Day 14: To Groningen and Beyond

Now waiting at Hbf (too lazy to spell the whole name) train station in Cologne, while sipping on my Java Chip Frap. Today’s such a nice day out today, so I’m sitting on the patio. It’s sunny and there’s a nice breeze today so it isn’t hot at all. The first two days here I was sweating buckets and the AC in the hotel wasn’t exactly very strong.

Just got approached by a row of homeless people.  There’s 3 of them going to table-to-table asking for change; in German of course.  Just shook my head and they moved on to the next table.  I find that homeless people in Europe are a lot more active than the ones in Toronto.  But, they also look a lot more miserable.

Well! Goodbye Cologne!

… (Hours later in Groningen)

I took 2 connecting trains.  First one was in Arhem and then in another one in Zwolle before ending up in Groningen.  Called my aunt once I landed – whom I’ve never met in my life – and she told me to take the number 3 bus that would head near their street.  I hopped on and used my Google Maps to figure out which stopped to get off.  Google maps has little icons that says where’s the stops, and I just got off at the stop near my uncle’s street.

When I got off I was greeted by 4 little Dutch kids! I had no idea what they were saying but pretty sure it was something along the lines of welcome.  The smallest one wanted to help me with my luggage but I couldn’t let a 40 lbs boy carry and 40 lbs suitcase.  Luckily my uncle only lives on the 2nd floor of his apartment so it wasn’t all that hard to carry it up.  My uncle wasn’t home yet so my aunt helped me settle in and I hung out with my newly discovered cousins in the living room while I unpacked my stuff into my room.

First thing I did was get my internet working on my phone so I could use Google Translate! Thank you Google for making this trip to Groningen possible! When my uncle got home it was a little easier since he understands some English and Cantonese.  He helped me translate a lot of thing on the spot and I’ve already picked up a bit of Dutch now.  For dinner we had some vegetarian lasagna, since my uncle’s a vegetarian Buddhist.

After dinner my uncle took me around the area.  He has this garden in his area that he shares with his neighbours.  It’s pretty cool.  Each household gets a small plot of soil and can grow whatever they want.  We ended up picking some green peas and lingonberries.  Later we went to go pick up some of the Netherlands’ famous french fries.  They’re REALLY good here.  Especially with their mayonnaise and satay sauce.

Day 13: After Gaffel Packing Time

I didn’t really do much today.  It rained all day so I pretty stayed at the hotel.  I ended up eating at the StaV again and got the same curry sausage with fries.  It’s so good.  Gonna miss this dish.  I also ended up getting Cologne’s famous beer, Gaffel.  Comes in these small skinny glasses, the one I tweeted about was the 0.2 litre glass.  Much cheaper than water!

I spent most of the day editing the photos from yesterday and cleaning up my hotel room before I leave for Groningen, Holland to visit family.  Figured out how to walk from here to the train station so I should be okay tomorrow morning when I check out.  Hopefully it doesn’t rain.

Anyway, I’ll check in tomorrow after I settling in Groningen.  Hopefully I’ll have better internet there, then I can upload some video from Paris that I haven’t had a chance to.  I didn’t take too many pictures today, only went out for an hour-ish before it started raining but here they are.

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Day 12: Foods of Cologne & The DOM

Breakfast Sandwich Had my first breakfast in Cologne today.  The hotel has a free breakfast bar that services various buns and what looks like that fruit that kids getting in cans from Del Monte.  You know, the one with the grape, cherries, peaches, apples, in that really sugary soup.  Lots of cold cut meats to choose from.  Fruit Bowl And tons of different types of liverwurst. Yum!  I actually had to wake up really early for this, earlier than I usually wake up.  9AM! Much too early.  But, it was worth it.  Had my breakfast then headed out.

Most of the major tourist attractions are near my hotel.  There’s Open Markt which is this huge patio filled with bar after bar after bar.  Then there’s the church here in Cologne called Dom.  It’s probably the largest church I’ve seen in my life.  Bigger than the Notre-Dame, but with even more beggars.  Probably even taller than the one in Quebec, Saint-Anne.   I didn’t really plan my trip here, but when I walked in there was a booth that had guides waiting.  I got an English guide and was bunched with 5 other people.  You can’t see most of the church without a guide, so it was worth the 6€.  The architecture was really unique.  You could feel the German in it.  Definitely much more different than what I noticed with the Notre-Dame.

There’s one thing about Europe I haven’t been able to understand though.  Throughout Paris and Cologne, I’ve noticed that a lot of homeless people have dogs.  Like, why would they feed a dog when they can barely feed themselves.  There are adoption centres in Paris and in Cologne.  I know they might be lonely, but what good is company if you can’t even live to take care of that company.

Alt-Kanzler-Filet Schröder Art Anyway! For lunch I ate at the restaurant attached to my hotel again.  I honestly love this place.  Price-wise it’s not too bad, looking at the menu it isn’t too far off from Paris, but my wallet doesn’t feel too burdened.  Portion-wise it’s better than Paris though.  I ended up getting this awesome dish called Alt-Kanzler-Filet Schröder Art.  Don’t even ask me how to pronounce it.  I couldn’t begin to try.  But it taste great! It’s a dish with a German sausage covered in German curry sauce and seasoned with spices, and it comes with Germany famous french fries.  Yes, the fries here are to die for.  Almost as much as the fries used in Poutine out in Quebec! Definitely eating anything with potatoes is a must here in Germany.  Oh, and then to top off my meal, I got an apple pie with ice cream.  So, yum!

Honestly, this isn’t my favourite way to enjoy a town.  I much rather stay somewhere a bit more long term.  Maybe a week or two.  Getting to know the local life really changes your perspective about a city, might even make you appreciate the tourist life a bit more.  But, also the other advantages is not paying those extravagant tourist inflated prices.  Right now, finding a decently priced bottle of water in this area is hard.   Cheapest is like 2€ for 0.5 litres.  I miss my local 80 cent 1.5 litre bottle of Evian in Paris.

I’m really not all that interested to see the sights here.  Just wanna relax before I head off to Holland and then Asia.  I have about 1 more week here in Europe.  But, even though I’ve only been to 2 cities so far, I definitely want to make another trip to another area in Europe.  Maybe head south next time, or north.  Such a difference between Asia and North America.  There’s just too much to see and experience.

Here are the photos from today.  Enjoy!

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Day 11: To Cologne (Köln)

I’m on my way to Cologne now, having some breakfast at L’Alizé.  It’s a small restaurant inside of Gare du Nord.  I don’t think I mentioned this before but Gare du Nord is basically where all the high-speed trains stop in Paris.  It’s at least one of the major stations, kind of like Union station in Toronto.  I’m taking my usual train around central Europe, Thalys.  It’s the fastest high-speed train they have in Europe, and it can be very cheap if you book your ticket 15 or 30 days in advance.  I’ll explain tips on booking train tickets in another post.  I’ll probably make a tips section sometime soon.

… (hours later)

I made it to Cologne (Köln).  I somehow managed to sleep a bit on the train but it was really uncomfortable.  After getting off the train I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address to my hotel.  It was so silly! My hotel was literally 100 meters away from the train station, I probably could’ve walked.  But the tab was only 6€.  The hotel I’m staying at is really nice.  Its called St. Martin Rhein Hotel.  The view I have is great and the area is really lively.  Lots of restaurants down below, kind of like le quartier latin in Paris, but somehow it feels a lot more different.  The only downside to this hotel so far is that there’s no elevator.  I struggled carrying my 40lbs suitcase up to the third floor.  Overall though it’s really good.  The front desk people are really friendly and helpful.  Also, after my initial check of the room, I have to say, it’s really clean!

Wiener and Pretzel After grabbing some famous German wieners and a pretzel I walked around the area around my hotel.  My first impression of Cologne is it’s awesome here; granted this is a tourist area.  In comparison to Paris, I think I like it here a bit more, but we’ll see what I find in the following days.  This place actually reminds me a lot of Hong Kong’s better shopping areas.  Just outside my hotel there’s a nice quay or wharf.  I get a decent breeze into my room so it isn’t too hot and the view is a good addition.  And also, there’s lot of really good live music playing all over the area.  However, I hope it stops around after 11, I’d like to get some sleep.

I had no idea about this either but there’s a rather large Chinese disaporic community in this area.  Actually, quite a few waiters I’ve seen around the hotel are Cantonese-Chinese.  I had one of the waiters come up to me and ask if I was Chinese.  Ended up having a conversation where he spoke Chinese and replied back in English with a lot of sign language.  But, it’s even more impressive when they start speaking German.  At least to me, the German here sounds so much nicer then what Hollywood likes to show us.

After walking around for a bit, I stopped by Starbucks to get a Java Chip Frap with soya (or soja pronounced the same way).  Cost me a pretty 4€ slightly cheaper than Paris!  It was quite nice there, quiet too.  Sat down a surfed the net for a bit.

Here are some photos I took while walking around town.  I saw this Asian buffet place while walking around, might actually eat there tomorrow.  I haven’t touched Asian food in like 2 weeks now, having withdrawal!

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