Bill and Faye were our first visitors from the states, and we were excited that they were coming. Finally, someone to share adventures with! As far as August weather goes, you just never know what to expect in Germany, so we told them not to bring any shorts and to definitely bring a sweater because it was getting cool at night. As it turns out, it was one of the hottest weeks of the summer.
The first day we tried to help them get over their jet lag by visiting Cologne's Cathedral "The Dom" and climbing 525 stairs to the top of one of the towers. It was a long haul but well worth it. We also toured the Chocolate Museum and unfortunately couldn't buy any "souvenirs" because we feared they would melt as we were not going directly home. Oh, the misery of it all. But Bill made it through the day by Faye promising him we would stop for ice cream! After work, Mike met us in Cologne for dinner, and Bill & Faye then experienced the infamous "Meter of Meat and Meter of Beer" at one of our favorite restaurants, the Haxenhaus.
The next day we packed our bags and headed south for "French speaking countries". Faye is a highschool French teacher you see. On our way to France we stopped in Bingen, Germany and took a riverboat cruise up the Rhine River thinking we could stay cool (remember about 99% of Europe is not air conditioned) and at the same time enjoy the beautiful scenery of quaint German towns that line the riverbank and once mighty castles overlooking/protecting the river and its peoples. After our Rhine cruise, we headed toward Strasbourg, France but didn't quite make it so we spent the night in Karlsruhe, Germany. Karlsruhe is the city where the German High Court sits.
After making our way to Strasbourg, we found it to be a charming city surrounded by the water of the Rhine. The origins of Strasbourg date back to the Romans who chose this site for a military camp. It was eventually conquered by barbarians in the 7th century and was named Strateburgum, a city at the Crossroads of Europe. During the Middle Ages, Strasbourg prospered under the control of the Holy Roman German Empire and became a well known printing city. In 1681, the city became part of the Kingdom of France and in 1949, Strasbourg became seat of the Council of Europe. It is also the seat of the European Court of Human Rights and the meeting place for the European Parliament. The city's main attraction is it's Cathedral with amazing paintings, statues and astronomical clock. The Cathedral took almost three centuries to build. Construction began in 1176 and wasn't completed until 1439 and up until the 19th century was the highest Christian building standing 142 meters high. There are many things to see & do in Strasbourg and unfortunately we barely scratched the surface as our time was so limited. After lunch and sightseeing, we were on our way to Luxembourg. We got a little sidetracked though.
As we were leaving Strasbourg, the landscape changed and we found ourselves in WINE country with rolling hills and gorgeous vineyards in every direction. Strasbourg is located in the Alsace region of France and this region is well known for its delicious wines. There is wonderful rural a road called "La Route des Vins D'Alsace" where you meander through small towns soaking up the scenery and taste wine all day long if you like. (We will revisit this topic with Mike's parents visit). As we had no set schedule, we decided to tour a vineyard, but weren't sure how one goes about doing such a thing. So, we stopped at the visitors center in a little town called Marlenheim and was given a brochure and map of all the vineyards in the surrounding area. The lady at the visitors center told us to just stop at a residence and ask if we could taste the family's wine. This seemed a little odd to us so we chose one of the restaurants on the brochure thinking we could kill two birds with one stone as we COULD eat again. We enjoyed a nice meal with a bottle of wine chosen for us by the proprietor to accompany our dinner. As we were paying the bill we asked how one goes about purchasing a few bottles of wine. We were told the house across the street was where we needed to go. Still feeling a little strange about going to someone's house at 8:00 pm unannounced, we walked across the road and knocked on the door. No one answered. Thinking we might have misunderstood the directions we started walking around the little neighborhood looking for who knows what. We consulted our little map that we got at the visitors center and walked around until we made it back to the original house. Still no one home. Earlier we noticed an older gentleman hanging out of his window watching us as we were walking through the little neighborhood and as we checked our map we realized his house was on there too. Getting braver we went to the house and let Faye do all the talking. She got us in the door! The lady of the house loved her and they talked (in French) for about two hours while Bill, Mike and Gabi tasted wine. And of course we bought a few bottles. Mission accomplished!! The proprietors name was Richard Specht and the vineyard has been in his family for many years. That evening we drove as far Metz, France and arrived around midnight exhausted.
Metz is a beautiful town that is divided into an upper and lower city by the Mosel River. We had breakfast and walked around for about an hour then climbed back into the car for Luxembourg. We lunched in Luxembourg and again walked around the city then headed back to Germany via the Mosel valley and somehow missed the town of Trier, the oldest city in Germany. We still don't know if it actually exists!! We made it back to our house late Sunday night after the whirlwind tour of Western Europe. Monday we were off to Brussels, Belgium and Frankfurt as Faye & Bill had a very early flight Tuesday morning.
Bill & Faye, thanks for the adventure, it was wonderful spending time with friends.
Mike, Faye and Bill on the riverboat:
Mike & Gabi at the ruin of Castle Rhinefels - Background is Mouse Castle:
Bill, Gabi & Mike at Dabo, France (another diversion):
Mr. & Mrs. Specht, Bill, Faye & Gabi in Marlenheim, France buying and tasting wine:
Gabi & Mike in Metz, France:
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