Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Germany Trip

Intro
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We flew into Munich at 12:30. We had some problems contacting the hotel because we had not yet gotten a SIM card for the cell phone we were planning on using while in Europe because it was compatible with their cell networks. So we used a pay phone, and they sent a shuttle at a cost of 15 euro because it was before our check in time and their regular shuttle service. Yikes!

We stayed at RegentPark Hotel Munich Airport located in Freising (a University town near the airport). The staff was very helpful. Breakfast was good and included in the price of the home – not always the case in Germany. Every hotel we stayed at in Germany served a variation of the same breakfast buffet: Soft boiled eggs, breads, Nutella, jam, eggs, sausages, cold cereal, hot chocolate and coffee. The rooms were adequate. The hotel had a lot of decorations. We didn’t eat at the hotel but they do offer a dinner. The shuttle service was convenient. My only complaint would be that the room was cold when we arrived and took hours to heat up (with the radiator) even with the metal mesh blinds closed. This hotel room had a number of draconian energy saving features.
In Munich we went to the old town region which had an old courthouse, shops and the winter market. Of the winter markets we went to, this one was the best in my opinion. Glue wine, the Christmas season drink, permeated the air; we bought some books and toys at the little shops around the area. There is a square with some interesting statuary and a cathedral and a park of to the side. We didn’t have time to explore the park but it seemed interesting with pictures drawn on walls in the style of perhaps the mid 1850’s or earlier.
We then went to see the Heidelberg castle. It was very interesting, especially if you are into knights and such. The castle looks like it was once a functioning medieval castle, even if later additions turned it into a 16, 17th century mansion.
That night we stayed at a Best Western in Stuttgart. This was the worst hotel of our trip: most expensive, no breakfast, not near anything (except a cemetery and a skating rink.), and possibly infested with rodents. Stuttgart seems to be a city amidst tall hills – perhaps this is the reason it is so expensive.
Next we went to Kaiserslautern to visit with friends. We stayed at the City Hotel, which is a decent establishment, although old. The staff was very friendly, (disconcerting our first day when we had a very early start). Breakfast was good. Down the street from the city hotel (towards a church whose towers you can see from the street) is a nice pizzeria. We ate there once and found it delightful. The pizza is very thin crusted and if you order a pizza with multiple toppings you will only get a little bit of the topping on one part of the pizza instead of paying more. The Christmas market in Kaiserslautern is very Americanized and geared to American military personnel from the nearby military bases.
Our next stay was Paris. We saw the Arc D’Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Cour, Louvre, the Eiffel tower, and a building near our hotel called The Pantheon – a slightly grander version than the roman original. The architecture of it would be federalist if it were in Washington D.C. Buried there are some French notables. We stayed at a hotel of the same name a few blocks away. The room was interesting in that the bed was located in a loft. This caused problems with as the heater vent blew into the loft, so the bed area was boiling and the rest was tolerable or the bed area was comfortable and the rest was cold. Our rooms also had some problems with the television turning on randomly, and the light switch in the hall controlled some of the other outlets – and caused all the lights to go off once. Paris has a lot of magnificent buildings and things to see. My first impression though was; “this is a dirty city”. Perhaps this was the contrast in being in Germany. In any case I recommend touring there at night – visit the louvre during the day.
Next we went to Dusseldorf near Cologne. We stayed at another best western near the main train station. This one was much better than the one in Stuttgart, with good location, breakfast buffet and adequate service. The only complaint we have is the safe provided with our room was broken. From there we went to see the Cologne Cathedral (It seems to me that it was designed to be a more impressive Notre Dame – I can’t say that it succeeded.), the Cathedral in Aachen (Really old – at least parts of it.)
In Germany we bought a little christam carosuel thing that rotates from catching the heat rising off of candles placed around it. We also brought back a lot of chocolate, some wooden German toys, a music box and books of fairy tales (Br. Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, etc.) We have the goal of teaching our one day kids to be fluent in German from a young age and as part of that reading these books to them.
The trip back home was twenty hours due to bad weather in London and a missed connection in Dallas.