Friday, April 10, 2009

Dos Equis Euro Tour 2009

As I type this, we are in the city of Freiburg. It is about 10:00 at night and Terry, Lyle, Tammy and Ron have all gone out for a nightcap and to check on the local nightlife. I am officially ‘beered-out’ (nothing against the beer - just can only drink so many), so have bowed out of the remainder of the evening to hunker down and bring you up to date on our European tour so far.

We left Vancouver on April 6th at 6:45 p.m., after a hectic day of wrapping things up (packing up the motor home, dropping the motor home off at Barry & Vicky’s house for safe keeping, dropping the cats off at the cat hotel, etc.). Then it was ‘hurry up and wait’ at the airport.

We flew with KLM Royal Dutch airlines, and were very impressed with the service. We both tried to fit a little sleep into the flight so we wouldn’t be as jetlagged, but no luck.

We arrived in Amsterdam for our 4-hour layover at 1:15 p.m. The Amsterdam airport is big – it was a 24-minute walk to our next boarding gate (they have signs advising of the walking distance between gates).

Here's a shot of the beautiful tulips for sale at one of the stores in the Amsterdam Airport!

We managed to find some lounger chairs that we could spend our waiting time at, and attempted to fit in a nap. I got up to freshen about an hour before our next flight, and left a book on my seat to indicate it was taken. Terry, unfortunately, reported waking up a little bit later to find a ‘family of Iranian terrorists’ (or so he said) had taken over the chair beside him.

We departed Amsterdam at 5:15 p.m., and flew in a small ‘Focker 50’ twin-prop plane (I’m serious – that’s what it was called). We arrived in Bremen at approximately 6:30 p.m. Lyle, Tammy and Ron met us at the airport.

We picked up our rental van (it is a sweet ride – a black, 7-passenger Mercedes diesel van; I call it ‘the beast’), and drove to Dorverden, the small town where Lyle has been living and working since the New Year.

We stopped briefly to see his new horse, Landiana, and the barn that he works out of,
then drove to Lyle’s place (he lives in a house with seven girls), had a couple of German beers for a nightcap, and called it a night. Lyle had booked us rooms in a great little hotel nearby (turns out that the building we stayed in used to be the town’s original schoolhouse).

We went to bed at about 10:30 p.m., German time. It was a long day (literally), so we crashed immediately, but woke up in the night (our internal clocks are off by 8-hours), finally gave up the ghost at trying to get back to sleep and got up at 5:00 a.m.
We had a great breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and decided to explore the town on foot. (Above is a picture of Terry enjoying an after-breakfast shot of 'jagger' that we purchased from the local drugstore.)

It is beautiful place – lovely red brick buildings, small farms, old churches – very European, as Terry so aptly put it. We met up with Ron & Tammy, picked up Lyle and drove into nearby, Verden (a larger centre) for a tour of the town,

and then returned to Dorverden so we could watch Lyle jump his new horse, Landiana.

Later that night, we met Horst and his wife and had a great supper at our hotel’s restaurant. Turns out that we lucked into the start of asparagus season, which is a big crop for the local farmers. We enjoyed a huge feed of white asparagus and hollandaise sauce. So far, the food, beer and wine have not disappointed us. In addition, the German hospitality has been second to none. The people here are extremely friendly – very different from the cold, distant stereotype that we associate the Germans with.

After Horst and his wife left, we officially launched the start of our ‘Dos Equis’ Euro Tour 2009, with the distribution of the t-shirts that Terry and I had picked up in Mexico. The ‘Dos Equis’ refers to the fact that our Euro tour is comprised of two ‘ex-spouses’ travelling with their respective new partners. We acknowledged that both couples had been taking a lot of heat over the fact that we were travelling with the ‘ex’es’ and how unusual the situation was.

The next day, we headed south to Nesselroeden to visit Lyle’s trainer, and check out his first ‘tour of duty’ in Germany, riding and training at a barn there before he went to Verden. We hit the Autoban, and cranked ‘the beast’ up to 150 when we were able. Unfortunately, we happened upon a traffic jam (turns out there had been an accident WAY down the road) that slowed vehicle traffic for about 25 miles. There was a line-up of commercial trucks that was unbelievable. So much for making time on the Autobahn!

The drive was unbelievably beautiful – rolling hills, quaint small towns, the occasional castle … We stopped to tour Plesse Castle, which was very close to Gottingen, and enjoyed a beer at the on-site restaurant.

From there, we made our way down to Duderstadt, and stopped to tour the scenic town. Again, it is another very quaint, beautiful German town, but with a more scenic countryside than Dorverdan.

That night, we met Heinrich, Lyle’s trainer, and his wife and two daughters at our hotel’s restaurant, and enjoyed another great German meal. Later Heinrich had us over for drinks and a visit. After hearing that both Tammy and I were still suffering from Jetlag, he provided us with some medication that he uses when he travels over to Canada. We both took a couple of tablets, and reported sleeping soundly till the morning. This was a nice change – no more being wide awake at 4:00 a.m. and turning into the walking dead by 8:00 at night!

The next morning we stopped by Heinrich’s barn to say goodbye, and headed south. We weren’t really sure of where we wanted to go, but after consulting our travel books and relying on Heinrich’s recommendations, we decided to travel to Freiburg, which is located on the edge of Germany’s famous Black Forest area, and quite close to the Germany/Switzerland border.

Freiburg is a larger center, with a population of around 200,000. It is home to a large community of university students, so there is quite a young atmosphere there. The town has some very interesting architecture (much of it classified as medieval), and stone-lined channels that run alongside the streets. We toured around and saw the amazing Munster (cathedral), which is presently undergoing a renovation.

As it was Good Friday, the cathedral was closed for touring. Lyle, however, decided to venture in and observed a bit of the Good Friday service that was taking place. When he left the cathedral, he noted that a lot of the people attending the service were crying and wondered if they were acknowledging some kind of disaster. We confirmed his theory with a bit of a lecture on the biblical events surrounding Good Friday, and why the devout Catholics would be emotional!

It was a beautiful, warm evening, and we enjoyed a meal at an outdoor restaurant before touring around the inner city and stopping at a few interesting spots for beers.

We’re going to stay here for two nights, and will take the day tomorrow to tour around the city a bit more, and then take a drive through parts of the nearby Black Forest. There are a couple of gondolas that take you up into the mountains and have some amazing views that we want to check out.


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