On the fifth day in Germany my true love gave to me, a fiiiiiive hour looooong drive. Just kidding, not about the drive, but about making it seem like it wasn’t a very good time. We woke in Dusseldorf, stumbled to the corner for milchkaffee and pastry sandwiches and headed back to our apartment to get ready, wash a load of laundry and check out. The night before, we had pulled out a map of Germany (finally) and planned the rest of our trip with the kids. In case you are desperately reading every last blog and buying themed outfits/snack food in preparation, we are headed to Berlin for three nights, Amsterdam for two nights, Brussels for two nights (it was the kids’ favorite stop during our last Europe trip and they just wouldn’t let it go), and then the Luxembourg border area to tour the site of the battle of the bulge. I’m sure that you think that I’m kidding, that I would never fly with my children to another country and have absolutely no plan. . . nope! For other evidence that my husband should be given some kind of Nobel prize read this.
We let The Ginger and The Giant shower first so that we could take advantage of the free wifi and find places to stay for the next couple of stops and each of them ran the shower for a while but came out of the bathroom with dry hair. Suspicious, and a little nervous–have you ever smelled a teenaged boy? Washing is an every day mandatory affair. We asked what was going on and it turned out that the water heater had broken. The apartment owner sent a handyman over immediately, but we were assured by him that the unit was, indeed, “Kaput!” This was certainly a stinky turn of fate.
We spit shined ourselves to the best of our ability, jumped in the car, made a brief stop for bread and pastry (the baking here is no joke), and pointed the car towards the Autobahn. Driving on the Autobahn is EXACTLY as much fun as you think it is. Everyone drives really fast without being aggressive (except maybe Kevin). Truth be told, all German still sounds like cursing to me so all of the drivers could have been road raging. I’d never know.
The countryside was a breathtaking mix of lazy blonde cows relaxing in country farms with brick barns and hay bales, ruins of castles overgrown by emerald green thickets, and spindly tall pines. It was lovely, picturesque and all of that yada, yada, yada, but here’s the REAL story people–the truck stops in Germany are AWESOME!! Sure, they have the usual suspects: a Burger King, a convenient store, and islands of gas pumps. But from there, it gets really interesting. They have cafeterias with delicious food (by delicious, I mean, “if you like wieners, this country is for you”) served by clean adults, there is a full bar where they will serve you a cold beverage or a delicious coffee drink (in a real mug with a cookie), you pump your gas first and then pay inside like it’s 1955, and they have PAY TOILETS. Now, this is not my first European rodeo. I keep a euro in my bra at all times (you will only laugh until you have had to pee in an Italian alley and note that it is oddly cleaner than some of the actual Italian toilets you have paid to use). I know that peeing comes at a cost. But these toilets were WORTH THE MONEY. In fact, they were so worth the .70 that I paid to use them that I ran to my car to get my phone, paid to use them a second time so that I could film it for you! No kidding, you have to see this. Watch the whole 20 seconds. I promise it will change your life.
Berlin is a strange little animal. Still recovering from the Second World War and the 1936 Olympics, it is striving to be a great city. You can see it everywhere you look. Our apartment is a win (don’t tell my husband I said so, but he outbooked me this time). Beautiful, modern, clean and centrally located enough to walk to the touristy sites, but far enough away that we can take all of our meals and drink at night with locals. Our smaller apartment wasn’t ready, so we had to be upgraded to a three bedroom suite for the night (woe is me).
Looking for dinner and something cold to wash the road off (Beer. You understand that I mean beer, right?), we stumbled too far into the touristy section to a restaurant where the waiter was hard pressed to suggest a good local beer. I finally said, “Just bring me a GOOD beer, okay?” and he nodded. “Yes, GOOD beer. Yes.” I was sure that I was on the path to nirvana. Until he showed up with HEMP beer. Yes, beer with THC. Our waiter was obviously a stoner. Weird.
Tomorrow, we take Berlin. By storm! I meant to add by storm, I swear!