Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Monday, August 05, 2013


I took a couple vacation days after traveling to Germany for work last week to allow us to spend some extra time in Germany and to meander back to Paris through the beautiful borderland of Alsace. We booked a hotel in Cologne, Germany for the first couple days of the trip since I need to be in nearby Dusseldorf. Cologne (Koln in German) is known for its giant cathedral that overshadows a city that was almost entirely destroyed (95%) in World War II. We took long walks in the evening along the river and ate way too much sausage (Chris) and spectacular pretzel croissants (why, why are these not available in the U.S.?).

Koln Cathedral
 Old town Koln and views of the Rhine River
 Near our hotel was a sculptured rock splash pad, which Fiona LOVED.

After Koln, we drove a couple hours through traffic to Heidelberg, a hilly city with a ruined castle looming over its old town. The following morning, we hiked the cobbly pathway up the hill, made that much worse by Fiona's jostling stroller, then cooled off with breezy views of the river. When we checked out of our hotel room on the third floor of an Irish pub, we somehow left behind Fiona's favorite toy and my phone charger. It took me a good half hour on the drive to get over those losses.
 View from the street outside our hotel room
After Heidelberg, we drove to the university town of Freiberg. The sun was blistering, and we passed so many people dipping their feet in the "bachle," small runnels of water wandering through the town from the Dreisam River, that we couldn't help but dip ours and Fiona's dusty toes into the water. We also visited the beautiful church and the requisite beer garden, where the most memorable moment came when we thought we had ordered a pasta dish, and it turned out to be shredded baloney.

Chris and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary in Freiberg, and for good measure, Fiona decided to stay up until 10:30pm. Thank you, Fiona. After Freiberg, we veered off the highway and took back roads into the gorgeous Alsace region which is the borderland between France and Germany. I wish I had snapped a couple pictures from the car of the mountains looming over the tidiest pastures and farm fields I've ever seen. Chris and I both have ancestors from the area, and we remarked in disbelief (and simplicity) on how anyone could leave such a beautiful area.
We stopped for lunch in the picturesque village of Colmar, Germany and then continued onward to Strasbourg, France.

From Colmar to Strasbourg, we wound through small town after small town with flowers gushing out of window boxes, vines entwining latticed framework and tiered pots of violent color hugging every door frame. I am not one for dramatics, but it was almost too much, too stereotypically beautiful. I unfortunately don't have any pictures to back up this gratuitous description.

Due to the heat (or not), Chris had a deep hankering to hit some water, and as we sped along the winding road that hugged the Rhine at a kilometer's distance, we finally spied some kindred spirits bobbing in a small, shady stream. Chris turned the car around, woke Fiona from her carseat nap, stripped her down, and the two of them lazed in the water, while I dipped my toes and collected striped rocks.
We arrived in Strasbourg, France and immediately set out to explore the city. I don't know how to describe it, except as an exceptionally underated, beautiful city, somehow Bavarian and French at the same time.
We grabbed a beer near a fountain/splash pad (what are these called?), where Fiona was first entertained by the kids playing and then irate that she wasn't in the water. Chris and I took turns swinging her through the water and dragging her back to our table after she would comically crawl within the tangled confines of her dress in a gimp limp fashion towards the gurgles.

Fiona making her way towards the water (for the umpteenth time)
 Street view of our hotel
The long drive home was exacerbated by an extremely fussy Fiona (to the point where we pulled over by the road, purchased food at a grocery store and fed her strips of Gouda cheese on a nearby grassy knoll). We did stop briefly at Verdun to visit the WWI memorial and then had another horrendous rental return experience at Gare du Nord.
It was an incredible trip, overall. I feel a kinship to the area we visited, maybe due to our prior trip to Germany in 2008, my years of high school German classes or knowing that I have family who made the long haul to America from this very land.


Blogger The Charlebois said...

You guys are having the greatest adventures! I laughed out loud twice during this post: Once at the shredded bologna, and once at Fiona's late night on your anniversary! Ha ha!

11:23 PM  

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