Day 1: Welcome to Germany

We arrived at O’Hare with plenty of time to spare, pleasantly surprised to find our flight to Frankfurt on American Airlines was departing from the same gate (K19) as our Iberia flight in March to Spain.  Felt like an old friend.  The flight itself was a non-event, and we arrived safely on the ground in Frankfurt around 11:40 am Tuesday morning, rarin’ to go.

After clearing immigration (where the German border guard flirted with me, as was the case the last time we’d flown through Frankfurt on our way to Croatia.  Like David Hasselhoff, I’m big with the Germans), our first order of business was to collect the rental car from Sixt.  No problems there, and soon we were on our way in a shiny new black Mercedes A-150.

Our destination was Bonn, specifically the Rheinland Hotel.  We arrived in Bonn over a bridge but could not find our hotel for the life of us.  We wound up driving up and down the same main roads, detoured a few side streets, and made several U-turns in the process before finding the hotel, all the while giggling knowing that since this was a driving trip this could be the first of many such instances.  But something else interestingly happened on our high-and-low search for the hotel – we noticed a display on the car (right where the radio information is) that appeared to tell us which street we were on and what street was coming up.  What in the world was this thing, this annoying picture display that kept distracting me from reading the too-small-to-discern-anything paper map?  It was something we’d never seen before, and it seemed to be a smug know-it-all during our hotel search, somehow taunting us in an Alex Trebek sort of way.  Unbeknownst to us, it was about to launch us into the 21st century and change our lives.  At least for this trip.

After parking the car and checking into our room, which had a nice terrace with a view of, well, the back of another building, we set out to “do” Bonn.  Map and information from the internet in hand, we stopped first at a couple of bookstores to try to find a good driving map of Germany.  This was a driving trip, after all, and I needed to choose the map wisely because I’m the principle navigator.  We examined each and every map but I couldn’t decide on one, so instead we elected to commence our sight-seeing.

This is Beethoven country, and even the pigeon is enamored with him

Off to Beethoven’s house we went, well the house he was born in, anyway.  It was a nondescript yellow house nestled in with a row of houses and we happily paid our entrance fee and went in.  Some say the tour isn’t very exciting, we say it rocked.  Inside there were many artifacts from Beethoven’s life, including some scores he had been working on that looked like the musical equivalent of writing a term paper.  Musical notes were scratched out, there were notes scrawled in the margin, and it looked like he’d been fussing over getting it “just so” (and to think he was deaf when writing much of it!).  I’m pretty sure I saw a schnitzel stain in one corner, too.  There were also two facial masks, one had been cast while he was alive, the other cast right after he died.  All in all, it was well worth a stop.

Getting our fill of Beethoven, we left and found a Jack Wolfskin store just outside (a North Face equivalent).  We shopped in there a bit (the first of many JW stores we’d stop into) and then wandered around a bit more and saw a few of Bonn’s major squares.  It was about 18:00 and we were starting to get very tired and a bit jet-lag-dazed, plus the weather was suspect so we stopped for a beer (bier) at a local joint where we sat outside.  Because really, there is nothing like imbibing a bier when you are already in a half stupor.  About 20 minutes later the skies opened up and it poured, but we didn’t budge, as we were safely seated under an umbrella.  Besides, we were rather enjoying watching the “show” of people going about their business in Bonn, including being inexplicably mesmerized by watching 2 men putting up a display window at the T-Mobile store and, just a little farther away, watching all the patrons (mostly men) step up to a makeshift counter at a street vendor and walk away with plates of something.  Turns out it was some sort of meat (wurst) and fries, the typical meal of many Germans… and Jim.

Random Personal Note:  as you will read in the following posts, we consumed a great deal of alcohol during this trip.  Please rest assured that this is most definitely not the norm while at home – in fact, it is likely we drank more beer in the first half of this trip than we do all year in the States.

After downing 2 beers, now we were REALLY dazed but needed to stay up a bit longer, so we decided to go to a

Aaah, beautiful Bonn

restaurant recommended by a member of the Rick Steves’ forum, called Gasthaus Bonnsch.  I had a salad with a baked potato in the middle and a warm pretzel as an appetizer, Jimmy had currywurst, some sort of wurst with a mildly spicy sauce on top and it was all fantastic.  And because we are simple folk, one thing that was particularly amazing about this stop was in the bathroom they had a Dyson Airblade hand dryer.  You put your hands in it vertically, and it automatically turned on and blew the water off with the force of a car wash.  I used it twice, the second time just ‘cause.

Once dinner was over, we were now super zoned and beat, so off to the hotel for a long night’s sleep (with a quick stop back into one of the bookstores to revisit their map selection – again – in case something else had turned up in the few hours since we’d last looked.  Nothing had, and we left empty-handed… again).  It was the best first night’s sleep either of us had ever had on a trip.

Leave a comment


  1. Jim

     /  August 11, 2010

    This blog rocks!

    • howieroll

       /  August 13, 2010

      Thank you, Honey, especially since I know you are the only one reading this!


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