My first trip to Europe was with my mother in July 2000. I was totally fascinated by the culture and history, and I couldn’t wait to go back. At the time, my husband and I were approaching our 25th wedding anniversary and I was able to convince him that we should go to Europe to celebrate.
In September of 2002, we flew to Amsterdam for a eighteen-day trip that included parts of Germany and the Netherlands. Throughout this trip, my husband kept a journal of our activities, while I took pictures. I had recently purchased one of the new digital cameras, but I wasn’t confident that I would be happy with the picture quality, so I also brought along my film camera. (Neither one was an expensive, high quality camera). After that trip, I never used the film camera, but continued to upgrade my digital ones.
So many things have changed in the way I travel, but I still have fond memories of my first trips. I decided to share some of the highlights of the trip my husband and I took. I’ll try to follow his journal, adding comments as I go.
Day One (9/9)
We picked up our girls early from school so they could ride along with my mother and aunt to bring us to the airport. My youngest was ten at the time, so this was a big deal. They said good-bye and left for home, while we started the the process of getting ready to fly.
We had purchased our tickets through a private consolidator. There are still ticket consolidators, but they don’t usually sell to individuals. Through the consolidator, we had purchased tickets on Kuwait Airways – the cheapest flight to Amsterdam. After its stop in Amsterdam the flight was to continue to Delhi, India, so the passengers were a mix of Americans, Europeans, and Indians.
We checked in at the counter and were given our seat assignments at that time. We went through security, where my husbands razor was thoroughly checked. We waited at the gate for our flight that finally left – an hour and fifteen minutes late.
Day Two (9/10)
After too little sleep on the plane, we landed safely in Amsterdam. We exchanged $1000 cash for €984. Euros were introduced and used by central banks in January 1999, but were not used as legal currency by the public until January 2002. Now, more and more places accept credit cards, so carrying this amount of cash would be unnecessary and dangerous. In addition, ATMs are plentiful, so if cash is necessary, it can easily be accessed.
We rented a car and left the airport, driving straight into a traffic jam. Driving in Europe isn’t that difficult, but navigating using a paper map and reading road signs leading to unfamiliar cities can be frustrating. After a couple wrong turns we were finally on our way to Germany.
Our first stop was Cologne, Germany. We planned to spend an hour or so there before continuing on our way. We were amazed at the beautiful cathedral. It is huge! We walked though the church, admiring the stained glass. I walked around the outside and then explored a little of the the surrounding area while my husband relaxed at a cafe.
We left Cologne and were on our way to Boppard – only one missed turn this time. We checked in to Haus Weller, a small pension just a block from the Rhine River. We walked to the Rheinlust restaurant where my husband had schnitzel and I had the best saurbraten I’ve ever tasted. It was late, so we both crashed as soon as we got back to the room.
Day Three (9/11)
We had breakfast in the pension in the morning. We had bread, jam, cheese, ham, and “other stuff we didn’t know what it was.” Now that I’ve traveled more in Europe, I could probably identify the other stuff, but at the time it was unfamiliar to both my husband and me.
We walked to the river to take a short cruise at 10 am, but since we were the only people interested, the captain cancelled and told us to come back at 12. The extra two hours gave us time to explore the town of Boppard. The town was hosting its annual Onion Festival which included a craft and flea market area. We purchased some souvenir linens and a corkscrew.
A little before noon, we made our way back to the boat dock. The boat cruised to St. Goar and the Lorelei Rock. There was some recorded narration that played in English and we had information from a Rick Steves book, so we were able to learn about all of the castle ruins we saw as we relaxed on the boat. On the way back, we enjoyed lunch on the boat – beef and gravy, red cabbage, and potato salad.
When we returned to Boppard, we retrieved our car and drove to St Goar. We walked the town, surprised at all the restaurants along the main street. St. Goar is one of the three main tourist towns in the “Romantic Rhine” area – the other two are Bacharach and Oberwesel.
We had reservations to stay at the Gutsschänke Sennerhof (hotel and restaurant) at the Walter Persch Winery. The winery is located just outside of Oberwesel and is owned by Winfried and Karin Persch. The winery has been owned by the family for over 200 years.
We were warmly welcomed as we checked in. We dropped off our bags and returned for a private tour and wine tasting with Karin. As wine newbies, we learned a lot about wine production and taste. After our tour, we went into town and had dinner at Winehaus Weiler. We went back to our hotel and shared a bottle of 1993 Riesling Auslese in the winery’s tasting room. We met Grandpa Persch who brought us a sample of Rosé. Later, on our way to our room, we met and visited with Winfried. Getting to know the family helped us appreciate the wine even more.
Day 4 (9/12)
After a good breakfast in the morning, we were on our way. Before we left, we purchased a bottle of wine and a couple of souvenir glasses. At the time, the wine ranged in price from €3 to €8. (I’d really love to go back to this hotel/winery again sometime).
We drove through Bacharach, but decided to stop back later in the afternoon. We drove to the southern end of the “Romantic Rhine” area and took the ferry across the river. We drove north on the East side of the Rhine River until we got to the town of Marksburg. We toured the Marksburg Castle and found it interesting, although it would have been better if we had an English guide instead of a German guide with a printed English translation.
After visiting the castle, we drove a little further north and crossed back to the west side of the river near Koblenz. We drove south, stopping in St. Goar for lunch. We also stopped in Oberwesel and visited the large Liebfraukirke (church) which was built with red sandstone.
As we had decided earlier, we stopped in Bacharach, which turned out to be our favorite town of the three. Strolling through the town, we saw several wine shops. We couldn’t resist visiting one, and yes, we bought another bottle of Riesling to bring home.
We continued our drive south along the Rhine to the Reichenstein Castle where we would spend the night. Upcoming highlights include a visit to Heidelberg, the Black Forest area, and Baden Baden in Germany, and then ten days in the Netherlands.