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Edmonton to Frankfurt

Travel Day & Exploring Frankfurt

semi-overcast 12 °C
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EDMONTON TO TORONTO

Sunday, April 30
Even though I felt fairly organized for this trip, I still didn't get to sleep until very late and, as a result, only had two hours of sleep! My dear cousin, Nona, picked me up at 6:30 AM and got me to the airport by 7:00 AM. My luggage checked in at 38 lbs (which I was happy with), although my carry-on probably weighs another 20 lbs! With lots of advice from family and friends, I really tried hard to minimize my luggage, but to no avail. My carry-on was checked thoroughly, mainly because I didn't put all my liquid items in one bag. I'm sure that will make a huge difference! My first flight from Edmonton to Toronto (on Westjet) departed at 9:00 AM. It was a full flight. I was hoping to get some sleep, but no such luck. The lady next to me was napping quite easily and I was jealous. Eventually, we started a conversation and so much for her getting any more sleep! She was a lovely Nigerian lady who was traveling back to Nigeria as her mother had passed away. She told me a lot about her Nigerian culture and how she converted from Muslim to Christianity. It was very interesting. She was dressed very smartly and really stood out from the rest of us! As we got off the plane, I noticed that even her shoes matched her carry-on bag. She didn't even notice that until I mentioned it. Regardless, our interaction made the 3.5 hour flight go by quite quickly, even though I didn't get a wink of sleep. We arrived in Toronto at 2:45 PM (EST) in pouring rain. I had a five-hour layover in Toronto, so after getting some lunch, I managed to find a quiet spot to have a quick nap before boarding my next flight.

TORONTO TO FRANKFURT

My next flight with Condor operated by Air Belgium departed at 8:00 PM (EST). Unfortunately, I didn't get a window seat. I sat next to a young German couple (from Winnipeg) with a three-month old baby who was very quiet and slept most of the time. Regardless, I still couldn't sleep.
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Monday, May 1
Eight hours later, I landed in Frankfurt right on time (10:00 AM). I took a bus to the terminal and then had a very long walk to the luggage area. I was very impressed to see that my bag made it. From there, I hopped on the train which took me into the city centre. When I got off at the station, the escalator wasn't working, so I had to schlep my luggage up the stairs. I knew the hotel was about a 5-minute walk from the station, but unfortunately, I didn't have data roaming set up on my phone and the map I had printed was from a different station, so I had no idea which direction this hotel was. I wandered around aimlessly for awhile and then asked someone at a food truck who checked his phone and told me which direction to go. After walking for quite some time with no hotel in sight, I finally came across some police officers who sent me in the complete opposite direction. It was a public holiday and all the roads were closed due to a bicycle race so I couldn't even get a taxi if I wanted to! When I got to the street I thought I was supposed to be on (according to the latest directions), I was stopped by another police officer advising that I couldn't go down that street, so once again, I asked for directions and he sent me back in the opposite direction again, but finally the correct direction! Needless to say, after walking around in circles for about an hour, I finally found the hotel which was literally five minutes away from the station. Fortunately, it was a rather cool day and it was not raining. This was good practice for my upcoming tour. I was exhausted, but after settling in, I ventured out again (minus the luggage) with a good old-fashioned paper map to do some exploring.

I went to the Römerberg, the center of the old town and Römer house which was converted into the new town hall. Many events and festivals take place in this area and because it was a public holiday, it was very busy. I haven't spent much time exploring Frankfurt, but I do recall visiting this area on my first trip to Europe back in 1981 with my parents. I finally headed back to the hotel as my sleep deprivation and lack of food was starting to affect me.
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My second cousin, Katja, met me at the hotel about an hour later. We went for dinner to a nice Asian place (MoshMosh) and had a lovely visit. She toured me around the area and gave me good instructions on how to get to my next destination. I finally crashed at 10:30 PM in a super quiet, clean, comfortable room. I was very impressed with the Ruby Louise Hotel.
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Posted by liztravels 09:16 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Wuppertal

Frankfurt to Wuppertal

sunny 16 °C
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Tuesday, May 2
As exhausted as I was, I still woke up around 2:30 AM and that was it ... four hours sleep was my limit. I headed out at 8:00 AM hoping to get some breakfast, but the place I wanted to go to didn't actually open until 9:00 AM, so I decided to get myself a coffee and go for another walk. After breakfast, I checked out of my hotel and took my 5-minute walk with my luggage to the train station, only to discover that the escalator was shut down, so once again, I lugged my suitcase down the stairs. I hopped on the train to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and purchased my ticket to go to Wuppertal. At 12:30 PM, I was on my way to Wuppertal on a super, comfy train with lots of room to spread out. I absolutely love trains, so I was in my element. It was a one-hour train ride to Köln, where I had to change trains and another half-hour to Wuppertal. I got to the correct platform and hopped on the train that was sitting there, but something didn't seem quite right. This was a different kind of train, but it was heading to Wuppertal. It was delayed, but shortly after it left, I discovered I hopped on the slow train with all the stops instead of waiting for my express train that I had booked. It wasn't long before I saw "my train" go whizzing by me. No big deal, I only arrived 15 minutes later than the other train.
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This time, I was well prepared to find my hotel from the train station only to discover that as soon as I stepped out of the train station, I could see my hotel in full view ... no map or directions required, just a 5-minute uphill walk to the hotel. Wuppertal is very hilly. After checking in, I called my relatives and within a short time, my second cousin, Sonja came to pick me up. Her parents (Erwin & Christa) were waiting for me to have afternoon "Kaffee and Kuchen". Christa made one of my all-time favourites "Bienenstich" ... what a delight that was! We had a lovely visit, sorted through some old family photos and eventually, it was time to eat again. We had German wieners with a pasta salad ... all very tasty. We were all starting to fade, so Sonja drove me back to the hotel by 9:00 PM and I finally got to bed by midnight.
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Wednesday, May 3
I finally had a good night's sleep and woke up at 9:00 AM! I wandered into town to get some coffee and a light snack for breakfast. Afterwards, I took a round trip ride on the famous Schwebebahn which took about an hour because I had to backtrip as my station was right in the middle.

The Wuppertaler Schwebebahn ("Wuppertal Suspension Railway") is a suspension railway in Wuppertal, Germany. It is the oldest electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world and is a unique system in Germany. The first track opened in 1901. The Schwebebahn is still in use as a normal means of local public transport. New rail cars were ordered in 2015, called Generation 15, and the first new car went into service in December 2016. The Schwebebahn runs along a route of 13.3 kilometres (8.3 mi), at a height of about 12 metres (39 ft) above the River Wupper. The entire trip takes about 30 minutes.

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It was a beautiful, sunny day, but still a bit cool. Of course, I'm missing the heat wave in Edmonton which I would love! I hopped on a bus (the bus station was right next to my hotel) and took it to go visit my relatives. They had invited me to come for lunch and we had a delicious sauerkraut pasta casserole. After lunch, Sonja took me for a drive and we went for a nice, long walk through some parks and part of the city ... lots of hills, so I got my exercise today! Then it was time to go back to her parents for Kaffee and Kuchen. After that, we all went to visit the cemetery where Erwin's mother and siblings are buried. Then back to their place for dinner which was homemade pizza ... very scrumptious. I was prepared to take the bus back to my hotel, but it didn't run that late, so Sonja gave me a ride back. It was great to see my relatives who I hadn't seen in 10 years.
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Posted by liztravels 09:28 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Kalbe / Sittensen

sunny 18 °C
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Wuppertal to Tostedt


Thursday, May 4
This morning, I went back to the same bakery for my latte and a type of raisin filled pastry. I checked out of my hotel and headed back to the train station where I took the train from Wuppertal to Tostedt. It was a three-hour journey from Wuppertal to Bremen where I had to change trains. It was a very relaxing, enjoyable train ride. I made sure to read the signs properly this time. The platform had changed, so it was a good thing! Funny thing is people keep asking me for directions! It was another 45-minute ride to Tostedt where my second cousin, Roswitha, was waiting to pick me up. The countryside in this area is absolutely beautiful.
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We went directly to her house where we joined her husband, Wilhelm and her mother, Tine. They live in a small village called Kalbe. It was time for "Kaffee and Kuchen" ... another delicious cake and other sweets. Then I went for a walk around the village with Roswitha and her mother. Everyone knows each other in this village. Roswitha's mother is still in her own home, but has 24-hour care. After our walk, it was time for dinner, a typical evening meal of "Aufschnitt" (cold cuts) with various types of bread, cheese, veggies, etc. Very tasty! I briefly met one of their sons and a few other relatives who all live in the neighbourhood. We took Tine home and then Roswitha drove me to my hotel in Sittensen (Hotel zur Mühle), another very quaint, cute place. The lady who runs this place was extremely friendly and she made my day when she said I didn't have much luggage for a 5-6 week trip! She even helped me carry my suitcase up the stairs. I had a nice relaxing evening in my comfy room.
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Posted by liztravels 06:54 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Hamburg / Helsinki

semi-overcast 16 °C
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Tostedt to Hamburg to Helsinki


Friday, May 5
After a very restful sleep, I was up early and headed down for my breakfast which was included in the hotel price. What an amazing breakfast! There were "brötchen" (an assortment of buns), cold cuts, cheese, marmalades, fruit, yogurt, muesli, cereals along with my choice of eggs which were made perfectly and of course, coffee. After breakfast, I wandered into town and found a post office where I was able to find a few stamps for my collection.
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Roswitha picked me up at 10:00 AM and we stopped at the cemetery to see where her father and grandparents were buried. 20230505_101908.jpg
Then we headed back to her place where I met her daughter Denise and her 10-month old grandson, Linus, a very happy smiley baby. 20230505_122757.jpg
We went for a walk around the village.
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Then it was time for lunch. Tine and her caregiver, Anna, joined us. We had a chicken curry casserole with spaetzle, rice and salad. Home made canned cherries and ice cream for dessert ... took me back in time. It was delicious! 20230505_120609.jpg20230505_102913.jpg20230505_134101.jpg
At 2:00 PM, Roswitha drove me back to the train station where I caught my train to the Hamburg Airport at 3:00 PM. It was about 10 minutes late, which I understand is now the norm here. I remember the days when everything in Germany was very punctual. I had to make a connection at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to the S-Bahn and it sounded somewhat complicated. I asked a few people on the train and everyone gave me different answers as to where I needed to go. Fortunately, the lady sitting next to me said she was going in the same direction so would go with me. I was only concerned because I was cutting it close to my airport check-in time. It was a 40-minute ride to the Hamburg HBF on a very crowded train. When I arrived there, it was jam-packed with people. You could barely move. Apparently, there was a soccer game and another event happening, so everyone was coming to Hamburg on Friday afternoon. This lovely lady pushed her way through the crowd and I followed closely behind her accidentally running over a few toes with my suitcase in tow. It was apparently an 8-minute walk, but we managed to do it in about 5 minutes. I did have to manouver down a set of stairs, but managed to get to the S-Bahn with two minutes to spare! They run every 10 minutes, so I still would have made it in time. I'm not sure I would have seen the sign that indicated you must get on one of the first three cars if you want to go to the airport, but the lady ensured that I got on the right car, as the car behind it split off before the airport to go in a different direction. I remember that happening to me in Hamburg back in 1990!

I arrived at the airport at 4:15 PM (exactly two hours before my flight). Check-in was quick, but the security line was unbelievably long. I did get through within half an hour. I chose not to go through the scanner (as it was optional), but the lady didn't seem too impressed that she had to do a manual check. I could finally relax for awhile before my flight departed at 6:15 PM to Helsinki, Finland. I flew with Finnair and it was a very smooth flight which took just under two hours, arriving at 8:00 PM (9:00 PM Helsinki time). I lost another hour. My luggage came through fairly quickly and then I attempted to find the hotel shuttle buses. When I stepped outside, it was only 4C! Brrr! I left 28C for this?? I had just missed the shuttle, but the next one came in 20 minutes and I was at my hotel by 10:00 PM. Unfortunately, everything was closed by this time, so there was no place to eat, but since I had a good breakfast and lunch, I didn't really need anything.
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Posted by liztravels 08:05 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Helsinki

Intrepid Tour Day #1

sunny 8 °C
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Helsinki


Saturday, May 6
After a leisurely morning, I checked out of my hotel and took the shuttle back to the airport where I stopped for a coffee and a bite to eat. The restaurant at the hotel was already closed ... again! Funny thing, I paid cash and the total came to €7.10, so I gave the lady €10.10 and she kept arguing that she doesn't need the .10 as I've already given her €10. I tried to explain that it was easier for the change, but she insisted and gave me back €2.90. Then I finally got through to her that if I give her the extra .10, she could simply give me €3 which she finally clued in to! Wow ... don't people know how to deal with cash anymore?
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From the airport, I took the train to the Central Railway Station which was very easy because I could get onto any train. Within 1/2 hour, I was in central Helsinki. Then it was an easy 10-15 minute walk to my hotel which I found quite easily with my good old paper map. I checked in and by mid-afternoon I went out exploring Helsinki. I knew it would be cool here, but I didn't expect it to be this cold ... only 8C and the wind was very chilly. I still didn't bring enough warm clothes! I checked out a lot of churches and went to the market area along the waterfront. There were some outdoor pools by the waterfront and people were actually swimming there! I'm assuming the water was warm. Then I went to the City Museum which I found quite interesting.
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Today was the start of my 12-day Intrepid Baltic tour. I headed back to the hotel where my tour was to begin and met my roommate, Melieta, an Aussie gal in her 30s. I had originally requested to book my own room, but they couldn't accommodate me, so I had no choice. She seems nice, but she's an early to bed, early riser, so not sure how well that's going to work for me. At 6:00 it was time to meet the rest of the group, only six of us in the group plus our tour leader (Agatha from Poland) and a trainee tour leader (Alex from the Netherlands). The other four guys (3 Aussies and 1 from New York) had all booked their own rooms which is why I wasn't able to get one. We had our orientation and then six of us went out for dinner to a great restaurant called Savotta. I had the Arctic Char which was amazing! A few others had reindeer! We were back at the hotel by 9:30 and Melieta was ready for sleep by 10:15, so I decided I'd better have an early night too. Who knows ... I may turn over a new leaf yet!

Posted by liztravels 20:08 Archived in Finland Comments (2)

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