Thursday, October 22, 2009

Let's get Europe over with!

As you our Fair Reader are no doubt aware, the Lady Wife and I recently returned from our trip to Europe and of course, you did not. In order to share our experience with you I have (at the terminus of this post) provide a link to a slide show which summarizes in photographic and chronological form our recent trip. The basic itinerary included:

The Netherlands .....................................................Germany

Switzerland............................................................. Belgium
To see a complete slide show click on the following link:

Sorry you couldn't join us. If you can get together the scratch I encourage you to improve on our experience.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Basel to Liege

So, Tuesday morning 9/29 we sadly depart Basel Switzerland for Belgium. We started out the day by carefully following our host’s detailed instructions for closing windows, shutters, unplugging this, turning off that, carting food stuffs to the neighbors, and generally fortifying the house against marauding Gypsies and Romanians.

We boarded the IC train for Basel SBB in Liestal like this: Train pulls in and I stab franticaly at what appears to be the Open button with no success. Ready to bolt to the next open door, the Lady Wife casually reaches out and depresses the actual button providing access to the 1st class carriage. Feeling much like Pa Kettle I schlep my suitcase, European carry all, and big plastic bag of lunch, souveniers, wine etc. onto the train. We collapse into our seats to the tune of our own laughter and sighs of relief that we hadn’t spilled the coffee clutched in our third hand(s). We proceed to fold ourselves around our luggage and chatted voluably (tres Americain) as our 10 minute trip to Basel SBB begain.

Just as we began a very nice young woman seated across from us took it upon herself to advise us that we were in the Quiet Car. This of course resulted in abject apologies and added more weight to the ever growing sensation of cultural incompentence which seems to follow us like the the cloud of dust which follows the Charles Shulz character “Pigpen”.

Arriving in Basel SBB we noted with consternation that our ICE train to Frankfurt was departing not from platform 11 as shown on our schedule but to our (my) horror from platform 10! This of course brought to mind the paranoic concern of what else may have changed. Was platform 10 going to yield up the train to Frankfurt Main enabling our connection to Liege Belgium on time? Would we be diverted to some remote Romanian village for a life of servitude and cultural anomie?

Our tickets stated clearly that our seats were to be in Wagen 9. I was hoping for a nice first class car but apparently the local custom is to put the foreigners in a Wagen. Again to my horror I noted that the cars (turned our these are Wagens) were not marked with der Wagen Number! While I began to flail frantically to and fro the Lady Wife noted that the range of seat numbers were clearly shown in the Wagen Window (pronounce Vagen Vindow).

So, here we are on the beautifully appointed ICE high speed train bound for Frankfurt. Imagine my delight to find that our reserved seats not only face backwards but are situated in a window desert limiting our view to a narrow glimpse of the very rapidly receding German country side. The seats, however, are leather just like a BMW! The Lady Wife, ever sensitive to real or imagined discomfort, pointed out to me that the aging farmer and his wife seated directly behind (see photo) were in fact giving off a very strong essence of farm, cow, BO?

We arrived in Frankfurt Main in the very old grand station. I proceeded to the ticket wind

ow tbe

next leg of the journey to Liege Belgium. I was informed that there were no more 1st class reserved seats available but we should be able to sit in seats not marked reserved. How Kind! Next we exited the station to find a street of food stalls selling, brats, shchnitzel, crepes, wine, etc. to a ravenous crowd of office workers. We joined them for bratwurst mit brot und appel juice. MMM!

On returning to the station we boarded our train for Liege on the first class car and settled in. We enjoyed laughing in an experienced superior way about the travails of two young Americains seated incorrectly in the 1st class who had to move up to the more crowded 2nd class car. Ha Ha! Glancing up at the LCD display in the front of the car imagine my horror when I noted that the train we were on was apparently bound for Dusseldorf and Amsterdam instead of Liege and Brussels. I raced to the door and asked the conductor if there was time to disembark. Nein! Oh Fuck! It must be some kind of Romanian plot. The conductor advised that the train was divided into two parts which would separate in Cologne with the front end heading for Belgium. We unwisely decided to embark on a forced march through the 2nd class cars to the front of the train, only after massive schleping to find that the only way to access the front of the train was to disembark at Cologne and walk up to the front section. Totally stressed out, jambed in with too many passengers and way too much luggage we proceeded to stress our way to Cologne, where we easily “moved up” to our richly deserved 1st class accomodations for the remainder of the trip to Liege.

Arriving at Liege we were to treated to the sight of what is probably the most extraordinary train station in the entire world. Just inaugurated on September 18th the station, designed by a big deal Spanish architect will probably throw Liege into poverty for the next century. Please watch the following video!