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European Tour

May 23rd, 2007

It’s good to get off the radar every once in a while.  12 days ago, Allison and I looked online for flights to Europe.  Finding a direct round trip to Frankfurt, Germany departing the following day, we made a spontaneous purchase of 2 tickets.  We confirmed a car rental in Frankfurt the next day, and started packing.  I had a full day of work to complete, and a matter of a couple hours after which, we were waiting to board our plane at Calgary’s airport.

Vianden Luxemburg Home

I certainly learned a whole lot over the 11day adventure, some things I learned were:

1) The German language is not easy to learn.  The German language uses words and sounds which are seemingly incomprehensable!  Unfortunately, simply ‘trying harder’ doesn’t seem to be the most ‘effective approach’ to communicating in German, without knowing the language.  Communication is however improved by doing such things such as using mime-like charades and hand gestures with the occasional grunt to emphasis a point or question.  Remarkably I did however learn one word from the Germany vocabulary,…Hallo!  Means Hello!

2) “Ausfart” is not a town, or place,….so don’t look for it on a map!  This is a road sign with an arrow, is only used to confuse tourists.

3) In France, the word “choucroute” on a restaurant menu is something to avoid,…even if your server claims that this is the local ‘specialty’.

4) It’s possible to survive on bread, water, cheese, and coldcuts of meat.

5) Stop signs should be more appropriately called ‘stoptional’ signs.

6) Roundabouts rule!  I didn’t miss traffic lights.

7) If it’s drivable, it’s legal to drive it.

Now onwards about our trip…

We arrived in Frankfurt in the late afternoon.  One of Allison’s graduating classmates, Nicole was on the same flight as us,…rather unfortunate for her, her bags were lost en route.  She assured us that she would be okay, and was confident that her bags would arrive in due course – we don’t know what happened, or if they arrived in time for her flight to Madrid 12hours later.  But we certainly hoped so.

We found out at the Avis rent-a-car that our Audi A3 that we reserved was rented out.  As consolation, they upgraded our car to this Peugeot 307cc convertable!

Peugot convertible

Peugot convertible

Peugot convertible

Peugot convertible

Peugot convertible

Peugot convertible

With our super-duper car, it was time to experience Germany’s famous autobahn!  We didn’t stay on it long, as we headed north-west along the Rhine river and travelled from small town to small town looking for a zimmer frei (Bed&Breakfast) or Hotel along the way.  We found a Hotel in the end,…enjoying an amazing night of rest.  We ran for 40min along the Rhine, and had a delicious Germany breakfast afterwards.

Zellenburg bed and breakfast(a view from our room, on-looking a winery and our car)

We continued up the Rhine, and visited a winery in Auslese, named Georg Breuer which had the most impressive distillery.  The underground cave was beautifully enveloped by a long cobblestone archway, with large very old wooden drums (photos to be developed and shown later).  We later visited a castle that day,…and saw a German military helicopter flying over the river.  We crossed at the Rhine, close to one of the only remaining steel bridges that wasn’t destroyed by Nazi Germans in WWII.  This bridge was instrumental in allowing Ally forces penetrate central Germany and win the war.  We stayed in Ahrweiler at a hotel which turned out to be very nice.  We walked inside the walls of Ahrweiler’s medieval town with some impressively constructed stores and restaurants.  The next morning, though we had good intent to run in the morning and still make time for breakfast which technically ended at 10am, our jetlag and fatigue caught us by full storm as we woke up just after 10am.  Thankfully, breakfast was waiting for us, afterwhich, we quickly packed up and got back on the road. 

The next day included a hike through wine country of the Ahr Valley.  We walked from Altenahr to Mayschoss, and had a packed lunch overlooking the river which connects the 2 towns.  We then did some winetasting, finding our most favorite wine ever, a Pinot Noir by Halbtrocken.  During the wine tasting, we met the friendly Gierke family of Wolfgang, Annette and Korinna.  They invited to have us stay the night at their home – they were truly generous hosts and great people to spend time with.

Our 4th day in Germany was spent driving to the highly acclaimed ‘Monschau’ (home of the world’s best mustard, and renowned glass blowing).  This was a beautiful town, even though it was raining the beauty was easily seen.  The same day, we drove through part of Netherlands, and checked out the Outlet shopping in Belgium.  We stopped in Belgium, and ran along a river separating Belgium from the Netherlands.

Luxemburg Streets

The next day, we drove through the rest of Belgium, taking the scenic route, and finished in Vianden, Luxemburg,…home of Victor Hugo, and a very popular non-military based Chateau.  Allison and I made friends at the local restaurant, meeting Danny and Magie, whom I ran an hour run with the following morning.  Al and I explored the chateau Vianden that morning, then pressed on to France the next day.

South of Luxemburg city, to the France border and beyond was crazy.  Lots of crazy drivers, and instances where I felt like I needed to be extra vigilant while driving on the highway.  I was happy when we left the highways, and started driving slowly through wine country of the Alsace valley.  We stayed in Petit Pierre at a hotel.  The following day of driving was outstanding,…we drove from centuries old town to town, stopped at a small town and ran up a hill (estimated round trip of 4hours took us a little over 1hour) to an 8th Century monestary in the middle of nowhere.  The view from the top was incredible.  We stayed in Gertwillier that night at a B&B.  I got up early in the morning, and had a light run before breakfast.

Street Mirror

The next day, after sampling wine from the Alsace region, we stopped at a terrace for some lunch.  Much to our pleasure, a cycle road race ran right past us.  A little while later, while driving, we found ourselves driving within a Duathlon race!  We drove off our planned course to follow the racers up the hill, and provide some motivation and cheering.  As we climbed, and climbed, and climbed some more, we stubbled upon an incredible sight,…the magnificent Haut Koenigsbourg Castle!  By pure accident, we came acrossed this gem – it was an old military castle, with the most impressive rooms, and engineering of the 11th-14th Century.  Deciding to continue our stay in the Alsace region, we stopped in at Zellenberg at a B&B that night.

Scott driving

The next day, we said goodbye to France, and entered back to Western Germany, travelling through the Black Forest.  We drove a lot this day,…travelling within 80km from Frankfurt in a town called Schriesheim.  By pure luck, we stumbed across an absolute gem of a family run hotel on top of a sizable steep hill.  That night, we ate at a castle for a restaurant, where we sat on the edge of a cliff, which below us were acres of vinyards and around us was the most amazing panoramic view of Germany.

The next day, we decided to head to a recommended bike shop called RadSport in a nearby town.  We met the owner of the shop, named Micha, who is doing Ironman Canada this year.  We ended up going out for lunch together, and had a great talk about Germany, pro-cycling, and ironman etc.  It will be great to meet up with Micha in Canada, as Allison and I had a great time with him.

Micha and Scott

Interestingly, our flight home was accompanied with Charlene Waldner (Canadian Pro) who was just returning from Ironman Lanzarotte.  Small world.  It was neat to catch up with her. 

This rounded out our European trip.  All in all, it was an incredible trip, and look forward to someday returning.  Perhaps between now and then, we could use a couple courses in German. :)

Scott