Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2010 Frankfurt Vacation

or how the Romanians conquered Germany.

There were a few things different about this trip compared to the previous years:
- we took our vacation in the beginning of August and not towards the end;
- we were going to stay with my cousin, not the one who traveled with us last year but the one who lives in Frankfurt. The funny thing is that a while ago she gave little brother a Germany travel guide and wrote inside that she would quiz him later. Now was her chance to do it 'cause we took the guide with us and we planned to show it to her. Of course, all the studying had been done by me, while he hadn't even bothered to open the book.

As usual, this is just a travel log and no high class literature. I'll use some abbreviations for short: MM=my mom, MD=my dad, LB=little brother, MC=my cousin, MU=my uncle.

Here we go...

Monday, the 2nd of August

- Iasi - Oradea trip
- for the first time ever at 12:00 sharp (deadline set by MD, who was busy in the morning) we were ready to leave the house. Unfortunately, the car wasn't, and by the time the boys had delt with it and we had lunch, it was already past 3 in the afternoon.
- so we left the parking lot at 3:30 PM and arrived to our first stop at 12:30 (9 hours later like Google Maps had predicted).
- we used the same route as we did for our return from Vienna last year: Iasi - Pascani - Tg. Neamt - Borsec - Toplita - Reghin - Cluj - Huedin - Oradea. I didn't remember the road to have so many twists and turns and be so bad. We had barely started on our journey, when we discovered we had lost three of the brand new wheel lid covers (or whatever they're called).
- MM had to drive the last hour because the lights gave MD vision problems and he didn't want to risk it.
- we spent the night at the now familiar Z pension; same stuffy air, but no Dolph Lundgren movie and the roses covered sheets were missing.

Tuesday, the 3rd of August

- Oradea - Frankfurt trip
- we bought cakes from the store next door for breakfast, hoping their quality had improved over time. No such luck.
- we were too tired to leave before 11:00, and we arrived in Frankfurt at 23:30 (local time) so Google Maps was sort of right once again.
- the followed route was Oradea - Debrecen - Budapest - Gyor - Vienna - Linz - Passau - Regensburg - Nurnberg - Wurzburg - Frankfurt.
- it rained four times while crossing Hungary and Austria.
- I was congratulated for the music selection chosen for the trip, we had started with Leonard Cohen upon leaving followed by a little Take That, a little too much according to LB, who complained about not having enough Eminem. Well, there would have been more if he hadn't just handed me over the flash drive and then gone to bed, letting me do all the work.
- MM drove the last 30 km, missed the exit on the highway, and we finally arrived to Frankfurt where we met MC in front of her building.
- she was coming from work and only stayed long enough to show us the apartment and tell us how everything worked before going back. We knew she had plans for both upcoming weekends so we agreed to find some other time to meet and catch up. Little did we know it was the only time we were going to see her, as she had also arranged for her to sleep somewhere else so we could have the whole place to ourselves. And LB had been so excited about sleeping on air mattresses. Of course, the first thing we did was roll up the white living room carpet and water her plants.
- she has a two room apartment situated on the first floor of a two story building, so no elevator available, but that turned out to be not such a big problem. We loved the huge green couch from the living room and the black and white photographs on the wall. Us girls quickly claimed the bedroom and let the boys have the TV. The blue horse with a psychedelic background was a bit of a shock, but the tropical paradise on the opposite wall was well fit for inducing pleasant dreams.

Wednesday, the 4th of August

- in the morning we were still tired after the two days spent on the road. Luckily, the beds were good so we slept well and hardly ever heard the tramway passing right in front of the building. LB stated he would take the green couch as souvenir when we left home.
- we decided to take it easy and just get familiar with the city the first day. Therefore we walked the whole 4 km to the city center instead of taking the tram. It took us about an hour to get to the bridge and cross the river, but the weather was nice, sunny, even if a bit too windy for my taste (especially after the two days spent with the A/C full on, which made me have blood red vampire eyes for the next couple of days) and we didn't mind it much. We had plenty of new things to see, and we were also looking for nearby grocery stores.

- a few observations: there’s a flower cult going on, lovely; the percentage of overweight people is low; older women seem to have a hair problem; there were fewer dogs than expected.
- on the border of the water we saw swans, wild ducks and geese, and once we crossed the bridge, Alte Brucke, we entered the old city. Our misfortune was to walk right into the Zeil, a big pedestrian area bordered by stores, and we lost a lot of time there hopping from store to store in our journey from one end to the other, right up to the old Opera House, which was undergoing repairs.
- from there we entered the skyscraper district. My favorite was Westend tower, the white one with a summer top hat and neck tie statue in front. By then it had started to get clouded, so the photos came out either dark or having a fantastic feel. MM kept asking why I was upset, but I wasn't, I was just cold. Later it turned out that I was frowning in every single photo, not that there were so many, because of that.

- I can’t stand that black suit and white shirt uniform all the business women seem to wear. When we checked at home, we realized we had been close to the place where MC worked.
- when it was starting to get dark, we made it to the Dom and saw it from the outside, but it was getting late and it was time to go home while we could still walk.
- it was a long walk. MM kept asking after each km if we were there yet. It was quite funny, especially when she started to count the houses.

Thursday, the 5th of August

- it rained in the morning. MM and MD rested, while LB and I figured out how to setup the Internet connection. We mainly used it to check the weather forecast and look for parking places later on.
- LB took over the laptop to chat with his friends, and I inspected MC's bookshelves. Only work related books, serious stuff, I couldn't find any fiction work. I was starting to get worried, but then I discovered the X-Men trilogy and Dallas (wtf?) among the DVDs and I was like "yep, she's still human!" I entertained myself with her photo albums until the rain stopped, and of course I sent her a short e-mail to let her know what I was doing. In fact, I think I sent her several, I was getting bored. Ideas were exchanged with MU too, and he gave us some good tips where to go and what to see.
- in the afternoon we went out after the rain had stopped. I made sure I was well bundled up with a sweater and raincoat just in case. We had all agreed that MC's apartment was placed in Twilight Zone because when you looked out the bedroom window it didn't rain, and when you went to the living room window it did. Also water on the plates didn’t dry after being washed, so we decided it was safer not to even try washing clothes.
- it was too dark to take photos, yey! MM bought a pair of sneakers because she had only brought sandals, and then we just wandered around on various streets ending up in Romer along with nightfall.

Friday, the 6th of August

- cloudy, but no rain and it wasn't cold either.
- we started with a walk on the south side of the river, through the Museumsufer. We had known in advance that both Staedel and Museum of Architectures were closed for repairs, and that limited our choices as far as museums were concerned, but that was alright since last year in Vienna we visited one museum per day and it felt a little too much. Only the Museum of Modern Art and Natural Science seemed to be interesting and we decided to visit them later if we had time or if it rained.
- we crossed the river on a different bridge and on our way to the center we passed by Rathaus, St. Stephen's Church (it was closed to public), we took a turn by Goethehaus then back to Romer and the Dom. We finally saw the old city main square in daylight: nice old buildings all around, but somehow soulless, maybe because of the tourists flocking in. The Dom reminded me of the one in Vienna, big, dirty and full of promises on the outside, and quite simple on the inside.
- the boys spent the money saved by the morning and evening walk on shirts and t-shirts while we did some shopping.
- we ended the evening at My Zeil mall. It was late and most stores were closing, but the building with the hole in the middle of it was very interesting.

Saturday, the 7th of August

- the hottest day. Actually, it was the only day when I could wear only a t-shirt. I used to be able to tell when a photo was taken from the clothes I wore. Not anymore, not when wearing either red top, red t-shirt, red sweater or red raincoat.
- we spent the morning at the flea market on the south border of the river in Museumsufer. Lots of junk, just about any old stuff you can imagine, but it would have taken hours of digging to find something worth the time and the money. We found a set of beaded necklace and bracelet for LB, who has more recently developed a passion for such things.
- then we started a long journey towards MesseTurm, passing by the train station, which our guide listed as the most dangerous part of the city. LB had borrowed a defense spray he'd found in the apartment so he felt safe. I have to admit the tower is quite something, for some reason there was smoke coming out of the top, but I still like Westend better.
- once he was done with the photos, MD started to rush us to made it to the grocery story before closing time because the next day was Sunday and everything was going to be closed. I kinda pouted at that, I mean we could wait for hours for him to take photos, but when we wanted to finally go for a walk he had to get hungry.
- no need to say each evening we drank beer and ate various kinds of wurst.
- the weather forecast predicted rain, so we stayed up late looking for accommodations in Amsterdam. Being so late we couldn't find anything remotely convenient.

Sunday, the 8th of August

- at MC's suggestion, we retrieved the car from the field behind the building and took off to visit a few nearby towns. Mind you, it was the first time we were using the car or any other kind of transportation since arriving to Frankfurt.
- Eltville - lovely small town with well preserved old houses; lots of tourists, but the atmosphere didn't feel crowded but relaxed; nice promenade on the border of the water and flower garden. We wondered how the locals made a living, probably by running all those terraces and restaurants. MD and LB took lots of pics, of all 600+ only one featuring family. MD's favorite themes this vacation were windows, doors and people, while LB settled for cars, girls and dogs.
- Rudesheim - the initial intention was just to pass through and continue our trip along the valley, but once we got to see it we couldn't resist and got out of the car to explore for a bit. This town was bigger, with more tourists and a summer resort feel given by all the crowded shops.
- Wiesbaden - I was the one who insisted to stop here too. A real town, and I loved the old buildings. Unfortunately the GPS had been set to take us to the city center but there were repair works being done and while we drove around looking for a parking we kinda got away from it. It was getting dark and in the absence of a map we didn't get to see much. We saw two churches, but not the one that had been recommended to us.
- after dinner that evening, we looked for hotels in Eindhoven this time. We made no reservation, but we wrote down the address of a few hotels that had rooms available.

Monday, the 9th of August

- Koln - we left relatively early to go to Koln. We discovered a local radio, Rockland, that aired old rock music so we didn't have to listen to our own. I love western highways, but without the GPS it wouldn't have been that easy to get there. It didn't help much with finding a parking, although we had the address, so we had to let the street signs guide us. We parked close to the Dom and went to visit it first. The Dom is big, huge even, and it would look great if cleaned, which it wasn't, except for a few ornaments. The interior was again not quite to my liking, the arches were too narrow and there were too many columns, which made it hard to see what was going on on the other side of the church. I'm not a big fan of blank ceilings and I've seen better stained glass windows. But it was impressive nevertheless. Next we walked over to the bridge, where we admired the collection of tons of locks attached to it. That's quite a business to have there. The rest of the time was spent in the pedestrian commercial area. The streets felt too narrow and crowded.
- Eindhoven - towards the end of the afternoon we left for Eindhoven. We went to Stanton Hotel, the first hotel on our list, and we checked into a quadruple room. We only took our luggage upstairs and went out to explore the town. MD had taught for a semester at the university there back in the late '90s, and he kept pointing out to us the new buildings. I loved the town, with the old center with terraces on both sides of the street, especially the Sgt. Pepper bar with the loud rock music, the mall and the modern center. I could easily see myself living there. The sidewalks were just perfect.

Tuesday, the 10th of August

- Amsterdam - we had a rich breakfast at the hotel, and then we went to Amsterdam. As we got closer the weather began to change and the sky got covered by clouds. We parked at the Music Center and from there started to walk. We passed by the flea market and flower market, and then we walked on various streets and channels until the rain got so bad that we had to buy an umbrella for the boys, who had left their jackets in the car, and a yellow raincoat for me because my jacket turned out to be not as waterproof as it should have been.
- Eindhoven - it wasn't raining when we arrived at the hotel, but when we got downstairs to go out for an evening walk it started to sprinkle a little. We went to the store around the corner to look at the lamps displayed in the windows and then on a couple of more streets, but it kept raining on and off so we retreated to the hotel.

Wednesday, the 11th of August

- Eindhoven - lovely weather. We spent the morning shopping after we checked out of the hotel. I found some things for myself and everyone was happy that I finally got something. We entered the church, I liked the stained glass window, and after another tour around the center we left.
- Amsterdam - LB bought new sunglasses and I bought colored cacti. I'm not normally much into cacti, but these with the colored tops were very cute. Initially I only wanted a set of three, red, pink and orange, but I couldn't find one so I got red, yellow and pink instead. Of course, a few steps to the left I found the desired set in a different kiosk, but I had already bought them. I saw a purple one looking like a snail, so I bought another set of red, purple and orange. That's how I ended up with six cacti. Oh, well. We walked some more, cut it through the Redlight district, MM's ideas so “the kids would know what’s out there”, and then we returned to the car. It rained all the way back to Frankfurt, and MM drove part of the way, missing the right exit on the highway.

Thursday, the 12th of August

- again changing weather so we only left the apartment in the afternoon.
- we took a different route to get to the city center, starting with a back alley full of cute houses, then a road surrounded by vegetation, but we must have missed a turn somewhere cause we ended up at the same bridge. No problem, by then we had crossed them all.
- it rained on and off, and once we had to take cover inside Main Triangel's yard, which had a glass cover.
- we stopped by Kleine Markthalle, nice but bio products are quite expensive. Then MM and MD rushed ahead to farmers' market while LB and I window shopped and hid from the rain.
- when the rain got serious, we entered the mall and stayed there until it stopped. MM was in heaven inside Saturn, the electronics store.

Friday, the 13th of August

- Stuttgart - we went straight to Porsche Museum. Interesting building inside and out, but the tiles covering the floor were already cracked, although the museum is only a couple of years old. I can't say much about the cars, the display was a bit monotone at some point. LB took shots with all of them. I loved the Boxter.
- we had to rush to get to Mercedes Museum because it was getting late. I liked this one better, the exhibition was more interesting too, starting with a horse. LB ran out of memory space and came running to get another card for the camera. Many old cars produced over the years, less more modern models it seemed. I liked the green one with transparent top put on a pillar on the last floor, not sure what it was.
- we spent the evening walking in the old city center. Very nice, I wish we had time to see more of it.

Saturday, the 14th of August

- Heidelberg - another favorite destination for tourists. Really nice town, even if we only walked back and forward on the main street. We entered the church, but I’m not sure I liked the modern stained glass windows. The castle looks better in pictures I'm afraid.
- MM was happy she bought a pot to boil spaghetti. She had been obsessing about pots lately, mainly because we couldn't find any in MC's kitchen. That naturally brought us to the conclusion that she didn't cook, which we kinda suspected since she tends to work until midnight on regular bases.
- we would have stayed more but we had to return to Frankfurt and do some shopping for the trip back home.
- inspired by the one found by the bed I got an electrical pillow.
- the band we had listened to in Stuttgart the previous day was singing in the street here and we stopped to listen. They were pretty good, three guys playing drums, cello and violin, called Stilbruch. One song, "My Name Is Life", got stuck in my head for days.

- it was weird how the streets cleared after 10 PM. We were expecting to see more of a nightlife, especially on Saturday.

Sunday, the 15th of August

- an orchestra marching in the street woke us up early on.
- it rained all day so we stayed inside. MM made us soup and pastas.
- I wrote down the main points of interests for the diary, and then we did a bit of research on our cacti. It turned out that each of them is formed of two different species, the colored "flower" being grafted on top of the green base. A mutant cactus? Err...
- in the evening we packed our bags and did a little bit of house cleaning. Victory, we found the pots! They were hidden in a drawer underneath the oven that no one thought to check.

Monday, the 16th of August

- it was 14 C in the morning when we left the apartment. When we got in the car, it started to rain.
- while we stopped to put on gas, MM and LB ran to the store for some last minute shopping. We joked about them getting yet another umbrella. We had five already.
- the entire Germany was covered by clouds, but when we crossed the border to Austria the sun came out. It didn't last long though, it rained all the way to Budapest. We cut it through the city and then we had about an hour of sun that we used to gain back some of the time lost because of the rain and all the road works encountered on the highway.
- the rest of the trip was made through a major storm, the sky was lit up by lightning every other few seconds. It was surreal, I've never seen anything like it.
- the GPS must have liked Budapest cause it took us through Debrecen too, just like last year. At least we didn't travel on a highway the GPS didn't recognize.
- we found the door unlocked in Oradea so we check ourselves in. The red and blue roses sheets were back, but no sign of Dolph Lundgren. He must be busy promoting The Expendables.
- we were so tired the beds seemed to vibrate like we were still in the car when we went to sleep.

Tuesday, the 17th of August

- we followed the same route back to Iasi, and of course we stopped in Reghin to buy cakes, good cakes.
- we had the nice surprise to discover that most part of the road between Reghin and Toplita had been repaired in our absence. That plus the great scenery made for a nice trip.
- there was another storm before getting to Iasi, not as big as the one in Hungary, but then again this is Eastern Europe and everything happens at a smaller scale.
- at 9 PM we were at Metro getting ice cream. Mission accomplished.

A nice vacation as a whole. I don’t remember the last time we spent together two whole weeks as a family. Things I didn’t like: the cold, the time wasted in the car and looking for parkings. I wish we have had more time to visit the other cities beside Frankfurt, plus The Romantic Road, Munchen and Salzburg, and I wish at least once we managed to wake up and go exploring at a decent hour and not towards noon. Other than that everything was fine, and we owe MC big time.

Next year… I don’t know what will happen next year… I’m still thinking about Prague, but… I don’t know, we’ll see.

Be good all!

No comments: