After visiting the Netherlands with my mother in July 2000, I couldn’t wait to go back. At the time, my husband and I were approaching our 25th wedding anniversary and decided, with my prompting, go to Europe to celebrate.
In September of 2002, my husband and I 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.
Many things have changed in the way I travel, but I still have fond memories of my first trips. I am sharing the highlights of that trip over a few consecutive posts. I am trying to follow my husband’s journal, adding comments as I go. Last week I published the first installment. Now, I’ll continue…
Staying in a Castle
When I left off last week, we were on our way to the Reichenstein Castle, where we would be spending the night.
We drove to Trechingshausern, Germany, to Burg Reichenstein – the hotel and restaurant in a castle. After checking in we relaxed on the terrace overlooking the Rhine.
When we arrived for our dinner at 6 pm, we were the only ones in the restaurant, although eventually a few others trickled in. Now I know that Europeans (and most Americans) don’t eat that early and I can’t imagine having dinner in a restaurant at 6!
Evian, our waiter explained the menu to us. We chose the candlelight dinner which was very reasonable priced. Our meal started with thinly sliced Norwegian smoked salmon with mild mustard sauce, followed by a mixed green salad with a seasoned mozzarella patty. We then enjoyed a shallot soup. For our main dishes, I had fish with rice, vegetables, and a cream sauce, and my husband had pork steak with rosemary potatoes and beans with bacon. For dessert Evian brought us each a sampler plate with fruit, angel food cake filled with orange pudding, pistachio ice cream, and apple fritters.
I checked the website and did not see the same special, but there are some prix fix (fixed price) menu options available. We had a fabulous meal that night at a table overlooking the Rhine. I’m not sure if the special treatment was because we had ordered the candlelight dinner or if it was because the restaurant was nearly empty, but we felt like we were treated royally. Each plate came out more beautiful than the last – something we truly enjoyed.
Day Five (9/13)
We slept well in a full canopy bed. After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel before visiting the museum section of the castle. The 1000-year-old castle has quite a history. One of the previous owners was an avid hunter – displays of prize antlers covered the walls.
We drove to Heidelberg where we saw the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) and walked uphill to the castle above the town. My husband thought it was too touristy, but we only paid €2 to go inside – and I enjoyed it. The views of the town and river were amazing.
We wandered the town and saw the theological seminary and the university. The university seemed to have a strong music program as we saw handbills for weekend concerts featuring music of Beethoven, Handel, and Bach. We walked through the church and the main square before heading out of town.
Our next stop was Rastatt, Germany, where we were staying in an apartment for a couple days. I’m still surprised my husband was able to find the apartment – Airbnb did not begin until six years later.
In the evening, we went to nearby Baden-Baden so we could visit the Caracalla Therme, a hot bath. There were indoor and outdoor pools – six or seven different ones. The pools were different temperatures and some had jets. We relaxed in the pools for a couple hours and then dried under the heat lamps before going back to the apartment.
Day Six (9/14)
We left the apartment in the morning, for a full day of driving and sightseeing. Our plan was to drive along the Schwartswold Hochestraase or Black Forest High Road. After a quick stop in Freudenstadt, we drove to Alspirbach. We saw the monastery and the church. The monks in Alspirbach and other places have historically brewed beer. In 1877, the old abandoned brewery was purchased by Johann Glauner. He started brewing a beer that eventually became known as Alspirbacher. We were not able to do a brewery tour on this trip.
We continued on to Wolfach where we ate lunch at a café. After lunch, we wandered through the small picturesque town. We left for Triberg, and just outside of town, stopped at House of 1000 Clocks. We bought ourselves an anniversary present – a cuckoo clock. Triberg is in a valley with high hills on both sides. We drove on several scenic roads through St. Margaret and St. Peter on our way to the top of a small mountain. The drive back down was very steep and narrow.
Day Seven (9/15)
This was going to be another full day of driving with only a little sightseeing. We packed and left Rastatt at 9:30. We drove to Lanterbourg, France. Here, we noticed that the style of homes and buildings was starting to change. In Germany, we saw a lot of half-timber homes, but as we drove into France, we saw more stucco.
We drove through the corner of France and into Luxembourg, where the official languages are French and English (road signs are easier to read). Gas was much less expensive in Luxembourg so we filled up the car’s tank. Following highways 10 and 19 along the Sauer River, we drove to Diekirch. We visited the National Museum of Military History which focuses on the city’s role in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.
We continued on to Belgium and drove through more notable WWII towns – Clearvaux, Malmedy, St. Vith, and Bastogne. In 2002, we drove through the towns without stopping. When we returned to the area in 2015, we were on a WWII tour and learned much more about the these towns.
We drove past Liege and crossed into the Netherlands. We saw Thorn – the city of white houses. After a couple more hours of driving in the Netherlands, we arrived in Leeuwarden. We parked by a canal and walked to the home of distant relatives where we would be staying for the next couple nights. It was a long day – we were in five countries in one day.
We started our visit to the Netherlands in the northern part, in the province of Friesland. From there, we worked our way south, with several day drips along the way.