Cologne: Journey There!

I’m back from London!!  I had a wonderful time but now it’s back to the real world- preparing for classes and private English lessons, doing laundry, cleaning, sorting photos, blog posting… AND I picked up a terrible cold in Germany!  We’ll see how teaching goes this week- I have almost no voice and am super stuffed up.  Should be a good time.

That all being said, here is my first post about my Germany trip!  I actually wrote it before I left for London and I’m not sure when I’ll get around to doing the next installment, since school begins this week, but I promise I’ll get to it soon!  Enjoy 🙂

I learned a few things during my trip to Germany–my first big trip while here in Europe!  I learned that no matter how much you prepare, something unexpected will happen; I learned that sometimes you don’t prepare enough and something unexpected unsurprisingly happens; and I learned that when something unexpected happens, it all works out.  As you can probably guess, a few things happened during the trip that I had to learn to manage, but it wasn’t anything too big and I made it through and I had a great trip!  So without further ado… my trip 🙂

I left on Wednesday morning at about 7 for my flight at 10:25.  That might seem excessively early, but I had never been to the Nice airport before and I wanted to make sure I could make my way there using public transportation with plenty of time to spare.  I had planned on taking the express bus to the airport and had written down the times it came both for my departure and after my arrival, but I couldn’t find the correct bus stop.  I knew the general area it was in and the name of the bus stop, but it turns out there are like, three bus stops with the word “Riquier” in them, so I decided to forego that idea.  Using the Lignes d’Azur (the public transit system here) app on my phone, I entered in where I was and where I needed to go and made it to the airport no problem.  I took one bus and had to switch to another and it dropped me off right in front of the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Perfect!

My bags and Emmy.

I had checked-in online already so upon arriving at the airport I just had to enter in my flight reference number and last name and print off my boarding passes.  I did that and had plenty of time before my flight, but luckily the Nice airport has free WiFi, so I was occupied!

The flight from Nice to Frankfort was uneventful and then I took another super short flight to Dusseldorf.  I got in at about 2:30 and then had to figure out how to get to the Cologne train station by 5, which is where I was meeting my friend Claus.  Claus lives in Cologne and was a foreign exchange student at my high school during my senior year.  I hadn’t seen him in five years, but I was going to stay at his parents’ house in Cologne and then we were going to spend a couple of days in Berlin!

Me, Claus, and our friend Thais from Brazil, winter 2006.

Me, Claus, and our friend Naiana from Brazil (she took Thais’ place at Rockridge for second semester), spring 2007.

Wow, looking at those pics, Claus and I both changed a lot senior year!!

Okay so I flew into Dusseldorf because it’s only about half an hour from Cologne and the ticket was a lot cheaper.  Claus said it would be okay and literally all he said to me was, “Take the train from Dusseldorf to Cologne.”  Umm, okay!!  Luckily, my friend Tyler (the same one who took the pic at the top of my page and who helped me buy my plane tickets… man he comes up on this blog a lot) came to my rescue.  He’s been to Germany many times and is familiar with the area, and gave me more specific directions about what train to take and what stop to get off at.  I saved the instructions he gave me in my phone so I could refer back to them.

At the Dusseldorf airport, the first thing I did was get something to eat- I was starving!  I know I should’ve gotten a bratwurst or something German but the first place I saw was a sushi place, and it was too tempting!!  I love sushi and hadn’t had it since I left the US.  I sat down and while I was eating I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me, who turned out to be from Naperville, IL, in the Chicago suburbs not far from where I lived in Schaumburg!  Small world!  He even ended up giving me a piece of his sushi, haha.

17 miles apart. Crazy!

I asked someone how to get to the train station, and they directed me first to what I think was called the Sky Tram?  It was basically a hanging train car that took people to the Dusseldorf airport train station, which was about a five minute ride away.  Once I got there, I tried to buy a ticket from the self-serve station but I couldn’t figure it out- I tried to search “Cologne” and nothing came up.  I realized later that that was because Cologne in German is Köln- DUH KELSEY!!  I really should have figured that out sooner.  Oh well.

I went to the ticket desk and the nice English-speaking lady there sold me a ticket to Cologne and told me what track to go to- the train was leaving in 10 minutes!  I got to the track and the train was there so I got on, but I wasn’t sure it was the right one so I asked a guy sitting at the back who worked there.  He told me it was indeed going to Cologne, so I settled in for the ride.

After about five stops, the train was at a station so I looked on my phone at the stop that Tyler told me to get off at–it was in German so it was hard to remember!  It was “Köln Hauptbahnof,” which was the station we were currently at!!  I jumped up and ran to the door and tried to hit the button to open it, but it wouldn’t open, and then about five seconds later we started to move again.  Crap.  I stayed standing by the door praying that the train would stop soon!!  I got off at the next stop about five minutes later, then waited about 15 minutes for the next train going back the way I came.  While I waited I decided to call Claus, despite that it would be more expensive, because I had no idea how long it was going to take before I could get back to the correct station and it was about 20 minutes to 5 already.  However, he didn’t answer.

I got on the train, got off at Köln Hauptbahnof, and started looking for the perfume shop where Claus and I were supposed to meet- at this time, it was a few minutes after 5!  Claus called and I told him that I was near a McDonald’s- he told me to sit tight and wait for him.  After 10 minutes, he still hadn’t shown up!  He called again and said he was outside the McDonald’s, and I was inside, so I went outside, but he wasn’t there.  At this point I started panicking that I was at the wrong station!  But it turned out to be okay… I was at the McCafe and there was an actual McDonald’s just a few stores down, so I started walking there and saw Claus!  I was so happy to have made it there and not have to worry about it anymore!  Such a relief!

There is a HUGE cathedral literally right next to the train station, so we briefly walked through it while we talked and caught up.

Several people told me I needed to walk to the top of the cathedral, which we did the next day!

Then we went to Claus’ car and drove to his house, which took about 40 minutes in the rush hour traffic.  His mom had an AMAZING meal for us and his parents were so nice and welcoming from the first minute I arrived.  I had a room to myself on the third floor and my own WC.  Claus’ dad spoke English pretty well, but his mom doesn’t speak much at all- she’s from Brazil and had to learn German as a second language when she moved here!

My room. Claus’ mom Lillian had towels, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion all laid out for me, as well as two bottles of water and a glass!

She also had toothbrushes and toothpaste set out for me.

After I put my stuff in my room, I had dinner with Claus and his parents.  It was SO GOOD- carrot soup, a lettuce salad with cucumber and corn, chicken and mushrooms over rice, and homemade tiramisu for dessert.  Lillian is quite the cook!!  After dinner we had a little bit to rest and freshen up and then we headed out with a bunch of Claus’ friends, and I learned that in Germany it is completely legal to have open alcohol in a car as long as the driver wasn’t drinking.  We went to an Irish pub in Cologne that was having karaoke.  We hung out there all night drinking Kölsch, a beer brewed in Cologne, and talking.  Luckily, all of Claus’ friends speak English, and were really nice to me!  And I may or may not have ended up singing karaoke to “Call Me Maybe“… ahem.  Claus took a video but I’m going to do my best to keep it from ever seeing the light of day.

After a few hours we headed home for the night.  Claus’ family has WiFi, so I was able to use my phone to text people and let them know that I made it to Germany okay.  I’ll end this post here, since it’s already ridiculously long, but the next one will be about the day exploring Cologne!

Categories: Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Cologne: Journey There!

  1. Dad

    Echoing Afton; you’re going to be a really great tour guide in 5 weeks. We will be so thankful to have you.

    • I’m trying to get everything figured out before you guys get here! Like what hostels are like, experience with different airlines, etc. I figured out the express bus to the Nice airport on my trip to London- WOO HOO!

  2. Afton

    What adventures! You’re super great at handling public transit- in multiple languages! I’m really impressed.

    PS- I’m messaging Claus and asking for that video. Hahaha.

    • Afton

      PPS- SO sorry that you’re sick. Up the vitamin C, rest and fluids. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

    • Lol no I’m terrible at it! I keep having mishaps! But I’m getting better.

      Please nooo I’m gonna tell Claus not to send it to you, haha.

      And thanks schwest! As soon as I got home today I took a 4 hour nap.

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