I’m finally going to sit down and write a bit about our time in Germany. I love the fact that while we are on the road I can blog and share a few pictures but it’s limiting in that the application sometimes crashes and it’s difficult to do lengthy posts “on the road”.
I also finally organized all the pictures we took – you know this whole digital thing has created a huge dilemma in that I don’t even think a second about taking multiple pictures of the same thing, that is until I get home and have to edit them – took me several hours!
We had a great time overall during our visit. It started by getting upgraded to first class on the flight over – what a treat! I thought the ticket price for coach was expensive at $1500 per ticket so we used frequent flier miles for Kent’s ticket and purchased mine. It’s unheard of to upgrade a free ticket so I was especially surprised at how nice the airlines were in that once they found out I was not traveling alone they upgraded both Kent and I! I looked up the price and it’s over $9,000 for a last minute roundtrip, non-stop, first class ticket from Seattle to Amsterdam! Now since Kent travels for business overseas he is used to this type of service – I on the other hand have only experienced first class on domestic flights. International first class was something to experience! Warm nuts, champagne, wine, comforters, pillows, meals on fine china – and the service…..sometimes when in coach and you are waiting for your little bag of pretzels or peanuts and a diet coke it seems like there are three attendants for 250 people. Not so in first class – the crew was practically tripping over themselves as they attended to our every need! I really was born to fly first class……I need an inheritance!
We purchased a rail pass to use in Europe since we were flying into Amsterdam and planned to take the train to Cologne and onto Berlin and Luxemburg. It really turned out to be the right decision. It’s a little confusing at first but once you figure out their system it’s the way to go! We purchased 2nd class seats and could pretty much get on any train. Once we learned the difference between the high speed trains and the local (slow) trains and how to make seat reservations – we were set! Their train system is amazing, frequent and timely. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for a train and because we had a pass we could literally get off and on pretty much any train we wanted as long as we were in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany or Luxemburg. The train station in must of the cities are centrally located to downtown – between the trains and the local metro’s I never felt that we should have rented a car.
The first day is always the most difficult due to the 9 hour time change. You always want to make it through without going to sleep to become adjusted to the new time zone as quickly as possible. We actually stayed in Düsseldorf which is located about 20 miles or so from Cologne which turned out nice. We actually really liked Düsseldorf a lot and with the train pass travel was fast and frequent. We stayed out there because we found a Marriott for 60.00 Euro a night and we typically like to stay there and earn reward points. (They pay off later when we are upgraded to the penthouse on our final night in Amsterdam!)
Opening Ceremonies for the Gay Games was a lot of fun and an amazing cultural experience! It was so much fun to run into folks from Seattle – most of whom we had never met. We actually met a few people that we will connect with now that we are home. It was also fun meeting folks from all over the world and being in an environment celebrating our diversity. The Gay Games is the biggest gay and lesbian sports and cultural festival in the world. Some 10,000 participants from more than 70 countries converged for the Gay Games VIII Cologne 2010 and celebrated the principles of participation, inclusion and personal best. The motto was “Be part of it!” And the invitation was open to everyone – regardless whether you are heterosexual or homosexual, male, female, transgender or transsexual, and regardless of religion, nationality, ethnic heritage, political convictions, athletic skills, physical capabilities, age or physical condition. How cool is that – reminds me that Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common and it should be celebrated every single day!
After we had been in Cologne for a few days we headed off for three days in Berlin which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip! The history alone between WWII and the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 made it feel like you were a part of world history especially since it’s so tied to the history of the United States. We visited all the major sites, took a Third Reich tour and visited the Berlin Wall. The City itself was amazing in that the majority of it was completely bombed in WWII and since the fall of the wall the city has done extensive building – it’s an amazing city that I would definitely revisit!
We took a couple of day tours – one to Luxemburg (to get another Country in) and one along the Rheine River for a day of castle viewing! Both were incredible. I’d definitely recommend a visit to Luxemburg, the Mosel Valley and the Rheine River in Germany.
I had some great running experiences while in Germany. The Country is so oriented to walking and biking and there are running and biking trails all over the place. I loved the opportunity to explore and see the Country on foot. I’ve written about the marathon experience so I won’t go into it more however I have to say what a thrill to take 16 minutes off my best marathon time and to qualify for Boston - I’ll never forget it!
We spent our last night in Europe in Amsterdam. It also happened to be Gay Pride in Amsterdam so although the parade was over we were able to see a few of the floats and partake in the celebrations occurring in the streets. Definitely want to get back to Amsterdam for their Gay Pride Parade!
Special thanks to all who sent notes of encouragement by phone, text, email, etc. and to my parents who stayed at our place and took care of both the yard and Toby. We are very lucky guys!