Taking the Scenic Route

Leaving Cologne, The Autobahn, Part II

18th August 2008

Leaving Cologne, The Autobahn, Part II

As we were finding the highway, I saw this out my window

The navigation system, again, didn’t really know where we were for a while and kept trying to get us to turn into buildings. Eventually, on one of the more major roads, it started working correctly.

Over the Rhine

And this made me feel right at home.  (except that the driver had to be completely insane to drive a long hayrack, pulled by a tractor, through the city of Koln)

Once again Ms. Navigation Lady was leading us back to Attendorn on the curvy countryside roads. They are lovely, but we were hoping to get back there before dark, and really didn’t want to go down hairpin turns at night, so we pulled over to see if there was another setting that would direct us back to the autobaun instead of through the countryside. After flipping through the settings, we guessed that “Fast Route” might be what we need. After some anxious minutes trying to follow where it was taking us on the map, it finally lead us back to the Autobaun and we were off.

The sun was behind us and the road stretched out in front of us and it was fun. Great weather, great driving. Not so great navigation system. As we neared the intersection that would lead us on another short jaunt on a different autobahn highway before turning off towards Attendorn, the navigation lady told us to “Prepare to stay in the left lane in 300 meters”, (is she worried we will ignore her again and giving us a bigger warning now?), “…200 meters”, then “Stay in the left lane” and we watch what we thought was the exit go by on the right hand side. Just as we wiz pass the only exit, she insists “Turn Right NOW”. Um, lady, we are in the left lane, and the only thing to the right is through the barriers, off the bridge and down the hill. Not gonna happen. She then starts her “New Route, Make a U-Turn” in her sing songy voice again. She keeps repeating it to the point Zach and I are laughing as we argue with her that there is no place to turn around. Then she starts with “Off Road….New Route, Make a U-Turn”. Eventually, her meltdown turns to begging us “Off Road, Please Follow Arrow” (little arrows on her screen). More of the “Please follow arrows” and “New Route, Make a U-Turn” in that same sing-songy voice has us laughing so hard we have to slow down.

We find a place to turn around. She seems happier. She is now “Calculating a New Route” and we are back on the highway, cruising along. Pretty soon we are getting the warnings that the turn off is coming, except that when we come upon the exit, it is closed. Navigation lady doesn’t know it’s closed and is throwing another hissy fit. “New Route, Make a U-Turn” (a phrase that is now so stuck in our head that we know Zane is going to pick it up anyway because it is becoming part of our lexicon). She was convinced we were off roading again (clearly, she doesn’t know what off roading actually is, but if she is as autistic as she sounds, she wouldn’t like the dirt much). Nine KMs down the road we can turn around again, and she recalculates again.

This time, as we approach our intersection, when she tells us to “Prepare to stay in the left lane” we tell her where to put it and go into the right lane, get off the exit, and wonder of wonders, are actually able to follow her desperate plea of “Turn Right NOW” when she says it because we ignored her earlier.

She does a good job the rest of the way, except that we don’t follow her directions into the center of town (off roading again, apparently) and after a few more “New Route, Please make a U-Turn) we shut her off. We know where we are going and don’t need her any more.

Up the hill and to the castle festival for our last stop of the day.

(just a note, we are in no way being critical of autstics here…it was just our experience of the sing song repetitive phrases that autistics often have as they are scripting or using delayed echolalia. We could clearly hear Zane’s voice in our heads repeating the exact phrasing she used, and we found joy and humor in it, as only other parents/caregivers of an autist would probably relate to so well)

posted in Attendorn, Autistic Life, Autobahn, Cologne/Koln, Germany, Travel | 1 Comment

18th August 2008

A relaxed walk back to the car

Some more amazing architecture

There was an archelogical dig of an ancient Roman site and an old Synogogue.  It was closed, but surrounded by a glass enclosure.  Too reflective to take a picture, but we stood there for a while and looked in.  As we walked away from it, we traveled down this old Roman road that had been uncovered by the archeologists.

Another pass through the Plaza around the Cathedral

This time we had time to linger in the plaza and soak in the sights a bit more.  The pictures start at the other side of the Cathedral from our first set of pictures.


Kölner Dom bells sounding…

This guy was in the middle of the plaza, at the front of the Cathedral, playng piano.  Earlier, when we were being driven around the surrounding areas we saw a similar type set up on an island in the middle of the street, but couldn’t grab the camera in time to snap a picture.

Sidewalk Chalk artists.  (notice the doggy companion in the suitcase)

Front doors

We think these are cabs, but not sure.  These little bicycle things were all over though.

Living Statues and Street performers

Random Silliness as we left the plaza.  First, a group of guys enthusiastically chanting as they crossed the plaza, second, a bunch of drunk guys chanting as they opened beer.  lol.

posted in Art, Cologne/Koln, Germany, Music, Travel | Comments Off

18th August 2008

The Art Museum

Irony: The Art Museum is one of the only places there are no pictures of.

We truncated short our visit to the Cathedral so that we could get to the Art Museum. We walked to the nearest Museum from the Cathedral, but upon entering, it was obviously the Modern museum. I knew the German-Roman Museum next to it wasn’t where we wanted to either, so asked the guy at the desk, who directed us to the other museum, another 5 minute walk. We booked it as fast as our legs could carry us, despite the blisters starting to really flare on my feet. We got to the museum we wanted, with only 40 minutes to go through the museum. An impossible task, but I knew I might not get a second chance, so we paid the admission and started on the top floor, where the impressionist where, and worked my way down to the first floor, where the earliest works were.

It was, honestly, some of the best 40 minutes of my life. I was so overwhelmed I was wiping back tears as I stood there seeing the paint strokes, the areas with thicker paint, seeing where a brush was lifted, where paint was applied with multiple colors on the brush, and seeing the full masterpieces instead of just the pictures on the pages of my Art books. We saw sculptures of Degas and Rogin, sketches and paintings of Rembrant, and I stood in front of an enourmous water lily painting by Monet. Many of the paintings, including the Monet and Rubens, were out in the open so that you could get up close to them and really see the paint, see the texture of it. If you wanted to, and there were no guards watching, you could have touched them, I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to touch the actual paint, but you could probably touch the canvas if you were overwhelmed and not thinking clearly. Of course there were guards next to the Rubens. There were so many names and painting I was so familiar with, both famouse and not as well known, and it was almost shocking to see them in real life.

We made it down to the first floor, those old Christian Iconic art that was, honestly, something I just “got through” when studying art. It never really held my interest when studying it, and the only images that really stuck in my brain where the ones Monty Python used in his shows. Much to my shock, those pictures had a life in them I never imagined. What looks flat and not particularly intersting in a book, jumps out at you in stunning life when you see them. The gold appeared to be painted with actual gold, so that as you moved, the color subtly shifts. The details really pop, the faces look smooth and photographic almost. I was really taken aback by work that I had so iritably dismissed for so many years.

When the call came over the speakers that the museum would close in 15 minutes, the only thing that pulled me away from them was my desire to look at some of the Rubens again. There were about 3 of them there that had really captured me…huge, enourmouse paintings. Much bigger than I had ever imagined them to be. I stood there and just absorbed them in the short time we had left.

It would take me a week to really, truly, “look” at all the paintings and sculpture. I wish I would have the time, but I am so thankful we just went for it, even at the unmerciful pace. It is a life changing experience to see paintings like that. (at least for me it was. So many years of studying art and it all seemed worth it in those 40 minutes)

posted in Art, Cologne/Koln, Germany, Travel | 1 Comment

18th August 2008

Arriving in Cologne / Koln, finding the Cathedral

Again, pretend the little dots are above the “o” on Koln. I know there is a way to do that, but don’t really want to figure it out right now.

We were told ahead of time to just go to the center of the city and park, and indeed, the big Cathedral we wanted to see and the art museum near it appeared to be at the center of the city on the map, but we didn’t have a specific address, so we set the navigation for “city center”. This means that at some random point, after weaving through insane little streets so choked with people walking that you just have to slowly go to push through the crowds, the navigation lady will abruptly say “you have reached your destination area” and you are left to figure out how to find a parking garage in utter chaos. Needless to say, we did a lot of looping around to try and find parking. Thankfully, the “P” signs look like they do at home, but when there are multiple parking garages, they seem to point every direction, but are hard to spot when you pass by them. lol.

Eventually, we did find one. We had no idea how far away it was, but when we emerged, I saw a Marriot parking garage across the way and insisted we find the Marriot attached to it and ask in there where to go since it was already late in the day and we didn’t have time to waste. That was a fantastic idea. English speaking concierge with maps. A couple of Euros tip, and we were off with a map, with the Cathedral, the Art Museum, and the Marriott all circled. (so we could find our car again, relative to where the Marriott was).

The Train Station

We had to go through the train station to get to the Cathedral and Museums on the other side. That was an adventure in and of itself. We were parched, and saw a McDonalds near the entrance and decided that might be the easiest place to get a drink. Wow. I had never been to a McDonalds like that. People were packed in there like sardines and it took a while to even get the the front of the line. Upon exiting, we did note that the coke is so much better here in Europe because they still use sugar instead of HFCS. Much more refreshing without the aftertaste we are so used to it seemed normal.

The train station was a marval to behold. Just about every race and culture were represented in the shifting crowds. We saw groups of Punk Rock kids looking very much like our friends did in college, we saw lots of people from India, several different styles of Jihabs and Burkas, and every style of Western clothing imaginable. It was a lot like an airport, only much louder and a bit dirtier. I think the train station dwarfed the airport we flew out of in Wichita.

The Cathedral
The Cathedral is what the word “Awesome” was made for. There is no way to truly capture it in pictures. The intricacies of the architecture were beyond overwhelming. At one point, before the Washington Monument and Eiffle Tower were built, it was the tallest building in the world. It has also been under construction, of some kind, since they broke ground for it, and true to the literature, there was scaffolding around it in places, fixing the building.

Inside, this is the view of the “short” length of the cross shaped building

Zach, former alter boy, lit candles for his Roman Catholic Grandparents. They would have loved to see this place.

On to the Art Museum, but we will pass back by the plaza on the way back to the car, so more pictures from the other face of the Cathedral later.

posted in Cologne/Koln, Germany, Travel | Comments Off

18th August 2008

On to Bonn, to search for Yarn

We did not discover until partway through our trip home that if you set the automatic navigation system to “short route” it is different than “fast route”. To us, shortes route is the fastest route, so we didn’t think much of it when we set it initially. What we ended up taking was truly the scenic route, weaving through the countryside and small towns. It was nice and showed us that Attendorn is a pretty typical smaller town here in Germany. We went past lots of old churches as the roads wound through the rolling countryside. We enjoyed watching small town life as we puttered through the streets. At one intersection, we saw a bridal party being chased and honked at by a line of cars. (it was cool to see they do that here too and it isn’t just an American thing to do) There were trees everywhere. My biggest impression of Germany is probably how green it is and how many trees tower over the roads and countryside.

Eventually, the architecture started changing slightly and the towns along the way became a little denser and gradually looked more and more urban, until we found ourselves driving in a large metropolitan Bonn.

One of the more unsettleing things is that the road share the same space as the trains in places. There wasn’t any choice but to follow the roadway, but dang, it made us nervous. As we got into town, the lanes of traffic split, with the rails in the middle, so you were right up next to any passing trains. The trains were really short too. I am used to freight trains, miles long at times. This is maybe two up to six cars long, painted brightly with advertisements.

Our first blip with the navigaton system came when we were in the middle of heavy traffic in downtown Bonn. The voice suddenly announced “You have reached your final destination area” with no further explanation and we were like “Where?” We are in the middle of traffic and no sign of the specific store we are looking for. We decided it might be on one of the side streets and maybe you can’t drive there. (a weird phenomena we have noticed around here. On the older, super narrow streets, they often block off all automobile traffic and you are only able to walk). We found a parking garage just before the train platform (and what appeared to be a giant outdoor escalator) and went down into that, hoping we would be able to figure out how to pay for the dang thing. lol. Faced with multiple directions we could go, pointing to, presumably, different streets above, we kept going left. We ended up finding a parking space about 5 spaces away from one of the exit doors down a level. I had to get out of the car so Zach could park because the space was so narrow that I would have not been able to get out.

We ended up next to an elevator, and when we came up to the street, we discovered we were across the street from where we went down. lol.

That was odd. It was the first time I can remember being in a group that big crossing a street. It was a wall of people and bikes pushing forward to the other side. We walked away from the train platform, trying to figure out where exactly it was that the navigation system abruptly announced we were there. As it turns out, we overshot it a few streets, but we did eventually find the street we were looking for.

Along the way, Zach was amused by the fake birds on the sign.

The shopping area itself was really amazing, although the crush of people made me know this is not a place I would ever want to come with Zane.

Zach is the one who spotted the place first. I was dazzled by all of the shops and not looking up at signs, but suddenly there it was, the meca of German Yarn: Wolle Rodel. (I don’t know how to put those little circles above letters, so pretend they are there) Oh.My.Goodness. Now THIS, my friends, is a yarn store. Whoa. The selection was dizzying. I read someplace on the internet that their in store brand is pretty good, but I ended up picking out things like Regina, and Lana and other magnificent brands. It was about half the price that I would pay for it in Kansas, and considerably more than the dozen or so various colorways I have ever seen IRL before. It was Yarn Nirvana. I had fun. They had all kinds of yarn there, but I was focused on the sock yarn because I don’t feel like spending the kind of cash I would need to if I were to make my plus sized body a sweater, but socks I can handle. lol (I will take pictures of the stash later, but they are in the car trunk at Zach’s work right now)

After the yarn, headed back to the street, we noticed Beethoven’s house and museum. We stopped there to look in the shop and at the building, but didn’t really want to spend the time going through the house, and especially not pay to do it when we had plans of going to the art museum in Cologne. (Had it been Bach, or Vivaldi, or especially Mozart, we would have spent more time there despite our other plans, but the desire to see a Monet and Rembrant IRL was overwhelming my desire to see Beethoven’s house on the inside)  I did, however, pee there. So, I can now say that I peed at Beethovens house. lol.

So, for those of you who found this blog searching for where to shop for yarn in Bonn, Germany, find Beethoven’s house and on the other side of the street, a few shops up (away from the main driving street), you will see Wolle Rodel.  On the street we drove in on, there was a big McDonalds on the corner across the street from the walkable shopping area.

We grabbed a quick snack and cup of coffee before going back to our car, with my wool sitting at my feet.  We had cheesy bread and some pastries with bavarian cream in them.  We decided that “hey, I think these are what toaster pastries are supposed to taste like”

Along the way we came across a group of American (by the accent) college age girls all giggly trying to shuffle around and take pictures of eachother. I asked if they wanted me to take a picture of them all together and they were giddy. lol. I think afterwards it might occur to them…”hey…she spoke English”, but they were so focused on what they were doing at the time I don’t think it registered.” lol

Getting out of a parking garage is sort of weird. The “out” bar area isn’t manned. On your way to retrieve your car is a vending machine type thing. You put your parking ticket in there, then start putting in Euros until you have paid it. It stamps it and spits it back out at you. Then you find your car, follow the Ausfahrt signs (our nemonoic, of sorts, to remember which is “exit” is “the Fahrts exit out the Aus”) and find your way to the street. When you get to the exit bars, you slide the stamped ticket in and the bars raise up (and you sigh in releif that you figured it out)

This is where the navigation starts getting weird and you remember why you need to bring a map, a compass, your common sense, and a sense of humor with you on the trip. Right outside the parking garage we set the navigation for Cologne/Kohn.

Since the parking garage exited out onto a side street, we had to first get back on the highway and followed the instructions of the lady in the machine as we wound around the streets. At first, all seemed well, but as it kept telling us to “turn right/left at 100 meters”, then “turn right/left NOW” and it was directing us to turn into buildings, we first thought it was because we don’t have a really good feel for what “meters” is because we think in feet and yards, not the metric system. It seemed like it had us going in circles, and then, we as we pulled up to the exit of the parking garage, we discoverd it had, indeed, directed us in a circle, we pulled over and laughed heartily and tried to reset the navigation system again. It did it again. We decided maybe it thought we were on the highway above, so we pulled farther away and reset the system again. When it tried to take us back to the parking garage, we rebeled and found our own way back to the street. At this point, the navigation system is having her own little meltdown because she thinks we are lost, lost, lost, and keeps insisting that we are “off road” and “New Route, Make a U-Turn” in a sing-songy voice. After hearing this a while, when we are clearly back on track, we decide the lady in the navigation system is autistic, and very happy Zane is not in the back seat to pick up the phrase “New Route, Make a U-Turn” in a sing-songy voice over and over again when we pass something he wants to go to. lol. Eventually we get the navigation system reset and all seems well for the trip to Cologne. It still has us taking side routes instead of the Autobahn, which confuses us, but we can see on the map and with the compass that we are going the right direction, so we live with it.

On to Cologne/Koln

posted in Autistic Life, Bonn, Food, Germany, Knitting, Music, Shopping, Travel | Comments Off

17th August 2008

The Autobahn, part I

There are no pictures.  There is no way to show visually how much fun it is to drive on the Autobahn.  (more acurately, there was no way to grab the camera in time to get the pictures….”look at that”  “what?” “never mind”.)

One of the interesting sights on the way to the Autobahn were the myriad of biker bars and biker gangs hanging out on the scenic overlooks.  I wouldn’t want to mess with them or anything, but they looked like a higher caliber of biker than I generally see.  lol.

Once on the Autobahn, we had the humourous, anticlimatic, experience of a traffic jam.  We nearly stood still and inched our way forward for a while as we edged around construction.  *sigh*  This is NOT the Autobahn experience we were looking for.  lol

Eventually we got past the construction and the road opened up.  As I watched everybody pass us, I asked Zach if he was planning on going any faster.  This is the Autobahn, you don’t need to go speed limit.  Everybody is passing us.  So, he sped up.  A few more miles down the road, I made the comment “You are SO not Steve” (my brother, who builds and races cars as a hobby) and we laughed.  He said “I’m Going 100….do you really think it is ok to go faster? Last time I went faster I threw a rod”.  I told him that “ 100km per hour is only about 60 miles per hour…we go faster than that on the interstate, and we are driving a new car meant to go fast, not an aging 1969 clunker.  Plus, people hauling trailors are passing us.  You can go a leetttle beet faster”

So, eventually, he started punching it up to a more “reasonable” speed of 160km/hr.  “Honey, do you notice that even the minivans are still passing us?” Eventually, he kept up with traffic.

It wasn’t until the ride home though that he really felt comfortable enough to be the passer instead of the passee.  Now that was some serious fun.  He described it as feeling like we were in a video game. Even getting up to the faster speeds (not gonna say how fast, but we were booking it), where we were doing most of the passing, we still had the uncanny experience of discovering in the middle of a pass that the vehicle that was just a speck in the mirror at the start of the pass was suddenly riding our tailpipe halfway through. Now that person would be Steve.

Later, I will add more about the fun of an automatic navigation system on the autobahn, but the story is better after some of the in town navigation experiences.

posted in Autobahn, Germany, Travel | Comments Off

17th August 2008

The Only Saturday we are here, and What a Saturday it was!

When we walked into the hotel room at the end of the day we decided that it was the fullest and most fun day we have in our lives, with the exception of our wedding day and the birth of our children. Wow, what a day!

We got a late start, at least later than we have been waking up since we got here. We were up late talking to people online back home, and went to bed later than usual.

We left the hotel room intending to just find an ATM to get some cash, grab a roll from a bakery, and get on the road to Bonn and Cologne/Koln.

When we walked towards the bank, we discovered that Saturday is Market day. Lining the shop filled streets (no car traffic any time) were vendors of all kinds. Everything from fruits and veggies, to sausages, to flowers and plants, to garden ornaments, to clothing, to suitcases and purses. It was amazing.

When we went to the bank, we were amused to notice that one of the other people there, looking almost as confused as we were at the multiple type of atm machines (and trying to determine which one to use) was speaking in French. 

While we were struggling with figuring out the bank machines with our phrase books, a choir formed outside.  We stood and watched them for a while.  They appeared to be a high school or college singing group. Pretty good too!

We sat down for some breakfast at one of the many outdoor cafe/bakeries.  I was really excited to notice that they had a version of poppyseed rolls.  Although they resembled the flavor of my grandma’s poppyseed rolls, it feel short for me.  Still very good, excellent in fact, just not like Grandmas.  It was still pretty neat though.  Zach enjoyed his croissant with fruit filling too.

Walking back to the car still parked at the hotel, we saw a chalk drawing of a house on the side of a building.  We enjoyed seeing a display like this…reminded us of our favorite son.

 We filled the tank up and Zach showed me two quick sites on the way out of town. 

First, the jail.  I wouldn’t want to spend any time there, but a really nice looking jail, as jails go.

And, just down the road, the restaurant his coworkers took him to the first day of work

And, with that we were on the road for a day of adventure.

posted in Attendorn, Food, Germany, Music, Shopping, Travel | Comments Off

17th August 2008

Work ends for the week and we go out for the evening

In the square in the middle of town.

We see lots of touring bikes everywhere

Looking towards the hotel from the town square

Remember the webcam pictures of the town square I linked to before I left?  We think this is the camera that is shooting those pictures.

If you look closely, you can see the white speck that is the camera on the leftmost lower window on the roof of the building on the right.  (the one with the stepped roof line with no shops)

One of the bakeries you can see from the camera. We had coffee and split a bun with cheese baked on it.

These little bees are everywhere.  They drive Zach absolutely nuts.  They are about as abundant as flies are in Kansas. (and about as annoying)

After some shopping, we went back to the hotel for supper.  Tonight the weather was nice enough that they had the patio dining open, so we opted for that. 


If you like something, you can show approval with a thumbs up, but if you show them the A-OK sign, you are calling them a bad name.  (a stinky part of your body).  Don’t do that.  If they know you are an American they are polite enough not to tell you, but certainly notice the faux pax.  If they don’t know you are Americans, they might kick your butt.

 Looking around, enjoying the beer, waiting for the food.

Ah, the food.  I can not say enough good things about the food here.  It is just divine. 

On the way from the hotel restaurant back to our room, we pass by the pizza place we have been to a few times and realized we had no photo of it.  Good food here too, but much more casual.  There seems to be a lot of the combo of Pizza and what appear to be Gyros.  (some sort of Turkish food)

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17th August 2008

Another Old Church in Attendorn











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17th August 2008

A 13th Century Tower

This is one of the two remaining towers from the old wall when the town was fortified.  (not sure where the other one is yet)









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