch cheese infused with herbs
Maasdam – in the same style as the popular Emmenthal, it is soft, nutty, and sweet
Light Belgium – a creamy, semi-soft cheese with a light sweet taste

One of the FAs came by with warm nuts and a glass of water, and she asked me what I wanted to drink. Because I love New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, I asked for the Mount Nelson 2007 Marlborough. She checked, and said it was not available (same as the IAD-BRU flight). I asked which Pinot Noir they had. She checked and said that the only wines they had were a merlot and chardonnay (!). I asked if that meant they didn’t have either of the pinot noirs. She left and came back with two bottles: the Benziger Vineyard Merlot 2005 Sonoma and the Champy Beaune Vielles Vignes 2006 Burgundy (Pinot Noir). I took the Champy.

The appetizer was much better than the curious combination served on the IAD-BRU flight. I was a little taken aback by the yellow scallop, until I remembered that it was poached in saffron. The appetizer was followed by soup and then the salad. For the main, I chose the lamb stew. Mr. FB took the filet mignon, and he said it was excellent. However, I can’t imagine that it was better than the lamb stew. The lamb chunks were tasty and moist, and the ragout was seasoned just right. The potatoes and cabbage were very good complements, though the cabbage was more sweet than spicy. The pinot noir was an excellent accompaniment for the meal.

While I was eating, I noticed something kind of funny on the map. Apparently, UA has found a 1,500 mile shortcut from GLA to IAD, but it doesn’t make the trip any shorter, time wise!



Instead of ice cream – didn’t I have enough of the good stuff in Germany not to have something made in New Jersey on the flight home? – I chose the cheese. The Klaver Rucola had a nice herb and sun-dried tomato flavor, but not an overpowering one. My favorite was a toss-up between the Maasdam and Light Belgium. Both were quite nice.

Somewhere south of Iceland, I decided to try out the bed, and I was in and out of consciousness for the next two hours. The seat does convert to a flat bed, and it is just long enough for someone of my height (almost 6’ 6”). The suites are very similar to the pods we experienced in Qantas business class when we traveled to Australia and New Zealand in 2005.

About 30 minutes before landing, the FAs served lunch. That’s what the menu called it. If this was lunch, what was the meal we had at 1:00 p.m. CET?

lunch

Chilled Deli Plate with Edam and Herb Cream Cheese
Farmhouse and Black Forest ham, turkey salami, tomato and egg wedge

or

Vegetable Risotto with Sauteed Mixed Vegetables

I had the risotto. I felt kind of rushed because it was served while the plane was already in its initial descent. It and the vegetables were OK, but I guess it’s fair to say that it’s not something I would have savored had I had more time to eat.

The plane landed at 2:21 p.m. and we were at the gate four minutes later. Because we landed at gate C-5, we had a short walk to immigration. The wait was maybe five minutes, and our bags were already delivered when we arrived at the baggage carousel. We went through customs and dropped them on the baggage recheck belt, and then we went through security.

We managed to pass two-plus hours at Dulles. A little before 5:00 p.m., the GA started making announcements that alternated between partially understandable and completely unintelligible. I am pretty sure that she said that (a) the flight was completely full, (b) the heat was blowing on the jetway, and (c) passengers should wait until their boarding group was called before approaching the boarding door. Why do they even bother with the last one?

United 704
IAD-TPA
Scheduled Departure/Arrival 5:35 p.m./7:58 p.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival 5:34 p.m./7:54 p.m.
A-320 (former Ted plane)
Seats 3A and 3B


This plane was, like almost every plane UA flies into TPA, a Ted plane disguised as a United plane. RAR! Boarding finally started at 5:10 p.m., and the door closed at 5:30 p.m. We pushed back a few minutes later and were airborne about 20 minutes after that. The pilot announced that there were thunderstorms all around IAD and enroute to TPA, and that we would hit a lot of turbulence. He was true to his word.

The service was typical Ted. Everyone got a serving of beverage and a FA came through with water later. Actual flying time was about two hours, and we made it home a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Back in the main terminal at TPA, we collected our bags and took a taxi home. Tomorrow, it’s back to work for both of us, but we have lots of memories, pictures, and chocolate from Germany that we will share with our friends.

Last edited by Flying Buccaneer; May 26, 09 at 4:03 am Reason: Corrections
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Old May 26, 09, 5:59 am
  #25  
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Great Report !! ^
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Old May 26, 09, 9:56 am
  #26  
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^ Excellent report. The bratwurst is making me very hungry.
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Old May 26, 09, 10:34 am
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Excellent report. Beautiful Photos thankyou for this.
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