Reise nach Aachen

My diary of my trip to Germany in 2005.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


So that was a year ago. My blog entries were taken from my diary which was very short - more of a memory jogger than a full account. When I get time I want to go over it in more detail, adding impressions, etc, and also add some photos which I haven't uploaded yet.

So, if you can be bothered, watch this space...

I'll mention any updates in other blogs.

Thanks for reading.

Taipei - Sydney - Wellington

Wednesday, 13 July

Packed up and checked out of the hotel and waited ages, it seemed, for the bus back to the airport. I was glad to leave Taipei, but it was another long, long flight. It seemed rainy in Sydney as we touched down, but it was ok once in town. (We had another day to wait for our connecting flight to Wellington so had some time to kill.) I was disgusted at the price of a train ticket from the airport to the central city (AU$50). Locals with ID could get student or child discounts. Anyone else had to pay full fare. That stinks. It’s pretty obvious if someone is a child or under a certain age. Rip-off artists. And to store our luggage because it was too early to check in cost us another $36. H was very tired. We walked around, trying to find a dress for her school ball. We found nothing in the shops. Food was expensive, but we bought something and ate it at the waterfront and enjoyed the sun. We walked past the Opera House and to the park, and saw a woman feeding cockatoos – which was the highlight of the day. They were all over her and the ground around her. My last photo on the camera didn’t turn out too well. We caught the train back to the airport and waited. H wasn’t feeling at all well. I asked for a glass of water so she could take a panadol. We were all very very tired.

I made the mistake of being honest on the immigration card for NZ. It asked to list all countries visited. They should have asked for all countries you stayed overnight in. So I dutifully listed Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, England, Taiwan and Australia – a large number for such a short visit. We were pulled over on arrival at Wellington airport and questioned about so many countries. We were also so tired we probably looked drugged. I was ready to fall over from exhaustion. They then looked at our itinerary and probably realised how tired we must have been.

I was very tired and very grumpy and no-one had come to pick us up (it was after midnight local time). I had to ring twice before someone who just lived above the airport, left to pick us up. I was not impressed. What a welcome back. I hated New Zealand right then.

Those long flights put us all off airports and flying for many many months. Never flying China Airlines again. I don’t care how much it costs…


Tuesday, 12 July

We arrived at Taipei about 8 am very tired and cold (it was too cold on the plane). We hadn’t seen anything of Taipei before, it being night time and we were inside the airport waiting for transfer. This time we had a whole day before our next connecting flight, so we had a free hotel stay.

Taipei was hot and dirty, like much of Asia. There were several on the bus to the hotel. The hotel itself was not near any obvious places of interest. I had no map so had no idea where, in fact, it was.

We slept for a couple of hours. I woke the girls at 12 noon local time (6 am Germany). We had lunch in the hotel. The hotel was decorated quite bizarrely with what looked like cheap Christmas lights, artificial plants, massive vases and some ghastly tinkly music was playing the whole time. After lunch (the smorgasbord food was varied and tasty) we went for a walk down the street a couple of blocks. That was enough to have rivers of sweat falling off our backs, it was so dreadfully hot. Took 2 photos and headed back, our backs soaked. Had another shower and slept til 4.30 pm or so.

C came in about 5pm and we went to dinner about 5.40. The restaurant was over-staffed. They would prowl the tables ready to pounce on empty dishes or refilling empty glasses. It was quite weird. It was getting dark already by 6pm, the sun struggling to shine through the smog. As it sunk it was a brilliant red, which the girls found astounding (like something out of a movie). They were highly amused by the sound of some music on a truck which sounded like ‘Mr Whippy’, an icecream van. We looked out the window and discovered the music was coming from a rubbish truck as it collected people’s rubbish. They stood with their rubbish waiting for the truck. We were in fits of laughter.

Aachen - Taipei

Monday, 11 July

The day we had been dreading – returning home. We woke up at 4.55 am and set off at 6 am for Frankfurt.

Travelling the autobahn

The weather was brilliant (typically at the end of the trip). We were in good time to check in and have coffee with K in the airport. I noticed a couple of American soldiers waiting for a flight and K derided them with scorn. I share his view but won’t go into my political beliefs here. I gave K some money for his birthday which we would miss in 3 days’ time (alas for school and university holiday dates – we’d already taken days off from both as it was). Waved goodbye sadly.

We used up some coins by buying souvenirs and small drinks in the shops. Long flight to Taipei. I don’t remember long flights being so uncomfortable. I think the seats on China Airline planes are narrower and when putting the seat back down the front seat comes forward leaving very little (if any) leg room so you can’t stretch out (and I’m not tall!). The food, this time, was mediocre to yuk. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t fly China Airlines again. They are very cheap but you get what you pay for – discomfort and extraordinarily long flights as they all seem to stop at Taipei regardless of where you’re going.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Paris - Aachen

Sunday, 10 July

It was foggy to begin with. We left in the bus at 9am and drove around the city for a while before being dropped off near the Arc de Triomphe for 3 more hours of free time. I wanted the girls to get a closer look at the Notre Dame so we walked down the Champs Elysee, past the Louvre (no time to have a good look inside anyway) and arrived to see another long queue. So we didn’t go inside but admired the gargoyles on the outside.

Had a brief look at some sort of pet market on the way back. Walked back along the Seine, past the sellers of art and books and souvenirs, crossed the Place de la Concorde and back up the Champs Elysee. We bought some expensive baguettes and drinks near the Place de la Concorde, but still way cheaper than anything on the Champs Elysee.

The bus picked us up and we started the long trek back to Aachen. There was some confusion once back at the collection point as to who needed to stay on the bus for the final stop-off point and who needed to get off for transfer to Aachen. I asked the woman if the bus we were on went to Aachen and she said yes, but the driver told the others for Aachen to get off. I didn’t realise this until too late and a disgruntled driver dropped us off at a different point in Aachen. G, meanwhile, waited for us at one place while we were at another. Cellphones to the rescue. I asked K how to get to where G was and we walked there – not that far, thankfully. The whole confusion arose around what they called the collection point – naming it after a nearby shop which I had no idea about and everyone else did (being locals). Ah well. Was well worth it for a lovely trip to Paris.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Saturday, 9 July

K had noticed an advertisement for a weekend trip to Paris in the newspaper earlier in the week and told me about it so I had gone ahead and paid for the girls and I and he made the bookings.

G took us to the bus station for a 6.30am start. An ordinary city bus took us to the outskirts of Aachen to a collection point where a tour bus waited for us. The commentary from the bus driver was in German but in a thick accent that sounded almost like Flemish. Luckily I understood most of it, particularly the important bits like what time to meet back at the bus, etc! It took until 1pm to reach Paris through fairly ordinary scenery and a couple of toilet stops on the way at what I can only describe as developed rest areas – NZ doesn’t have them – buildings with toilets and shops but no petrol stations.

On arrival we went first to the hotel which stood on the Seine. The room was fairly big and we had time to freshen up before setting out on a tour of Paris (I hadn’t realised this was included so it saved the hassle of public transport).

The sky threatened rain so it was quite dark, but I took a lot of photos. It was exciting to see the first glimpse of the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and the many grandiose buildings. Paris is a place of opulence and splendid vistas. Much more impressive than my last visit in a dismal wet winter many years ago. We paid a little extra for a boat tour down the Seine (which was longer and more satisfying than the tour down the Thames). The weather cleared and we then had 3 hours’ free time to do as we wished.

[photos to come]

We were dropped off near Montmartre so I took the girls up through the winding streets to Sacre Couer, remembering the same route from years ago (to my surprise). Lots of souvenir shops of course, but this is what the girls wanted. C got asthma so couldn’t make it all the way up to see inside the Sacre Couer and no photos were allowed inside. A great pity. However, a great view from there. There was a wonderful shop full of exotic clothing which would have been brilliant for belly dancing if I had been doing it at the time!

We had a bite to eat at the local McDonalds (sacrilege I know – blame C). Made our way back to the meeting point and were picked up at 8.15 pm. If we’d had more time we could have looked in one of the big department stores nearby (I just didn’t know it was so close!) The sun was hot now. We had another bus tour of opulent buildings and past upmarket shops, and a closer look at the Eiffel Tower. No time to join the long queue and go to the top, but just soaked in the atmosphere and evening sun. Back to the hotel where we ate our snacks we’d bought at a supermarket.


Friday, 8 July

C slow to get up so we couldn’t leave in time to get to Brugge in Belgium. Instead, K offered to take us to Antwerp. We eventually left about 11.30 am. It rained and was a pretty miserable day. It was a difficult city find our way around in. Roadworks made parts of the city resemble a war zone or some neglected area in Eastern Europe – very dismal looking. However, once we did find our way to the old part (thanks to some friendly locals directing us), it was much nicer. Charming church bells sounded as we explored the cobbled streets. Lots of orthodox Jews around (Antwerp, of course, being a diamond city – think the movie ‘Snatch’). We made our way to the river and looked at the oldest building, the Steen, which is a castle dating from 1200 and is now a maritime museum.

Buildings looking from the Steen

We walked around in the cold and wet, feeling sorry for horses (attached to carriages) stood in the rain at the Grote Markt. We had some chips and beer then plodded our way back through the ‘war zone’ to the car and returned to Aachen.

In the evening we went to a friend of K’s for drinks and snacks, getting back about 11pm. Sank into bed, exhausted.


Thursday, 7 July

Cloudy. It threatened rain but didn’t. We left Aachen about 11 am to travel to Koln in the car. On the way we heard on the radio that there had been bombings in London – one right near the British Museum. We were lucky to be out of there. A pity. It takes the shine of our “sojourn” in London. Of course some morons immediately claim Al Qaeda did it with no proof whatsoever. Made me wonder…

In Koln we looked inside the massive Dom (cathedral). Very tall and quite impressive. Nothing much else to see. We wandered down the newer shopping area - scores of people. The altstadt (old town) was pleasant but not as ‘picturesque’ as other places.

Had lunch outside a bar (including a ‘bier’ of course). I bought a couple of glasses at a souvenir shop. Cashed some travellers cheques at the station.

Drove back to Aachen (and I was nodding off). Texts from Ashika and John about London. No email.

Friday, July 07, 2006

London - Aachen

Wednesday, 6 July

I felt depressed. The girls didn’t want to get up. I felt very lonely.

We took the train to Oxford Circus and walked to the British museum along Oxford Street. We had a look at the Egyptian display – there was so much of it to look at and too many people. I found Lindow man tucked away in a corner just as a guided group descended on it so I couldn’t get a good look. I looked at the British and Medieval stuff. I expected more of the Sutton Hoo burial – it was a bit disappointing. We had a snack at the museum, browsed its souvenir shops, then set off along Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus, etc. We bought some rolls, looked in Virgin Records (awesome variety)…. I gazed with disgust on a stretch Hummer. Such things should be banned. They’re obscene. We caught the tube back to the hotel to collect our bags and catch a train to Gatwick after 5pm. We checked in and were a few of the last to board for the flight back to Koln.

Arrived in a rainy Koln. We caught the train to Koln central station and had to wait three quarters of an hour for a connecting train to Aachen. The train arrived at Aachen at 12.07 am. K picked us up from the station.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Tuesday, 5 July

Sunny to begin with. We found our way to Golden Tours for the bus tour (I actually thought we’d booked the Evan Evans tour.) Mostly Americans on board, of course. First stop was Westminster Abbey and we had an hour there – not nearly long enough to wander around and appreciate it. I bought a gargoyle in the souvenir shop.

H near Westminster Abbey

Our guide then took us on a walking tour to get good positions for the changing of the guard at Buck House. She knew of course where they would be when and got us in position early enough for the best photo opportunities. We then walked over to the Albert pub for lunch, ending up sitting with an American family with whom we didn’t talk. They were not inclined and I didn’t care. The food was average.

It was then onto a river cruise. It had rained by now (of course) and there was a cold wind. Saw the Globe Theatre, the horrible dominating big wheel that is the London Eye(sore) and a view of some cigar-shaped building which was new also. We berthed near the Tower of London but the rain and the very short time we had there made it disappointing. There wasn’t enough time to view the crown jewels (crowded and slow to get through) as well as one of the towers. Not enough time to see the armour, for example. All very commercialised now. Far different from when I’d seen it in the 70s. That was it. The advertised visit to St Pauls was simply a brief stop to see it from the outside. Whoop de doo. Apparently we were too late to go inside. Huh.

We got dropped off at various points and we chose Convent Garden and looked at the market and ‘mall’. H was happy to see some ‘real’ punks. Bought some food at Marks and Spencer and caught the tube back to the hotel.

Welsh online friend, E, tried to call me during the tour. He said he couldn’t make it to London to meet me. Disappointing, but expected.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Aachen - London

Monday, 4 July

K and G went to work. I reconfirmed the tour we were booked on in London tomorrow. Walked to town again and sent some postcards. I tried to find a bank to cash some travellers cheques. I queued up only to be told at one bank to go to Citibank. The only Citibank I found on the map appeared to be just a foyer of ATMs. There were no staff around. This pissed me off slightly. It poured down and we ran from shop to shop and eventually bought a couple of umbrellas at the local version of the $2 shop. We walked back, tired. We just missed the next downpour. I was miserably thinking it would rain in England and I wouldn’t be able to cash some cheques. Received texts on my cellphone from my friend, John, in New Zealand, and online English friend Sully. No word from another online friend in Wales.

K drove us to Köln (Cologne). We had a distant view of the Dom (cathedral). [photo to come] Headed towards the airport. There was a delay in departure but the flight was a short one hour. We flew over Belgium and in the dimming light I saw the streetlit snakes of Belgian motorways. I was feeling excited at being in England again.

It was cloudy and cool in London. Chloe was lucky enough to have her British passport. Mine had expired and I hadn’t had the time or money to renew it so H and I went in a different, seemingly shorter queue but C got through much faster. I managed to change some travellers cheques before heading out of the airport. C thought the woman’s accent was funny when she asked to see my passport. I was shocked at the price of the train ticket from Gatwick to Victoria Station – 39 pounds (about NZ$120). Once at Victoria we found our way by foot to the bed and breakfast hotel nearby (Elizabeth house). Couldn’t believe I was there. I love London.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Rest day 2

Sunday, 3 July

Still feeling a bit down. Another relaxed day. Read a book. It was hot. We went for a walk through Aachener wald (the forest). Saw eagles or some sort of birds of prey in the trees. Very picturesque area.

Played ‘Siedler’ in the evening.

Rest day

Saturday, 2 July

Felt depressed after seeing photos of myself – I look so ugly.

Did little today – relaxed, read ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, listened to CDs. Played ‘Siedler’ a very addictive board game. H won – beginner’s luck!

In the evening we left to go to G’s sister’s place in Wegberg near Mönchengladbach. Unusual village – fairly new (ie postwar) and very insular. Very quiet, neat and tidy – reminded me of an old people’s residential institution and had random shops amidst the houses. Met G’s brother who also arrived. His accent was quite difficult to understand – he spoke quickly and indistinctly. I understood much of the conversation though (alles auf Deutsch). After a lovely dinner, we had a brief walk up a hill and watched the sun set. We left after dark – around 11.15pm.

(One thing I found quite annoying during our stay in Germany – I’d wanted to see northern hemisphere constellations – but it got dark so late that I never saw any!).