I had some time off of work and being too early for the summer price hike season I figured it would be a good time for another European vacation. The last two times I visited Germany I had visited my friend, Lutz, in Halle (flew into LEJ). I met Lutz collecting bottle caps and beer memorabilia, over the internet. During the time I was in Halle I became friends with his daughter, Anja, and her husband, Alex. Alex and Anja invited me to stay with them in Rheinfelden. Alex and Anja moved to Rheinfelden in 2009, when Alex got a job with a Swiss company. I found Zurich to be the cheapest place to book a ticket to in the area and it is only one hour from Rheinfelden. I left Detroit (DTW) on a Delta Airbus A330-200 at 4pm, right on schedule.
The plane was just about full, as far as I could see, but boarding went smoothly. I found my seat had a decent amount of pitch. I have flown on NW/DL A330s before so I knew what to expect.
After a while the meal was served, which was chicken. I liked it, but it is airline food so it isn’t the best, nothing like days, not too long ago, when I was served a shrimp cocktail on TWA. I liked the cheese and was able to score some extra cheese from some other people who did not eat theirs.
After watching two movies I got kind of bored so I decided to play a game. I always like trivia and was happy to see some other people playing it on the AVOD (aircraft video on demand) system. I was able to play against six other people when it was all said and done. I had not played any AVOD games before and I liked them because they kept my mind working on the long flight. I arrived in Amsterdam (AMS) at 5:25am, about a half hour early. I had about an hour and forty-five minutes to connect to my KLM Cityhopper flight to Zurich (ZRH). I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked through AMS, which wasn’t busy at that hour of the day.
When I arrived at the gate there were not many people around and I had time to check my email and charge up my telephone. AMS gives you an hour of free Wi-Fi, which is more than I can say for most airports. I saw the plane was already there, a KLM Cityhopper E-190. I had not flown on an E-190 before and I found it to be a nice plane.
The flight was very lightly loaded and a Saab 340 would not have even been fully loaded. The service was nice and we were served sandwiches by what may have been the hottest flight attendant I have ever seen. We left the gate about a half hour late. The captain informed us that there were long lines at passport control and he was waiting for connecting passengers. Finally some other people arrived and we left. We taxied for a LONG TIME to a runway that seemed very far away from the terminal.
The view of the Alps going into ZRH was breathtaking. The camera did not capture them well.
We arrived at ZRH about a half hour late, but the luggage came quickly and nobody was even at the customs area so I was able to head directly to the reception hall and meet Alex and Anja.
Alex and Anja picked me up at ZRH and we drove back to Rheinfelden, Germany. The road back to Germany was beautiful and filled with tunnels. Switzerland looked just about like I thought it would. We arrived at Alex and Anja’s around 11am and I was kind of tired. I went in my room and slept for about four hours. After a short snooze and a coffee we were off to Basel, Switzerland.
Basel is a beautiful city.
That evening we headed back to Rheinfelden for dinner and beer. Alex and Anja are both doctors of chemistry and belong to some sort of organization where they are sent unknown (but known to the testing firm) products for evaluation. They had some beer in the refrigerator that had no labels or any marks that would identify the brewer. We drank it and I thought it was good, a little too light for my taste, but good. After we drank the test beers we drank a variety of other regional beers.
It was time for bed and Alex & Anja’s cat, Himalaya, was mad at me because I took his bedroom.
The next morning Anja went to work and Alex and I headed off to Schaffhausen, Switzerland and to Falken Brewery. We drove Alex’s 2006 Smart Roadster, which is rather impressive with its 0.7 turbo 3 cylinder engine. I drove a car like this in the USA once, at a Mercedes-Benz club event, but it was not sold in the USA. The car reminded me of the early 1970s Porsche 914, but the Smart has more get up and go than the 4 cylinder Porsche 914.
Along the way we stopped at Rheinfall, which is a really great place to walk around. The parking ticket machine was being repaired so parking was free.
Schaffhausen is a beautiful city and no trip there would be complete without a visit to the castle, sure it is A LOT of steps, but the views were worth it.
We stopped by the Falken Brewery for some caps, for Lutz. They do not offer regular tours but we asked an important looking man at the warehouse and he showed us around the brewery, it was a good impromptu tour. We also went to the stock house where he allowed us to take caps right out the boxes, which was very cool.
On the way home we stopped by Laufenburg for a few photos and I found a very friendly cat at the church. I like cats and I miss my cat when I travel so it is always nice to see dogs and cats when I am out and about.
I was worn out from all the sightseeing and after several Falken Beers, which we bought at the brewery shop, it was time for bed.
Again Anja had to work so Alex and I drove to Colmar, France and Freiburg, Germany. Colmar was a nice town and I enjoyed the sites.
After walking around town and seeing the historic sites we drove over to Freiburg, Germany, where we ate some curry wurst and walked around town
After all the walking it was time for a beer. We stopped by a delicious brewpub, Hausbraueri Feierling, for their local beer.
On the way back to Rheinfelden Alex got the Smart to go just about as fast as it could. 190 k/mh (118 mph). I had no idea a Smart could go that fast, very cool!
After a long day of sightseeing we headed home where Anja made us a great dinner and we washed it down with more regional beers. The next day we all slept late, Anja had the day off, it was her 31st birthday and Lutz and his mother, Karin, were driving down from Halle. Alex and I took a walk up the Rhein to an old hydroelectric plant that was being torn down. The new one opened a few hundred yards up stream last year.
We then walked across the river to Rheinfelden, Switzerland and walked around town, stopping for a Swiss steak for lunch.
After lunch we went back to Germany and headed to the beer store for supplies for the drinking that was about to get started, now that Lutz was arriving.
That night we went out for pizza, which what Anja wanted for her birthday dinner. It was close by and that was a good thing because we had plenty of beer before we went and plenty of Rathaus beer there. The pizza was really good and would recommend the place to anyone eating in Rheinfelden.
A few other things around Rheinfelden:
Lutz and I got hammered and took our shirts off, to show off our fat guts after we arrived back at Alex and Anja’s.
Morning came early and we had a hearty breakfast (a real hog slopper as I would say) and then headed off for the tour of the Feldschlösschen Brewery in Rheinfelden, Switzerland. The brewery tour was great and lasted about one hour.
After the tour we went to the hospitality room where we could drink as much as possible in an hour and a half. We also had a tree of soft pretzels delivered to the table. Lutz disappeared with a brewery worker when he asked if they had any caps for his collection. Lutz later returned with a grocery bag filled with caps from all of Feldschlösschen’s (Carlsberg Group) different brands.
Like an idiot I forgot my passport so we had a bit of trouble getting into Switzerland that morning. The last few trips across the border we used Alex or Anja’s car which has local license plates, so the customs officials never stop them at the border, but that day we took Grandma Karin’s car and it had tags from Halle. The Swiss customs agent actually accepted my enhanced Michigan Drivers License, which is said only to work in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. To avoid trouble on the way home I just walked across the bridge in downtown Rheinfelden, where no customs officials were seen.
It was about 1pm and I was already drunk so I figured it was time to hit the sack for a few hours. I slept until about 5pm and by that time Lutz was up to cooking dinner.
After a hearty dinner I was still tired so I decided not to have anymore beer and go to sleep early, so I would be ready for my trip to the Black Forest.
It was a great day for visiting the forest because the weather was clear and the weather was warm. We drove to Tittisee and so did a lot of other people because the town was packed !
While I was there I was kidnapped by some Bavarian people (or so it would seem ha ha!) and look at what they did to me!
I have wanted lederhosen and an Alpine hat for a very long time and have never found them in my previous German travels so I jumped at the chance to buy my own. I think it fits my body type very well. The next time I go to a German beer festival in the USA I will look like a big wheel beer drinker and brat eater!
After a walking around the town and lake we decided to drive over to St. Blasien to visit the cathedral there. I was familiar with St. Blaise because he is the patron saint of throat disorders and every year my priest blesses my throat on his day.
After walking around for a while we decided to sit and have a beer.
It was a long day and we headed back to Rheinfelden for dinner and beer.
The next morning we headed over to Bern, Switzerland. We had to stop a beer store so Lutz could look for new caps (he has over 30,000 in his collection). While there I may have spotted the world’s largest beer can. It is a keg of Feldschlösschen, but is a one way keg (about the size of an American ½ barrel) and labeled for regular retail sale. It can be sold warm and comes with disposable tapping equipment. If I could I would have brought one home and taken it to the next beer can collectors show.
We walked around for a few hours and took in some of the beautiful sites. None of us had been there before so we all enjoyed the city for the first time.
One of the highlights of our trip to Bern was the bear habitat, where there was a family of bears. They were right out along the river and by the look of the crowd; it was a favorite attraction of many visitors.
After a tough day of sightseeing we headed back to Rheinfelden. Lutz, Alex, and I drank some of the beers we purchased in Bern while we waited to go out to dinner. In an attempt to repay the hospitality of my German friends; I purchased dinner for everyone at a fantastic restaurant by the name of Elke. The place had a fantastic view looking down into Rheinfelden. We first sat outside, but it grew windy so we retreated indoors.
The food was great. I love German food!
My last day in Germany was Easter Sunday so I went to church. I went to the local protestant church in downtown Rheinfelden. I am a “high church” Episcopalian (Anglican) which is hard enough to find in the USA and the UK these days so I settled for the Lutheran church
The church service was nice and I was able to follow along fairly well, as I have been to Lutheran churches before. After the service I had coffee and Easter Bread. The Minister had studied in St. Paul, Minnesota and he and I chatted for a while about some of the different German Easter traditions
After church I walked back to Alex & Anja and we had lunch before we had to drive to ZRH. I was sure to pick up a magazine to look at on the way home.
There was no traffic and we arrived at ZRH in plenty of time.
ZRH was kind of a sleepy airport on Easter Sunday as not much of anything was going on. There were no lines for my KL flight back to AMS. There was not much going on over at Security either, there were more security agents than passengers and when I got to the gate area I was the only one there besides the snack bar attendant.
I grabbed a Coca-Cola and a large pretzel and began to write my trip report. Finally some passengers showed up and we left ZRH for AMS right on time. The Flight was operated by KLM Cityhopper on a E-190, unlike my previous E-190 Experience, this flight was nearly full
I was seated next to a very nice young woman from Kenya who was with her father. She was on her way back to Kenya after visiting the University of Manchester, in the UK, where she had been accepted. She and her dad stopped for a few days of sightseeing in Zurich before heading home to Nairobi. It was one of the best conversations I even had on a plane, or anywhere, with a stranger. Her and I talked about opportunities in free countries and the value of hard work. She also talked about how excessive taxation does not stimulate growth and punishes success. She sounded like a real Republican, which is always great to hear. We chatted about all kinds of things. I found the conversation interesting because she is an 18 year old high school student about ready to go to University, much like the students I teach every day. However my students don’t speak three languages, or are as well mannered. We were served a delicious of snack peanut butter cookies, which I ate before I remembered to take a photo, so I got the empty bag.
In no time we were coming in for a landing at AMS.
The nice girl and her dad only had a short time before boarding their flight to Kenya, which was too bad because I would have liked to talk with them more. After arrival at AMS I headed straight to the “Yotel” near lounge 2. I wanted to drop my stuff off quickly so I could get some spotting time in before it got dark. The check in at the “Yotel” was very quick because I paid in advance when I made my reservation several weeks ago. I gave the desk clerk, a very friendly and attractive Dutch woman, my name and she handed me my key and my code of the wi-fi, the check in was completed in less than 1 minute! With that all done I dumped my carryon and lap top and headed out into AMS. I was able to grab a few photos before the sun went down.
I have been to AMS five times, but I never spent a lot of time there. I wondered around the terminal and saw all kinds of good stuff. I even had to check out the art museum.
and to relax in this great sitting area.
I was kind of tired and decided to go to sleep. I headed back to the “Yotel” which is the most unique hotel I ever stayed in. The hotel is inside the terminal and has the smallest rooms I ever saw. I saw the advertisement for the “Yotel” on the AMS website and thought it would be fun to try. The room reminded me of a bedroom on an old US railroad 10-6 Pullman sleeper; because it was so compact, but had everything you needed.
My boarding time was 6:20, but because I only about a four minute walk to my gate I was able to sleep until 5:45. I took a shower, which was like a camper (caravan for those in the UK) bathroom because the sink and toilet were in there too. The shower interested me because it was a stand up shower and was only separated from the room by a curtain that didn’t go all the way to the floor. I wondered if the water would run out into the rest of the room. When I turned on the shower I heard a sucking sound from the drain, ah… it was air operated and sucked the water down the large drain, without getting any on the rest of the floor. I really liked the “rainwater” shower head, which is similar to the one I have at home.
I walked out the door and checked out at 6:10am. When I walked out into the lounge I noticed that the restaurants did not open until 6:30, but the Rolex store, in the hall, was already opened. I wonder how many people buy a $30,000 watch at 6:15am? They also had some watches in the $4000 range, for the budget minded. I grabbed a delicious sausage roll with some orange juice to wash it down and headed to my gate, which was full of people wanting to go to Detroit and beyond. The aircraft was a Delta A330-200, which was the same type I flew on the way to AMS.
The flight was not full so I was able to move from a window section aisle, which had a person next to me to an empty center section aisle, to give us both more room. The seat pitch was just fine and I had plenty of space to stretch out.
It was time for breakfast and the choices were pancakes or an omelet. The pancakes were the popular choice but they were out of them by the time the F/A got to my seat. I am not a fan of omelets, so I grabbed my backup plan. I thought something like this might happen so I brought a package of German smoked bacon with me. It was delicious, but it is a good thing I have good teeth because it was VERY difficult to bite it off and the wimpy plastic knives onboard could not even come close to cutting it. This is the kind of food you need a sharp knife to cut.
After eating my bacon I grabbed my computer and just about finished my trip report, except for the part about arriving at DTW. When I got home all I had to do was cut and paste into airliners.net.
After watching a couple of movies on the AVOD system it was time for our snack, which was ice cream and pizza. The pizza was good.
With that snack finished up it was time for landing at DTW and the end of a wonderful European vacation. The decent was so smooth my ears didn’t even pop. I proceeded to customs were the line moved quickly and I was picking up my bags in no time, which were already on the carousel by the time I cleared customs. I went and grabbed a cup of coffee and waited for my friend, Karyn, to come and pick me up.
I got home by 11:45am, fed the cat and sat down and finished up the trip report. I am already looking forward to another trip sometime and somewhere!
[Edited 2011-04-25 11:34:15]