Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Germany: Koln and Bonn

A local bus seen on the taxi ride from Bonn to St. Aug
Travelling to new locations is an experience that we seek for pleasure and for business. During one of these trips in 2010, when I was traveling a hell lot in the first six months of the year, I got a chance to visit Germany for a business trip.  It was indeed a marathon trip, where I had to fly from Oslo – Germany -  UK – Oslo in a span of four days. The first two days, had to spend time in Germany for a Business Meeting. Took a  flight from Oslo, Norway to Dusseldorf in Germany.  From Dusseldorf me and my manager took a local train to Koln. One of the harrowing experiences was – everything was in German and the ATM Ticket vending machine for the train journey won’t budge if we did not have cash. Credit Cards for some reason were not accepted. Luckily my colleague had some Euro’s that were perhaps saved for a rainy day and we were able to get tickets and board the train.
Once in Koln, we took the Taxi to our Hotel. While on the taxi, saw some really long German buses, a host of different architecture and way of life, Lindt Factory and other interesting sights.

Lindt Chocolate Factory
Hotel Hangelar, St Augustin
St. Augustin Church
Deserted Main Street of St. Augustin
We wanted a hotel in Koln / Bonn but there were very few hotels in these places and were fully booked – thanks to the summer. So we booked a hotel in a quiet town called “Sankt Augustin” which was at a distance of 8-10 kms from both Koln and Bonn.  We stayed a couple of nights in Sankt Augustin and had overnight internal preparatory meetings and the actual business meeting  (for which we had to travel to some other place) the next day. The town of Sankt Augustin is a small quiet town somewhat in the middle of nowhere. Though not that far from Koln and Bonn, it usually has tourists who come on a religions pilgrimage to Koln, Bonn and other areas. The day we arrived, we checked into a hotel and then  walked down to the main street to find a place for dinner. The streets were totally deserted, though it was hardly 6 pm and we saw a Church (L shaped) and quiet streets with bilboard signs in German. We soon had a quiet Pizza place where they spoke decent English and had a beer and pizza and retired back early to bed for a hectic day of business meetings next day.

At Bonn Square
The next day, after the meeting was finished,  we travelled back to the hotel Hangelar where we stayed and the others who had flown in for the meeting left their own ways. I and another colleague of mine then decided that now that we are done with business, it was time for pleasure. We decided to meet at Bonn Square in the evening to walk around Bonn. Bonn as a city has a lot of historical significance and was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990.

The Bonn Square was very picturesque and had the typical European touch of cobblerstone footpaths (which i have begun to enjoy and cherish so much!) with scenic buildings with sloping roofs giving a feel of the "old world"  with comforts of the new world.  Bonn is also the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven - better known as Beethoven, the German pianist and composer.

From the Bonn Square, we walked around and saw the "University of Bonn", "Born Minster", Sterntor (star gate), Beethovenhalle (birth place of Beethoven). The town is a strange concoction of history and modern lifestyle. Most of the American Brands like Pizza Hut, Mac D's etc have a shop at the center.

The Bonn Minster is one of Germany's oldest churches having been built between the 11th and 13th centuries. At one point the church served as the cathedral for the Archbishopric of Cologne

Bonn Minster

University of Bonn

The Sterntor is a reconstruction of a gate of the medieval city wall

Sterntor (star gate)
American brands have invaded Bonn!
River Rhine
River Rhine with wonderful skyline of trees and churches

At the birth place of Beethoven
Indian Restaurant in Bonn
It took us sometime to walk around the city, enjoying the weather and the new surroundings. On the way to the riverside where the Rhine flowed, we had "Crepe" - a common street food item ( a la Vada Pav/ Double Roti / Sada Dosa in Indian term) in Europe. It was a long walk to the Rhine, but enjoyable. From there we walked parallel to the river toward Beethovanhalle. Finally exhausted after a long day at work and now walking around Bonn, we decided to have food and luckily found an Indian restaurant just overlooking the Rhine. Had loads of food to keep ourselves stocked and make up for the compromised lunch in the morning.

Sculptures depicting the heads of Saints Cassius & Florentius in front of the Bonn Minster.
Life @ 80 mph in AutoBahn
                                                                       In this trip i not only saw these exciting places as mentioned above, but also had a chance to travel through the "Autobahn".It is another name for a highway (like the NH in India) or Interstates (like the I90/ I91 highways). In fact, for highways in Austria, Germany and Switzerland the word Autobahn is used.The advisory speed limit of the German autobahn is 130 km/h (80 mph) and i could literally experience the same as depicted in the snaps! It reminded so much of the US interstate highways in terms of nature of the road, the scenery that flies by as you speed up to your destination and also the way the "Exits" are laid out. The first section of Autobahn was created between Koln and Bonn - the section that i travelled in. It was indeed an enjoyable experience to be driven around so fast on world class highways. After indeed a long day, finally decided to call it quits. Took a cab back to Sankt Augustin to my hotel from Bonn and slept the night out, before leaving early the next morning to UK.

A typical fountain
Bonn Minster
Life on the fast lane

The classic tourists nightmare. Where to go?


Paddy said...

nice blog. you took us with you to Bonn!!

Atreya rocks said...

Thanks for the encouragement Paddy!