A few weeks ago I was approached by a company representing the German National Tourist Board asking if I would be willing to take a trip to Germany, and write about my experiences. Naturally, I said YES! And on Feb 25, I boarded a plane bound for Frankfurt. My mission, to visit Münster, Bremerhaven and Köln, and report back to you all.
Why? Because this is the Deutschlandjahr! The year of German-American Friendship! And there is still so much for German-Americans to learn about Germany! We really are Wunderbar Together.
The trip was non-stop action! Planes and trains… hotel rooms and restaurants… museums and churches… and I even got a chance to spend a few hours with my family! The tour guides I had were all fantastic, and I got a lot more out of the visit than I thought I would. And the brief time I wandered alone, just exploring, was delightful!
Honestly, 3 days on the ground in Germany is not enough to do and experience everything I wanted to do (and my usual shopping just couldn’t happen), but I made the most of those 3 days! (I’d sleep when I got back home)
Whirlwind Trip to Germany!
All photos taken by Karen Lodder, and are property of German Girl in America.
Flying into Frankfurt means flying into one of the busiest airports in Europe. Busy and BIG. Somehow, I managed to find my way to the S Bahn, which took me to Frankfurt Haubtbahnhof (the main train station) where I got to experience my first really “German” moment. The train wasn’t on the right track. I wasn’t alone in my confusion… people were looking around, asking strangers, staring at schedules, and hoping for some sort of sign. Finally, a few of us ended up in a cabin on the most likely train where we compared notes. Some had been re-routed from a cancelled train, some were confused about whether this was the right train… then we all stopped talking, took in a collective breath and sighed “Tja….”
(“Tja” has no real translation… it’s a universal German response to everything from running out of bread, dropping your glasses, tripping on a cobblestone, the Apocalypse, or the Deutsche Bahn).
It was the right train.
And it went along the Rhine.
Honestly, at that point it hardly mattered if it was the right train… the view out the train window melted all my stress… castles, wine villages, the Lorelei, a slow moving river…..
St Paulus Dom in Münster
A Day in Münster
All of a sudden, I was in Münster, where I was met by my cousin and his wife. Some of you will wonder if I lost my mind, but they took me out to the Acacia Japanisches Restaurant for Sushi… in Westphalia. And it was good!
The Central Münster Hotel, was right in the heart of town… across from the LWL Museum fur Kunst und Kulture (Art and Culture), and decorated with great art itself. Best of all, it was a stone’s throw from the St Paulus Dom. At 11 at night, bicycles were still zipping by, and the light show from the museum was lovely.
My first German breakfast was exactly perfect. Brötchen, a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg (with an yolk so orange, I could hardly believe it was real) and a Kännchen Kaffee. The hotel owner prided himself thatthey offered 14 types of bread for breakfast! I could have sat all day…. but my schedule was FULL!
Bread selection at the Central Münster Hotel
Now, I’ve been to Münster many times since my family lives nearby, but this was the first real TOUR of Münster. Instead of a random Bummel, I saw details and learned more history than I had before. The Botanical Gardens, the Lamberti Kirche, St Paulus Dom (with Wochenmarkt in the Domplatz!), the outside of the Friedensaal (inside was closed for renovations) and the Rathaus. The Prinzipalmarkt was decorated with fans and balloons for Karneval! And best of all, it was an unseasonably warm and sunny day. Showing off Münster at its best!
Lunch with family at the Kleiner Kiepenkerl meant a lot of catching up, and a very Westphalian meal of Krüstchen, Bratkartoffel and Salat.. Then of course, we had Kaffee and Kuchen, because… Germany.
Before you know it, I was waving goodbye, and on the train to Bremerhaven.
St. Lamberti Kirche
A Day in Bremerhaven
The last time I visited Bremerhaven was a good 25 years ago. I have to say, this port city in the north is definitely worth visiting. The Liberty Hotel, where I stayed the night, is brand new and right on the waterfront. Best of all, the feather bed was THICK! (Don’t we all love snuggling under a cozy feather bed?).
My new favorite Museum… The German Emigration Museum
After a marvelous breakfast including smoked fish and the world’s best Yogurt (I had seconds) I went right next door to the Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Museum) where I met Susan. A few years ago, this little museum won the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award, for a very good reason. I think this could be one of my favorite museums ever (and I love museums!). Seriously, it’s one thing to know that your family came to America from Germany by ship… but quite another to experience what it was like. The museum immerses you in the sights and sounds your ancestors knew on their journey. I honestly felt like I was on a SHIP!
The Deutsches Auswandererhaus was the centerpiece of my trip… and really, the most important thing that I want to share with all of you. I highly recommend adding Bremerhaven to your bucket list… so you can look out at the sea like your ancestors did, and maybe start to understand what it was like to make that journey.
My only regret on this trip came from having to leave this wildly interesting museum, I felt I barely scratched the surface!
Fresh Fish in Bremerhaven
And then we were off on a bus tour of of of Europe’s busiest Harbors. The size of the ships and equipment, and the sheer NUMBERS of cars that come through every year were overwhelming!
But I couldn’t linger…. I had to race to catch the train for Cologne.
A day in Cologne
Arriving in Cologne after 9PM on Weiberfastnacht is a bit like being the mom who shows up at a Frat Party 8 hours after everyone else started drinking. I was way behind… and I was dragging a suitcase. Because my hotel was a bit out of town, I couldn’t linger… but I did get some fun photos! (and some sweet men in colorful suits with cut off ties sang to me about my “Himmel Himmel Himmel blaue Augen…”)
Cologne on Weiberfastnacht… people heading to the train
The next day I ditched the bags and enjoyed Köln!
Friday morning during Karneval is a funny time… there are a few drunks rolling home from the night before, there is a lot of mess (glass and trash) being swept up by local sanitation workers, there are tourists in costumes looking a bit lost… and city workers are busy putting up grandstands for the Rosenmontag Parades and also covering glass windows with plywood to protect them from over enthusiastic partiers. And it was drizzling….
I had the most amazing tour of the Cologne Dom! Honestly, I’ve seen it a few times, and it really is always awesome, but this time I had a guide named Parthena who loved history, and loved DETAILS (perfect for a trivia fan like me!). At one point we were crawling on the floor admiring the mosaics (which were made by Villeroy and Boch!).
Inside the Cologne Cathedral
Cologne is a city with a long history that began with the Romans… and for such a walk-able city, there really is a lot to see! The drizzle and cold wind was forgotten as we peeked in the Römisches-Germanisches Museum, slipped through Museum Ludwig (over the Philharmonic) and walked the waterfront. Ultimately, we ended up at the Duftmuseum in the Farina Haus. Now, most of you associate Cologne with 4711… but Farina was the first Eau de Cologne made in Köln. And it smells lovely, like a spring day. The company is still in the family (8 generations and counting), and a tour of the museum should be on everyone’s list. (It’s compact, and loaded with interesting bits and pieces).
Duftmuseum Haus Farina
I only had a short time left after the tour… so I tossed aside the to-do list, and just wandered. Isn’t it amazing what you find when you let your legs guide you? My late lunch was a Bratwurst on a Brötchen with a Kölsch at a stand-up Imbiß while people watching.
Sadly, my time in Germany was coming to an end, and I had a plane to catch!
The trip home (through Istanbul no less) is a long story… and despite the headaches, it couldn’t take away any joy and wonder I experienced during my few days in Germany.
Today I’m home at my desk, with piles of notes, loads of brochures, and hundreds of photos to sort out. I’m so looking forward to sharing more details of my experiences with all of you!
And I would LOVE to hear about your visits those cities!