Those seats on the airplane are WAAAAAYYY too close together.  The aisles are much too narrow. The food is pricy. The flight from Germany to the US is extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemly long.  But, the hardest thing to deal with really is how can they put that many people into an airplane and it still takes off?!

We’re home, and no worse for the wear. The day of the trip back was quite painful. The flight seemed interminable, and the body was tired beyond previous experience. I calculated that we (Laura and I, who had to return to the West Coast) had been traveling for 21 hours by the time we got to our homes. Marilyn had it a little easier, with a nonstop to Dulles, while Laura and I had a layover in Chicago.

So, now that we’re home, maybe we should share a little of what we’ve learned about traveling to Europe on this trip. Here goes:

1) If you plan to drive in the country looking for addresses, download the foreign maps into your portable GPS system weeks before your trip.  That would have been a wonderful thing to have!

2) If your cell phone company tells you that your phone will work in Europe without a change in your plan and then tries to sell you a prepaid phone to reduce the costs, ask to speak to a supervisor because it’s NOT TRUE!

3) Don’t expect to continue your exercise routine when on vacation.

4) One museum is enough for one day. Two is pushing it. Three is too many. A royal palace counts as a museum.

5) Expect to pay too much for public transportation for the first day in each new city. Then, on the second day, you’ll probably still pay too much. I suspect it takes at least two days to make all the fare errors. By then, of course, you may have to move on.

6) Electricity accoutrements like power converters and plug adapters are critical items to buy in advance. Of course, you can’t test them here in the US, so it’s hard to be sure you’ve done it right. Best bet, I think, is to bring at least two adapters and consider buying a hair dryer that can take the extra current. Also, a hairstyle that doesn’t require a dryer would be a practical choice.

7) Underpack. Really. Nobody cares what you wear.

8 ) Wear closed shoes when rolling a big suitcase around.

9) Don’t lean your suitcase on the wall next to a stand displaying an objet d’art.

10) Travel whenever you get the chance, and if you can possibly arrange it, go with people you love and don’t see nearly enough of. It’s awesome!

The Last Day:(

July 1, 2009

Sunday we had to leave the beautiful gallery and make our way, with luggage, to Cologne, Germany. It had seemed odd to live in an art gallery, and now it was hard to leave. We packed up, tidied up, and loaded up – the smallest taxi yet, but everything fit – snugly.

Marilyn’s plan had been to get us closer to Frankfurt’s airport, so that Monday would be easier. Still, we wanted Sunday to be a day to enjoy, so Cologne and the massive old cathedral were our goal.

In Cologne we checked into the first (and last) hotel of the trip. Marilyn chose well – a small but well-appointed place only a block from the train station. Funny, though, how awkward it can be taking all the luggage one block. It’s too close for a taxi and so one is stuck with schlepping the whole collection of bags the whole way.  Ok, no problem, right? In fact, no, it wasn’t a big problem but some of us were carrying a lot of gear (camera bag, laptop bag, files, books, C-pap machine) as well as clothes, so we hadn’t exactly traveled light.

Marilyn opted for the two rolling bags approach, which varied from the both pulled style to the push-one-pull-one style.  I also had two rolling bags, but decided through prior efforts that the shoulder strap on the smaller bag made for a less cumbersome total. Trouble is, though, that smaller bag gets mighty heavy after a short time.  Laura was the smart one – one big rolling bag. She looked graceful wherever we went, while Marilyn and I ranged from pitiful to comical as we negotiated our way onto and off of excalators, lifts, trains, and sidewalks.

The only odd thing at the hotel was the smallest elevator every seen. Two lovers might ride together, but anyone less intimately involved would want to take turns. Of course, with luggage there was no doubt, it was one-at-a-time. We were only up one flight, so it wasn’t too long before we’d made the journey.  It was clever that the stairs were right next to the elevator, so we could talk to one another from floor to floor while one of us was on the lift. Our room was only steps away from the left door, too, so it was all quite handy.

Cologne is most famous for its huge cathedral – St. John the Evangelist. When we had watched out the train window arriving in the city, we had seen this huge church and thought we knew what we were looking for. Then, when we got out of the train station and looked to the left WOW. Oh MY God that is a massive church. The one we had seen earlier was nothing in comparison.

Of course we had to see the cathedral, but first we needed to eat. Following a recommendation from our hotel desk clerk, we found a wonderful authentic German restaurant near the river – one of several in a row with large outdoor dining patios.  We’re getting almost blase about all these outdoor cafes!

Earlier in the day Ron had shared a memory of train trips in Germany – where the train wasn’t stopped long enough for passengers to get off and the vendors would sell sausages and pass them through the train windows.  When he’d asked, I had to admit I hadn’t had a sausage yet. So, after I passed this story along to Laura and Marilyn, we all ordered sausages. I had the bratwurst, Laura chose the weiner, and Marilyn braved the blutwurst. All very good, though I cannot testify regarding the blutwurst. I eat almost anything, but I couldn’t deal with that.

A picture doesn't do it justice

We spent a lot of time in and around the cathedral Sunday afternoon and evening. We arrived just in time for the 5:00 mass, which was in German of course, so we didn’t understand any of it.

That’s ok, actually, since we’ve all been to enough masses to get the gist of it. But the sermon was a bit painful. Actually, I dozed.

Afterward, having had such a great lunch, we decided that dessert for dinner was not too decadent. I had said the previous night that I would indulge in a sweet dessert on our last night, so we all did it.

The cafe, outdoor of course, was right across from the cathedral steps. So we watched the people looking at the cathedral, listened to the bells celebrate every hour, every quarter hour, and every half hour, and treated our taste buds to great mounds of sweet things.