Andy and I traveled to Germany, Austria, and Belgium on what Andy dubbed as a “Beer Safari”. We went to try new beers, explore, and eat new wonderful food. We had a fantastic time and saw so many cool new places. We visited Munich, Salzburg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Bruges, Oostende, and Brussels. It was a trip of a lifetime!
We began our European Beer Safari on very, very little sleep. Andy got about 4 – 5 hours on the plane after staying up all night while I had about 8 hours of sleep in two days.
I found that Europe can be as expensive or as cheap as you’d like. If you do enough research you can find the good deals. Some things are just more expensive in Europe: bananas, ready to eat food, and clothing. I do have to say that some of the clothing in Europe is to die for especially the shoes. Almost everyone wears the cute little ballet flats.
Munich was the cleanest city I have ever been in. Everything about it is super efficient from the roads, signs, and pedestrian walk ways.I could have spent a year there happily. The food was terrific as was the beer. I cannot say enough nice things about it. If you go, let me give you the name of our hotel because it (in Andy’s words) was awesome! We met up with Andy’s mom, step father and a few of their friends for a fantastic dinner.
Salzburg Austria was absolutely incredible. The whole area is so beautiful although be careful of the drivers. They drive like maniacs there. Andy and I were constantly on the look out for the crazy Audi driving Europeans who had the gas pedal mashed down talking on his cell phone. The historic area does smell like sewer like but I think that’s primarily due to the age of the system.
Heidelberg Germany turned out to be a sticky town for us. I researched our hotel in Heidelberg carefully. It was close to the river and a major road, only about 5k away from the train station, and right by a college. Unfortunately the college was closed for the summer which meant all the shops were closed. So we walked the 3.1 miles to the hotel with luggage in tow passing by a few places to eat and drink at. By the time we found the hotel, it was almost dark. We decided to set off and find someplace to eat. After about 40 minutes of walking we gave up and realized that we weren’t going to have any dinner that night. I was so mad at the hotel for not telling us that all the shops around would be closed.
During our walking we had passed what looked like a house party. I really wanted a beer after our travels so I urged Andy to come and check it out. It turned out to be a club. Before we found the club I decided that we would be raiding the mini bar for all it was worth. Yes, all 50 Euros. But the club charged only 2.50 for admission and the beer was super cheap. They had all these different spaces both inside the house and outside. Inside the house, it was loud house music and outside the house, it was super mellow music and a fire! I felt like I was 18 again! It was one of the best experiences we had on our trip.
Cologne was another awesome yet somewhat stinky town. You get off the Bahn (train) and walk through the station and then BAM! There is one of the most historic cathedrals in the world!
From Cologne we made our way into Belgium. We missed our connecting train in Brussels and soon learned that there was a big difference between Belgium and German train stations! We spent the night in Bruges which has been called ‘The Venice of the North’. There is so many old cool cathedrals, historic buildings and canals there. Bruges can also be incredibly expensive if you don’t watch it.
We also dealt with one of the most rude people we’ve ever come across in Bruges. She worked the tourism window (yes, the irony). She had the audacity to laugh at us and our ignorance of Belgium geography. What she didn’t understand is that although we had little knowledge of the exact geography of Belgium, we had time and enough stubbornness to accomplish anything we put our minds to. We wanted to go to Westvleteren Brewery which is almost Mecca to beer drinkers. The tourism lady said it wasn’t possible by mass transit. Needless to say, after much investigation and several trains and buses; we made it.
We journeyed to Oostende (Dutch spelling) or Ostende (French spelling) which is on the coast. The sun didn’t set until almost 10pm that night. It’s such a beautiful little place. We walked around for several hours finally settling on a Irish pub to eat. After a fantastic meal of fish and chips and a slightly bawdy conversation with a young Irish bartender about his experience living in New York City where he provided sexual favors to an older Irish woman in exchange for rent, we went searching for some beer to bring back to our hotel.
We decided to go to Brussels and spend the last three days there. I forgot that when Congress is in session, its incredibly hard to get a hotel room. So when we arrived in Brussels, we couldn’t really find a hotel room. So we headed back to Bruges where we spent two nights.
Finally we had the famed Belgium mussels and pomme frittes!
We walked around Bruges taking it easy as by this time we were pretty weary. We visited more churches, pubs, and ate a fantastic meal at a pita shack. For 10 Euros we got a some of the best food we’d had in Europe.
Then it was onto Brussels. Brussels is a hard, rough kind of town. There aren’t any stop signs that I saw, drivers routinely run red lights, and pedestrians beware! Brussels has every ethnicity you can think of and language tensions run high (Dutch versus French). The food is fantastic especially the waffle. They don’t taste like any waffle I’ve ever eaten in the U.S. They dip half of it in this great chocolate (don’t think American waxy chocolate!) You can get these waffles almost anywhere and did I say they were fantastic?
It was one of the greatest adventures of my life. I cannot wait to go on my next trip. We have a few ideas but haven’t settled on anything just yet.