October 2014. Fourth Trip for the year. Life, work balance is amazing.
Long weekends in the Middle East always call for a celebration. Celebration of Life. Expats and locals pack their bags and try a new experience either within the UAE: beaches, mountains, deserts or… take a plane and get lost somewhere new.
It was Eid Al Adha, or Festival of the Sacrifice for our Muslim brothers and sisters. To celebrate when Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Ismael to God as an act of submission. Yes, all religions are almost the same. One calls him Abraham, the neighbour calls him Ibrahim. Ismael turns to Ishmael, Mary turns to Mariam, Joseph is Yousuf and Jesus is Isa. Its all the same. All we have to do is believe and respect each other. And I even found out that even the Christian archangels have their Arabic names: Archangel Michael is Mikhail, Gabriel is Jibrail and Raphael is Israfil. I love history, religion and how old stories from scrolls and manuscripts intertwine through religion and beliefs.
That’s why I love travelling to Europe. So much history. If only I could travel to the other Middle Eastern countries like Iraq where ancient Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilisation was born and of course Iran, where the ancient empire of Persia is located. That’s why I really felt bad when these militants with the capital I destroyed ancient temples of Nimrod. Really sad.
Now going back to the trip. Happy thoughts. So from Dubai flew to The Netherlands through Emirates. They have the best service and fleet, except their planes to Warsaw(come on Emirates! Those planes need to retire already). I only had 5 days for this Autumn break so this was like the most hectic road trip ever. Imagine. 5 days. 4 countries. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because I felt bad I always run out of time on museums and historical buildings. The only time I would know the story of the location I went to was when I am already in the hotel and reading the history in my bed before sleeping. Thank you Google.
Rented a small car in The Dutch Capital and what do you know, Budget Rentals(thank you!) upgraded it to something better. They said in their entertaining and amusing Dutch English accent- “We have upgraded it to something better for free and I know you will really like it”. Of course, I thought it was an Audi upgrade, like what they did when I was in South Africa, from a Ford Focus turned into an Audi A3 Sportback. Sorry guys but I am just a sucker for Audi. Everything Audi. Anyway, so here I was excited to see it in the basement and guess what, it wasn’t an Audi. I didn’t get an A+ but I got a B. a BMW 3 Series. Okay. But think on the positive side at least it was a 2014 GT: Gran Turismo Version so it was faster and full options, the works. I was impressed. So a BMW for a road trip to 4 countries isn’t that bad especially when you are on the German Autobahn(no speed limits baby!).
It was a three hour drive from the Dutch Capital to Wuppertal, one of the biggest cities or I will say town on West Germany, near Cologne. Visiting some friends in the town famous for the world’s first suspended monorail. Guess when it was built? This is what you really call German Engineering. 1901. When the whole world was still having regular trains on regular tracks, West Germany already has a suspended monorail going running around the city and above rivers. How cool is that. Well, I didn’t have time to try it since I decided to spend my day with friends and their families for a day trip to Cologne. Good thing I didn’t try because I heard you get motion sickness from the rocking of the carriage the whole time. I would like to keep my sausages and sauerkraut in my tummy thank you very much!
So off we go to Cologne! On a train of course since nobody wants to drive so everybody can drink. Why? Because it’s freaking Oktoberfest!
There was a problem. I had traveller’s diarrhoea. Or I was just assuming. It started in Amsterdam. I already felt weird. I drank some room temperature tea(must be the tap water). Then I was thinking. Seriously?! An Asian got sick drinking water in Europe?! I laughed so hard I farted. Don’t worry it was just gas. Promise. Maybe my Asian bacteria was not used to European flavours. Clean and potable. So I might even die if I drink water in Switzerland because they said it was the purest or in the French Alps! Haha… So dining and eating in my trip was a love and hate relationship. Or maybe it’s more like Love. It comes and it goes. =)
So there we were in downtown Cologne drinking up pints of beer and lots of shots of Jaegermeister(wrong move!) with hoards of meat on the table. It was fun even though I felt sick. The hot sun on my back, live Bavarian music, old and new friends around, cool autumn breeze and knowing that there was no work the next day, I was really on vacation.
Cologne was really on my list because of their cathedral. It’s not just a cathedral. It’s The Cathedral. A ginormous medieval edifice rising in the middle of the city. I will always remember reading James Rollins‘(my favorite author) book Map of Bones where the bones or remains of the magi or shall we say The Three Kings from the Bible were kept as holy relics. Story says they had magical powers. So I was intrigued and check it out. It was kept in a gold sarcophagus which made it even amazing. With the intricate artwork and details of the medieval artisans, it was a masterpiece.
Just sitting and looking up at the cathedral makes you imagine how they were able to build this massive structure and landmark in year 1248, comparing it to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which was finished just a couple years back.
Then an hour or two of walking down the streets and parks of old town Cologne, it was time to go back to Wuppertal to rest. Groggy from the meal and a little bit jet lagged, fell asleep on the train going back. But once we were home, it was time to have some tea in the back garden and eat again. Ugh… The weather was getting a little chilly outside so we went for a combination of Tea and Cognac. I was staying with a Polish family so Tea Time is also meal and dessert time on full throttle. There was yummy homemade lemony Polish cheesecake and German chocolates to pair it with the cognac. When the sun disappeared, the temperature went down, and we were still outside in the garden just talking about life. Good thing Chookoo was there to warm me up. He jumped from my chair and lay down on top of me. It was mutual understanding. We were warming up each other.
Night comes and all of Europe became quiet again… It was time to rest and wake up to a new day. A new adventure. I will stop here and continue my road trip on the next entry. Up next! Road trip from Wuppertal south drive to Bonn then Trier.
Enjoy the rest of the pics of Cologne below. All were taken with my Sony Nex 5-R.