A Travellerspoint blog

Last Minute Weekend Trip to Cologne

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View Europe 2010 on Khandilee's travel map.

I was going to go to Stuttgart for the Spring Festival, alone. Switzer had a change in plans as her sister was unable to fly out due to the havoc that the Volcano in Iceland spilled out over all of Europe.

When I learned that Switzer was going to be around for the weekend, I asked her if she wanted to join me in Stuttgart....she wanted to get away for the weekend but wasn't super excited about going to Stuttgart so began the next three days of 'piss poor planning'.

We thought about going several places. Among them were Luxembourg (decided that we could do this on a day trip), Berlin (train was too long...12 hours), and multiple other places. Neither of us was real excited about staying in Germany but with a short weekend, it was really our only option.

It was decided on Friday night that we would go to Cologne for the weekend, leaving on Saturday morning and returning on Sunday evening...

What should have been a 2.5 hr drive, ended up taking (me) nearly 6 hours!! I started out headed for Switzers place around 0900. We decided that she would drive since her car is much more reliable than mine...we would regret this later. My crazy-ass GPS took me the longest and slowest way that it could to get to Switzer's. It took me nearly an hour to get to her house when it should have taken about 20 minutes!

After a quick bathroom stop, we hit the road. Switzer realized that she needed to load her gas card so that we could fuel up on the way....so.....we headed straight back toward my place!! I live right next to one of the bases and this is where we headed to charge up the gas card and stock up on snacks/drinks for the road. I forget that I (as a passenger) can drink on the road here...believe me, if I ever take another road trip, this tid-bit will NOT be forgotten! About three hours into the trip I certainly could have used a good drink or two....

Car filled up and gas card loaded, snacks and drinks in hand....off we went!

We ended up hitting 3 different traffic jam's all together lasting probably less than an hour...then....the big one! At first it wasn't any different than the rest of the jams that we encountered, but it just wouldn't end! Then come's the fun...Switzer's car begins to overheat!!! We are both urging the traffic in front of us to get moving and silently hoping that this jam will be over soon....it wasn't!

The car just kept getting hotter and hotter....we were in the 'red' now and both a nervous wreck! We had been trying for the past 1/2 hour to find a place to pull off and not block the traffic and still hadn't found one. Finally, we spotted a place just under an over-pass only a short 3 car-lengths in front of us....safety at last! We would just pull off and let the car cool down and everything would be fine....

But...the cars in front of us simply would not allow this, NO. They stopped. Dead stop. Not even inching at all. After little deliberation I decided to speak to the car in front of us and see if they would move forward just a bit so that we could pull off. Of course, they spoke no English...so with my wildly crazy game of charades, I finally got them to understand that I needed them to pull forward so that we could pull off the road.

WHEW!!

We had avoided a total breakdown and were happy about this. There was a motorcycle also pulled over in our spot and he told us that he was waiting for a friend and that they were going to take an alternate route through the field that was just down the ditch from the over-pass where we were parked. It was a bit of a decent but we thought we might be able to make it. Before long, the police walked past and again with wild charades, we explained that the car over-heated and we would be going as soon as it cooled down.
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Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I found my way to the bushes and took a toilet break! How many women do you know that can say they squatted alongside the Autobahn to pee?!? I couldn't help it...I
HAD to go.

The motorcyclist's friend arrived and after a few more charades, explaining our situation and ensuring him that we were really ok, off they went down the ditch and around the field...it looked so easy for them but they were on bikes and we were in a car. With the traffic around us still inching forward, we continued to contemplate our options and try to decide if we could make it down the embankment without any damage to the car's undercarriage.

Suddenly, a delivery van appeared and swerved around us and down the ditch and made it seamlessly through the field to the other side!! Success!! It was our turn.....

We made it down the ditch without any problems and soon were on our way. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

When we arrived in Cologne, we found ourselves in some sort of special 'Midnight Shopping' day....the central shopping area at Neumarket was teaming with people, music, and beer and food stands. We wandered around and shopped a little. I promise that I didn't spend too much money.
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We got free Coke, ate at the street stalls and sampled a beer or two. Then we decided that we really needed to get a place to stay for the night. Off we went in search of a hostel to stay at. We made a quick stop at the bookstore for a quick peek at the travel guide and got a couple of addresses and phone numbers! Why pay for a guide-book when you can just browse one? hahaha

The phone numbers were a dead end so off we drove to the first one. It was a bust, no room at the inn. They did give us the addresses and numbers for several other places. As Switzer drove, I was making phone calls. The first two that I called were full and I was losing hope quickly. The third one, which we were driving too, had one 2-twin room available! SCORE! By the time we got there, we were both exhausted and ready to call it a night....but we didn't.
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We freshened up and headed out. We headed back down where we had been shopping earlier (which was a short 10 min walk from our hostel). I looked for a spring jacket and was unable to find one that I liked (and could afford). From here, we grabbed some food and did a little bar-hopping taking the long way back to the hostel.

Sunday was a fresh new day. We checked out of the hotel and stored our bags in the car. With no real plans, we went exploring. It was a great day, full of sunshine and although I'm sure that we didn't see all of the 'tourist' sites, we were happy with what we saw.
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I got to spend a little time along the Rhine River sipping on a coffee and filling out my post-cards. It was very relaxing. On the way to the river, we passed (or rather they passed us) some sort of marathon...with a band and people cheering them along the way.
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The ride home was uneventful....thankfully ;o)

Posted by Khandilee 07:11 Archived in Germany Tagged women Comments (3)

Tri-City Poland

What is this 'Bison-Piss-Vodka' ?

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Four day weekends come but once a month for me. In my quest to visit one country a month, I went on a RyanAir search for a new country to visit during my 4-day weekend in April.

It came down to Pula Croatia or Gdansk Poland for the cheapest flights. Switzer was planning to join me so we both researched these places. We decided on Gdansk, due to the fact that we really want to visit Croatia when it's a bit warmer and possibly have a little more time in order to see Dubrovnik as well. At the last minute, Claire (one of the LT's at work) decided to join us.

Our RyanAir flight was uneventful and we arrived in Poland nearing 2100. Our hosts, The Happy Seven Hostel were right on time to pick us up at the airport.

After dropping our bags at the hostel, we inquired about a place close to find some grub. One of our hosts actually walked with us down the boardwalk to the central part of the Old Town, through the Green Gate and left us there to find something warm to fill our stomachs. Along the way we were given a bit of history on Gdansk and passed the Crane. The Crane is one of the symbols of Gdansk and was built in 1442. It's said to be the largest Medieval Port Crane in all of Europe. I had hoped to get to the other side of the river in order to get a good pic but it never happened.
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After one failed attempt at a restaurant (it was closed), we found a quaint place to warm up and eat, right next to the Monument to Neptune. The food was great and our waiter was certainly pleased with the ginormous tip that we left!

The next morning, Switzer was on top of her game at about 0745 and got myself and Claire motivated and moving. I really wanted to throw something at her in my morning grogginess with her chipper attitude. It was actually a good thing that one of us was motivated or I think I would have slept til noon. I am just not a morning person. We cleaned up and got ready for the day and enjoyed coffee and breakfast (for free) at the hostel. After a little deliberation, we headed out for the day.

We had all be impressed the night before with the quaint little city but even more impressed with the morning light. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy and none of us had really dressed for the cold weather. Switzer ended up buying a scarf and I wished later that I had gotten one too. Due to the cold, coffee with Bailey's became a theme for the trip and lots of coffee stops were made.

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The Monument of Neptune was one of my favorites. It sits in the Old Town area and it's considered the symbol of the city of Gdansk. It was created in 1615 and is a beautiful statue with the backdrop of old buildings sitting behind and all around.
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The Gothic-Renaissance Main City Hall is an imposing building in the old town area. Late in the afternoon, we climbed to the top and got a great panoramic view of the city. Switzer and I wandered into the museum (housed in the same building), while waiting for Claire and got verbally 'spanked' for taking pictures without paying for a ticket to the museum. With our non-existent Polish, we apologized and headed out of the museum.
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Dluga street (the main street in the old-town area), is a beautiful area to wander around and soak in the architecture of the area.
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The Executioner's House and Prison Tower was an interesting stop. It houses The Amber Museum and gives a good overview of the element that is an important part of the local economy. Amber can be found everywhere in Gdansk and the surrounding Tri-city area as the majority of the world's amber deposits lie along the Baltic Coast. What I found most interesting was the fact that Amber was used for everything from pheasants decorating their homes to elaborate clothing and jewelry, furniture, and even pharmacological uses.
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The displays in the Executioner's house were quite disturbing in the methods of torture that were used. But....as weird as I am, I enjoyed the information and took lots of pictures!
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We stopped in a candy shop (imagine that) and watched as they constructed flowers out of the softened candy. One of the workers presented the rose he was working on to Claire! I think he was flirting a bit....
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A great tragedy fell on Poland during our visit. The President as well as many other high ranking officials were killed in a plane crash. The news was all over....a very sad day for Poland. Over the remainder of the trip, this was an issue that we were reminded of with memorials set up like this one we came across in Sopot.
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The afternoon found us at the train station with intentions of heading to Gdynia. Looking like lost Americans. A group with the lead man being from Poland and the rest from Africa, UK, etc. were spotted and Switzer made the move to ask for assistance. The Polish guy was wonderful and guided us to the ticket machine and helped us figure out how to get tickets as well as which train to take. We arrived in Gdynia and due to the aforementioned tragedy....most things were closed. There would be no shopping for us today!

It was still cold and rainy and we ducked into the first bar that we found to warm up. The bartender was a stately older woman who didn't appear to be pleased with the American invasion to her bar. We were definitely the oddity as we walked in, I think everyone in the bar stopped what they were doing and stared us down. It turned out to be a great experience. The bartender/owner finally warmed up to us and even ended up grabbing my hand and dragging me into the street to show me a building that we should visit....she seemed very proud of this building.
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After warming up we headed to the port in order to at least say that we had seen the Baltic Sea! It was shrouded with fog when we arrived. The fishermen were still out and made a nice photo op. On our walk to the port, we found a Pirate Ship Bar that we vowed to come back to. The rest of our time in Gdynia was spent eating then a couple drinks at the Priate Ship Bar then a taxi back to the train station.
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We arrived back to the hostel in time for a couple of drinks at the bar downstairs.
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When we headed up to the hostel, we were greeted with Miron (one of our hosts) stating 'It is late....I was worried about you'. We all got quite a chuckle out of this. We ended the night enjoying some Polish and Danish Vodka with the hostel owners/hosts. It was mentioned that I needed to try the 'bison-piss-vodka' that I had heard about prior to arrival and one of the owners actually left (in the late hours of the night) and got some from somewhere and we toasted yet another shot of Polish vodka!! I can't tell you if it was good or not....too many previous shots were had!
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The last day we took a trip into the third of the Tri-Cities, Sopot. We enjoyed chocolate, a walk on pier, and the most amazing coffee shop ever! This blog has some great info and photos. I would love to return to this spot, it was very relaxing.
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An interesting treat was found on the boardwalk. Some sort of dumpling made with Oscypek, which is a sort of cheese made in Poland....divine in taste!!
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What an amazing full trip!! Thank you Claire and Switzer for joining me....

Posted by Khandilee 08:20 Archived in Poland Tagged women Comments (3)

Oslo After-thoughts

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There are several things that I had thought about during my Oslo trip and I forgot to put them into the blog. Here are just a few thoughts and observations from my 3 days in Oslo.

- I think the children are born with ski's on their feet. It seemed that those old enough to walk were either carrying ski's or their parents were carrying them for them. I saw a few of them skiing at the Vigeland Sculpture park and many more on the Metro and trams.

- There were an inordinate amount of people with disabilities. ie Blind, deaf, and downs syndrome. No one looked at them differently and they blended well with the general populous. Many of them (not the blind) were carrying skis!

- The Norwegians are beautiful people. Not super skinny (like some European cultures). Just beautiful....

- The is nothing that I found that was 'typical' Norwegian food.....maybe someone could enlighten me?

- The beer in Oslo isn't near as good as it is in Prague! And it isn't near as cheap!

- Oslo is very much a multi-cultural city. Oddly enough, was the number of Haitians that I observed.

- There is a large homeless population. This surprised me due to the extremity of the weather. I was told by Phillip (truck driver at the hotel), that there is a huge Heroin problem in Oslo. The only thing I could find with a quick google search was from 2002

- There is no fear of kidnapping in Oslo! I saw babies outside bakeries, alone down an isle in the store and a multitude of other places with mom and dad off doing their business. Scary! I am not the only one to have noticed this; see HERE

- No one except me looked cold!!

Last thought....I can't wait to get back to Norway in the summer and explore some of the smaller towns and the coast!

Posted by Khandilee 08:58 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

You must rejoice in life....

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...every single day, Do not wait until it is past until discovering that it was good! Do not place your happiness in the days to come. The older we get, the more we feel that the enjoyment of the moment is a state of grace, a Golden Gift. Marie Curie

I found this quote on a postcard today and it sums up my feelings totally.

It's been a good trip to Oslo. Had a good time on the MS Innvik last night. Enjoyed a couple of beers with some locals and non-locals. I did call it an early night though as the headaches are horrid. I think it's the cold, or maybe I am trying to come down with something but everytime I step out side, my head begins to throb.

I managed to get some sunset pics from the Opera House. The pictures really dont do it justice. It was very pretty. CIMG3282.jpg CIMG3259.jpg
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Yesterday (day 2), I put off leaving in the morning watching the fog roll off the bay. CIMG3284.jpgWhen I finally headed out, I wandered around town and browsed in the shops and stores a bit. I made my way out to Vigeland sculpture park and took my time exploring and pondering on the statues. There was a brief moment that tears came to my eyes....I'm not certain why, but the sculptures are very moving. The vision of the human connection was very powerful for me. I managed to get a few photos before my battery died:

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I found a great little bakery and enjoyed a wonderful apple/walnut muffin mid-day. It's important in Oslo in March to take frequent breaks for coffee to warm yourself up. At least, that's my excuse!

I was determined to spend some money and did a little more shopping in the shops. Unfortunately, I came out empty handed. Perhaps this is actually fortunate!

I enjoyed great conversation and a couple of overpriced beers (along with a salad) at a cute local bar, The Broker. I am horrible and can't for the life of me remember the name of the man I was chatting with....

Today (day 3)

I enjoyed breakfast conversation with a Belgian. He had lots of advice for exploring Norway (in warmer weather). He lives part time here in Oslo and the other part in Brussels. A trucker by trade and like the rest of those that I have met during this trip, very friendly.

I wandered around a bit more, actually hoping to do some shopping since I was unsuccessful yesterday....only to find out that it's the same in Norway as it is in Germany....EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays! So, I just meandered around until I was too cold and found my way back to the MS Innvik for some internet time. I did manage to find the little bakery from yesterday for another muffin!

I think I am Oslo (ed) out for now....

PS: Additional pics in the gallery.

Posted by Khandilee 05:10 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

Day One Oslo Pictures

Check out my public album for pics of Day one. Sorry, I am tired and not going to go back and put them into the blog....

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/khandilee/countries/Norway/

Gnite all....

Posted by Khandilee 15:19 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

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