The Day We Crossed the Rhine Six Times

Trip Start Jul 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 07, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , North Rhine-Westphalia,
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

From Cari: All we did this morning was run around Bamberg in search of some souvenirs. We could only find one souvenir store, but it was all we needed. We found some cool steins that had the logos of all of the breweries in Bamberg. Returning to the hotel with our spoils, we checked out an headed out for Cologne.

From Greg: Nothing of particular interest happened on the drive to Cologne…that is until we actually reached Cologne. The misadventures on our arrival to Cologne are really the convergence of many misjudgments. First, back in the States we decided that we did not need a navigation system and it was more fun to navigate by map. Misjudgment two: we did not buy any maps.

From Cari: That is blatantly not true.

From Greg: Ok, we actually did buy maps, but they were country maps and not detailed city maps.

From Cari: We lost track of the directions when it told us to "continue straight toward Zentrum/Duetz" and the highway toward Zentrum forked to the right and the highway to Duetz forked to the left. Straight was not an option. We picked left. I will probably never know if that was the wrong choice, but it sure didn't help us at all. The directions we had were, from that point on, useless and we were flying blind.

From Greg: All we had upon our arrival to Cologne was an address and the knowledge that our hotel was somewhere across from the cathedral. We could see the cathedral, but seeing something and being able to drive to it in Europe are rarely the same thing.

From Cari: Every time the Cathedral would come into view, we would try to turn toward it, but immediately after we did, the Cathedral would disappear. We kept trying to follow the signs for “Dom,” but they often seemed contradictory. And, just so you know, it is impossible to tell what street you are on unless you already know because the “street signs” are posted on the side of buildings and hard to read from the road.

From Greg: So, we crossed the Rhine river into Cologne, got lost in the side streets, and ended up back on the bridge in the opposite direction headed out of Cologne. Cari and I debated the best course of action, turned around, headed back over the bridge, and got lost again.

From Cari: And it continued for one long hour. We would get close and then the street we were on would turn away from the Cathedral and back across the Rhine. At one point about forty minutes in, we actually did see the hotel, but there was no way to get to it. We couldn’t turn left, and even if we were allowed to, it was in the middle of a pedestrian zone. We watched it fade into the distance as the road we were on became a bridge and took us back across the river.

From Greg: Long story short, before we found the hotel, we crossed the Rhine river six times before we decided to park on a side street and walk to the hotel.

From Cari: In our defense, the side street we ended up parking on was just down the street from the hotel. Upon arriving at the Dom Hotel, we found that the hotel was land-locked (meaning that it was surrounded on all sides by pedestrian zone sidewalks) and it was literally right next to the Cathedral. While I checked in, Greg went to park the car in the garage.

From Greg: To my shame, one of the bellboys ended up walking back with me to drive my car into the hotel, which, by the way, entitled driving 100 yards straight and turning right into the parking lot. Later that day, wee decided we would take a brief walk around the shopping and old districts of Cologne.

From Cari: As it was almost 6PM, everything but shopping and restaurants were closing. First, we wandered through the shopping district.

From Greg: In case you were wondering, there were five H&Ms within walking distance of our hotel in Cologne. On a totally unrelated note, the cafés serve what seem to be delicious sweets and sandwiches, but the insides of the display cases are filled with bees. I don’t mean like one bee. I mean like a hundred bees.

From Cari: Because we hadn’t eaten a real lunch all day, we headed back to a bakery near the hotel and partook in some Berliners (jelly donuts) from the bee infested case. It really didn’t seem to bother any one else, so we figured we would join in. We bought our sugary delicacies and situated ourselves on the edge of the fountain between the Cathedral and the Dom Hotel. However, upon opening the small bag to retrieve my delicious Berliner in all of its sugary goodness, imagine my horror when I realized that there was a stowaway bee in the bag. Greg got rid of it for me, and I enjoyed my bee-free donut.

From Greg: After the shopping district, we ventured into the old town. There were a lot of Emos in Old Town. We stumbled across some kids doing some sweet street dancing and eventually and Italian restaurant where we ate and I had my first taste of an authentic Koelsch beer.

From Cari: When Greg tried to pay for dinner, the man kept telling us that the credit card wasn’t working. It turned out that the mobile machine was just too far away from the base unit and couldn’t connect. It still amazes me how Americans are incredibly dependent on credit cards and how Europeans are extremely adverse to them.

From Greg: Tomorrow we are off to the brewery, though, where I will become an official expert on Koelsch.
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