My 2 cents

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Travelogue: Danke Deutschland, Merci LePari, Hey Brussels, Oh hell yeah!!

Part 1:

It was a usual day at work, and I found my co-workers chatting with each other about their trip to Germany. Both were not inclined to go as they recently had a kid. I volunteered as we were in the same sub team and for some time, I had no clue if I would be going. I was in two minds as the work was not terribly exciting but then this was my first trip to Europe. As usual, sat on my ass and did nothing about it; till it was time to book my visa and get moving. So after going through the messy regulations to get the visa done, I had my visa and flight tickets booked. I decided to take a few days off to wander around Europe. Not sure where to go I just booked my onward and return journey to Bonn and decided to take it from there, which I thought was a bad idea but it didn’t turn out that way. I had my opportunity to go to Germany before and even I had the visa but that didn’t work out. So I was guarded in my optimism about this trip, especially after all the efforts I put in to my Peru trip last year, which went down the drain.

And so I boarded the flight from San Francisco on 14th March, still not sure where I was going to hang out in Europe after work and not learning a word of German. I didn’t even have a clue of what are the places to visit in Bonn – you can get a sense of how lazy I am but trips without an iota of planning are a fascinating experience. A close friend helped me out and sent me some interesting things to check out.

On board the flight to London a Norwegian and another girl from Stanford kept me going till we reached London. A bit disappointed to see the messy Heathrow, also called Deathrow by the locals and a short stop over and I was on the flight to Köln (pronounced as Cologne by Englishmen and Kern by the Germans).

I was so tired that I had no clue when the flight took off and landed. And there I was in Deutschland. The immigration was a breeze, all they asked me was my passport and they were very courteous - To the Border Patrol Guys at US immigration center- I guess its time for you folks to learn something. A taxi took me to Bonn on the famous Autobahn in 30 minutes. I was hoping I would get a chance to drive on it soon ☺. Did I mention the awesome Lufthansa staff with the golden scarves? The smiling faces of the Hilton folks greeted me. Met my teammate and we walked around the Bonn city center. Had dinner at a typical German restaurant called Bonnsch – as we were in Bonn. They brew their own German beer and it was out of this world. They have classic glasses where they have dents for the digits on the glass so that you don’t need a handle. We hung around the city center for a little while longer, mingled with the local crowd and learnt a bit of German. Bonn is a small town on the banks of Rhine and is a university town and yeah, lots of good looking girls. I was under the impression that German women are not that feminine in nature, but boy of boy was I wrong. So we returned to the hotel at about 10 pm and my teammate retired to his room. As it was Saturday night, I decided its time to check out the night scene in Bonn. Asked the courteous hotel staff and went to a club nearby. I was there at 11 pm and it hadn’t opened yet. The clubs in Germany start kicking in at midnight and are buzz with activity till 5 am. So this was a trance club and oh hell yeah! I guess I won’t write much about the wild things that were going on here else I will get into trouble ☺.

I found it a bit different from the US clubs in the sense that single guys don’t swoon over the single girls like they do in US clubs, its more about dancing and drinking with known people. I had an awesome time and I was back in my room at 3 am. A brilliant evening to start my day in Germany and did someone say jetlag?
Next day, I took a walk by the Rhine, and walked around the town a bit more. Sunday is a lazy day in Europe with most of the shops closed. People are either at their home or at the church. After working for a couple of hours in the afternoon, yeah did I forget to mention that I was on a work trip, we took a stroll to visit the great Beethoven’s house.

Took a tour, had coffee in one the cafes. Did I mention that German girls just blew me away – the poise, the composure and of course they are hot. If I only I knew some more German, even though by now I had picked up a few words to start a conversation. We decided to drive down on the famous Autobahn to have dinner at a fancy restaurant at Köln. So the two of us drove the Mercedes that we rented and were speeding away. It was raining but we still touched close to 200 kmph with the intention of touching 250 the next day when the weather was better. Little did we realize, until the next day, that only a 7 km stretch had no speed limits and the rest was restricted at 120 kmph. Would have been another experience to have the car impounded. Had dinner at the Maritime hotel, which was a 5 star hotel at Köln with awesome views of the city and the Rhine.

The next 3 days were spent at work, which tuned out to be more interesting that I thought since I got to meet many interesting people, including Sarah, and had some fascinating lunch conversations. The people we were visiting treated us but it also made me realize how great it is at my work place with the lack of hierarchy and bureaucracy. Went to Bonnsch again with the entire team.

It was Wednesday and I was still not sure which city I would be visiting on the Easter weekend. Wanted to go to the lala land but the prediction of snow cancelled that plan. The toss was between Berlin and Paris and an experienced guy told me – it has to be Paris. So I booked my hotel and train one day before going. It being a 4-day weekend in Europe I had to shell out a lot of money, and was obviously a bit upset about it for not having planned it before and saved some mullah. A close friend happily bore the brunt of my frustration. Its great having people like her around.

On Wednesday, I asked Sarah out and she graciously agreed to show my around Köln. Got some German chocolates at Hesley, a famous shop in Bonn and an Easter gift. Thursday was Autobahn day –drove a lot on the Autobahn the entire day marked by trips to small cities like Kongsberg, and nearby areas to see the countryside and get some work done. In the evening, went out with Sarah to Köln. She took me to a place from where you could see the entire city and must I say wow!

We then crossed the Rhine and went to the famous dome, Mondrian museum and hung out in the city. Spent some time walking around the city and talking in the café over a cup of coffee. Learnt a lot about how the Germans think and feel about the Second World War. I expected a few more monuments in Bonn, being the capital of West Germany and was surprised to see none.

It was time to say Danke Deutschland and viva Parisle


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing trip! It seems fabulous. Thanks for sharing it.

10:50 AM  

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