Holland-but not Amsterdam-1

Like many travelers, for me, Holland was equal to Amsterdam, until we did our great Germany-Holland road trip with our super car a few years ago. After a few days of traveling around the Rhein and Mosel rivers, with fine riesling tastes (Which you can read from my previous posts), we headed to further North on a Monday morning, in late August, leaving our 4-day-home in Unkel and moving to our new 4-day-home in Den Haag. Holland trip was first time for our son, but second time for us.

View form our room

View form our room

Before reaching our new home, our first stop was Utrecht. Utrecht is a very typical Holland city, lots of canals and lots of bicycles, tiny cafes and restaurants around the canals and a huge bell tower. It was about 12.00 noon when we parked our car and found ourselves by a canal and heard the musical sound of the bells. We first just lost ourselves on streets, looking, shopping and searching for something to eat. After lunch we took one of the canal boats to listen the tour guide about the city a bit and see anything if we have missed. And finally, at the last (and the first) stop of the canal boats, just across the canal there was a famous De Oude Munkelder a pancake restaurant where you find dozens of kinds of Pancakes. Our stomachs full we went on driving to Den Haag, to our hotel.

A few hours after leaving Utrecht, we were at our hotel, which was very convenient in parking (which is very important if you have a BMW 740) and were just by a little shopping area, with some nice restaurants by the lake.

Cows of Holland

Cows of Holland

The next day, we drove our car to west, to visit Rotterdam and Antwerp. It is a pity that I did not have much time to study these two nice cities in advance. So in Antwerp, we did not do anything special. Just wandered around, with the main principle of “follow the crowd”. We came across with a big pedestrian road of shopping area. Fine by me, not for “the boys”. After a few hours, we got on our car and drove to Rotterdam. Again I remember nothing special about the city, except the cubic houses and the tower we got on, so that we could view the city from one point.

View from the tower, in Rotterdam

View from Euromast-Space Tower, in Rotterdam

View from Euromas

View from Euromast-Space Tower, in Rotterdam

When we decided to return our hotel, we still had time to go around, so we decided to stop at Madurodam, I suppose it is among the first of the “mini cities” sights in the world. With our son, we have been to Mini Swiss in Lugano and Miniaturk in Istanbul before. We and our son love to visit these sights which provides chance to explore the culture and best places of the country. The canal houses, airport, concert hall, stories of water, flower gardens and much more to see.

The concert hall in Moduradam

The concert hall in Moduradam

Next day, we went to Amsterdam. With my husband, we have been to Amsterdam before, which we loved to visit, but with our son, it is not the best place to visit. Why? First of all, a BMW 740 is not a perfect car, to visit this city. We already knew that, it would be hard for us to park the car or drive in Amsterdam, so we decided to use public transport to go from Delft to Amsterdam for the day. Secondly, to visit Amsterdam, you either have to be a fast and long walker, or a good biker. Neither fits to our travel habits with our son.

First from the train station, we walked to Anne Frank Hus, in about an hour. When we got there, we saw a long long queue of tourists waiting to visit the museum. What a pity. As you can imagine, we decided not to visit the museum and tried to find a place to take the canal boats. However, it was already lunch time, so we first wanted to find some nice place to have lunch. With the help of our Eyewitness book, we found a very nice restaurant with lovely dishes. But again, we were not the only one who found it, so we came across with a very slow service. It was already nearly 4.00 pm, when we finally could find the first stop to get on the canal boats, which were supposed to be a hop-on-hop of tour, but unfortunately we did not have time for any “hop off’s”. So here is the “Do your remember game” of Amsterdam:

Me: What do you remember of Amsterdam?

Our son: Walking and tiring in boring streets.

Thanks God, I have a very dear friend living in Amsterdam, and he took us to a fine Turkish restaurant, where we enjoyed an evening and returned to our hotel with the comfort of his car.

Next: Our final day of our trip, Markem, Volendam and Zaanse Schans

 

Mosel river with Riesling tastes

Remember our super car adventure and our road trip to Germany. After a long and a fun day at Koblenz and tiny towns of Rhein, we decided to drive next day, further West from the shores of river Mosel. Mosel river meets, Rhein in the very center of the city of Koblenz. And both rivers provide scenic route to drive especially in late August and early September, when every little town organizes a local festival. Colorful people, tasty junk food on street, music and riesling wines. What on earth would a traveler ask for?

It was a nice but cloudy Sunday morning when we started our drive from our hotel in Unkel. We did not have any specific plan, except to drive by Mosel river and stop wherever we find interesting, until we reach to Trier. Our first stop was Alken, a very cute town by the river. But the main reason to stop was the “Apfelstrudel” sign on the main road. Well, as you may guess it was a perfect excuse to stop. I already loved Apfelstrudel but it was our son’s first time ever taste of it, and guess what! He is now a fan of it too.

Grapes everywhere

Grapes everywhere

Grapes everywhere

Grapes everywhere

After a very tasty Apfelstrudel, with cream and ice cream on top, and a nice coffee escorting it, we found some little shops and little streets to walk around. Then we drove further to find new towns on the way.

We passed again very nice little towns, but when we reached to Cochem, there was a huge crowd, music and nice smells. This is it, we said and parked our car to enjoy the music. Every little “Piazza” of the town was settled like a film set, colorful flags all around, a stage for the band to play and street food kiosks everywhere, with Riesling wine kiosk in the middle, surrounded by long wooden banks and tables. My choice was various garlic breads and “the boys'” choice were hot dogs with different kind of sausages, again with some Riesling wines.

 

Little towns of Mosel river

Little towns of Mosel river

After a few hours we left our hearts in Cochem and went back to our car, as our target was today to reach to Trier. Trier is a big city, which is as every big city, not so fancy to visit on Sundays. The streets were rather empty, except some crazy tourists like us and the shops were closed. So just like many tourists do we went to the Pont Negro (A huge stone building, mainly black, used as the main entrance of the city in the past) and took the touristic train to explore the city faster. (Since we travel with our son, it is always easy to take these trains, instead of forcing him to walk.) Than we stopped at Hauptmarkt, which is the main Piazza of the town, with some interesting shops (like the oldest Pharmacy) and sounds of Sunday church bells. After eating some snacks in a wine house, at about 6.00 pm, we started to drive back to Unkel.

On the way back, our navigation took us directly somewhere close to Unkel, but on the wrong side of the river!! With a little panic of what we will do, we found out that, we were headed to the ferry to cross the river. Thank god, it was not a rocket science to take the ferry. The tickets were sold on the ferry itself, and it was very often. So it was just the right time to have a fine dinner at our hotel, when we finally reached to Unkel.

Next: We will drive to North: Holland, but not Amsterdam

The shores of Mosel and Rhein rivers in Germany

Fine grapes

Fine grapes

The next two days of our North Rhein/Germany roadtrip of 2011 were full of visiting the small towns of the river with Koblenz and Trier. The area is one of the most romantic parts of Germany, famous with riesling wineyards, the little and picturesque towns of Rhein and Mosel rivers. Being a close neighbor of France, it is a French-like part of the country I can say.

On Saturday morning, we started our day by driving directly to Koblenz, about 50 km from our hotel in Unkel. Koblenz is a very strategic city, with “Deutches Eck”, the point where river Mosel meets river Rhein. After a little tour with our supercar, we found a nice parking place for our car and did a long walk in the “altstadt”, the old town part of the city. “Saturday” was everywhere, with a nice sunshine and lots of tourists around the city was lively. By midday, our son was already very very tires of walking around, so we decided to find a boattour on the river, which took us some time to find the right one that fitted for us (short enough, not to get bored and long enough to rest our feet). We took the boat of Markensburg company, which was about 2 hours return tour. Good thing was, it was possible to hop-on-hop-off on some towns that the boat stops, maybe to have lunch somewhere or enjoy some riesling wine. Bad thing on the other hand was, the towns that the boat stopped were not looking as if there would be a good restaurant in them, so we decided to stay on board and return to Koblenz.

When we got back, it was already 3:00 pm and we all were very hungry. Searching for a nice place to have lunch, we found a nice table at an Italian restaurant and settled down. After waiting a few minutes, we are told that the restaurant will be closed in a few minutes and reopen in the evening. What a pity, so we stood up, collected all our items, tried to find another restaurant, but it was not so easy, as we understood, all good restaurants were closed in the afternoons. After another hour of walking, we finally found a Cafe and could eat something.

Another attraction in Koblenz is the cable car, going over the river to high up more than 100 meters, to visit the Landesmuseum. Another bad news of the day was that, a ticket per person was €20, to use all day. So we decided that it was not a good deal to buy the tickets late in the afternoon.

What we decided to do instead is to take our super car and drive further south of river Rhein. We passed trough very nice towns one by one and we arrived to Braubach, where many tents of food and drink were surrounding long white tables to relax. While travelling, there is a very common rule; if there is a long queue, there must be something nice to eat there. We proved this once more, and waited in front of the tent with the longest queue.

Good smells

Good smells

And here it was fried curling potatoes with various flavors.

Yummy

Yummy

We ended the day with these tasties and returned to our hotel.

Do you remember game:

Me: What do your remember of Koblenz?

Our son: Where was that?

Me: In Germany, where we went to Rhein and Mosel rivers and little towns.

Our son: ???

Result: Lovely place to go but not so worth to remember for a 9-year-old.

Next: Roadtrip on Mosel river shores

Solingen and Zons in Germany

On our third day of North Rhein/Germany roadtrip, I’ve spent half of the day for business in Dusseldorf, while my husband with our son wasted their time at a mall, eating junk food. It was already 2 in the afternoon when I finished with my meetings with some advocate and so we did not have much choice to do somewhere far away. With the help of advice from our “eyewitness” book, we drove to Solingen and Zons.

Solingen is a little town of Germany very famous with its knives and blades for hundreds of years. It is about 30 km from Dusseldorf. Not much to see in the town but the Klingenmuseum, where hundreds of knives and other stuff are exhibited, introduce you to the world of blades. You can imagine how it can be interesting for a 9-year-old boy. Swords, rapiers, knives, weapons… very very big ones, very very small ones and very very old ones. Worth to spent a few hours.

Finishing with the knives, we had a few hours more to spend in the late evening, so we decided to go to another little town by the river Rhein, which is called Zons.

Little streets of Zons

Little streets of Zons

Zons is about 40 km far from Solingen. In the 13th-14th century a castle like high walls were built around the town and all the houses and the walls are kept in their original structure since then. With the help of rain, dark clouds and empty streets of Friday afternoon, there is nothing to think that you are not in 14th century.

Walls of Zons

Walls of Zons

Tiny houses are very well kept

Tiny houses are very well kept

The most interesting thing was, we went trough all the streets one by one (which does not take more than an hour) we did not see more than 6 or 8 people on the streets. I wonder how dark and silent it would be in the long winter days of Germany.

 

Finishing the day in Zons, we went back to our hotel and enjoyed a fine dinner at the restaurant of our hotel Rheinhotel Schultz.

Next: Koblenz and other little towns by the river of Rhein

Phantasialand Theme Park, Bruhl, Germany

You probably know by now that, in all our road trip holidays, we reserve a full day to a theme park. Phantasialand is a perfect one for a family like us. Big, colorful and full of activities.

Carousel

Carousel

Unfortunately, as usual, we could not wake up early in the morning and moreover our navigation had hard time to find the right way, due to some construction sites on the road. Therefore, it was nearly mid day when we got to the park. The queues of the rides had already started.

Phantasialand is the largest theme park in Germany and has 6 different themes inside: Phantasy, Deep in Africa, Berlin, Mexico, Mystery and China Town. Each one of them is as big as a small theme park. Each one has a variety of rides and attractions both for little children and one for teenagers. Each one has a variety of restaurants from fast food to a la carte. Simply, to try all the rides at least once, you have to allocate two full days. So we decided to skip the 6 teenager rides (named 6 dragons) with long queues and of course the rides for “little ones”.

Starting with China Town, we went trough each section. Some were perfectly good for us all, like Wellenflug, Tikal or Maus au Chocolat (Specialty of summer 2011) that they did not have much queue, so we did ride a couple of times. Some of them on the other hand were a totally waste of time, like Wakobato (an interactive water boat attraction), where we waited for more than half an hour and was a great disappointment.

 

20s' Berlin

20s’ Berlin

It was already around 7:00 pm, when we departed from the park, tired and hungry. We directly drove to Königswinter and found a very nice Italian restaurant, named Franco, with a few on street tables, where we had a happy ending for the day.

Next to come: Solingen and dormigen-zons.

Rheinhotel Scultz in Unkel-Germany

Arriving to Germany, getting our super car of 740, and after an afternoon in Köln we headed to our hotel in late afternoon that we were gonna stay for 5 nights. I chose to stay in Unkel because, it was in the middle of all the places we wanted to go. Our plan was to go to Phantasialand, Dusseldorf, Koblenz, Trier and some other small Rhein towns around. Unkel just fitted with all our expectations, with a 150 year old mansion hotel of Rheinhotel Shultz.

Entrance of the hotel

Entrance of the hotel

We were welcomed by a smiling staff who very quickly provided our keys. Passing trough long long corridors, some stairs and some elevators, there we were finally in our room. A typical 17th century building: high ceiling, tick walls, tall windows, old style decoration and a view of the river Rhein. Most importantly, a very convenient underground parking safe for our 740 BMW.

The main and in my problem, the only problem of staying in Unkel is, it is a very very small village, and other than the hotel restaurant itself, there are not many alternatives to eat. For the first evening we drove to Königswinter, which is a much larger town about 6 km. from Unkel, and had a very fine dinner in an Italian restaurant. The second evening we tried the restaurant of the hotel. A perfect view, perfect ambiance and perfect meals. Very good for a hotel like this. But the third evening, tired of travelling all day, we arrived to the hotel restaurant, very hungry and learned that it was closed due to an occasion (as far as I remember, some wedding). So upset, we found some weird wine bar around, where an old man was playing and singing 70s with no cheer at all and some old couples were dancing on the stage, half dead. So we had our meals with “I just called to say I love you” sounds and ran away as soon as we could.

 

Inner garden of the hotel

Inner garden of the hotel

What we did in the other days? Phantasiland and Rhein Town festivals soon to come

An afternoon in Köln

Köln

Köln

Germany probably would be number 2 in our top 10 list of countries we love to visit. (Italy is number 1 and Switzerland is number 3) First of all everything is in order. No hassle of people, not much traffic, clean and tiny, no complicated parking signs, nice nature, nice history (to some extend), nice palaces and museums to visit, nice restaurants, nice outdoor activities and nice cars (which is probably the most important for the boys of my family) with less speed limit.

I have told about how we got our brand new 740 in my previous posts. So after about an hour from the airport, we were in the center of Köln, parked our car and ready to explore this typical European town. You know what I mean by “typical” right? A river, a church, an “altermarkt” and lots of old buildings. Sounds like very boring, but this is exactly what we love in the old towns of Europe. Just to walk on old stone roads, people watch activity in cafes and walk lazily, between the shops, all of which were possible in this Saturday afternoon of Köln.

I had been to Köln twice before, for business purposes, so I knew exactly what we could do. After visiting the Dom, (Not difficult to find, as you can imagine), we did a short walk following the crowd of people, which as we guessed took us a nice shopping street. Than we headed to the altermarkt and  walked down by the river of Rhein with some stops at interesting parks like this:

Köln

Walking by the river Rhein

After exploring around a few hours with some summer rains, it was time for a late lunch/early dinner, so we just stopped at one of the many cafes overlooking the river shores, name Bierhaus am Rhein, found a table at the balcony of the upper floor, and enjoyed our meals together with sunset.

After lunch/dinner, we headed to our hotel at Unkel, which was another hour drive from Köln and settled in our room at Rheinhotel Schultz which will be the subject of my next post.