February 22, 2011

Repatriation to the Rhineland

(Highlight video HERE.)

With a Eurail pass comes a certain level of insanity. I have a Select Pass with only X amount of travel days. These "travel days" - I MUST make them count. This brings the departure times to unholy hours like 5:00AM, and serves to create the longest of days. But it's the commitment I've made to the Eurail pass, and I refuse to break my vows.

I have finally accepted the fact that real mochas do not exist in Europe. All they do is brew you coffee, then either hand you the chocolate bar or put it in themselves. Okay, fine.

It also was one of the colder days since I've been here, hovering around a lovely 30 degrees most of the day. The random German snow on the countryside added to the proof of cold, but I was able to enjoy the beauty of the snow from the comfort of my own warm train car.

I went to Köln first on the Thalys (say "Tallis" like "talon"), a bogus high-speed train you have to pay extra for and it's not cleaner or record-shattering faster than the podunk local trains. Köln was nice because the enormous Köln Dom is literally AT the train station, so I could wander around the city for a while and always find the landmark to return to home base. The Dom wins the award for biggest church with lamest stained glass ever.

The bridge across the Rhine River near the Dom had "love locks" all over the side of it and that made for an interesting walk. There were padlocks of all shapes, sizes, colors, and languages, all committed to making their love last...on a German bridge.

The boats that sail up and down the Rhine do not run again until March - so I will come back. Most of the train ride to Koblenz was along the Rhine, and the most gorgeous German villages were around every bend. Every village has a beautiful church, and every 10 minutes or so a castle was on a cliff. The perfect teaser trailer for a future boat ride.

German travel was great because all the information was trilingual: German, English, and French (close to French border). The coolest part of the train rides were definitely the tunnels. Okay, maybe not the actual tunnels themselves, but the fact that, whoosh! Now we're in a tunnel! Then, wham! We are out of the tunnel - and there's SNOW! Very Narnia-like transformations into perfectly frosted trees and forests.

After a short stop in Koblenz, I headed to Luxembourg. I strolled about the center for about an hour. I had the most delicious sandwich for dinner and I would recommend it to everyone if I knew what it was. Apparently, Luxembourg has a fascination with lions? I do not believe they are indigenous to the area. Anybody up on their Luxembourgese history?

Train wild things on the day: 1) spilling my "mocha" everywhere when I stopped the automatic door; 2) the French teenage boy with the Dodgers hat listening to Backstreet Boys; and 3) thinking we were at my Namur stop (because the train had physically stopped) and opening the door to the vast nothingness of dark fields. All those train murder mysteries make so much more sense now.

I made this travel day count for at least 3 days. How? By hopping onto 7 trains. Take that, Travel Day #2.