Day 2: Bonn to Monschau via Aachen

We slept 12 hours (!) and were up at 9:30, ate breakfast at the hotel, and walked around Bonn some more.  Bonn is a working cosmopolitan city and didn’t feel like a tourist destination at all – which was good.  They had a lovely pedestrian zone, coffee shops, flower merchants (with the most beautiful and vibrant flowers on display outside), and many market squares that some days are filled with stands of vendors.  The city had a very cool vibe and we wished we had more time to bum around.

We stopped at the German bank Sparkasse for some money then stopped in a café for a coffee to go.  The man behind the counter spoke English (of course he did, please see below), but despite this, we tried to use every bit of German we knew.  Since it was early in the trip it wasn’t much, but one word we knew is schwarz, German for “black,” as in black coffee.  We used it a couple of times – just for good measure – and the barista (secretly impressed, we’re sure) said we used it well.  We blushed.

Random Germany Note:  when asked, most Germans we met on the trip invariably said they spoke only “a little English” but were able to launch into it with the fluency of a physics professor.  For instance, when we were in the Jack Wolfskin store the day before, I asked the salesgirl if she spoke English because I had a question about the waterproofing on my JW jacket.  She tittered and said she spoke “a little,” before launching into a tutorial about the jacket, including usage of the words “membrane” and “delicate cycle on the washing machine.”   Really?  I speak “a little Spanish” but would be hard-pressed to conduct that same conversation.  The closest I could get would be something to the effect of “the arm is good in cold water.”

As it was later than we intended, we got back to the hotel, packed up our things, and loaded up the car.  Before we left for Aachen we decided to put the strange car instrument we’d noticed the day before, this magical know-it-all display, to the test.  We figured out how to tell it to take us to Aachen, and lo and behold, a woman’s voice came on and told us what to do.  Thus launching ourselves into the world of GPS, where we discovered it actually works pretty darn well.  This thing might catch on.  Oh, and we named her Gretel. How does she do it?

Aachen: cathedral and beer tents. What more do you need?

Gretel got us to Aachen in no time, and Jim found a sweet spot in which to park.  After figuring out how to pay for the parking spot (and after thinking at first a cigarette machine was the parking machine), we set off on foot.  Guidebook-less, we followed the signs to the Old Town and found a TI, where a very helpful girl got us outfitted with maps and a list of activities.  Perfect.  We had a quick potty stop and a stop into a bakery so Jim could get a “hunka” (a delicious hunk of bread, this one had cheese melted on top) and made our first stop the giant cathedral that held the remains of Charlemagne.  This was Charlemagne’s town, after all.  The cathedral, like so many in Europe, was huge, dark, and cool inside, and we didn’t stick around too long.  Our next stop was to see the Town Hall, a giant, opulent looking building, but it appeared there was some sort of official function going on, as indicated by the number of policemen surrounding it and important-looking men in suits going in and out, so we didn’t press our luck by barging in.

As it was getting later in the afternoon and we needed to reach Monschau by 17:00 to meet up with my parents and cousins (the genesis for the trip), we decided to blow Aachen and get on the road.  A quick stop for potty at Starbucks and another quick stop in a bakery for a tomato/mozzarella pocket type thing, and we were off.  Gretel led the way, we dutifully followed.

Picture-perfect Monschau

Picture-perfect Monschau

We arrived in Monschau around 16:00 and found our hotel (the Hotel Horchem) with only minimal u-turns (which is a little embarrassing, given Monschau has only about 2 main streets.  We’ll blame it on Gretel).  Almost immediately we ran into my mother and my cousin, who were trying to find the apartment in which they were staying for a few nights.  We parked the car in a garage that looked like it would be hard to squeeze in a motorcycle, let alone our car, put our bags up in the room (which was a lovely room on the 2nd floor, overlooking the Red House and the river), and met up with mom again downstairs.  Linda had moved on in her quest to find their apartment, secure in knowing you can only get “so far” in Monschau.

The three of us went to the TI for a map, then somehow all 6 of us (my parents, my cousin and her husband, Jim, and I) met back at our hotel a short time later, where everyone came upstairs to survey our room.  After much oooh-ing and aaah-ing we all moved on to their apartment and hung around about an hour before we suggested we move outside and go for a cocktail.  We went to the main square below their apartment and had a glass of beer/wine, where we chatted a while before deciding to find a place for dinner.  My cousin suggested the restaurant owned by the same people from whom they rented the apartment, we all agreed, and shuffled off.  We sat outside on the lovely deck overlooking the river and found food was ok – I ordered rumpsteak that came out way underdone for my liking (but the mustard sauce, a specialty of Monschau, was very good), so Jim ate that while I ate his pork chops (which, oddly, he hadn’t ordered – he’d ordered salmon, so either a) the translation hadn’t been successful by either party or b) the chef thought he looked like a pork chop-type of guy).

After dinner we were all pretty pooped, so we were off to bed with the promise of meeting the next morning by 10:00.

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