Saturday, February 27, 2010

Winter Break: parte dos

I’m back folks! Sorry, my break was a little longer than expected… I was all blogged and journaled out. So anyway, after Paris we went to Köln (cologne in English), Germany.

Germany has been on my places-to-visit list for a long time. And one of the main reasons why it has topped this list is that I know that a sizable chunk of my ancestors are from there. I know that I probably have blood from many different European countries… but I only claim 3 (haha). #1) I know I’m Irish on my Dad’s side, #2) I know I’m Germany on my Mom’s side and #3) My (maternal) Grandma told me she has ancestors from Wales. Well, when I was 14 I went to Ireland and Wales. So ever since then I’ve wanted to make it to Germany! Mission accomplished.

After our hours around the Eiffel tower on Saturday, we took an EIGHT HOUR bus ride to Koln. The bus started off very full, but luckily we made stops in Brussels and Dusseldorf which cleared it right out. When we got into town, we found our hostel, A&O. It was another good one! Not as raging as the Paris one, but it was clean, up to date and had great staff. This time we were in a 4 bed mixed dorm… But even knowing this ahead of time we were caught off guard to walk in and see our roommate: a French guy. Danielle and Chloe slept in bunkbeds, and I slept in a twin bed that was 1 ½ inch away from frenchie’s twin bed. Luckily that was the only night we shared with him. We had the whole room to ourselves for the next two nights which was really nice. This hostel pretty much had a hotel set up. Our room had a shower, bathroom and TV in it. Aaaaaand breakfast! :) We had to pay for it here, but I definitely got my 4 Euro worth every morning. I’ve always known that I love breakfast, but here I’ve realized it’s definitely my favorite meal! If I don’t start off my day with a big ol’ feast, it won’t be a good one!

Since we got in pretty late Saturday night, our German adventure didn’t really start until Sunday morning. I was so ready to get up and explore the land of my forefathers! haha Walking around the town I kept thinking to myself (and saying out loud sometimes too), “This looks sooo German!”. It really did. The stone/brick roads (which were a biatch to walk on), the houses all lined up next to each other, the restaurants. I loved it! Our first stop was the Chocolate museum. It had exhibits about the history of chocolate, the cultivation of the cocoa beans, how it’s made, its influence on society… it was great! I especially loved that they gave us a piece of chocolate when we bought our ticket, and then a wafer dipped in a chocolate fountain during the tour. There was one room that had all of the machines to make chocolate treats in it and I kept getting flashbacks to visiting the Hershey Factory when I was little. In that same room, there were ladies making truffles and other chocolate treats (like giant chocolate rabbits). And they were in glass boxes! With everyone standing around taking pictures and pointing at them, I imagine that they probably feel like they’re zoo animals. My favorite thing was the chocolate gnomes!

From there we went to another Museum, the El-De Haus. It was the headquarters of the Gestapo, and a prison that they held their “political enemies” in. There were exhibits on every floor about the Nazis and Hitler, but by far the most moving part was the basement. We could go inside of the prison cells and torture rooms, and you could FEEL the people’s presence. I got major chills thinking about the people who were detained there for no reason, and of the ones that died there. I got freaked out a couple of times and almost broke my knee cap because of it! I was in a sub basement area that used to be a torture room, and I turned around to notice my roommate had already gone back upstairs and I was all alone. So I RAN up the stone steps, but slipped. And my knee slammed right into the edge of a step. It hurt sooo bad and I got really light headed and almost passed out! I had a limp for the rest of the weekend and still have a bruise today. The most eerie part of the prison, was that there were still so many inscriptions on the walls from the prisoners. They wrote about the injustice of their imprisonment and their poor living conditions and treatments. They talked about missing their home and families. Many of the prisoners were just teenagers. It was so moving.

The next day we went to the Dom, the cathedral in Koln. Like I mentioned in my Paris blog, visiting cathedrals is much more interesting to me when I know about the architecture! The dom, like Notre Dame, is also Gothic style. And it is the typical Latin Cross plan (it’s shaped like a cross). I felt pretty cool walking through and knowing the name of the part I was in! haha

After exploring the inside, we climbed up a ridiculous amount of stairs to the VERY top of one of the bell towers of the Dom. The first set of steps were oooold, stone and spiral. Then there were normalish metal ones (backless which creep me out) and finally a combo of the two: metal AND spiral. I almost quit because #1, my knee was killing me, and #2 my functioning knee was shaking like a leaf because I was so scared! But I made it… and the view was worth it :)

We basically spent the rest of our day exploring the city. I got a delicious pastry pretzel! I was expecting pretzels to be EVERYWHERE here. When I think of Germany I think of pretzels, beer and disgusting food. So, I made it a mission to eat a big pretzel while I was here and drink German beer, but the pretzel thing was really difficult in Koln! We asked at the tourist information center and they said that Pretzels are famously from southern Germany… so I had to settle for something different than what I had imagined. But it was very tasty. It was obviously really easy to find beer… and I drank the local brew, Kolsch. Something else I decided for myself early on was that I wouldn’t be leaving Germany without a Beer Stein and I found the perfect one. It says “Koln” and has 3 views of the town: a plaza, the Dom and the river. I love it and can already imagine it on my bookshelf at home.

I really loved Koln. And I love Germans! I know this sounds so stupid, but I can really see my people as being from there. Maybe my FAVORITE thing about Koln, is that it has a lot of SUBWAYS! And Sunday, I was finally able to eat my fave. They didn’t have all of my veggies (or my pepper jack cheese), so I had to do some substituting. But this is what I ended up with: 6 inch veggie on honey oat with a mystery cheese, lettuce, onion, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, salt and pepper and sweet onion sauce. I was loving every bite… and was slightly depressed when I finished :(

Our journey back to Madrid started at 5 am Monday and we were sooo looking forward to getting back to our apartment that night. I was especially looking forward to reuniting with my computer, as I was totally cut off from the internet while I was there! So we took our 8hr bus ride back to Paris, then an hour bus ride to the airport. It was 5 pm and I was very ready to get on the plane and be on the final leg of our journey. But when I walked through the airport I noticed right away that our flight was CANCELLED! Cancelled?! We were soooo bummed, but figured we would just get a different flight a few hours later. Not so fast! We flew with Ryanair, a cheap airline… and they don’t have any obligation to get us to our intended destination if the flight is canceled for any of the reasons listed in their terms & agreements.... and they have EVERY possible circumstance listed! I was so frustrated. They wouldn’t tell us why it was canceled at first, but we finally learned that there was a strike. We waited in a line for about 2 hours to see what our options were. They ended up putting us on a different flight that night to Gerona, Spain (near Barcelona). But we would be responsible for getting ourselves to Madrid from there. So we waited around for our late night flight and it kept getting delayed!! I was so nervous that they would cancel that one too. We were all in such bad moods.

But, around midnight we were finally on our way to Spain. The flight was TERRIBLE. There were a few times that I literally thought I was going to die. The turbulence was horrible and we would go down so fast and drastically that my stomach dropped often. There were multiple times towards the end of the flight that there were collective gasps from the passengers. I was so scared!

We arrived at the Gerona airport around 2am. We would have to catch a bus to Barcelona, and then take another to Madrid. But, they obviously didn’t start leaving until the morning. So, we picked a spot and “slept” in the airport. I laid there going in and out of sleep until about 4… but it was so freezing and uncomfortable that I just had to get up and sit there, waiting for the hours to pass. This is the pillar we all slept around...

But FINALLY 8 o’clock rolled around and we were able to buy tickets to Barcelona. The whole ride we were hoping that there would be space on the 10 o’clock bus to Madrid, and that we could make it in time. We got there at 9:55, and we were able to get on! Perfecto! We were FINALLY on our way to Madrid. For awhile, I thought we would never get there.

After ANOTHER 8 hr bus ride we made it. Around 7pm on Wednesday (about 24 hrs behind schedule) I walked through my apartment door. I would have had a huge smile on my face while doing it, but I couldn’t muster up enough energy. The situation could have been much worse… but the whole thing was just annoying. The worst thing about it was that this is midterms time and some people had to miss exams! Luckily the school is letting people retake them since many students were stuck in airports due to the strike. I only had to miss one class, but it was a review session for our midterm (which is Monday) :(

I had 3 classes and one midterm on Thursday… and was so relieved after I was done and it was the weekend again.

Ps. Where did February go?


  1. Kelsey, Koln is just wonderful isn't it? I really felt at home there too. I was wondering if you were going to have a similar experience and it sounds like you did. I had to laugh a little at the thought of you sleeping in airports and your pillar. If I am remembering correctly you've always had a fascination with the homeless, and well, it looks like it may be out of your system! Maybe I am just thinking of the NY picture though haha. Good luck on your midterms!!

  2. Talking about all the cholocate and the free samples...makes me think of our adventure in Hershey many times did we ALL run to the begining of that ride????Too many...I didn't know where to look...funny, Alexis even figured that one out! haha

  3. yeah, Angie. I definitely felt a connection in Germany. I loved the city...thanks for the suggestion. We actually would have ended up in Dusseldorf had you not told me about Koln! I hope my airport experience is as close to being homeless as I'll ever get lol. What NY pic are you thinking of? The first one that comes to mind is me in the wee hours of the morning waiting for tix for a bway show, holding a bag out for money. haha.

    Renee, how could I NOT remember the thousands of times we all rode that ride...haha. That was hilarious. and my feet hurt sooo bad in the museum in Germany that I wished I was riding in one of those carts just going by the exhibits! :)

  4. I wondered how you ended up choosing Koln. A lady I work with grew up in Germany and wondered as well (Sandra Lynn). Angie - it sounds like a great suggestion! I'm looking forward to visiting Germany the end of March! Did the chocolate factory smell as good as Hershey, PA?

    Love you!

  5. hahah, yep that is the picture!you even had your little hoodie hood pulled up to keep warm in your staged homeless pic.

    lynn, i can't wait to hear about your plans for your upcoming trip!! so exciting!