Guten Tag! It has been a very fun, yet also very interesting couple weeks. My two American friends and I flew to Cologne, Germany last Saturday for a trip to explore the city and visit with my friend’s family (even though my friend has spent most of her life in America, she’s also German). We were supposed to fly back Wednesday evening, but the Beast from the East prevented us from doing so. But before I get into that spiel, I’ll talk about the fun adventures that were planned.
Our Ryanair flight got in late Wednesday, so we took a taxi to my friend’s place and crashed in our room, which was downstairs of the apartment setup. Her family have different apartments all in one “house”. Her uncle has an apartment on the first floor, and she has other family in an apartment on the second floor. We stayed in the basement downstairs, which has a room with enough beds for us and also had the laundry room and a kitchen. One of the relatives is from Thailand, and she has her own catering business and Thai cooking lessons, so that is her “work” kitchen. She also has two kids, who are half Thai and half German, and we spent some time with them while my friend caught up with her family. The kids are two and seven, so they always had a bunch of energy. We were supposed to speak to them in English, so they could practice, but they were really shy so they would usually respond in either German or Thai.
Sunday was tourist day, and even though mostly everything was closed, we walked to the city center and explored the city. My friend lives about a 40 minute walk to downtown, and looking back at it I’m a bit surprised that we made that walk at least twice a day. The weather was pretty cold, being around 25°F everyday and super windy (according to the locals, it’s the coldest weather they’ve had since 1953). We took the bus once when we went downtown with my friend’s aunt, but the rest of the time we walked.
There were many different things we got to explore in Cologne. We visited the famous cathedral, which was very impressive, and apparently has the largest free standing bell in Europe. On our last day we walked up the (500+) steps to the top and got a great view of the city. The steps were mostly a tight spiral staircase, which I thought was a lot of fun to walk up. In addition to the cathedral we walked across the Rhine, which was right next to it. The bridge we walked across was covered in locks; I have no idea how it has been able to sustain so much added weight!
If we weren’t walking around and taking in the sights, then we were probably eating. My friend had a large list of food she wanted us to try, and we certainly got through most of it. One the first day we had spaghettieis, which is an ice cream sundae but the ice cream is shaped like spaghetti.
One day we also went to a chocolate museum, which was very yummy! The museum had exhibits on the history of making chocolate, explanations on the cultivation and exportation of cocoa, the advertisement of chocolate, etc. They also had a small greenhouse where they grew cocoa beans and other plants used for chocolate production. At the back of the museum they had a huge glass window showing a view of the Rhine, and a large chocolate fountain where we got free samples. There were also a lot of Easter related chocolate since the holiday is coming up soon.
Even though we walked into town every day, we did spend a lot of time just relaxing at home too. My friends love to sleep, so I was usually voluntold to go to the bakery down the street and get breakfast in the morning. We ate so many pretzels; I could have eaten them every day. Being in Germany was also fun for us because we got to see cultural things that were different from Ireland. On our taxi ride from the airport, we had to remember that the steering wheel was on the opposite side of the car, and that they drove on the right side of the road. It is also known that many Germans do not like crossing the road when it is red. We thought this was just some stereotype, but when we got to Germany we found it hilarious that it was actually fairly true. In Ireland, people cross the street at whatever chance they get, even if there are still cars coming. In Germany, we could be standing at the side of very small street, with no cars coming at all, staring at the people on the other side about five steps away, but still no one would move. We learned when was the right time to be either Irish or German.
On Wednesday, disaster struck. (At least it was for my friends; I quite enjoyed being stuck in the country for a few extra days). Ireland got hit by storm Emma, aka the Beast from the East, and the airport was shut down. Ireland didn’t have that much snow in about a decade, and basically the entire country shut down. Since we were on Ryanair airlines, the cheapest of the cheap, our flight was cancelled. We got a refund, but they don’t reschedule flights, we had to book a new one with Aer Lingus. We booked a flight with Aer Lingus for that evening, but obviously with the weather it was cancelled. We spent a lot of time on the phone and website trying to get our way back to Ireland, but everything was getting cancelled or booked up. About three tries (and days) later, we got a flight out of Düsseldorf Saturday night.
Public transportation still wasn’t running, so we stood outside in a 30 minute line for taxis once we arrived. Thankfully there was another person at the front of the line going to Halls, so we got to share a taxi with him. The stores had been wiped for days, so I wasn’t able to get much when I went to do the grocery on Sunday. Thankfully yesterday they started to get some bread and eggs, and public transportation is working again. It’s started to warm up, so most of the snow is gone now. There are just a few ugly piles on the side of the road, and there is still a lot on the mountains.
This week I’ve been catching up on work that I couldn’t do last week and getting ahead so I can spend time with my friend and sister, who are coming to visit me next week. I can’t wait to see them and show them around Dublin; it’s going to be good craic!