All vacations sadly must come to an end, and since my body wanted to kick me while I was down, it decided to pick up a 48hr stomach flu bug on top of the chest cold I was already nursing for my last 2 days in Germany. Lovely.
After a beautiful drive through the Rhine Region from Heidelberg to Bonn on Saturday afternoon, we took in the sites of downtown Bonn after dark on Saturday night. I didn't feel like I missed much really - the city is very small and the downtown core is even smaller. We walked from the government buildings (Bonn used to seat the major heads of German government until the reunification of Berlin at which point the Reichstag was reinstated as the official government headquarters in the late 90s), to the statue of Beethoven (Bonn's other major claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of the famous composer), to the church at the city center, to the town Rathaus (city hall), to Beethoven's home (now set amidst the most commercial shopping district in the city), and back to our hotel in under 3 hours. And we took in our last official Christmas Market of the trip, and arguably one of the best as far as food was concerned. We got a fabulous Hungarian paprika goulash and then visited the only vegetarian stand we could find at ANY of the markets we saw for a very delicious feta turnover and walnut, spinach quiche - YUM! (Both decisions that I would completely regret the following morning...ugh).
I retired to a long, hot bath upon returning to the hotel room and we both enjoyed a great sleep until about 3am when the stomach pains started. I tried to ignore them for the most part, but by the time the alarm went off at 7am I was SICK. I dragged myself to the bathroom and proceeded to re-visit what felt like every bad food decision I had made for the entire trip. NOT PLEASANT AT ALL. Growing a little panicked at this point because we had a train to catch back to Berlin, I sent The Scientist down for breakfast while I willed myself to get dressed and my suitcase packed and zipped. Thank god for him at this point as I don't remember much about getting between that hotel bed and the train. I was running a fever and was a tad delirious as I paid for the room, we got our car out of the garage and I somehow managed to navigate him to the car drop location. He left me in the car with the heated seats while he ran to locate a cab that would take us to the train station. Thankfully he found one quickly and got all our luggage transferred over before helping me between vehicles. Willing myself again to not vomit while we were in the cab, we finally got to the train station after a drive that seemed to take an eternity. A small "Hauptbahnhof" in comparison to any of the other bigger cities we had been in, there was hardly any seating and only the choice of McDonalds or a pretzel place to sit. I didn't think I could possibly stomach the smell of McDonalds, so we sought refuge in the ticket office. I tried laying down on a bench seat for a bit until a stern German train attendant came by and yelled at me that it was a "sitting area, not a sleeping area"...now what? I was terribly sick, still delirious, couldn't even see straight, but we had an hour left to wait for our train and we had to leave the ticketing area. We did the only thing we could do - bought a tea and went to sit in McDonalds. Thankfully there was no permeating fried smell since they were still serving breakfast and it was more of a McCafe, then a full restaurant - and they had nice couches, so I leaned my head against the wall and shut my eyes. I was afraid to take any Advil because I wasn't keeping anything on my stomach, but I had the wherewithal at that point to pop a couple of pills. Thankfully I did - within 30 minutes, my fever broke and I was starting to feel a bit better. I managed to pull myself together long enough to help The Scientist get our luggage on the first train and 20 minutes late we were in Köln and on to the train that would take us home to Berlin. At that point I was really starting to feel better. The Scientist bought me a croissant and some tea and I managed to eat a little bit. I read my book, slept and enjoyed the scenery on the 4 hour train ride to the city.
Back in Berlin, I decided that I had enough energy to walk from the train station home. The air was cold and crisp and it felt really good to be "home". I have decided that I love Berlin. Out of all the places we saw on our trip, Berlin is the place to be. The city is just so clean and organized and beautiful. (If you go to Germany, definitely don't miss it!) It was already dark, but it was still only 4:30pm, so I had some time to rest and get packed up for my trip back to Chicago the following day. By 6pm I was actually feeling pretty good (all things considered), so for our last night in the city we decided to take in Harry Potter at the English movie theatre. We bundled up again and headed to the cinema for a 7pm show. Now - the German movie experience at this particular cinema is VERY Americanized...however, there are some things that are VERY different. For one, they have 45 MINUTES of commercials before the show. And these aren't previews, these are commercials - for beer, and recycling, and German made cars. Then, after a strategically placed commercial for ice cream, the lights all come on, the curtains close over the screen and attendants selling ice cream come out into the theatre to hawk their wares for a 10 minute intermission! We haven't even gotten to the film yet! Then the lights dim, the curtains open, and NOW it's time for the previews. Oy Vey! 20 minutes of previews later, the film finally starts. Everything is in English - except for the title screen which gives the German title of the movie, and one word in the middle of the film when Hermione has 'Mudblood' written on her arm by Belatrix, a small German subtitle popped up - hehe. Very funny. Once the movie was over, we were pretty tired given the late start of the film in the first place, so we headed home for bed.
Sunday morning came early. Time to leave this amazing country. Bittersweet indeed. I was looking forward to going home and seeing my fur-babies, but I had to leave The Scientist again and I had truly fallen in love with Germany. I got up and showered - stomach still a little queasy, but feeling better overall. We left the house on time and headed for the airport with all of my luggage in tow.
The Berlin airport is so simple to navigate! Being a typical American traveler, I'm used to arriving for International flights 2.5 hours early. In Berlin, they don't even post your flight until one hour before departure and you walk right to your gate to check in. We walked around the airport looking at all the outgoing flights and joked about hopping a plane to Switzerland. When they finally posted my flight number and gate we went to get rid of my luggage. The nice lady at the counter greeted me - "Oh, we have some bad news. Your flight to Dusseldorf has been delayed and because of it, you won't make your connection to Chicago so we need to rebook your flight". Ok - no worries. I had plenty of time. Apparently I was just not destined to see Dusseldorf, since my flight on the way to Berlin through Dusseldorf was also re-routed through Frankfurt instead. I headed over to the ticketing counter to get a new flight. The nice man at the desk was very helpful - "Do you feel like flying to Zurich today?" he says. I had to laugh - apparently I was going to Switzerland after all. I got my flight booked to Chicago via Zurich, now with SwissAir and an hour later departure time, and we found a little cafe for a delicious breakfast. Unfortunately, while we were sitting eating breakfast, the flight status to Zurich came up...delayed by 30 minutes. Yet again, I was going to miss my connection to Chicago. Alas, back to the booking desk. "No problem," the nice man says, and with a couple of quick clicks of the mouse, I'm now on an SAS flight to Copenhagan. Great! I've been in the Copenhagen airport before on my trip home from Paris, so I'm familiar with what I need to do to navigate between planes - only problem is that now my flight doesn't leave for another 3 hours! Nevertheless, I'm getting home today, so all is good. The Scientist and I hole up in Starbucks with a couple of comfy chairs, a tea and a latte and an attempt at free internet (but that didn't work so well) and chatted away our last 3 hours together before he put me on a plane. We even found a bra stuffed between the couch cushions! Haha! How very European!
Those 3 hours went by faster than I expected. At almost 2pm, and right on time, I was on a plane and headed to Copenhagen. Our goodbye was quick, and thankfully not as painful as the last go round. We had an amazing trip together and a wonderful time, so we left with promises to keep in touch often and to plan another vacation together sometime soon. He will be missed.
The day was beautiful and clear flying over the Baltic coast. I saw every detail of our flight over northern Germany, the Netherlands, and the water channels into Denmark, right down to the white caps on the cold water. The Copenhagen airport is also stunning (as far as airports go). They actually have parquet wood floors through the whole thing. I can't imagine whose job it is to upkeep those floors, but like they say in Annie - they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building! We were only delayed there slightly since the plane arrived late from Chicago coming in the other direction, but it was a long enough delay that by 3:30pm the sun had begun to set by the time we took off. For the whole flight back we chased the orange and red sunset, remaining at dead center between it in front of us and the moon and Jupiter sitting low in the sky rising behind us.
Though Lufthansa was great on the way there, I highly recommend SAS. I had the choice to book them for this trip, and I did really love them when travelling home from Paris, but I wanted to try something different so I went with the German carrier for this trip. But I'm thankful that my return trip home ended up being with Scandinavian again. The flight was virtually EMPTY, so I had a full double seat all to myself. They have individual movie screens on the back of every seat and a great selection of in-flight entertainment. And their food and service is AMAZING. We had a lovely curry chicken and rice for dinner, with a fantastic chocolate caramel pudding for dessert. Wine, cheese, bread, hot towel service - the whole nine yards. Great flight (despite a really rocky ride over Newfoundland) - turbulence is not the airline's fault!
The skies cleared again over Michigan and I saw Chicago as we approached over the lake. Ah, my city. As much as I love Berlin, I also love Chicago - like FIERCELY LOVE Chicago. I almost got a lump in my throat as we flew over the city lights in the harbour.
I was home. Now all I needed to do was GET HOME. The customs officer didn't even look at me as he stamped my passport and ushered me through - sweet. I picked up my bags, and headed for the city trains. While on the train I got a message from my cousin - my mom was worried about me but wasn't home to check her messages from me because they were all at a Christmas party. I messaged her back to let her know I was home safe but was headed for bed. I had arrived a full four hours later than expected and my body clock was definitely feeling it at that point. Thankfully the train was quick and I made a connection immediately with my bus. As my keys jingled in the door, my little Bella came running - Mommy's home! Boss was mad at me for about 10 minutes until he figured out that it was really me and then he couldn't have been happier. He's been all over me for the past couple of days. Any time I am home he is in my lap. It's great - I love the kitty love!
My Germany trip had officially come to an end. But the impression it has left on me will last a lifetime. It is a country of beautiful sights and beautiful people and I can't wait to return again and see the rest of it!
So I can keep all of my travel memories in the same place, I will be posting some back-blogs about my trip for the next couple of weeks. I still haven't pulled pictures off of my camera since our day in the Alps which was about 5 days before the end of our trip. We just got so busy towards the end that it became impossible to update every night. I hope you have all enjoyed traveling along with me! I certainly have enjoyed reading all of your comments and knowing that near or far, I have had the love and support of my Sparkfriends every step of the way. You guys are great travel buddies! Here's to many more trips together in the future with the new life that I have created for myself here!
[If you are reading this I have not finished editing and updating this blog yet - more pictures will be added and spelling/grammar will be corrected!]