After a day and a half in Frankfurt, we moved onto our next destination. We drove towards Amsterdam in the Netherlands, visiting a few places in between. We first stopped in Bonn where we visited their university, town hall, and a few of its famous farmers markets/local boutiques. Again, I was very much impressed with the country’s laissez-faire approach, not to mention their hospitality to their tourists.
I’ve got to hand it over to the Germans here. Their transit system is beyond superb, far superior to that of Toronto, or any other Canadian metro system for that matter. It’s well-developed with interactive digital time schedules everywhere (I have to give credit where credit is due and say that Toronto is starting to develop that too), and they also have a robust fare system so you rarely see long lines for a ticket-taker. Toronto is slated to get the LRT streetcar-train system down the road, and having seen the system operate here in Frankfurt, I honestly can say I can’t wait. I have no doubt that there are quite a few commuters, but looking into the buses, trains and streetcars, one would notice that they’re rarely packed – another sign that their transit system works.
We headed back on the road towards the Netherlands, and we even hit up the infamous German “Autobahn” highway for fun – the highway with no posted speed limit. In reality, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I had anticipated, as people rarely went over 130 kilometres/hour.
Our next stop was Cologne. We visited one of their oldest and largest churches there. We then headed on a mini shopping bonanza on a stretch of road that seemed to turn into a makeshift cobblestone market. Even though there were quite a few mom-and-pop boutiques, one would also notice the presence of many chain franchises that you would typically see in North America (i.e. Subway, Starbucks, McDonalds, Zara, H&M, and LUSH Cosmetics). That didn’t come as a surprise to me. What was unique was the way they were intertwined with one another, so you would see an H&M next to a local pretzel shop; both with an equal amount of shoppers.
Of course, I can’t finish this blog without talking about food. For the foodies out there, their food is definitely not something to complain about, either. I visited many of their pastry-shops making their cheeses, pretzels, chocolates, and danishes in-house, and the smells were unbelievable. I ordered a slice of their pudding-cake to go with my moka-latte, and the price was the best part. 2,99 €, no tax! I was not allowed to snap photos of their food, but I tried to sneak in a few window shots – take a look at them in the gallery below. My favourite store was one that sold every type of pretzel under the rainbow. In the words of Rachael Ray, “Yummo!”
I can definitely see myself living here one day. While I don’t speak German (yet), I love their way of lifestyle. They have a well developed public transit system for the “downtowners,” and if you live in the suburbs, most people drive either a BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, or a Volkswagen. I certainly wouldn’t mind either! I find their environment to be very well-kept, and I definitely have an appreciation for the history behind their landmarks.
Now I only spent a day-and-a-half here – definitely not enough – but I certainly plan on returning for a longer period in the not-too-distant future.
Next stop, Amsterdam – chat soon!