Tag Archives: travel

Bad Kissingen, Germany

This is part of the old town wall. Back in old tymes there were some bad people who wanted in and as a last resort, the townspeople threw bees over the wall to save the day. Or at least that’s how I understood the story. This statue honors bee guy.

Bad Kissingen is a known as a health resort but I would call it a retirement community with tourists.

Fahren means travel and one of the verb forms is fahrt. So every time I get to Germany and see the activities for tourists for fahrt-ing, I revert to my most juvenile self.

Strictly a Rundfahrt is a round trip. A Hafenrundfahrt is a trip around the harbor. A Stadtrundfahrt is a trip around the city. Our first day in Frankfurt I was already crowing about the signs.

“Our first fahrt!”

Hilla took us on a Rundfahrt around Bad Kissingen. We were the youngest people on the bus. There was no prize.

We stayed in a nice room in the center of town. Bob and I stayed in the same place in our last visit. Good breakfast, a decent sized room.

Hilla asked us if the room was okay and whether we had any problems.

I said: There was a man singing loudly outside.

She said: In your hotel room?

I said: Outside on the street.

She said: What a pity.

(I’m not sure if the joke is carrying but she was saying it was a pity we didn’t have singing man in our room. And now that I write it out it sounds creepy. But really it was funny. This is family humor.)

After the first night we learned there was a Kühlschrank (cold-closet; German is an amazing language when you get to know it.) on the second floor – an honor bar in the hallway. How long do you think that system would last in our country? It had bottled water and juice, beer, and red and white wine. You had a slip of paper in your room and you self-reported what you took. And we did.

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Trains

Train station at Frankfurt Airport.

The day we left Bruges was our day of trains. (BTW – The Man in Seat Sixty-One and DBahn are great resources for train travel planning. Rick Steves is good, too.) We had a local train from Bruges to Brussels. An international train from Brussels to Frankfurt. A German train from Frankfurt to Würzberg and then a local train from Würzberg to Bad Kissingen.

By this point we were feeling like old pros on the trains so this was nothing although left to my own devices I would have gotten off at the wrong station in Brussels.

Train station at Frankfurt Airport.

We had a few small snacks but by the time we got to Frankfurt we were starving and we were only halfway through our journey. Our connection was at the airport instead of the Hauptbahnhof which means that the food choices were pretty slim. Erin went to the one food stand and found us some decent sandwiches and juice. I found a vending machine and bought a really gross banana flavored kitkat type cookie and some other crumbly wafer cookies. We felt better after that.

On the train from Frankfurt to Würzberg the girl in front of us was watching dubbed episodes of Two and A Half Men. I was so ashamed.

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Bruges

Bruges was interesting, it was smaller version of Gent. Or that was my perception. One minute you’d be wandering through mob city tourist-ville and then you’d turn the corner and a find a quiet little cobbled street. There would be someone loading a baby stroller into a car and workers taking materials from a van. There was the same central square with over-priced, but decent restaurants. Canals with boat rides. Horse drawn carriages. This is the most touristy thing, the horse drawn carriage – do people really like it other than it’s a thing to do on vacation?

By the end of the first evening we felt like we’d seen it all. We toyed with the idea of hopping on the train and going to Ostend on the coast. One drawback was that the train station wasn’t very convenient to our hotel. We finally decided against it because the weather was changing and we were afraid it was going to be too stormy and we’d just be wandering around trying to stay warm and keep the sand out of our eyes.

We did a lot of walking and wandering around the park. We bought bags and bags of candy and sampled everything. It was terrific.

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Gent

Even my Auntie who has lived in Europe for 90 years asked: why Gent? How did you even think of going to Gent?

Well, I bought a little travel book with: Brussels, Gent, Bruges and Antwerp. Gent is a university town and sounded nice.

It was.

One of the articles I read online said it was the less Disneyland version of Bruges. This turned out to be an accurate description. If you’re planning to go to Belgium I would suggest skipping Bruges and go to Gent instead. Well, depending on what kind of travel you like. I don’t like herding around in mobs of tourists if I can avoid it.

Gent felt like a real place with real people wandering around going to restaurants by the canal. I didn’t feel pummeled by tourism. Plus we had our most expensive but most lovely hotel. Our hosts were two young men who honestly seemed like the highlight of their life was visiting with their guests and telling them about Gent.

It’s been years since I fantasized about living in a foreign city, but Gent, I would love to try.

One of the notes I wrote to Bob was that it even smells better! Our hotel room had a delicious room freshener. Pineapple?

We did a lot of walking around, simply enjoying the area. We did go check out the Adoration of the Lamb which is an extensive altarpiece undergoing restoration and very interesting.

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Brussels

So what’s in Belgium?

I heard this question more than once before we left.

We have family in Germany so we’ve made a number of trips and visited most countries adjacent to Germany. We’ve never been to Belgium.

The day we arrived in Brussels was the worst weather of the trip. It started raining when we left the train station. It was a short walk to the hotel but it was the kind of rain that you don’t want to be walking in, especially with luggage and in an unfamiliar place.

Since I was already inhumanly tired and hungry, the rain was especially soul-crushing and for a few moments I wept quietly to myself and thought: I hate traveling.

But we found our hotel and found food and adult beverages and all was well soon enough.

We slept through the night and woke up at 8:30 thinking we had mastered the time change. (Actually, I think Erin woke up closer to 7am.) We went to the hotel breakfast and attacked the hot beverage machine. Fifteen minutes later, we were fine.

The weather was gorgeous. We wandered over to the Grand Palais which was tourist central. Maybe Americans aren’t going to Belgium but everyone else is. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. We got our city passes (museums, public transport) and wandered off. Visited the history museum. Turns out I knew NOTHING about the history of Belgium. I’m too embarrassed to elaborate.

But here’s a tidbit: King Leopold I looks like Bill Compton

We also did the underground archeology tour which was fascinating but a little hard to visualize.

This is one of those inexplicable tourist things. Everyone needs to take a picture of this dumb statue. It’s a mob scene in front of it. It’s famous for being famous.

As you can see, I took a picture, too.

At the Fine Arts Museum there was this one painting that I thought looked like a totally crazy pants lady with her eyes rolled back. It looked like the cover of a 70’s horror novel. The description said it was a religious painting and explained the symbols. Erin and I weren’t convinced.

The day we were leaving I wanted to make sure we got our moneys worth out of our museum card so we went to the Beer Museum and the Chocolate Museum. If you go to Brussels: Don’t waste your time. At least at the beer museum you get a free beer which I didn’t have because it was 10am and I couldn’t afford to ruin the rest of the day that early.

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Day 1: Frankfurt

I’m fascinated by this locks of love thing. The Internet says this bridge is called Eiserner Steg.

I heard about putting a padlock on a bridge for the first time this summer. In Paris there was a bridge where they had to cut them off because the locks were collapsing the rails.

But some of the locks are years old so it’s not a new thing. Also it’s clearly an enterprise because many of the locks have fancy engraving.

It’s sort of sweet but then you have to wonder how many times kids sneak back there with bolt cutters.

Nothing like trying to keep yourself awake after a couple of long flights. We kept telling ourselves that being outside was going to do it for us and we’d reset our clocks and be acclimated in no time.

We took turns deciding that we were fried. One would rally the other.

This is not the first time I’ve had to kill time near the Hauptbahnhof in Frankfurt. Bob and I did the same thing and did the same walk along the river.

There were museums opening up but Erin and I didn’t think we could handle wandering around a museum when we were desperate to just keep our eyes open.

Twice we were approached by teenaged girls. I’m so cynical I expected a scam, but it also could be that two middle-aged ladies in fleece are safe to approach. In either case the language barrier kept it from going too far.

Finally we were at the train station. I was worried that it would take me awhile to remember how navigate the transportation, but only about 3 minutes.

I don’t think of myself as a great traveler. I’m usually timid and anxious but this trip I felt pretty comfortable most of the time. And I was happy to be there.

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Operational Reasons

Not available due to operational reasons. I’m going to start using that one.

For our trip, 3 of our flights were operated by United and 1 by Lufthansa. I never thought I’d be comparing Lufthansa unfavorably to United but these are the times we live in.

United let me make seat reservations for free. Lufthansa wanted $35. Since it was a 10 hour flight, we decided it was worth it to make sure we were elbow-to-elbow with each other instead of random strangers. (Yes, there were work arounds, those weren’t going to work for us.)

When we arrived to the check-in kiosk the above notice welcomed us.

When I got home I phoned Lufthansa as instructed and the customer service agent told me she wasn’t sure how to deal with it so I would need to send copies of our boarding passes and our itinerary to email customer service to request a refund. This didn’t make me too happy seeing as how I paid for a convenience that United offered me for free on THREE other flights and then I didn’t even benefit and now the burden was on me to document this and try to get my money back.

I consider this straight-forward. They have the technology to take my money and give me a ticket with onerous cancellation provisions, they have the technology to check me in, print me a boarding pass. We even checked our luggage in ourselves. It shouldn’t be too tough to verify that we paid for seats, we didn’t get those seats and issue a refund.

Almost 2 weeks. Nothing.

I’m still have a hard time getting back to my routine. Just too many things going on.

Haven’t worked on the photos yet. The computer says there are 597 photos but I accidentally loaded some in twice so I think it’s more like 497. hehe. The above photo is dated for after I got home so not sure how I snafu’d but I’m going to guess that it’s Bruges.

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Kissingen

We made it to Bad Kissingen. Operation Elder Birthday is now in full swing.

I hope you all have the pleasure someday of having your almost 90 year old Auntie try to wrestle your suitcase from you when you come to visit. She wanted to carry it up the stairs. (No, I did not let her. She did get to carry the computer bag. You have to pick your battles with this woman.)

We had a nice visit last night and some dinner and have checked into our hotel. She’s already got us on a bus tour this afternoon.

My German Aunties just love shipping us off to a bus tour. I thought it would be nice to hang out at her place and read our books and drink lemonade but nope, we’re going to tour around the area – which is lovely right now. We’ve been so lucky on weather. It’s sunny but cool and you can see the trees starting to change. There’s a big tree outside the window of our hotel that has bright red leaves at the top.

The train journey went smoothly. We had this family with about 10 people and 15 ginormous suitcases, 2 whiny children and some noisy electronics in the car with us on the first leg. I was thrilled to switch trains in Brussels but they were in the same car on the leg to Frankfurt, too. To their credit, they tried to keep the kids entertained but they were only marginally successful.

We left them in Frankfurt.

A couple snafus: there was a problem with my credit card at the hotel yesterday – their machine was on the fritz and I think the multiple attempts must have triggered something on the bank’s end because they were unable to process the charge once the machine was working. Bob is going to get it sorted out. Then within a 12 hour period I had 4 phone calls from unknown numbers. That’s more incoming calls than I normally get in a month.

I put the phone on Do Not Disturb and am trying not to worry that this is some sort of scam that will turn up on my bill later. No time for problem solving right now.

We were able to wash some clothes last night and the shower in this hotel is wonderful so I’m refreshed and ready for my bus tour. The last hotel had a terrible shower: barely lukewarm mist so this was a great treat. Not sure if I’ll check in again. Maybe if I get some good shots from the bus tour.

(Aside to Kenman: we were on a DB train yesterday that was 10 minutes late!!)

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Bruges

Great trip continues. I bought about 9 kinds of Belgian chocolate today and sampled it all and then wasn’t hungry for dinner. I ate something anyway and ordered a salad with goat cheese and bacon which was more goat cheese and bacon than salad. Way to make salad, Belgium. (Not complaining.)

I bought a bag of Belgian fudge which tasted like candy corn. Will re-wrap and hand off as a gift. Just kidding. (kinda). But everything else was amazing.

We took it easy today. A lot of the sights seemed so similar to things we’ve already seen we sort of glanced and moved on. We sat in the park for an hour and read our books and watched people play with their dogs.

First crisis of the trip. I have numerous itineraries in my computer, Google drive and email plus sent to other people. I made a single sheet cheat sheet with everything on it. And I wrote my Auntie’s phone number on it with a pen – meaning this was the only place I had the phone number. And guess what I lost?

Yeah, so I have calls in to husband and father to email us the phone number so we can remind her that we arrive tomorrow. Long day of travel tomorrow with a total of 4 (!) trains.

Belgian beer and chocolate: completely as advertised. Recommend.

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There Once Was A Lady From Gent

Doesn’t Gent sound like a town that people should be writing limericks about?

I thought having the laptop would be handy for blog posting but what I’ve been using it for the last half hour is looking up the best places to get croquettes in Bruges. (Where we’re going next.) We missed out on the place that was recommended to us here.

Gent is wonderful. I was in love with it 15 minutes after we got here. I didn’t hate Brussels but it’s quieter here and I think the people a tad friendlier. It’s busy but not chaotic. We’ve had really terrific meals the past 2 nights. And our hotel is wonderful. Excellent hospitality, great room, convenient location.

We’ve spent most of our time walking around, enjoying the weather and scenery.

This morning we went to the botanical garden and then spent most of the day at the Museum of Fine Arts. In the afternoon we walked around and sat in the sun by the canal before finding dinner.

I put Pixelmator on the laptop and am still learning to use it. Yes, there was major tweakage on this photo.

More time tomorrow before we go to Bruges. Our hotel host says it’s 23 minutes on the train. I said: it takes me longer to get to work. There are a few more things we’re hoping to check out here before we go to Bruges.

Two nights in Bruges and then to Bad Kissingen to visit the nonagenarian.

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