Before I begin I’m going to share a picture I took on a train that was so packed there was no where to sit. We had to sit on the floor in the area between train cars. What glamorous lives we live!
After Belgium my friends Diana, Dorien and I took a series of trains to Eindhoven (Netherlands). Dorien’s grandmother has an apartment there. Her grandmother currently lives in NYC so she was not there so we had the place to ourselves. On the way there we had a fiasco with the trains- surprise surprise right? Well, we made it to Venlo station just fine but then we could hear announcements over the loud speaker concerning out train but couldn’t understand them so we were asking the people on the platform but no one could give us a definite answer. Finally we realized that everyone was leaving the platform and getting on a bus! So we rushed to get on the bus and just barely made it on. It was jam packed full of people. As we were pulling out of the station a guy (who I’m almost positive as intoxicated) ran after the bus and started banging on the window. The bus driver couldn’t let him on even if she wanted to because the bus was so full people were basically on top of one another. We finally made it to the nearest train station where we raced to find the right platform to catch the next connecting train to our next change over location which this time was in Germany. After a series of trains and a bus we made it Cologne! It is very evident once you cross the border into Germany because it looks distinctly different than the Netherlands. One thing we immediately noticed was that so many Germans were carrying around beer(s) sometimes even an entire case of them! This was unusual because in the Netherlands we can’t have open containers in public unless at a cafe/bar. First thing we did when we arrived in Cologne was put our bags in a luggage hold in the train station because we couldn’t check into our hostel yet. Then we walked to the El De house which was a Gestapo prison during WWII. (http://www.museenkoeln.de/homepage/default.asp?s=172) We went downstairs first where the prisoners were held. It was a pretty intense experience. Just to know that human beings were held captive and tortured down there for opposing the Nazi’s was very sad. There were translations of what was written on the cell walls. The ones that pulled at my heart strings the most were “There is no love in this life,” “Waiting for the Americans to arrive,” “I hope the Americans arrive soon.” It was hard to believe that things like this prison really existed at one time. The prison was also where many Nazi documents were stored. The upstairs of the museum was an exhibit of the documentation and history of WWII.
After Gestapo we walked along the Reine river. On the way we saw a large crowd of people holding up skateboards and cheering on the stairs adjacent to the cathedral and train station. There must have been some event involving skateboarders that weekend. The river is not far from the train station/cathedral which are right beside one another. It was awesome to see the Reine river from another country. I’ve been to Rotterdam where the Reine river meets the ocean. We walked around and took pictures before deciding to take the metro to our hostel.
We found out that the Cologne underground system is very easy to navigate- thankfully! We made it to our hostel and were surprised to find out how quaint it was. It was an old house so it had a homey feel too it. We asked the caretaker at the hostel for restaurant suggestions for good typically Germany food. He pointed us directly across the street to one of his favorite, and convenient, spots to eat. So we decided to try it. We were delighted to find out how reasonably priced and delicious it was. I got schnitzel with mushrooms, cream sauce and potatoes. Dorien got the same as I did and Diana got a pancake filled with bacon which I tried and it was delicious! We all got German beers as well. We decided to try a Radler/Alster which are 60/40 mixes of beer and lemonade or German soda. They were amazing- we loved them! During dinner a marching band came down the street and stopped a few buildings down from where we were sitting and played songs. We aren’t sure exactly why but it added to the experience. Overall our authentic German dinner was a success!
After dinner we decided to explore the area around our hostel. It was mostly residential area and it was beautiful. We happened upon two parks, two churches, an old Mercedes firetruck, a garden with Easter decorations, shops and many beautiful homes. We took pictures in front of our ‘future homes’ deciding that we would all live on this one street with huge beautiful houses and gardens. We stopped in one of the parks to play around. We even played life size rock, paper, scissors which was hilarious. Diana got a video of it so we can remember it forever. The people at the park probably thought we were nutty but we had fun. On the way back we stopped to get ice cream. Dorien and I got caramel and Diana got frozen yogurt. It was quite delicious.
After our adventure we headed back to the hostel to turn in for the night. We had been going nonstop since Wednesday when we left for Belgium so we were exhausted and our feet hurt terribly.
The next morning we woke up early and got ready to attend mass at the famous Cologne Cathedral. We knew that it was going to be packed so we wanted to get there early. We also needed to put our things in the luggage hold once again since hostel check out time was between 9-11 and mass was at 10. The mass was such an amazing experience. The sermon was in German and the prayers were in Latin so I didn’t understand 99% of what was being said but I could make out “Christ is risen” multiple times. After mass we walked around the exterior of the church to take pictures of the cathedral and the square before heading to our next destination.
Our next destination was the Schokoladenmuseum or Chocolate Museum! (http://www.chocolatemuseum-cologne.com/) This museum was huge! The first floor was all about the cocoa beans themselves and there was even a small recreation of a tropical rain forest. Next was a recreation of a Lindt chocolate factory. There were even machines in service making and packaging chocolate that you could purchase. There was a large chocolate fountain with gold leaves on it and a women dipping wafers into chocolate and handing them out- I had one and it was yummy. As you walked through the museum you could see how they create hollow chocolate products such as easter bunnies, different types of packaging, and advertising throughout the years. There was also a section on the history of chocolate including a section on ancient Mexican civilizations. There was another section where they explained exactly what goes into each type of Lindt chocolate (dark, milk, white). I enjoyed the museum a lot it was informative and interactive. I even got some chocolate for my sister and I at the shop afterward.
After such a jam packed morning we had a picnic at a park along the river. We had brought our own bread, cheese and lunch meat with us to Cologne in order to save money which was a brilliant idea. We ate our sandwiches and relaxed in the sun for a while. And of course Diana and Dorien talked me into having a photoshoot. If you know me you know I don’t like to have my picture taken but if you know them you know they love to take pictures of people so I caved.
The last thing we did before leaving Cologne to head back to Eindhoven was venture around town once more. We found a few statues, walked through ‘Old Town’ and took pictures of and with pretty flowers we found.
It doesn’t end there! We headed to the train station and got on a train back to Eindhoven. Everything started out fine just as it always does but then yet another train fiasco happened. We got to the station where we were supposed to connect back to Venlo and guess what? There was a fire! We don’t know if it was on the train or the track but our train was canceled nonetheless. So we had to wait an extra hour at the station for the next train going to that station. A very nice German guy helped us figure out what to do. He was even willing to miss his train to help us out but no worries he didn’t miss it. We also met another American during this whole debacle. He is in the American Air Force and stationed in the Netherlands. He was a cool guy. We talked about what it’s like to live in the Netherlands. He’s lived in Spain, Turkey and Germany and it was obvious the Netherlands isn’t his favorite. You don’t realize how distinct Dutch culture is until you leave it for a while. I think I’ve gotten so used to it I don’t realize exactly how distinct it is from the rest of Europe. I’m not saying good or bad I’m just saying distinct. Finally our train came and we got to our next connection just fine. Then alas we made it back to Eindhoven! Next on our agenda was to make Easter dinner which we had grocery shopped for Friday before we left for Cologne. We made mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken and bruschetta as a starter. Needless to say it was delicious! We set up the patio furniture on the balcony of the apartment and ate outside. The weather was gorgeous and the food was delicious. It was the perfect was to end an amazing 5 day, 3 country trip with wonderful people!
We went to sleep at a decent hour so we could wake up and catch an early train back to Leiden where I am writing this from at the moment. It feels great to be back in Leiden- I love it here. It is crazy to think I will be back in North Carolina in a matter of days. I won’t think about it now because I will get sad!
Tot ziens allemaal!
^Link to the Eindhoven/Cologne album!