Europe 2018

 

Saturday, June 30

Took the bus and light rail from Queen Anne to SeaTac Airport.  Left around 2 pm for a 6:10 direct flight to Frankfurt on Condor Airlines ($1200, not bad for a July fare).  It was a super smooth flight and we were able to get some nice sleep before arriving around 1:30 in the afternoon.  We grabbed an ICE from the airport to the Frankfurt Hbf (Main train station, which was near our hotel).  It was an insane €29 each!  Ouch for a 15 minute ride.  

After a 10 minute walk through a typical train station part of town (beautiful weather) we checked into the Adena Apartment Hotel.  It was really nice for the price and the location was excellent.  Obviously near the train station, but also very close to the Main River, Mitte, and Altstadt.  It was large had a nice kitchen that we wouldn’t use, but also AC and it was very clean.  Duh, it’s Germany.

We walked to Mitte, Kauf Centrum, then to Altstadt and down by the river.  We found a cafe/drinking barge with a crowd of people and sat down at a table ON the river.  Had a refreshing Shafferhofer in the 25 degree C (85F) sun.

We walked back to Mitte where we found an outdoor cafe with a large TV. We watched Russia beat Spain in the World Cup and enjoyed a great meal- Schnitzel and salad.  Delicious.  Went to bed around 8 pm.  We were exhausted.

 

 

Monday, July 2

Got up around 8 am and walked a few blocks towards the Innenstadt where we stopped and got coffee, yoghurt and granola, fruit, and some chocolate croissants.  Satiated, we slowly ambled back to our hotel room and packed.  

Around 10:30, we walked back to the Hbf, grabbed a couple sandwiches and sodas for the trip and hopped an 11:19 ICE to the Leipzig Hbf. 

 

Three hours and 15 minutes later we were standing in the most impressive train station I’ve ever seen.  The ride was incredibly smooth and fast and we didn’t even take a nap.  

 

We splurged a little and stayed at the Steigenburger Grandhotel.  It wasn’t crazy expensive, but it was the nicest place in the center of Leipzig.  The hotel was beautiful, the room was small but with a great view.  The only disappointment was a bit of a sewer smell, which may have been due to a lack of use?  It cleared out quickly, so it was’t a problem after our introduction.  

Neither of us had ever been to Leipzig and we fell in love right away.  What a gorgeous city- and near the end stages of the post-east Germany rebuild.  The weather was hot and beautiful, so we stopped for some delicious ice cream.  Germany, oddly enough, has GREAT ice cream shops.  We also stopped and grabbed SIM cards at the T-mobile store.  €25 each.  Not bad!

We walked around the Innenstadt and eventually made our way to Auerbachs Keller where I had sauerbraten and Heidi had a vegetarian baked dish with lots of cheese, veggies, and cream.  Both dishes were delicious.  We also had local beer, which sent us to bed around 8:30.  Jet lag was still raging!

 

 

Tuesday, July 3

Got up and were out of the hotel by 9 am.  We were proud of ourselves.  The sun was shining and it was beautiful.  We found a farmer’s market about a block from our hotel and proceeded in eating a great breakfast of sweet cakes and coffee.  We then took a walk through the University and to Zentrum-Süd, which was a very interesting part of town.  Then we walked back to the Altstadt and the farmer’s market and enjoyed sitting in the sun until almost noon.  

It was time to catch a train to Berlin, so we packed up and walked the 8 minutes to the train station.  As I said before, the Leipzig Hbf is incredible, so we had a great lunch at an incredibly nice restaurant in the multi-story mall.  

We caught a 1:15 pm ICE and arrived three hours and 15 minutes later at the Berlin Hbf.  We bought a Berlin Welcome Card (transit pass) for about €50 each.  What a great deal!  All the trains, subways, trams, busses, etc. unlimited for 6 days.  To get to our flat in Prenzlauer Berg, we took an Ubahn to Schönhauser Allee station, which was a 2 minute walk to our flat on Wichterstrasse.  The host was an hour and a half out, so we grabbed a beer at a restaurant (Klement’s) just around the corner.  The waitress was nice and the weather was fine.  Once we got into our flat, we headed out for a walk.  One highlight was the KulturBraueri, which is an amazing old brewery (1920s?) with folks hanging out and watching the World Cup on huge movie screens.

Oddly enough, we randomly walked right to the Rapha store.  Same thing happened to us in San Francisco.  Bizarre.  

After that we made it to Hachescher Markt and ate lousy Italian food.  Mistake.  We then walked back to Prenzlauerberg through the Mauerpark and proudly went to bed at 10 pm.  Stoked to be in such a cool city and to be beating our jet lag.

 

Wednesday, July 4  Berlin

Got out of bed super late (dang!) and had a late breakfast of chocolate croissants and coffee just around the corner from our flat. 

We then walked all the way to Brandenburger Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.  We’d been here in 1996 and 2001, but it’s always worth seeing.  Back at the Brandenburger gate we had currywurst where they had stands set up to watch the World cup.  Unfortunately Germany had lost, so the crowds were minimal.  The weather was still unbelievable- sunny and 90 degrees.  We took an english walking tour down through Postdamer Platz and saw a lot of amazing sites and learned a lot. 

After that, we took the train to Kreuzberg for beer, but we didn’t love that part of town so we went back to Prenzlauer Berg and had dinner at an Asian restaurant SE of our flat.  It was okay.  Went to bed pretty late.

 

 

Thursday, July 5  Berlin

Got up late.  Walked to a great breakfast placed called Sowohl Als Auch.  Had eggs, etc.  Super nice neighborhood. 

Went to a weekly market at Ökomarket at Kowlitzplatz.  Not too impressive.

TIME FOR PEARL JAM!!!

Caught the train to the Olympische Station and stood in a super long line for merchandise.  But while we were standing there, I walked over and bought a couple beers and standing in the 90 degree heat was suddenly pretty nice.  We spoke to a lot of different people from all over Europe.  That was really fun. 

Then we stood in a long line for the Ten Club entrance into the Waldbühne, but still got great seats and were in before the non-Ten Club people.  Got fries and sausages and beers and then watched an amazing concert.  Everyone was pretty mellow and there were some great differences between here and the States.  People had 1 liter mugs of beer, no lame aluminum cans or plastic cups.  The stadium food was super good.  There were so many languages being used.  Very cool.

After the show was over, we calmly walked out of the stadium and back to the train station.  25 minutes later we were eating a felafel one block from our flat.  Pretty amazing infrastructure and organization.  So amazingly German and great.  Hit the bed around midnight.

 

Friday, July 6.  Berlin

Slept in super late.  It was a cool day, probably 58 degrees F and cloudy when we left the flat at noon.  Walked forever to find a new place for breakfast.  Unfortunately our choice wasn’t great.  We grabbed the train to Friedrichshain-Kreutzberg to check out the Turkish market.  Pretty cool.  It was located along the Spree River and had a lot of great looking food and vegetables and other random things to buy. 

Then we walked to Kottbusser Tor for lunch.  We weren’t super impressed with this part of town.  Lots of graffiti and just dirty and pretty gross.  Jumped on an Ubahn to Charlottenburg Palace.  It’s a very minor version of Versailles.  Pretty cool building and grounds, though. 

I had a bit of a headache, so we stopped by a lame mall-type area and had sandwiches.  Then we jumped on a train back to the flat and I took a nap.  An hour later I felt better, so we went too to Indian food down the street.  It was called Zaiha ?and it was great.  Then we went to Clements and ate tiramisu, while I drank a rädler and Heidi had a caperinia?  We watched the World Cup Soccer game, Belgium vs. Brazil and Belgium won.  We were in bed by 11:00.

 

 

Saturday, July 7  Berlin

Mülenbäch for breakfast.  Cool temperatures and cloudy again, but then the sun came out!  Took the train to Ampelmann in Mitte, past the Reichstag, all the way through the Tiergarden and to KaDeWe. 

Ate lunch (kartofel) and then went to the Topography of Terror Museum.  Wow.  That was rough.  Then we took the train back to Asian Fusion Kitchen on Stargarderstrasse and ate and watched Croatia beat Russia in the WC. 

Here’s how Berliners enjoy their summer.  Pretty nice.

Hopped in Bed at 11:00 and called my parents.

 

 

 

Sunday, July 8  Berlin

Had breakfast at Krümel- awesome carrot cake with cream cheese and strawberries.  Heidi had a croissant and coffee like normal.  We then walked to Alexanderplatz (kind of lame),

then took the train to the Tiergarden and walked to the Antique Market (Trödelmarkt)

and down to Charlottenburg for an amazing (and expensive) lunch at Restaurant Belmondo.  I had beat risotto with prawns and scallops.  Heidi had bouillabaisse.  Best lunch ever. 

Then we got ice cream at Hagen Daas.  As we were sitting there, we realized that we were sitting right in front of Hotel California, the first place we ever stayed in Berlin in 1996.  That was weird.  Had another headache (lame) and took the train home for a nap.  We had dinner on Steidander sp? strasse.  Pasta and Flammküchen.  Not great.

 

Monday, July 9  Berlin-Munich

Got up at 7:00 (felt really early) and left our AirBNB at 9:00.  Caught an S41 and a direct bus to TXL (Tegel airport) and we were there by 8:20.  So easy.  Wow, wish we had this kind of infrastructure in Seattle (or any US city, to be honest).  Flight was a 10:30 and we arrived at MUC before noon.  Got our car rental- a fancy white Skoda diesel wagon.  Went through gemut.com, which is a great little travel agency in southern Oregon.  The rate was amazing.  We had been promised a “Mercedes level” car and ended up with the top of the line Skoda.  That was a bit disappointing, even though the car was loaded. 

We drove south east around the city of Munich and stopped at a rest area for schnitzel.  Not too bad.  We had no idea where exactly we were going for the next week or so, but we just headed south on the Autobahn.  Then we randomly exited the Autobahn and drove past the Tegernsee on small roads and ended up Pertisau on the Achensee. 

It was so beautiful.  We had coffee and küchen and decided to spend the night in this gorgeous, calm, classic Bavarian-looking village. 

We were able to get a room in the Auszeit hotel before doing a 3 mile walk alongside the buggy Achensee. 

We took a swim in the pool and spent some time in a sauna before having a great dinner at the Alpenrose. 

The bed was amazing.  Much better than the sub-par AirBNB bed we had been in for a week.

 

 

Tuesday, July 10   Austria, Italy

Had breakfast (included ) at Auszeit and drove to Hall, Austria.  The drive from Pertisau to Hall included a super steep descent into a valley.  So beautiful, and fun in this Skoda.  I’m getting more used to it and not so disappointed that we didn’t get the Mercedes we were promised.  We walked around Hall’s Altstadt and Heidi bought a super nice cashmere sweater.  Hall had a nice vibe. 

Then we drove to Innsbruck and walked around.  We had a drink in the Altstadt here, too, and grabbed snacks for the rest of today’s drive. Not that we knew where we were going.  Heidi was getting nervous.  I was excited for a random adventure.  We’ve always found a place to spend the night…

We drove over Brenner Pass (massive tolls) and almost to Bolzano, but randomly turned off the autobahn and drove up a crazy steep and winding road to Tiers, Italy.  Desperately needing a restroom break, we ran into the nearest hotel (Paradies) and rented a room (half board).  What a relief!  After checking in an relaxing for a few minutes, we took a very short walk.  5 minutes into our walk it started POURING rain, so we went back to our room for a short rest before having an excellent dinner.  After dinner we watched France beat Belgium in the WC and spent the night on a very hard bed.

 

Wednesday, July 11  Sud Tirol

Woke up (finally no jet lag!) and reserved a hotel in Val Gardena for the next few days.  Had breakfast and drove to Passo Nigra and did an awesome 7 mile one-way hike.  It was one of the best hikes I’ve done in my life. 

The views of the Gruppo del Catinaccio mountains were spectacular and half way through the hike we came across a hütte called Hanigerschwaige.  We had no idea it was here, but it was a great little restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. 

We had an amazing lunch of dumpling soup and beer.  I was blown away. 

Then we hiked down to a town called San Ciopriano (St. Zyprian)- all the towns have Italian and German names in this area- and caught a bus back to the top of Passo Nigra.  Crazy.

Then we drove past a bunch of passes, small ski areas,  over crazy beautiful roads, and into Pozza di Fasso where we had gelato and snacks.  Oh, and pizza and apple strudel.  Then we drover over Passo Sella

to Val Gardena and Selva-Wolkenstein where we checked into Savoy Hotel.  Super nice and a bit fancier than we would normally stay in. 

Then we hit the pool and sauna and had a half board dinner.  Unbelievably good.

This might have been the best day EVER.

 

Thursday, July 12  Val Gardena

Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel.  Caught a short bus to Plan de Tieja which had a gondola (Col Raiser) that took us up to 6500 feet in elevation. 

We hiked all over the mountain and had an amazing lunch at Batia Sofie.  It consisted of a cheese plate, soup, sausage, and a radler. 

Then we rode down a gondola (Fumes Seceda) and got off in the middle.  Not sure why we did this, but ended up having to walk down a LONG WAY to Ortesei Sankt Ulrich.  It was a beautiful day and the hiking was amazing, but we both got hugely sunburned due to the elevation.  Then we took a bus back to Selva.  We showered and walked around town, then enjoyed the spa at our hotel and an incredible half board.  The food was amazing, but too much.  We were stuffed.

 

Friday, July 13   Dolomites

Woke up to beautiful sunshine in Val Gardena.  Had an incredible breakfast and headed towards Cortina.  We drove over Passo Gardena to the Forte Tre Sassi Museum. This is a WWI fort that was just full of old guns and ammo and clothing.  Very interesting. 

Then we drove to the top of Passo Falzarego (just a couple of km away), where we rode a tram to over 9000 feet and hiked down through the Monte Lagazuoi Open Air Museum. 

Essentially a bunch of tunnels and emplacements where the Austrians held off the Italians in WWI.  It was a super steep hike, but safe enough.  Crazy to think people fought up there. 

We then drove to Cortina d’Ampezzo and had a small pizza and radler for lunch.  We found a hotel (Ancora) and had our closed washed at a small laundry down the street. 

We walked around and Heidi bought a sweater.  I watched the Tour, then we went out to a pizza dinner.  Huh.  Two pizzas in just a couple hours.  It was fun.  The hotel was a bit tired, but fine.  Our room overlooked a nice walking street and we had a spectacular view of the local church and the mountains behind it. 

We had drinks on the patio until dark and the waiter was super nice.

 

Saturday, July 14  Dolomites

We woke up to a MTB race (Cortina Trophy) starting right below our window.  It was super cool, but the loud announcing on a PA at 7:30 am was a bummer.  Saw Alessandro Ballan.  Had a good breakfast and loaded the car.  Drove through Lienz, then up over the Grossglochner Pass (highest paved road in Austria)

and into Zell am See.  Had a good lunch but decided not to stay due to the massive number of tourists.  During lunch I found a nice spa/hotel in Germany, near Salzburg, Austria, so we headed that way.  We stayed in Hotel Klosterhof in Bayerisch Gmain.  The hotel was ridiculous and the pools and spa were to die for.  Did a swim and sauna, then did a wanderweg down to the town of Bad Reichehall. 

It was super mellow, but we stopped and I had dinner at an Indian restaurant.  It was great.  Then we explored the town, which turned out to be super cool.  Had an amazing walking street and outdoor mall.  We had a great walk home, drinks in the bar, then bed.  Exhausted, but worth it for the amazing day we had.

 

 

Sunday, July 15   Bayerish Gmain

Slept in a bit and had a really nice breakfast at the hotel.  Hopped in the car and drove to Berchtesgaden.  Went up to Kelsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest).  The ride up was expensive and very touristy with a huge bus caravan.  The tunnel and elevator were ridiculous and the line was super long. 

When we first got up there the weather was beautiful and we had a nice little walk up above the Kelsteinhaus to view the Königsee and the beautiful surrounding mountains.

 

But within 20 minutes the weather started to change and we got stuck in a massive rain storm. 

Of course everyone wanted to get out of there and down the elevator (maybe 400 people?).  It was a complete cluster.  We should have gotten a table and had lunch, but we did the lemming thing and eventually got down and out just in time to catch our bus back to the car.  We decided to go through the “Documentation Center” which was a super interesting, but depressing, museum.  At this point we’ve seen enough Nazi shit.  Drove back to Bad Reichenhall for (more) pizza and a salad.  Hit the pool and sauna and watched the world cup final in bed.

 

Monday, July 16

Woke up at 8:00 and had another super nice breakfast.  Drove to Munich in about 2 hours.  Dropped our car off at the airport.  Was pretty stoked that we made it over 1000 kilometers on one tank of diesel.  Pretty impressive.  Anyway, we got a City Metro Pass and took the U-bahn to Marienplatz. 

We’ve been there a couple times before, but it seemed even better this time.  The weather was beautiful and we walked around Victuals Market and had a good lunch.  I love the German green salads.

Then ate some ice cream above an old train line.  Ubahn back to the airport and a 2 hour Air France flight to Paris (CDG).  Super simple, same old routine as always- RER to Metro and walk to the hotel.  This time we did a hotel instead of an AirBNB or VRBO because we were only staying for a couple of days.  We ended up staying at a 4 star (well…) hotel called 123 Sebastopol Hotel.  It was pretty nice.  Not amazing.  Good price.  Had dinner at an outdoor cafe just down the street.  Man, I love Paris.

 

Tuesday, July 17   Paris

Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel.  It was just okay.  Lots of loud kids and business people.  Blah.  Then we walked some local passages.  Not super impressive, just because we are in the textile district.  Okay. 

Then we walked more of the neighborhood and along a quai, Republique, and Marais for a sit down soda. 

Grabbed a to-go sandwich and at it in the Garden des Tuileries.  Then we walked to Galeries Lafayette and looked around. 

Walked back to the hotel and watched the last 45 minutes of the Tour stage, then walked to Rue Montorguile (amazing) for dinner at Le Compas.  This street is incredible and quintessential Paris. 

After dinner we walked to the Seine and back to the hotel.  Walked over 20 km today.

 

Wednesday, July 18  Paris

Woke up and had a pretty nice breakfast at the hotel. Walked to Les Halles, along the galleries on Rue de Rivoli, up the Champs Elysees, down Avenue George V, past the Invalids, over to the Grand Palais, back to the Victorinox store (wheels for our suitcases), and finally to St. Germain for drinks and salads. 

After that, we went to the Rodin museum.  Awesome. 

Took the metro to the hotel to watch the TdF and then back to the Marais for some serious Heidi shopping.  We ate at a Thai restaurant we’ve been to many times and then HAD to get some ice cream.

and then walked back to our hotel.  22.8 kilometers of walking.

 

Thursday, July 19

Hotel for breakfast, then walked to Monmartre and walked some cool passages where we bought some gifts. 

Went back to the hotel for luggage and walked to the Gare l’Est for a train to Frankfurt.  It was a beautiful, fast ICE, but still took 3 hours and 45 minutes.  We brought sandwiches and drinks on the train, which was pretty sweet. 

We checked into the same hotel as on the first day of our trip, so that was pretty easy.  Then we walked into the Innenstadt where they were having an Apple Wine Festival.  The weather was beautiful and it was super fun.  We had sparking water, so we made apfelshorles which were delicious. 

Then we walked to the Zwolf Apostle where I had some awesome German food in an outdoor setting.  It was perfect.

 

Friday, July 20

Had our typical German breakfast of coffee, fruit, and pastries, packed our bags and headed to the train station and the Flughafen. 

We got to the airport 3 hours early, but the security was stupid.  We had our passports checked at six different locations and had to take busses out to the plane.  We were exhausted by the time we got on the plane.  It was a super smooth (but painful 10.5 hour) flight on Condor and we were happy to be back in our bed!

Super great trip.  Maybe the best yet.