We spent today driving in the Mosel valley. I have never seen so many vineyards as I did today. Around 95% of the grapes are for Riesling wines. I can’t imagine how busy it is in this region the first week of September which is when it is harvest time. I still don’t understand how they pick all of the grapes and one of the wineries has the steepest vineyard in the world. Most of the work they are doing now is just cutting the grass down.
We stopped in a couple of cute towns. One of my favorite sights was in a town called Trier. There is a lot of history in this town including that it used to be the head of the Roman Empire. They have a gate there called the Porta Nigra which is the largest gate remaining north of the alps.
At the very end, we drove to a castle that was pretty far off of the river and the highway. The castle is still privately owned and the family currently lives near Frankfurt. The Eltz Castle is in great condition and is still open for tours. You can’t take pictures inside but we did enjoy a tour in German. We got there at the end of the day so there were hardly any people at the castle which made it very pleasant.
We spent the entire day driving along the Rhine yesterday. At some point, I will learn that a quick stop in a town isn’t a quick stop because I really enjoy walking the quaint little streets. We drove down one side, took a ferry to the other side and drove back. They have a nice road right next to the Rhine for cars. Every town we stopped in was very quiet and sleepy. Not sure if we beat all of the tourists to the area or what, but parking was never an issue.
We took a cable car ride over vineyards to the top of a hill for a view point. We saw so many castles throughout the day that I lost count. We then ended in Koblenz where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet. It was a good day of driving but it was very long.
We started the day thinking we would drive along the Mosel Valley which is a wine route along the Mosel River. As we started driving and seeing signs for Luxembourg, we thought maybe we should go there first. We originally thought we might go there if we had time at the end of the drive but then it sounded nice to drive to the furthest point first and then make our way back. It was a good thought until we didn’t leave the city until after 3.
So we spent a good majority of our day walking around the city. I may have spent a couple of minutes making wrong turns or ending up in a bus lane but I eventually made it back out of the city. I’m very happy we found a parking spot at the train station and walked the 20 minutes into the city. I wouldn’t have been very happy to park in the center.
We left Brussels, Belgium yesterday and drove to Andernach, Germany. Andernach is a small town on the Rhine River. We are using this town as a base to explore the areas around Andernach.
Since we would have some time before being able to check in, we decided to stop at an American cemetery that has over 5,000 Americans buried from WWII. Ardennes American Cemetery is an unique cemetery as it served as the central identification point for the entire European Theater of Operations from the last days of the war until 1960. Over half of fallen war hero’s are from the US Army Air Force.
Probably one of the reasons I have enjoyed Brussels so much is the street art and food. They have over 1,400 different beers in Belgium but that wouldn’t make me want to come here. But the chocolate and waffles are some of my favorite so it is hard to not try them all. They also have some nice murals on the buildings that make it more colorful. I like the colorful buildings especially since we have had to gray skies.
We spent the day walking around Brussels. This is my first visit to Brussels and I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of people ask me before coming here on why I was visiting Brussels. It gave me the impression that it wasn’t a very nice city to visit. But I found a lot of charm to the city. It feels more like a city to live in than just a tourist stop. Of course there are a lot of tourists and this is the capital of the European Union but it is very walkable and clean city.
They have one of the most beautiful squares I have ever been to. The buildings are very large and renaissance architecture. I could spend a lot of time in the square just looking at the buildings and all of the people. We visited their famous statue of a little boy peeing on the way to the square. It amazes me how many people take a picture of a little statue. They actually dress the little boy in different costumes and today, he was wearing the soccer jersey from Barcelona. Yesterday, he was wearing the Tour de France yellow jersey. They are very excited here because the Tour starts in Brussels this year.
The first day in Belgium was spent by taking a train an hour to Bruges. We were going to drive there but since it was so hard to park in Brussels we decided to just take the train and not bother getting the car out.
Bruges is a very cute city. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It was a little rainy but not too bad. We took a boat trip on the canal which was very interesting. Our driver was very good at explaining his city and the history. They built the city before the canal was there and then they let the water in. Bruges also didn’t have any damage from the wars so the town is very old but everything is in very good shape. As with a lot of European cities, the houses used to be taxed based on the number of windows. Some of the houses still have the windows bricked over even though they don’t tax on windows anymore. Also, some of the houses will have a very small window at the top. Those windows were for pigeons to bring messages during the war.
Bruges is a great day trip option. The boat canal trip was fun and short. It was pretty impressive that they take the boat under some of the bridges. Some of the people had to duck to not hit their head. I don’t think I ever get bored walking by all the chocolate and waffle shops. I have never seen so many chocolate shops in one day!
I have split my sabbatical into two different trips. Now it is time for the four week Europe trip which will cover a little bit of Germany, Belgium and Portugal. We flew from Portland to Frankfurt through Iceland. We left Portland an hour late and eventually we missed our connection in Iceland. Lucky for us, the airline already booked us on other flights before we even landed. We would have to fly to London and then on to Frankfurt. The trip would take an additional 4 hours but it was no big deal.
Once we landed in Frankfurt, I got a text message that our luggage didn’t make it. We went to the service desk to report our luggage didn’t arrive but the person said they had information that it did. We were told that before we could file a report, we would have to go wait for all the luggage to be delivered before we could report our missing luggage. So we had to wait an additional 30 minutes for the board to say they were done unloading and then we filed our report. They said our luggage was still in Iceland but we could have it the next day. We arranged for our luggage to be delivered to our next hotel in Brussels, Belgium.
After a good night sleep at the hotel by the airport, we picked up our car and started driving west towards Brussels. Halfway between Frankfurt and Brussels is Cologne, Germany. I have some family friends that live near there and arranged to meet them at their son’s soccer game. We watched the soccer game and then headed into the city to see the cathedral and have some lunch at a typical German pub. We then drove to their house and watched the final Bundesliga match of the season and ate homemade cake. It was great to visit even if it was such a short time. It is hard to believe that I haven’t seen them since 2002.
We got back in the car for the second part of the drive which took a little longer than expected due to a freeway closure and then roads closed in Brussels. We made it here a bit before 10 PM so it was a very long day. Luckily our luggage arrived shortly after us so everything was good.
The trip is coming to an end, and we’re getting ready for the long flight home. I really didn’t know what to expect on this trip since this is the first South American country I have visited. I really have a lot of appreciation for Argentina and it has spectacular beauty. I would easily recommend Argentina to anyone looking to visit South America.
I will leave you with my favorite parrot pictures from Brazil. The is what I look like on vacation:
And this is what I look like thinking of going back to work on Monday:
We have spent the last couple of days exploring Buenos Aires more before heading home. After walking ten plus miles each day, I still don’t feel like I have seen everything. As crazy as the drivers are here, I would have to admit that you can usually figure out what they will do. Buses will honk at you when crossing the street and I’m pretty sure they don’t have any intention of stopping if you don’t hurry up. We have seen lines for buses that must be 50 people long but they have a very organized line. Their regular busses (picture below on left) look pretty new and colorful. Their school busses (picture below on right) look like they are 40 years old and have curtains. I’m pretty sure they don’t have AC on the school busses and even saw one driving with the door open. I do like the curtains though.
I have enjoyed walking around the city getting a sense for daily life. It is loud and chaotic but they do have plenty of parks to escape to. We walked to the river (Rio de la Plata) which is very brown. Uruguay is on the other side of the river but it is about 18 miles to cross it.
I know how this dog feels after walking around Buenos Aires. My feet are ready for a break.