Monday, April 27, 2009

Zurich - 3/23/09

Early Monday morning, we were back at the train station and on our way to Zürich.

Here's an animal rights protest at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (main train station). Check out those massive cowbells!

Ed's classmate Alfonso met us at the train station and took us out for a very tasty lunch. He was an excellent tour guide and walked with us all over Zürich. Here we are at Zürisee (Lake Zürich).

After that we went to the ETH Zürich campus (the MIT of Switzerland). We even saw someone walking around with supplies for the Beer Game, beloved by business students. We took in the beatifully austere Grossmünster. We had some coffee and I learned my favorite German word/phrase, "Superdanke." After Alfonso went back to work, Ed and I kept walking. Here he is outside the Zürich Rathaus (town hall).

We also thorougly enjoyed listening to Pavel Runov, who makes an accordion sound like a church organ. Amazing.

No trip to Zürich is complete without chocolate, which we enoyed at Sprüngli before meeting up with Marc (another Sloan Fellow), Marc's wife Florencia, and Alfonso for dinner at Zeughauskeller. I didn't know it was possible to eat so many different kinds of sausages in one evening.

Then, once again, it was time to get on the next train. Here are our luxurious accomodations on the night train to Vienna:

I feel like I got a taste of what my 6'5" brother-in-law's life was like when he was a nuke on an attack submarine. It was impossible to sit up on either bunk. I don't know how we slept. On top of our train passes, this cost 75€ each! I was excited that I'd learned a few words of German and could help the nice Slovak father and son who needed help reading their tickets to find their compartment (right next to ours). Finding out they were Slovakian involved a sort of "Me Tarzan, you Jane" pantomime. Good times.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend in Germany - 3/21/09 and 3/22/09

On our first day back in Germany, we went to Köln with our friends/hosts. We had a whole compartment on the train to ourselves, which was very helpful for containing squirmy little Laurel. :)

We started off the day at a beer hall, where we enjoyed some traditional dishes (schnitzen, sauerbraten) and the local beer, Kölsch. Then we visited the Kölner Dom, which was my favorite church that we saw on our trip. I loved the Gothic spikiness.

It was very sad, though, that so many people had written on the walls of the stairway to the bell tower. After the Kölner Dom we went to the Roman-Germanic Museum (also excellent) and got an eyeful of the folks hanging out in the square. We saw chalk artists, a man playing a piano that he wheeled around, protesters, people on stilts, and some kids on skateboards who were frightening because they were so erratic and unskilled.

The next day was a laid-back day at home. Here's Laurel the cleaning fairy:

Here's Meggie and a fresh batch of homemade play-doh.

We hung out at a great park near Heather and Alan's house.

Heather took me out for a belated birthday dinner at a vineyard/restaurant in Wiesbaden. Mmmm, Rheingau Riesling.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Paris - 3/19/09 and 3/20/09

We started out our first day in Paris with a visit to the Eiffel Tower.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a nation-wide transit strike going on, so it took 30 minutes to get a Metro train. We visited the Archaeological Crypt first and then Notre Dame. Love the flying buttresses.

Later, we saw a bunch of Sorbonne students protesting in solidarity with the striking transit workers. They had a banner about "being ready to air our general grievances" that they probably pull out for every protest.

I spent a lot of time consulting my Rick Steves book.

We toured the Louvre.

We then enjoyed a gorgeous walk through the gardens and up Champs-Élysées. There was some kind of military observance going on at Arc de Triomphe, so we didn't get to go inside.

We had an INCREDIBLE dinner at Le Griffonier just off Champs Elysées with several of Ed's classmates (SF08).

The next day, we squeezed in a quick visit at the Rodin Museum. Here, Ed thinks with The Thinker.

Next we went to Musee de l'Armee (Army Museum), which was my favorite Paris museum. We only had time to see the medieval armor and the WWI/WWII exhibits, unfortunately. Then we went to Musée d'Orsay. This half of the diptyque "Rêve antique" by Émile-René Ménard made me think of Aimee.

The king's chapel at Sainte-Chapelle was AMAZING.

"Misuse will be punished." This was on the train from Paris back to Frankfurt.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Luxembourg - 3/18/09

We arrived in Brussels close to midnight on the 17th. I had neglected to print directions to the hotel, but fortunately we found it near the train station after very little wandering. After 6 hours in Brussels, not nearly enough to feel rested, we were off to Luxembourg. My great-great-grandfather, Heller Schmidt, came over from Luxembourg around 1880, so we thought it would be fun to make a quick stop. I don't know where he was from, but I'm guessing a farm in the countryside and not the city. We also guessed that the Schleck brothers must be from the countryside, or they'd be bankers. (I just spent 2 minutes researching this on Google. It looks like they grew up in Mondorf-les-Bains and spent time organizing races against the neighborhood kids up the local mountain.)

Here I am at the train station:

We picked up a pamphlet and took a long walk around the city. We had about 3 hours. Luxembourg City is gorgeous, hilly, and cobbled. Here is the view from Chemin de la Corniche, a pedestrian promenade touted as the most beautiful balcony in Europe.

There were a bunch of kids hanging out (we think they were Czech tourists), and we got one to take this photo.

This at the top of the Casemates du Bock. We were in a rush and didn't realize there were tunnels. Ed will be sad when he reads this. I believe that is an old Roman aqueduct in the background.

Nutella to Go: European Pocky.

Great dining cars on the trains. Here Ed enjoys Duvel ale and a Belgian wafel.

Next stop: Paris.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bruges/Brugge - 3/17/09

This was by far my favorite stop on our trip. Bruges is a beautifully preserved medieval city. We arrived late at night on the 16th and had a full day to enjoy all the tourist attractions.

Here we are by the canal right outside Hotel Ter Reien. The room was pretty ordinary, but the included buffet breakfast is outstanding. Boiled eggs, muesli, yogurt, bread, fruit, Nutella, chocolate croissants, cold cuts, cheese…

We started off our day walking to Markt Square and climbing Belfort (the belltower). Here's a view of Bruges from the top of Belfort.

A view of Markt Square from the top of Belfort.

Another canal.

We went to the Gruuthuse Museum, Church of Our Lady, and the Memling Museum -- all excellent. After lunch at a place with the strange name of "Venice Corn" and a chocolate stop, we headed to the De Halve Maan Brouwerij (the last brewery in Bruges) for a very entertaining and informative tour.

Tanks on the roof of the brewery.

Enjoying Da Halve Maan's blonde ale.

We took another canal tour in Bruges.

After dark, Bruges is still gorgeous. We had a traditional Flemish dinner in Markt Square. It was not so exciting. I had mussels and vegetables in a buttery sauce and Ed had inedible eel in something like herbs de Provence. But we were much happier after ice cream and wafels. We hung out and took some pictures in Markt Square.

Then we walked back to our hotel to pick up our packs and went to the entrance over the moat that we'd come through the night before.

Here's a map of Bruges made of nylon "lace" (Bruges is known for lace and textiles).

Our tour guide at De Halve Maan recommended a bar where we could get a tasty fruit lambic, but it was closed. So on our way to the train station, we kept our eyes open for a bar. We finally found one a block away. It was strictly a local hotspot and we got a lot of curious looks when we walked in with our backpacks. Ed enjoyed a Westmalle Tripel and I had a Belle-vue Frambozenbier. Yum. We both wanted seconds, but that would have pretty much guaranteed that we'd miss the last train to Brussels.

We were sad to leave. I hope we go back someday.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Amsterdam - 3/16/09

I have to say, I'm not a big fan of Amsterdam. It was beautiful but super crowded. No one seemed to follow traffic laws, so it felt like we were risking our lives every time we tried to cross the street. However, we did have a chance to get in some touring during our short 7-hour visit.

Here's the Amsterdam Centraal train station.

We enjoyed some yummy poffertjes for lunch. Then we went to the Anne Frank House; it was a very moving experience. Here's a view of the canal outside the Anne Frank House.

We walked over to the Amsterdams Historisch Museum. We both thought the history museums were the highlight of our Anchorage and Reykjavik visits, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. I can't really put my finger on why. Next we visited the Rijksmuseum, which was incredible. They are doing a big renovation, so only the very best paintings were on display. Finally, we caught the Museum Boot for a canal tour/trip back to Amsterdam Centraal.

Here's a stoplight just for bikes near the train station.

Then, it was on to Bruges.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boppard and Marburg - 3/14/09 and 3/15/09

So, I finally went through the 900 photos from our trip to Europe (that is the real number) and edited them down to a more manageable group of 80+. The photo set is up on Facebook as well. I'll work on posting them here over the next couple weeks.

We were away from 3/12 to 3/28 and had an amazing trip. We bought Eurail passes and took the train to as many cities as we could. It was exhausting, but in a good way. :) Our friends Heather and Alan recently moved from Anchorage to Wiesbaden in Germany, so we had a very convenient home base and wonderful company on the weekends.

Over the course of our trip, we went to:

10 churches
5 synagogues
21 museums

We arrived in Frankfurt on the redeye and spent most of our first day sleeping. The second day (Saturday), we went with Heather and Alan and their daughters Meggie and Laurel to Boppard for a Rhine cruise.

Laurel was very popular with the Chinese tourists on the Loreley Star (cruise on the Rhine). They kept giving her candy and then cleaning it off her face to take more photos. It was cute until it was weird.

This is the "Klosterschenke," or "cloister pub." This is a pub connected to the church. The entrance to the church leads through the pub and, so claimed the tour guide, the pastor pours the drinks at the bar.

Aboard the Loreley Star on the Rhine with a castle in the background. Ed got very good at these one-armed photos.

Erdinger beer in the town square in Boppard.

On Sunday, we took the train to the university town of Marburg. We visited St. Elizabeth's church, then Landgrave Castle. It was a very steep climb to get up here! (Photo borrowed from Heather.)

The view from Landgrave castle.

Meggie: the 5-year-old who ate Marburg.

This t-shirt could be yours for just 40€.

It says:

Alarming and unforgettable.

Sometimes I think,
sometimes I don't.

Flavored toothpaste,
pirate radio, morning,
poetry, glam rock,
plastic plants, zoom,
handyman, solid hair