It’s hard to believe, but we only have a week and a half left in Germany and this past weekend we made our final international trip while we’re in Bonn.
Last Monday we had to go to the US embassy for our interviews to get our US visas. At the conclusion of the whole process, after we handed over our passports the woman working in the office said that processing usually takes about a week and the Thursday of that week was a public holiday, making traveling abroad that weekend almost impossible. To our surprise, however, our passports arrived by registered mail on Wednesday, just two days after the interview.
We wanted to return to Utrecht, Netherlands, because last time we went there we loved it, but not much was open because it was yet another public holiday, so let’s go again!
The usual weekend story; Anna came home, packed, we jumped on a bus to Bonn hauptbahnhof, caught a train to Köln hauptbahnhof and then a train to Utrecht. For some reason I will never understand, the Germans seem to have a reputation as being efficient. It may be the case in some fields, but definitely not with their trains. Sure, our Eurail pass has been great and served us well, but, constant railway worker strikes aside, the trains here are about as reliable as flying with Tigerair; When traveling with either, we’re almost guaranteed to be delayed somehow and last weekend wasn’t any different. Our train from Bonn to Köln kept stopping, but when it did go it went extremely slowly. Our train from Köln to Utrecht was delayed by about 10 minutes, but once we reached the station closest to the border with the Netherlands we had to get off and wait for another train as ours, we were told, couldn’t handle the Dutch power supply. Okay.
After our burgers we went to a bar that I loved last time we were here, Grand Cafe Lebowski. Here we drank a bunch of beers and tried to play Dutch Pictionary. Some of the words on the cards were recognisable, otherwise you could try to do a “sounds like…” picture. Pictionary is already difficult when your wife can’t draw at all, but it’s even harder when she’s getting drunk and it’s the Dutch version of the game and 90% of the words are at least 15 letters long, have “aa” or silent “j”s, or both. That, and I’m a bad guesser.
We sauntered back into town in the morning and caught the market before it was just a town square that smelled like old fish. Here, we purchased some great fried fish with tartare sauce and smoked herring to snack on while we walked around. It was mainly a food market, but that didn’t prove to be a problem, we ended up leaving with four 500g wheels of locally made flavored cheese; truffle, mustard, pesto and salami, some stroopwafels and some jams.
Our next stop was the shops. Last time we were here there were heaps of cool secondhand shops, but, as I mentioned, none of them were open. That wouldn’t prove a problem this time. In one of the first of such shops we went into I found this badass Cinderella t-shirt (left) and threatened Anna that i would get it if she bought anything. She found a dress and some glasses and I am a man of my word.
We stopped off several times for a bite to eat, but dinner was at an Asian fusion restaurant called Opium (seriously). The food was great, Anna had a four-course set menu, I just chose what I wanted and we were both feeling pretty content afterward. But lets not dwell on that, it was also Saturday night, time to hit the town.
Our first and only stop was the Belgisch Bier Café Olivier (below), a beer hall inside a former clandestine church. Needless to say, Pictionary wasn’t played, I achieved my 200 different beers and the people-watching was great!
A great night was had by both of us, but it was getting late so we decided to walk home. Our hotel room had two single beds that we had pushed together, but my side stuck out a little further. “No big deal”, I thought as I watched a crappy movie on TV while I waited for Anna to finish in the bathroom.
When it was time I had a shower, came out to get into bed and kicked the leg of the bed extremely hard with the second-last toe on my right foot, which was followed by a long string of profanities. All I hoped was that it wasn’t broken, not because I wouldn’t be able to walk, but because I would have to go to hospital. Those places terrify me! The toe was white with a red joint when I went to bed.
When I awoke I was terrified to look at my foot, it wasn’t painful when it was still, but any type of movement whatsoever was agony. Still, I could walk on it so it wasn’t broken. Walking was exceptionally difficult at first, but, although it still hurt, it got easier over the course of the day. Woo-hoo! I wouldn’t need to go to hospital!
Most of Sunday was similar to Saturday, just wandering around, looking at the shops and eating, albeit at a slower pace and with quite a severe limp.
Our train back to Köln was due to leave at 5:04pm, but, naturally, it was delayed, however this time it was only by about 10 minutes. We had previously learnt our lesson about not reserving seats and this was an occasion where we were glad we had. Like our trip to Tübingen, the train was completely packed, people standing in the aisles and sitting between carriages. Unlike the trip to Tübingen, we had seats, because it would be difficult for me to stand for more than two hours if I needed to.
That’s if the train only took two hours, but yet again the train stopped for a prolonged period of time. Eventually, there was an announcement stating that all trains had to halt because people had been detected on the tracks, however, they weren’t sure where those people were. I’m not sure how that works, but it meant we were stranded until they could locate the people on the train tracks. At least the train conductors had the decency to open the doors and let people wander around outside, but wouldn’t that just result in more people on the tracks? Who knows.
Forty five minutes later and we were off, arriving at our destination only an hour late.
Overall it was a great trip, but as soon as we got back it was back to reality; We’ve got to start getting ready to go back to Singapore and move to New York, so the next 12 days are going to be pretty hectic.
One last, amusing story: I ran out of epilepsy medication yesterday, so I had to pick some up here in Germany (below). Check out the fine print on that box, “Retardtabletten” (“retard tablets“). I take slow release tablets, so I guess “retard” there is the verb meaning “