from Cochem to Cologne

Our first sunrise over Germany witnessed all four of us wide-awake – despite the late night and lack of sleep the past few days.  Gotta love jetlag!  We took advantage of the sleepy morning in Cochem – breakfast wasn’t served until 8:30 so by the time everyone was ready we had about an hour to wander.  Cameron and I walked over the bridge and roamed through more city streets commenting on all the culture differences and soaking in the morning sunshine.

SAM_0558{Cochem Castle protecting the town}

SAM_0561{selfie shots!}

SAM_0560{it still feels so strange to glance at signs and have genuinely no idea what they say}

SAM_0559{my handsome boy}

SAM_0562{every inch of the town is beautiful}

We stumbled upon a cute outside café – Espresso I.O. – and, despite it being only 7:30 in the morning it was already incredibly warm.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to communicate my Starbuck’s-y latte order in another language but Cameron’s black coffee we figured we could manage.  We greeted the barista in German and before we could start trying to order she switched to English – apparently we are dead give away for Americans…The English let me order a coffee too and I had one of the best vanilla lattes I’ve ever had!  Enjoying our coffee and biscuits on the patio, we heard a bit of English over all the German and saw a couple more Americans walking down the street.  They stopped and joined us for another coffee and a black tea 😉

Returning to the hotel for a breakfast of cold cuts, cheese, granola cereal, and hard-boiled eggs we were soon on the road to Burg Eltz.  A magnificently preserved castle from the Middle Ages, the Eltz family managed to save their home from destruction throughout the centuries by utilizing their web of political connections.  We began at the top of the hill and walked down the steep, steep path to the castle – nearly invisible until you were practical on top of it, nestled in a deep river valley.

DSC_0634{nestled in the river valley, Burg Eltz could control the Mosel River traffic from their vantage point}

DSC_0636{when we were standing at the viewpoint, admiring the castle, we heard bits of English coming up the path behind us!  it was a family touring from Idaho!  we exchanged family picture favors, naturally}

We got on an English speaking tour of the castle, which was the site of three separate households all originating from the Eltz family.  It was incredible how well preserved the household was considering the main beams in the dining room dated back to 14th century (and that’s just one example!).  The wealth of the family is evident by the fact they had an inside toilet for each four rooms (fancy-smancy) and a raised, curtained bed.

SAM_0573{outside view of Burg Eltz}

SAM_0581{inside the courtyard}

SAM_0569{view of the guard tower through the outer castle window}


{our resident Strongman 🙂 these were the cannonballs that attackers would lob into the courtyard – he made them look much lighter than they were!  i couldn’t even budge one}

SAM_0587SAM_0577{cafe at the castle}

Onward bound to Cologne we came across our first large German city.  Bustling and full of brands we recognized (Subway, H&M, etc.) we parked under the Cologne Cathedral and emerged from the underground parking lot looking directly up at the largest cathedral in the world.  The scale and incredible detail is impossible to describe or bind within the confines of a photograph.  The best I can compare is that it was like seeing a building in HD when the rest of the world is in SD.  The details were intricate and just simply unbelievable.

DSC_0657SAM_0595 SAM_0620 SAM_0621 SAM_0622

Moving behind the cathedral, we began to walk the Rhine River – busy with tourists, diners, and locals alike.  Eventually stopping to eat at LyLy’s outdoor patio (M, D, and C got cheeseburgers, I got a version of a pizza; the boys got beers and girls got the expensive water – what is Europeans aversion to water!?) before we walked through Germany’s first outside shopping mall.

SAM_0605{what I ordered at the LyLy Cafe}

DSC_0660{although we recognized many of the shop names because they were either American based or we have them in the states, this one was familiar for another reason…nearly says Kellie Bucher!  my mom’s dad told her they were German, here is the proof}

SAM_0593{hazelnut snack}

SAM_0610{it’s amazing how many Audis, BMW, Mercedes – fancy cars – we see here!  proof:  a Mercedes TAXI}

During an obvious stop at Starbucks, we found a Cologne Starbucks mug to add to my parent’s growing collection and Cameron and I got the first one for our collection of travels together!  (The tradition is to purchase a Starbucks city collection mug everywhere we travel.)  We stopped at 4711 – the original cologne that originated in Cologne.  The 4711 is in homage to the historical renumbering of the streets in the city of Cologne.  The company’s headquarters ended up being at the crossroads of 47th and 11th.  The original storefront remains and is part retail store, part historical display.  There was group of Italian tourists that entered the store ahead of us and were practically bathing in the water fountain display in the store.  My daddy then followed suit – and that’s when we discovered it wasn’t water coming from that tap…it was their signature cologne.  We just followed the smell of him for the rest of the day 😉

SAM_0614SAM_0616DSC_0670{it’s NOT water 😉 }

SAM_0615{Cameron asked for a translation and it means “I’m real, what are you?” in reference to the fact the cologne they make uses real Cologne water}

More shopping and sightseeing eventually took us back to the cathedral where we stepped inside (after first getting kicked out by the priest for our Starbucks cups…oops…priorities, folks).  The stained glass throughout the church could more than cover three full football fields and the cathedral took over 80 years to build.  Again, pictures could simply not capture the ornate detail and sheer size.

SAM_0626{my favorite stained glass window}

After checking in to our hotel, catching a quick nap (I should have been blogging but was justttt toooo tireddd…sorry!), and a failed attempt to find a drugstore (we still were without a straighter!!) we headed back to the Cathedral to catch a glimpse of it at night.  Around 10:30 the lights went on and it was magnificent.  We went across the train bridge (30 trains cross this bridge each hour, every hour, 365) to take some pictures and then walked back to our car, enjoying people watching through the nightlife of Cologne.

IMG_0001_2 photo1 (2)

SAM_0640{the bridge we took photos from was a kind of “lovers lock” bridge}


And we were soon moving on to continue our tour of the Rhine River area in Bacharach!

guten tag!

I’m going to begin with this:


Isn’t it simply beautiful?  The quaint German town of Cochem nestled peacefully on the banks of the Mosel River.  Steep rows of grapes line the sides of the valley while authentic restaurants and shops fill the town, the Cochem Castle perched protectively above it all.  It’s where we spent our first night in Germany and was so worth the exhausting travel to get there.  If only we got to begin with that…

Mom, Cameron, and I left Olympia at 3:00 am on Wednesday morning (thanks for driving us to the airport at that ungodly hour G&P!).  Dad was already in Indianapolis  for a meeting so his flight plan was a bit different.  After arriving at SeaTac, we were able to convince the gal at the United counter to check all three of our bags all the way through to Paris for free – an early morning win! 🙂 Made our way through security, stopped for the first Starbucks of the day and were soon on our way to Chicago!  3 hours and 45 minutes later, we landed in the Windy City.  As our first flight was domestic and the second international we needed to switch terminals requiring a classic ricky Chicago train ride (reminded me of the L train ride of a few years past!) and another pass through security.  We had a few hours of the layover left to kill before we needed to board our Are Lingus flight to Dublin so we wandered through the duty free shopping, found some band-aids, got some grub, tried to sleep bit, and got ready for the long haul across the Atlantic.  Dad meanwhile was venturing from Indy to Chicago where we almosssttt met up but his flight was late getting in so there wasn’t enough time before we needed to board.  We all left Chicago late Wednesday afternoon- the three of us for Dublin and he for Paris.

One international flight, a couple of meals (Irish beef stew w/ peas, and ham croissant), few shaky hours of sleep, we watched the Thursday morning sun come up over Dublin, Ireland.

Another layover, another Starbucks stop, another pass through security as we switched terminals (that’s THREE today for all y’all out there keeping track), and a first trip through Irish Customs (Cameron’s first passport stamp!!).  The shopping through the terminal was a fun reminder of our last international voyage to the UK; the familiarity of Boots, a cup of porridge for breakfast, and the sunny attitudes of the Irish people.  FINALY we boarded our last flight – Air France to Paris.  We were all so exhausted we were asleep before take off and bounced awake by the landing.  Welcomed by a beautiful Paris day – 28 degrees C and warm air was wonderful to walk off the plane too.  Our little puddle jumper flight landed in the middle of the airport, not near a terminal so we were bussed in to the terminal.  A second passport stamp was achieved and thankfully I remembered how to say parlez-vous anglais s’il vous plait Bleary eyed and dead tired we collected our baggage and somehow (miraculously) met Dad right outside the exit.

Edging on mid afternoon on Thursday in Paris, our journey was’t yet over for the “day” (we had no concept of what time it was here or home, there or where…!).  We collected our rental car, got the GPS translated into English, and hit the road.  Shortly after leaving the airport, the tummy started growling so we stopped off for a quick McD bite.  As we waited, Cameron and I wandered through the neighboring shopping – a strip mall type center that was just shopping for locals.  We use the nifty iPad app that lets us hold it up to any text or signs and it translates it on the fly for you – it certainly wasn’t perfect but it did an incredible job of giving us a great general idea of the sign or text.  Ahhh modern technology.  I <3 you.  Not many spoke any English but we got a kick our of the fact they were selling ostrich in the pet store!  New things.

We got back on the road (much easier for Daddy this time – he has to drive a stick but at least he is on the proper side of the road/car!).  C and I promptly fell asleep as we drove another five hours through Luxembourg and into Germany.  The Germany countryside looks comforting familiar, transitioning between landscapes that remind me of Eastern Washington to those that I drove by at home a few days ago.  The small villages are incredibly quaint and just quintessentially European!  (Side note, Leavenworth didn’t do a half-bad job at attempting a German village)

Finally arriving in Cochem, we checked into our hotel and I’m certain we delighted the group of people-watching German men smoking and gossiping on the porch.  Dad, Cameron, and I left a jet-lagged and motion sick mamma in Room 11 to venture out into Cochem for some late night wandering.  The town was a beautiful juxtaposition of bustling yet peaceful.  There was a life size chess board on the banks of the river, lights strung across the awnings of all the restaurants, many people eating on patios, and shops that climbed up the hill.  We wandered and enjoyed before sitting down to a meal of beer and delicious schnitzel.  Dad and I with cheese and tomato, Cameron with mushroom.


{our hotel for the night}

SAM_0542{hidden square – note the people watchers at the cafe!}

{the alleys between the shops never run straight and seem to twist and turn up the hill forever}

SAM_0540{beautiful storefront}

DSC_0612{Dad and Cameron’s first German beer}

{loving the subtle culture differences – like the different sounds of sirens}

DSC_0618{our restaurant as we were leaving}

DSC_0620{the entire city is art – the buildings, the shops, the squares}

By the end of the “day” we had traveled 6,280 miles, been awake for 38 hours, battled three security and two customs check points, been through five countries, and enjoyed some darn good schnitzel.  Tomorrow it was onto Cologne!

DSC_0629{saying goodbye to Cochem}