Driving the Autobahn

Trip Start Jul 14, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Anno 1216 Lübeck
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Germany  ,
Friday, July 27, 2012

The ship docked earlier than scheduled, and we left the ship shortly after 11 a.m. There was a long line of taxis waiting on the dock.  After a twenty minute ride to the airport, we found the Avis counter and got the keys to the car—an upgrade to a Mercedes E class station wagon.  Philip felt comfortable driving it, and we were ready to get started.  The woman at the counter who gave us the car keys said that we did have the option of having the GPS in English.  Yeah!  That just made navigating in a foreign land a lot easier.  Just call her when we got to the car if the language needed switching, and she would send someone to change it.  He arrived quickly, changed the system to English, and answered all our questions about how to use the car—opening the gas tank, turning on wipers and lights, adjusting the seats—stuff like that.  He even set up our first trip, right down to the street name and number, in the GPS.  But he left before we saw two warning messages show up on the dashboard: "Past due 1800 km for service" and “check engine“.  Philip had to call him back to check on them for us.  The Avis guy wasn't concerned about the first message, and we could not get it to reproduce the other message.  He drove the car around the parking garage, and all seemed well.  (Well, except the overdue service thing.)  We were ready to go.

After a few wrong turns trying to get out of the airport before we made it to the streets that the GPS recognized, we were moving on down the road to Luebeck.   We had planned routes out of town using Google and using old-fashioned paper maps just in case we were unable to understand the GPS, but we ended up going a bit of a different path than either of those guided by the voice of a woman with a lovely British accent and unfailing patience. 

Arriving in Luebeck about 2 p.m. (so three hours after leaving the ship), we found a charming town with a maze of narrow, winding, cobbled streets.  Fortunately, the GPS took us right to the hotel.  Unfortunately, we were early, because the hotel reception was only open for arrivals from 3 – 6:30 p.m.  No parking space seemed legal on the street; the signs said something about being restricted, but the exact wording was not in the list of road signs and warnings we had studied and printed before leaving home just to help us with this type of dilemma.  After winding up at the end of a dead-end, one-way street and having to back down out of it, we made a fortunate couple of turns and found a public pay lot. 

The next challenge was deciphering directions on how to buy a parking pass from the machine.  While Philip went across the street to ask for change at a café/bar, I studied the directions.  I got the machine to give me a ticket allowing only eight minutes of parking time.  I think Philip was right when he said that eight-minute allowance was probably to give a person time to get change.  A German family had parked by then and approached the parking ticket station.  I asked if they knew how to use the automatic machine.  The dad said that they had never used it either; they had only lived there five years.  I don’t know if that was a joke or not.  I was hoping for help at least in reading the German instructions, but they didn’t offer any.  Philip dropped in some change, pushed the green button, and in just a moment, we could hear it printing our parking ticket.  We bought one hour’s worth of time and went into the café/bar for lunch. 

No other customers were in the dining room and only one table of people were in the courtyard—not a good sign, but we wanted to eat there since they had made change for us.  The waiter offered his buffet, but allowed us to order from the menu that we requested.   He had no English menu and could see that we were struggling to read the menu and check it against the phrase book so he offered some help, if not so much to help as to speed along the process of ordering so he could get back to his buddies in the back.  The menu was probably 15-20 pages long.  His first question was “Do you want meat?”  Although that was not the start I was expecting, we said that we would like meat.  He recommended a large plate with several types of sausages and other meats on skewers.  Philip took his suggestion, but I asked for a smaller plate telling him that I wanted chicken.  He suggested one and I ordered it.  When the food arrived, hot and fragrant, we were both pleased with the meal.  Mine was a slightly spiced, boneless chicken breast that had been grilled and served with grilled vegetables and tzatziki.  The chicken was cooked a bit more than I am used to, but that sure beats having it undercooked.  Philip’s lunch was huge with skewers of so many kinds of meat and vegetables.  He said it was great. 

By the time we finish lunch and walk once around the adjacent platz, the parking ticket is about to expire.  We buy another hour ticket, and walk back up to the hotel to check in.  The process is easy and very personalized.  The Hotel Anno 1216 is so small that it has only eleven rooms and suites.  It is in one of the oldest buildings in town which was originally built in 1216, of course.  I found this hotel by Googling, and it looked like an interesting place to stay.  I reserved it by emailing the contact person on their website.  They did not ask for a deposit on the room or even a credit card number.  I can’t remember when I have reserved a hotel without giving one or the other.  This was a first in a long time.  They did not ask for a credit card at check-in either.  More trusting than expected.  

The man who checked us in also showed us to our suite and explained how to use everything.  The building is old, but the furnishings are clean and modern.  The ceiling of the suite is partially covered with Baroque plaster decorations surrounding a painting that was only recently discovered and uncovered.   The suite has three huge windows in the living and sleeping areas that open for fresh air.  It has been a warm day, but there is no air conditioning.  There is no Wi-Fi in the building either.  Our desk clerk/bellman/concierge explained that the walls are too thick for Wi-Fi to work. 

He was good enough to suggest some restaurants and make the reservations for us for our two dinners in Luebeck.  Tonight we went to an upscale restaurant, Restaurant Wullenwever,  serving a five-course dinner with wine pairings.  We started with bread and a gift from the chef of a pea and shrimp mousse.  Our first courses were salad with apple, then cappuccino of pear and truffle.  Next served was langoustinos with gnocchi and tomato.  Before the main course was served, the waitress brought a champagne soup as a palate cleanser.   Philip and I both had the beef filet main course which was cooked perfectly. Dessert was peach and raspberries in ice wine.  Service was just as good as the meal.  A brief rain sprinkled us just as we were finishing dessert, but it stopped quickly so we finished the meal with coffee and spearmint tea and chocolate profiteroles, another gift from the chef. 

The walk to the restaurant was a short one, but our directions and the name we had for it were slightly off.   However, we got there just fine and on time. We had allowed a bit of extra time to find it.  Going back to the hotel it was dark, and now those charming tiny streets seem a bit scary—not enough for us to ask for a cab, but just a bit unnerving.  There are many dark stoops and doorways to pass.  When we get back to the hotel, it is about 22:30.  Since the reception is only open for a few hours a day, the outer doors are locked.  Our room key gives us access on only the second try.  Philip makes sure the door shuts behind us, and we in for the night.          
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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