A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 3): the Rhine valley

In September 2015, my mom, my wife and I embarked on a month-long trip through Germany, with a few days in Belgium and the UK thrown in for good measure. On the itinerary: Wuppertal, Brussels, the Rhine, Germany’s ‘romantic road’, Munich and the Oktoberfest, Berlin, London and Cambridge. All in a month’s time.

This is part three of the story, and is about our experiences in the Upper Middle Rhine valley.

The great Rhine, Ruedesheim and Oestrich-Winkel

When we got back from Brussels, we spent a few more days in Wuppertal, and then started our road trip in earnest. The first leg was a drive down the Rhine via Leverkusen, Cologne and Koblenz to Ruedesheim (a distance of just over 200 km, roughly one-third of the length of the Rhine in Germany) to meet some old friends of my mom’s. This route took us about three hours, and once we were off the autobahn, the roads mostly ran alongside the river. Driving along the river through tiny villages and past hilltop castles was vastly more enjoyable than using the autobahn, and gave us our first real experience of the German countryside. The only problem was that we kept having to slow down to the urban speed limit of 50 kmph every time we passed close to a village—and there were a lot of them—while being acutely aware of the hidden automated speed monitors along the road. Despite our best efforts, we were sent a few speeding tickets at the end of our trip (though finding out that that was normal for that route made us feel a bit better).

Continue reading A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 3): the Rhine valley

A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 2): Brussels and Nieuwpoort

In September 2015, my mom, wife and I embarked on a month-long trip through Germany, with a few days in Belgium and the UK thrown in for good measure. On the itinerary: Wuppertal, Brussels, the Rhine, Germany’s ‘Romantic Road’, Munich and the Oktoberfest, Berlin, London and Cambridge. All in a month’s time.

This is part two of the story, and is about our time in Brussels and Nieuwpoort.

Brussels: Baroque, pedestrian-friendly and very tasty

Having experienced the sights and sounds in and around Wuppertal—including a brilliant western classical music concert featuring Beethoven’s ninth symphony—we hit the road to Brussels to visit my aunt. Of course, before doing any road-hitting, we needed a car. So we visited the friendly neighborhood Hertz car rental company, and discovered that the Volkswagen Passat station wagon we had booked had magically transformed into a larger (and more expensive) Ford Mondeo. Nevertheless, after a bit of a wait during which licenses were scrutinized and credit card information was recorded, we were on our way. I had first shift as driver, and being used to driving on Indian roads, I was terrified. Having to drive a completely new car on the opposite side of the road didn’t help either, and the legendary autobahn—with its 180 kmph drivers—seemed like certain death! Of course, it wasn’t as bad as all that, and once I realized that people by and large stay in their own lanes most of the time, I calmed down and started driving in earnest.

Continue reading A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 2): Brussels and Nieuwpoort

A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 1): Wuppertal and Cologne

In September 2015, my mom, my wife and I embarked on a month-long trip through Germany, with a few days in Belgium and the UK thrown in for good measure. On the itinerary: Wuppertal, Brussels, the Rhine, Germany’s ‘Romantic Road’, Munich and the Oktoberfest, Berlin, London and Cambridge. All in a month’s time.

This is part one of the story, and is about our time in Wuppertal and Cologne.

Getting there

Considering the overall length of our holiday and the corresponding sizeable budget, we decided to take Air India’s day flight from Hyderabad to Frankfurt via Delhi because it was the cheapest available (approx. Rs. 25,000 per person). Consequently, we realized there was some truth in the saying ‘you get what you pay for’: despite putting us on a brand new Boeing 787 dreamliner (with electronically dimming windows, no less!) our in-flight entertainment system was on the blink, and so were the reading lights. After multiple reminders, the hostess finally told us nothing could be done, so we ended up entertaining ourselves through the seven-hour flight. Luckily, I had my laptop along, so I spent a few hours reading through a detailed guide to driving in Germany. Meanwhile, my mom took it upon herself to give my wife a crash course in German while I tried hard not to listen!

Continue reading A road trip through Germany, and other ways to pass the time (Part 1): Wuppertal and Cologne