Down the Rhine

Vacations with the Downers are always interesting. There is story for all parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. This is how our adventure started.

Dad left work early to bring us to the airport. We wanted to leave our house by 3 p.m. for our six o’ clock flight, because it takes about an hour to get from our house to the airport – Houston is massive like that. So naturally, we left at 3:45.

As we loaded up the car and pulled away from the house, John let us know that he could not find any AAA batteries for his Beats headphones. Why he waited until then and why headphones even need batteries, I have no idea. Dad turned the car around, went back into the house and grabbed AA batteries after Mom honked the horn because he took longer than 45 seconds. So then we had three testy people in the car: Dad and John, because Dad grabbed the wrong batteries, and Mom, because she was convinced we were going to miss our flight.

Mom then proceeded to passenger-seat drive while Dad recited all the routes he thought he was supposed to take (none of them correct). Barb’s commentary: “You can drive a little faster.” “Now, they will pull you over here.”

We finally make it to the airport…at 5 p.m. John and I did not have validated passports yet, so United wouldn’t allow us to check-in early. Then things got crazy. Basically, if you’re not checked in two hours before your international flight, the airline could sell your seats to someone else. Uh…so Mom had a mini panic attack as they told us “you’re lucky” that we still had seats. Our plane was also boarding in 10 minutes.

Then, my mom got that look on her face that either she was going to pass out or that it just might be the end of the world.

A miracle happened as we made it through security at 5:19, one minute before our plane started boarding. Then came the sprint.

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From victorious.wikia.com-.

We got to our gate just in time, but we didn’t stop to buy bottles of water, no NyQuil, no nothing. Uh oh. The movies available on the flight were pretty good, and thank goodness for that. John and I didn’t sleep a wink. Not at all. We were completely wide awake for a 10-hour flight, and we arrived in Frankfurt at 11:20 a.m., 4:20  in the morning central time.

Our airplane parked nowhere near the terminal, and we took a bus to the gate. Weird. And Frankfurt’s airport is warm. Like, really warm. We got lost trying to find our way out of the airport, of course, but everyone that works there is very nice, and they helped us find our way to customs.

After validating our Eurail passes, we hopped on the correct first train, then got on the wrong second train on the way to St. Goarshausen. Basically, we added two hours to our travel time. We thought we learned our lesson then…

By the time we made it to our destination, around 5 p.m., we discovered that our hotel had no air conditioning despite having a nozzle that looks like a snowflake.

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So, because it was hot and we were exhausted, we had German beer on a terrace and planned out the next day.

The lack of sleep caught up with me as I literally fell asleep at dinner. I hardly remember the ferry ride and walk back to our hotel, and I unintentionally passed out completely dressed – jewelry on, contacts in, the whole shebang.

Mom woke us up to get ready for the next day at 6:30 a.m. By this time, we were well-rested and woke up easily, got dressed and were ready for our hotel’s breakfast to start. It was so odd to us that by eight o’ clock, there was still no hint of a sunrise. It was then that Mom noticed her phone said the incorrect date. So, what happened: Mom’s phone never changed time zones…and it was actually 3 a.m. We were dressed and ready to go. And it was three in the morning.

We called Dad, because it was only 8 p.m. in Houston, and we watched the only English channel available, CNN. We all eventually fell back asleep and woke up again at the actual 8 a.m.

Our free breakfast consisted of cold cuts, cheese, scrambled eggs and bread. After that, we were on a literal hunt for bottled water. It is completely foreign to us Texans that there aren’t convenience stores on every corner. After walking for what seemed like hours, we gave up and visited a coffee shop. We finally bought bottles of water listed as “table water,” making it the second (but definitely not the last) time that we accidentally bought the carbonated stuff. For any future travelers, save yourself the heartbreak of carbonated water and buy the water that says “still.”

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IT’S A TRICK!

The Eurail app is awesome for tracking trains and making plans, but it does not list platform numbers. We learned later that the DB Navigator app is way more helpful – it will tell you if your train is on time, early or late, AND it lists the platform numbers. Hoorah.

So after we missed our train to Braubach (because we were on the wrong platform), we figured out that the K-D ferry lines are all listed on the Eurail app as well (as St. Goar KD, Braubach KD, etc.), because they’re included in the pass. So instead, we hopped aboard the boat and took an hour-long ride down the Rhine. It. Was. Perfect. The ferry has a restaurant inside, a Subway and two large decks with a bar to watch the mountains and castles while also catching some rays.

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In Braubach, we ate at a restaurant in the middle of the marketplace, away from the main road. It was very quiet, basically dead quiet. The marketplace looks exactly like something you’d never believe was real. In the least-cheesy way possible, it was like stepping into a fairytale.

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Right up the mountain is a large Cinderella-like castle called Marksburg.

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There’s a train that leaves from the main road by the train station and takes you all the way to the top to see the castle, so naturally we opted for that instead of making the hike.

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Our tour was 100 percent in German, but we had an English guidebook to follow along. The castle was enchanting, massive and ancient. I was completely in awe of the history surrounding the structure and found myself making every attempt to touch all the items that say “DO NOT TOUCH” in three different languages.

One thing I learned from the castle: The stairs are very steep. So steep that they’re intimidating to walk up and scary to walk down. I’m very surprised they don’t make you sign a waiver before the tour, because it’s almost too easy to trip, take a tumble and take the tour group with you.

We took the train back to St. Goarshausen, had dinner at a hipster restaurant and drank some Rhine wine to wrap up our time in St. Goarshausen. Now, we just concluded our time at Rothenburg ob der Tauber, our second stop, and I’m hoping to get that post up soon.

Stay tuned, friends.

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Peace up, Downers out.

Caroline

 

 

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