Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Germany and Belgium

Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to visit a good friend of mine while he was working in Brussels, Belgium.  He offered to pay for expenses if I could make my way to where he was located, so I readily jumped on the opportunity.

We decided to take off to Germany and spent much of Saturday driving down to the Rhine River Valley and ending in the town of Stuttgart.  A lunchtime stopover was at Lorelei (Loreley) Rock.  Sampled some local German food at a cafe with the appropriate accompanying German beer.  I had some bratwurst and fritas (fries).  The following few pictures are from that region.

We needed to cross the river via a ferry

Overall, a very pretty region to drive.  Fun curvy roads off of the main highway. 

Once in Stuttgart we headed out for some local food.  A little restaurant we found nearby was almost full, but when we asked for a table they just put us in with another German couple, so we shared a table with them.  Kind of a community style dinning, but they were finishing their meal as we were arriving.  As we ordered it became apparent that we didn't know any German (or at least not enough to read the menu), nor did the host know any English.  The couple at the table knew English, so they helped us with the menu and we continued to have a long conversation (probably 3-4 hours total) over dinner and drinks.  It was quite a cozy little establishment with very traditional German food and some local wine, which we sampled.  I got some variation of cooked pork, scalloped potatoes (grilled further to make crispy), cheesy pasta, with a lettuce/potato "salad."  The salad was pretty pathetic lettuce (by US/British standards) with cooked potatoes and an oil dressing.  Needless to say, the traditional German diet doesn't include many vegetables.

The pictures are from the roof of our hotel.

The next morning we took off for the Neuschwanstein Castle near the village of Hohenschwangau.

The place we ate for lunch.  

It was a very local restaurant, but not one that seemed to get many tourists.  We basically walked from the tourist town down a country lane and noted the restaurant about 1/2 mile away.  Didn't seem like they got many tourists (or even cared to).  Only older Germans were there for lunch and the host again didn't know any English, but did have an English menu stashed away.  It seemed like a grandma/grandpa type establishment.  I got some pork tenderloin with cheesy mashed potatoes.  An appetizer we got was some sort of dough surrounding sauerkraut.  Again, little use of vegetables.

My favorite pictures surrounding the Neuschwanstein Castle.

Looking off to the North.

Looking to the West.

A bridge people could walk across overlooking the castle (from the South).

From the bridge back toward the castle.

 From the cliff above the bridge :-)

The waterfall nearby.

Then the long drive back to Belgium.  Let's just say it was nice to be on the autobahn... makes for a faster trip.  Our car didn't have miles/hour so we didn't know how fast we were really going, only in relation to the cars around us (at least in miles/hour), but I'd rather not say how fast we were going in km/hour now that I know the translation.

Once back in Belgium, my friend needed to go to work, so I took off around Brussels for the day before returning to London in the evening (by Eurostar).  I walked around to the Centre Palace (main tourist hub in center of town), visiting the Manneken Piss statue (statue of a pissing boy that who gets different outfits put on - I saw a US getup because of it being the 4th of July), the Atomium in a park in North Brussels, and around the European Union building.

The Manneken Piss

The Atomium

The Centre Palace (old part of Brussels that wasn't destroyed in WWII)


The European Union

Some nice ponds in a North Brussels park.

The rest of my photos are on facebook in a Germany album and Brussels, Belgium album.

A very good holiday, though semi brief, as it was really just Saturday through Monday, although I did arrive very late Friday night.  Much needed with all of the upcoming changes that will soon happen with my work and general life at the LMC and with Bridge Builders.