A Tardy Update

Howdy from London and apologies for the extremely long headway between posts.  You may be thinking that we got stuck in Germany, as our last post mentioned heading there for a long weekend…but actually the reverse is true.  I started feeling a bit lousy on the way home from Texas, but decided to go ahead with the Germany trip anyway as it was planned and paid for and everything.  Ultimately, I got worse and with both of us facing lots of work afterwards we decided to come home a day early.

First, I have to offer a picture of me at the rodeo as Astrid promised.  Some other comments and pictures from Texas to come in the future, but here is me at the Stockyards Coliseum at the Friday night prime event!

I had to wear my hat to battle the sun in the late afternoon, so I was then stuck with it all night. Granted, a hat from the Kaohsiung MRT (metro) in Taiwan was a bit out of place there...

Although our time in Germany was cut short, we did see a bit of Dortmund, Essen, and Cologne while missing Dusseldorf and Wuppertal (sadly, we will have to try again for the over 100-year-old hanging monorail there!).  This is the Rhine-Ruhr megacity of Germany, with more than 10 million total inhabitants in huge polycentric area slightly larger than Delaware (which only has about 900k people).

The Dortmund Hauptbahnhof late on a Saturday afernoon - things were a bit crazy because there was a big football match that day. The early modernist building went up in 1952 as the previous station was destroyed during WWII.

Astrid spent time in Dortmund as an exchange student a while back (I’m not going to say that it was more than 15 years ago!) so we wanted to see if she recognized anything.  At the time, she mostly traveled by car and group tour bus, while we entered by bus and light rail from the airport and departed by S-Bahn, so there wasn’t perhaps that much overlap.

We spent our first night in Essen, just a bit west of Dortmund.  The city actually reminded me a bit of the US rust belt cities like Pittsburgh or Cleveland.  Actually all of the Rhine-Ruhr area had a bit more of an American feel than, say, Britain – but that might be because of the war damage and modern rebuilding afterwards (with American money and therefore perhaps American planning of the time?).

We spent the heart of Sunday at Zeche Zollverein - the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the northern part of Essen. We are planning a whole post on this site, which was really interesting, but in a nutshell it was one of the largest coal mines and coking plants in Europe until its closure in the 80s and 90s and is often considered "the most beautiful coal mine in the world".

Sunday night we traveled down to Cologne and checked into the apartment we had rented through Air B&B.  This is a somewhat unique service that Astrid has been really wanting to try and I’ve been resisting, where individuals rent their apartments out to others through the Internet (payments online via PayPal and the like) that is often cheaper than hotels.  I’m a hotel man through and through, but we couldn’t find anything cheap so I agreed to give it a try, and was pleasantly surprised – it worked out great and saved us a lot of money.  The only real issue was having to commit to arrival and departure times to meet up with the owner to exchange the keys.

Astrid has been to Cologne twice before, both times only for a few hours passing through on the way to somewhere else.  Alas, that was destined to sort of be the case again.  After a nice Cuban dinner (who expected that in Germany!) and a  rainy night in (with me mostly coughing), we spent just an hour in the city center of Cologne before heading to the Dusseldorf Airport for our early flight home.

I'll leave the cathedral pictures to the cathedral enthusiast in the house, but you can see here why Cologne is a perfect place for us to visit - the cathedral looms right over the very busy railway, and just behind me is the famous bridge over the Rhine River!

Here is Astrid overlooking the Rhine - we will have to go back to Cologne again and break her streak of short stays!


Posted on 18/03/2012, in Castles & Cathedrals, Logistics, travel, Travel to Europe and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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