Western Europe - been there, done that

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Tuesday, November 2, 2004

This will be my last entry from the tour around Western Europe. Some people have asked me questions like "where did you go in Italy?" and I'll start naming off most the places I went, but have already started to forget some of the names of the smaller towns. I think, "that city was the one with the gray brick plaza and..." but so many of the cities are already starting to blend together. In my last entry I mentioned Brugge reminding me of Amsterdam. Well, that city and several in Holland will probably be blending in my memory over the coming months. It might be the canals that make me think they're all similar.
After Belgium, I went up to Utrecht to stay with my friend, Simone. Julia stayed with Simone's family as an exchange student the same time I was an exchange student in London. I met Simone on several occasions when she's come over to visit Julia in the U.S. There's the background history. Simone was working when I arrived at the train station so I wandered around Utrecht and saw the town. It's nice walking around by the canals and there were pretty trees. I happened upon a beerfest tent so stopped by there for a couple drinks and to listen to some music. Simone picked me up at the train station later and we went back to the apartment for dinner. She is working in a graphics design firm and starting her own consulting business. When starting out, you have to take whatever work people give you to try and establish yourself and get experience....soooo that meant she was busy working most the time, which was ok since I had daytrips planned anyways.
My first daytrip was to Amsterdam for a couple errands. I stopped by the U.S. Consulate to get more pages added to my passport. Getting in is a pain. You have to go through all kinds of security. Once in, it was no problem. Funny how the U.S. Consulate seems to be the only one that needs a double fence and local police all around it. I think there's a strong connection between that and the brilliance of the current administration's foreign policy (don't forget to vote!). I stopped by a STA Travel office while there to check on round-the-world airfares. Most everything they said was wrong so I didn't stay long. I wandered around trying to see places I missed when I was there 11 years ago. Back then I came for a few days to visit Julia and Ben. Julia was our tour guide and claimed she didn't know where the red light district was so I had to go check it out this time. It's an eye-opener, but there sure ain't nothin' pretty to look at. I discovered that all the museum prices have gone way up and the Heineken tour, which used to be free, is now $13. It seems the Dutch are taking the poor tourists for all their worth (but, hey, the tourists are still paying so why not).
Tuesday's first stop was Delft - home of their famous porcelain. It's a small, cute town with canals throughout. Can't say it had a lot to offer though. Looked around a bit then went out to Den Haag. That wasn't in the original plan, so I wandered town following the signs pointing to tourist sites. I came across an ugly concrete building with hardly any windows, steel doors that came down, fences and barbed wire and thought it must be a jail...nope, another U.S. Consulate. Wouldn't it be fun to work in there? The town had some good sites though. Last stop was in Rotterdam. Rotterdam was almost totally destroyed by the Germans in WWII so it's all modern buildings today. Had a typical city feel to it, but there was some neat architecture. I met up with Simone back in Utrecht for dinner at a Dutch pancake restaurant this evening.
I went to the travel clinic for more shots on Wednesday. Wandered around Amsterdam a little then went out to Hilversum to see Alia at Nike EHQ. She gave me a mini tour. The buildings don't all have different designs like at WHQ so it's not quite as neat. Still it was cool to see it.
Took a train ride to Koln (Cologne) on Thursday morning. I'd been there before too, but didn't see much. This time I followed a walking tour my map had and went all over town. Also browsed around in the world's largest CD store (no, I resisted buying anything). I'm finding the hostels I'm at have locals traveling so most people don't speak English (at least as their first language). It's definately harder to meet people that way.
On the way to Trier, I thought I'd stop by Koblenz and Cochem since I was passing through. It's a long walk to the main area from Koblenz train station (as I found out lugging my big bag around...no lockers due to construction). The Rhine and Mosel rivers merge in Koblenz and there's a special peace park there. There's also a big castle on the hill overlooking the town (a hostel is in there I stayed at 11 years ago). The train ride through the Mosel Valley was very pretty with all the fall colors. Cochem looked picturesque with the river, castle and fall colors. I took quite a few pictures there.


The town is cute too and it's not a long walk to the castle. It was kinda late by the time I got to Trier so didn't make an effort to see the sights.
Trier is very close to the border with Luxembourg (that's why I stayed there). I took a train to Luxembourg City on Saturday. I spent the day wandering around checking out their churches, medieval walls and parks. Being as I was only an hour away it was definately worth seeing, but I wouldn't tell people to go out of their way to see it. Back to Trier and I tried to see a couple things before it got too dark out. Trier used to be a Roman capital so has some good ruins.
I'm in Frankfurt visiting my friend, Diana, again. I stopped here before after Freiburg and Heidelberg. Getting here by train from Trier was an experience. The ticket computer told me I only had to change once, but it turns out part of the line was being worked on so I had to switch to a bus part way (of course they don't tell you this. the train just has thing that says "last stop, goodbye" in German). That made me miss connections. By the end, I had 5 changes instead of one. Geesh, I hate Die Bahn. Since it was Halloween, I told Diana I had to trick-or-treat so she stuck a sheet over my head and I knocked her door asking for candy. It might have freaked out the neighbors if I'd gone to their doors since I don't think kids trick-or-treat. We went around Frankfurt today and did some errands and sight-seeing. There was a tv show or something filming in a platz area, but I don't think David Hasselhoff was in it.

Looking back on this trip I've seen A LOT of places, but like I said, I'm already starting to forget some and others are blurring together. And to think there's even more of Western Europe I didn't see. I still think bike riding around parts of Europe would be cool. Another idea is renting a car and going to some of the small villages I missed (since public transport to smaller areas tends to be very limited). So much to see and do. Right now though I have to worry about figuring out my round-the-world plane tickets. Western Europe, you have been conquered. Africa awaits...

countries visited: 26
languages I attempted to speak: 6
money spent: way too much
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