Germany diary, days 1 & 2

22:15, Friday 28 September. Sydney Airport

Our plane is over an hour late departing Sydney, and we are still sitting at the gate waiting to close the doors. We left home just before 17:00, catching a taxi to the airport. We thought the traffic would be bad during the Friday evening peak hour, but it wasn’t except for a bit of a bottleneck entering the Eastern Distributor off the Harbour Bridge.

On the way, it started raining, a storm breaking the hot spring day. We saw lightning as we approached the airport, but the sun broke through as we arrived at the departures terminal and a huge rainbow arc shone over the runways. I commented to M. that planes could be delayed by lightning, but the storm passed and was over as we left the cab and entered the terminal.

We’d checked in and printed boarding passes online, and the instructions said if we had no checked bags to drop off we could go straight through security into the departure lounges. So we did that, passing through fairly quickly as there weren’t very many people going in. However we both got pulled over for a bomb residue check, which took a few minutes.

We checked the duty free shop and bought some gin and Campari to pick up on the way back in. Then we looked for something to eat as M. was hungry. We tried the food place we ate at the past couple of trips, but they had run out of vegetarian quiches, and M. didn’t fancy anything else they had. We looked around a bit and settled on a nearby place that did pizzas and pastas and some other things. We got a spaghetti with tomato sauce and a margherita pizza. The spaghetti was really good, the pizza very cheesy and with a thin but doughy and chewy crust.

After eating we walked to the gate at the far end of the terminal and relaxed for some time as we had arrived fairly early. At the indicated boarding time we went to the gate and stood close to the entrance for the economy passengers. But we’d seen the cabin crew arriving and they were all still sitting around the gate area, not on the plane. I realised there was some delay, and we ended up waiting quite some time before anything happened. At one point they called our names to come to the counter, and M. went over. They needed to scan our boarding passes for some reason, maybe because we hadn’t checked in any bags.

After a long delay they finally began boarding, letting everyone on at once. Since we were right near the front we got on quickly, finding our seats in the front section of the downstairs deck on the Airbus A380. After everyone had boarded there was more delay, as the flight crew announced that “some people have decided not to fly with us tonight and their baggage needs to be removed”.

Now, we’ve finally pushed back and begun taxiing, an hour and twenty minutes late. Oh well, at least we’ll have less time hanging around in Dubai waiting for our connecting flight to Frankfurt.

08:05, Saturday 29 September

We are in Dubai, sitting on board our next flight, to Frankfurt. After being over an hour late out of Sydney, our flight was delayed even further landing in Dubai due to heavy air traffic. We end up landing about 07:20 local time, and our ongoing flight was due to begin boarding at 07:40. By the time the plane taxied and connected to the gate, it was almost boarding time.

As we exited the plane, we found a set of about half a dozen ground staff waiting, holding up sheets of paper with various ongoing destinations printed on them. We found the guy holding up a sheet with Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Geneva, and a couple of other European cities. After telling him we were headed to Frankfurt, he told us to wait with him until we collected a few more people. He collected ten or so people, and then waved us to follow him, in the opposite direction to most of the people still getting off the plane and heading out to other connections.

He led us along an upper floor, from where we could see the gate for our flight on the floor below, which was already boarding. But we had to walk another 50 metres or so to a security checkpoint, which looked as though it may have been cleared just for us, as there was no queue at all. We passed through, then down to the departure gate level and walked back to our gate. M. was craving a coffee, so stopped at a coffee shop on the way while I waited in the queue to enter the boarding gate. She got the coffee quickly enough and we passed through and onto the plane, near the end of the queue. I was surprised that they let her keep the coffee all the way on to the plane. For this flight was have the front row seats in the lower deck for extra legroom, but because we got on late our bags are stowed in overhead lockers about four rows back.


We are on the ICE 108 express train from Frankfurt Airport to Cologne. We arrived at Frankfurt just after 13:00, ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 13:15. As we were right at the front of the plane, we got off quickly and the immigration area was empty, so we were out past baggage claim without needing to wait and through customs and groundside within just a few minutes. We were however at Terminal 2, meaning we had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to Terminal 1 where the train stations were. That took about 15 minutes, but then we were walking over to the Fernbahnhof (long distance train station). M. stopped to get a coffee and a pretzel and we went down on to the platforms to wait for the next train to Cologne. I’d made a list of likely trains to catch, and we were almost 20 minutes early for the first one on the list. We may have just missed an earlier possible train to Cologne, as one was pulling out as we went down the escalators.

Frankfurt Airport Fernbahnhof
Frankfurt Airport Fernbahnhof

The pretzel M. got turned out to have Nutella in it! She’d pointed at a plain one with no salt, and was surprised when I had a piece and said it had Nutella inside it.

The train arrived and a huge pile of people got off, presumably to catch flights. So there were plenty of seats when we finally got on. We used the WiFi to catch up on what Scully has been up to with Kylie – three photos in one day!


We are in the Hotel Novotel Köln City, ready for sleep after a long period of travel. We arrived in Cologne a bit after 15:00 on the train, then set out for the walk to the hotel. It’s about 25 minutes south of the station, but we didn’t know the best way to walk as you need to cross a couple of major roads and I decided it would be easiest to go across to the Rhine river and walk along the shore, underneath the roads as they spanned the river over bridges. But instead of going straight to the river from the station, we walked around the inland western side of the great cathedral and down Hohestrasse, which M. wanted to see because of all the shops there.

Kölner Dom
Kölner Dom, the Cologne Cathedral

A bit further south we crossed east to the river, but had to backtrack a bit following the easterly street, and then the walk along the river wasn’t very pleasant as we kept to the inland side of the road where the hotel would be, rather than walk adjacent to the bank. So we had to deal with crossing a lot of busy streets. The walk took quite a bit longer than expected and we were exhausted after the long flight. But eventually we got to the Novotel and checked in. We noticed that there were a lot of young men and women dressed in traditional Bavarian dress, we presume because we are at the tail end of Oktoberfest and they are in a party atmosphere.

Hotel Novotel Köln City view
View from window of our room at the Novotel Köln City, towards the Rheinauhafen and southernmost Kranhaus

We got a nice room in this modern hotel, looking towards the river, but there’s an office building in the way across the road. But to the right we can see part of the old harbour area of Rheinauhafen, now redeveloped as modern offices and luxury apartments, including the three distinctive, eye-catching, and impressive Kranhäuser buildings, shaped like upside-down “L”s with a large overhang. We freshened up quickly by washing our faces, then set out about 16:00 to find a better walking route to the centre of the city and to look for somewhere to get dinner. We cut inland further south and ended up on a street that took us north and turned into Hohestrasse, and this was a nicer walk. Heading north, we reached Schildergasse, which was another pedestrian shopping mall running west. We followed this as far as Neumarkt, a square heavy with traffic. From here we headed north, following more strings of shops, until eventually we cut east back to Hohestrasse again.

St Georg Catholic Church
Church of St Georg

Along the way we stopped at a grocery store to buy some apples, and we also got a small ciabatta loaf that looked good, so we had something in the hotel room in the morning if we woke up too early (like 04:00 or something) and were hungry, so we could have a bite to eat and then hopefully go back to sleep for a bit. And a little further along we bought a couple of pretzels as well from a bakery.

We were getting hungry for dinner, despite it only being not even 18:00 yet. We stopped at Oma’s Küche, looking at the menu which included potato pancakes with apple sauce and some other things that we could order to make a meal for M. with no meat in it. The place looked good, but all the tables inside were occupied, and the ones outside had ashtrays on them, and people were smoking at one of them, so we decided to keep looking.

Ech Kölsch
Ech Kölsch

A bit further towards our hotel we found Ech Kölsch, a kind of bar and restaurant which looked a bit homey and casual. The blackboard outside had specials and I deciphered the German as best I could and thought one of the dishes was pancakes stuffed with vegetables, which M. thought sounded okay. So we went in and I asked the elderly woman behind the bar if she spoke English, but she indicated only a little bit. I asked if the pancakes were vegetarian and she confirmed they were, so we grabbed a table in the dim interior. The outside tables were full of smokers, so we were happy to be inside, but even though nobody smoked inside the place had a definite smell like people had been smoking in there.

Pfannkuchen mit gemüses
Vegetable pancake

But we stuck with it, M. ordering the pancakes and a glass of Spätburgunder wine, which I had looked up before we left and knew to be Pinot noir, while I ordered a Jägerschnitzel with chips and a glass of Kölsch beer. The lady asked small or large beer, and I said large, then realised maybe it would be a full litre or something. But the glass that arrived was about normal for a beer back home, and M. pointed out that the people outside were having very thin glasses that were smaller than mine. While we were waiting for our food a man came in, ordered two of the small thin glasses of beer at the bar, drank them both in about 30 seconds, and left. Then he came back five minutes later and did the same again, leaving another two emptied glasses on the bar. It was very odd. M. said her wine was a bit tart and raw, not juicy and fruity like she’d expect a Pinot noir to be, but okay.


The food came and was pretty good. My schnitzel was nice, with mushrooms and a flavourful gravy and chips, and M. said the pancake and vegetables were good. Hers came with a salad on the same plate. Before the meals arrived, a second lady brought out a plate of salad by itself and M. claimed it as she was hungry, but it might have been meant to go with my schnitzel. Anyway, we enjoyed the meal and were happy we’d tried a German place with staff who didn’t speak English rather than one of the many dodgy and touristy looking Italian places with menus in six different languages stuck up outside.

Meal done, we walked home to the hotel and turned in to hopefully get a good sleep and not wake up too early.

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