Summing up 8 days into one post is not easy. Jeff and I traveled to Europe for a trade show in Germany on 2/20 and returned from London on 2/28. It was a jam packed 8 days that I’ll sum up as best I can with my thoughts and experiences.
Our flight was at 5:45pm and landed in Frankfurt the next day at around 9am. I watched Dunkirk which I’d recommend and Suburbicon which wasn’t so hot. We arrived safely and had to catch a train from Frankfurt to Cologne. What was a little bit odd is that our bags didn’t go to baggage claim, but rather to another destination in the train terminal. It took us a little bit to figure that out as we stupidly sat at baggage claim for about 15 minutes. The train to Cologne was easy because we had reserved seats on an ICE train. These trains make Amtrak look silly.
In Cologne we checked in the Maritim hotel and went straight to the trade show. After the show we napped for an hour or two after being awake for nearly 30 hours. After a short nap, we went to eat at a very traditional German restaurant. We walked in and I used my “mein Deutsche ist schlecht” to which he replied with something that sound like German for “practice”. Being ever so quick on my feet, I replied with “Zwei”. He sat us immediately next to a group of two people so we became a table of 4. I ordered the Sauerbraten because it was the only dish I could read in German. Jeff got some chicken. A tradition in Cologne is the beer served everywhere is Kolsch. They come to your table with these 6oz beers of Kolsch that cost about 2 Euro and don’t stop bringing them until you put a coaster over top of your beer. We didn’t really know this exactly and drank about 10 Kolsch’s that night.
The next day was more of the same with the trade show and we went bar hopping at night to about 4 places. Being a Thursday night, the city wasn’t jumping, but still fun.
The next day we got up early and went to a train station to buy tickets to Amsterdam. We bought tickets that had about 4 transfers which was a mistake. We had to go to the help desk and get new tickets on an ICE train. The total cost for the two of us was about 150 Euro. We arrived at the train with no problem and headed north west.
I’ve been to Amsterdam before so I sort of knew the lay of the land. We were feeling pretty good and decided to do some bar hopping. Our first bar charged us 35 Euro for 4 drinks of Barvaria beer which was a bit of a rip off. Our spending money wasn’t going to last at that rate. Nevertheless we probably went to about 15 bars and cafes that night just experiencing Amsterdam. It was by far the most debauchery that took place on our trip. Some highlights included an Argentinan Steakhouse, the house cat, some bizarre UFC kick boxing at a cafe, and the worst slice of pizza I’ve ever eaten. This is also a city where it feels like you are going to get hit by a bike or motorist at all times.
We were both pretty baked on Saturday morning but got up and tried to do the best that we could. We vistited the Rijksmuseum and tried to do the Vincent Van Gogh museum but the line was too long. We ended up finding an English Pub and watched the Ireland-Wales Rugby game. We had booked a canal tour ahead of time and did that afterwards. It was ok because we drank about 4 Heineken’s each but still sightly overrated. That night was finished with another pet in a bar 9see below). If we would have went too hard this night, the trip could have taken a wrong turn.
We headed to the train station again the next morning and bought tickets to head to Brussels. I think total cost was around $150 Euro for the both of us. We caught the ICE train without any issue.
We incorrectly spent most of our time in the 1st class train unbeknownst to us. It probably should have been knownst because it was pretty nice and comfortable. After being sent back to second class, we got to Brussels. Our hotel was on the smaller side but still nice conditions. It wasn’t ready when we arrived at 12 and we had to put our bags there because we had a beer tour scheduled at 2pm. We ate some crepes and found an English pub to watch a few minutes of Spurs before meeting up with the group.
Our tour guide was a Frenchmen who was noticeably French. There were 7 of us and we visited 4 authentic Belgium bars and sampled 2 beers at each spot. Belgium definitely has a different feel to it. After the tour we checked into our hotel and freshened up before touring Belgium. We hadn’t purchased our train tickets to London yet and we hit a little surprise. To get to London was going to cost us 224 Euro…each. We hadn’t expected this much money for a train to Brussels but considering it is on the EuroRail going under the English Channel, we should have. Since our flight was out of Heathrow, there wasn’t much we could do but suck it up and pay it.
After having dinner at a Belgium Cafe, we took some amazing pictures of the city square and Jeff had a waffle. We also went to a Brew Dog Brewery where we incredibly met a human from Philadelphia at the bar. We were both pretty tired at this point and called it a night.
The EuroRail had an actual security check point that we got through and made it to London.
I was excited to get to London but we were down to our last 400 bucks or so which I knew wasn’t going to last. We exchanged a 80 Euro at a rip off exchange in the train station in order to get some pounds. Our cabbie took us to the Royal Horseguards which I picked because it was a 5 star hotel. It was in the middle of essentially everything.
We converted the rest of our money to Pounds at a better exchange and that left us with about 350 and the cab driver told us the taxi to Heathrow will cost about 60-80. Great.
In London we did as many of the sight seeing things we could. We saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Soho district, the British Museum, the Shard, and Jack the Ripper’s museum. London has too much to offer and 2 days obviously wasn’t enough to take it all in. We probably stopped at about 20 pubs along the way and it’s very similar to here. When people speak the same language as you, you tend not to feel like an outsider.
We closed the trip with some high end whiskey drinks in our hotel and were ready to fly home. We woke up at 5:30am on Wednesday and got our expensive cab to Heathrow. We ended up the trip with all of our money spent and I even had to dig into my pocket a bit to complete it. It had snowed in London but it wasn’t enough for any cancellations and we got back safely. It was a long journey and I think we were both pretty exhausted and glad to be back. I slept from 6pm to 4am to give you an idea when we got back.
If you’ve read this far, thanks. I know not everyone has the opportunity to travel like this so I like to give my exact thoughts on my experience. Here are a few of the observations I have:
Most people speak English in Europe. Although I definitely felt out of place in certain spots ordering or talking in English knowing it’s not the primary language, it’s not hard to get by.
- Traveling in Europe isn’t that bad. We had to catch multiple trains and make many destinations and with the help of a GPS, it’s not something to fear. To get to 4 cities, we spent about 12 hours on a train which is considerable when we were only there for 8 days.
- As an American, you don’t have the sense that Europe thinks all that much about us. Americans are very American. What I mean by that is we don’t think that much about Europe either. Gaining a perspective of how Europeans think and live helps mold a better shape into being a human being.
- The tipping process is an American thought. We were tipping after beers and food and people looked at us with incredulous responses. I left a 5 Euro tip on a 32 dollar order for some beers and the bartender thought I had two heads. You just don’t do it like we do here. I also noticed that there were very rarely bar seats at English pubs and you ordered from the bar even if you were sitting down.
- Traveling like this was a bit excessive. For 8 days, I’d say 3 cities should have been the max. Adding the 4th made it feel like there was too much time spent traveling by train. Extending the stay and not feeling rushed in each city may have been more enjoyable. That being said, I don’t think cramming as much as you can into these trips is bad practice. We may have only spent 1 day in Brussels, and it made travelling a pain, but I’m glad I saw it.
That’s about it. There’s no better way to spend money or time in my estimation. Having traveling experience in different cultures is what life is about. It definitely cost a lot of money (about 3k+ each), but I enjoyed it more than some of the travels I’ve done on my own. Having a second person removes the feeling of feeling isolated. Hope you enjoyed the read.