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02:05 Dubai time
The flight felt like it went quicker than it was, which was good. After the first meal I watched the movie Glass, which I'd wanted to see for a while. I liked Unbreakable and this was a good sequel. I also watched the first episode of a documentary series about the intertwined histories of Amsterdam, London, and New York as the successive richest cities in the world. Being the first episode it was mostly about Amsterdam. It was interesting, and I might try to catch the remaining three episodes on other flights.
We landed in Dubai about 00:15. The plane parked on the tarmac and we had to get a bus to the terminal. They announced that people with connecting flights should check with ground staff which bus they should get on to take them to the correct terminal. As we went down the steps, there was someone holding a sign with various connecting flights and destinations pointing to different buses, but Frankfurt wasn't on there. We asked, and got directed to one of the buses. It took us on a ten minute journey to a terminal, where we entered and went upstairs. A departure board there said our flight was leaving from gate C12. There were signs pointing through a security check saying that way to terminals B, D, E, and F. We asked someone where to go for Terminal C, and she said back downstairs to get another bus!
So we tromped back down to where we'd just arrived and got onto another bus to take us to Terminal C. This drove us much further, and got stuck behind a slow crawling vehicle towing a large trailer pallet of freight. Eventually after maybe 15 minutes we arrived at Terminal C. We passed though the security check and found ourselves in a fancy duty free shop. We had to go upstairs to find the concourse and food shops. M. bought a coffee and croissant, and a fruit salad for me. The fruit salad was very expensive at an equivalent of over $14, but it was large and good, with delicious dates in it.
I had a panic moment when I checked our train departure time from Frankfurt. The Deutsche Bahn app has our tickets in it, and it came up showing a timetable, with the train departing at 20:55. I was sure I'd booked the train for around 11 or 12 am. If it was leaving that late then there must have been some mistake and we'd end up waiting at Frankfurt for several extra hours, and getting into our hotel at Essen very late at night. Only after a few minutes did I realise that it was showing the times in Sydney's time zone, 9 hours later. Why would it do that?? I can't think of any good reason, and obviously one very good reason why it shouldn't.
09:34 Frankfurt time
We have arrived in Frankfurt after a relatively short 6 hour flight from Dubai. Again it wasn't full, and there was a row of four bulkhead seats in front of us, but this time we were two rows behind and the people from the row in front of us asked first and got to move up. It wasn't too bad though. The main problem was that we were hungry and looking forward to the first meal, but there was no meal, it was just a bar service and snacks, which turned out to be a choice of popcorn of a Kit-Kat. We chose the Kit-Kats and toughed it out a few more hours for the pre-landing breakfast. M's switch to Indian vegetarian from vegan was a good idea, as hers was lentil doughnuts and tiny masala dosais with sambar! Spicy and good.
I watched the second episode of the history documentary, and M. started watching a movie with less than two hours until landing, and hit the end credits after the landing gear went down, just a minute or so before we landed. It was very foggy in Frankfurt, and we could barely see anything out the windows after touching down.
Monkey on the Frankfurt Airport shuttle bus
We got through the airport pretty quickly, with no queues at passport control, and then straight out to the arrivals area, where we navigated to a shuttle bus to the long distance train station. I think we were at the opposite end of the airport to last year, and the bus dropped us at the station on the other side of the building on an upper level, whereas last year it dropped us at ground level.
We've made it out of the airport so quickly that we have over two hours to wait for our train. We could have booked an earlier one but didn't want to risk having the flight arrive late and then miss the train. So we're relaxing at the station. We found a bakery and M. bought a slice of what looks like a dense poppy seed cake, and a pretzel, which we both shared.
Snack at Frankfurt Airport station
We are on the train from Frankfurt to Essen. There were a few trains running late and lots of passengers waiting at the station. Our train was on time, and we piled on board after all the people going to the airport got off, but there were plenty of people ahead of us, and by the time we got into the carriage it was standing room only. And there were still people stranded on the platform unable to get in.
Then there was an announcement over the internal PA system (in German only). It went on for quite a while and I didn't understand most of it. Once it was done, a lot of people got back off the train, including some who had had seats. We ended up sitting down in a pair of seats by the table in the middle of the carriage, thinking they were unreserved, but soon after I realised the reservation sign that looked like it was for the seats behind was actually for our seats, saying they were reserved from Frankfurt all the way to Dortmund. But nobody showed up to claim them, so here we are.
We sat at Frankfurt station while waiting for the train, inside the foyer of the Hilton hotel there. It was a much nicer place to sit than anywhere out in the station itself. And the toilets were much nicer too, no doubt. About 40 minutes before our train was due we walked out and bought some tomato and mozzarella ciabatta sandwiches for lunch, at the same bakery we'd got the snack earlier. I've eaten mine already and it was pretty good. Oh we also used the free WiFi at the Hilton, so it was a pretty good idea all round. I checked the score in the Rugby World Cup semi final between England and New Zealand, and again now on the train, and we were shocked to learn that the All Blacks have lost to England!
We arrived in Essen about 14:00 and took the short walk from the station to our hotel, with M. stopping at a bakery in the station to get a coffee. We checked into room 317 at the InterCity Hotel, which seems pleasant enough and very modern. The lady at reception asked if we wanted public transport tickets and we said no, but then discovered by reading the hotel information in the room that the hotel gave guests free public transport cards to use while in Essen. We decided to take advantage of this later and asked for the cards on our way back in after exploring for a bit, and were given a card each to show to any ticket inspectors; we don't need to validate them or anything.
View out the window of our hotel room, InterCity Hotel, Essen
After dropping our things in the room and freshening up a little we decided to go out to explore the shopping district nearby, before having showers, as it seemed silly to have a shower at that time and then go out and then have dinner. We elected to fit the showers in between exploring and dinner, so we were fresh for dinner, and could jump straight into bed after eating.
So we emerged from the hotel and walked the block or so back to near the station, where a large pedestrian mall began heading north, lined with shops and food places. There were also faux-rustic stalls set up in the middle of the promenade, selling various things: fruit, flowers, hot sausages, giant toffee apples, glühwein, beer, popcorn, gingerbread, crepes, and so on.
One bar had a fire going in a separate small fenced off area, to warm patrons. There were also carousel rides and a large ferris wheel. There was a giant globe of the Earth suspended above the mall, and also many installations of large chandelier-like light fixtures and other things, with signs indicating the Essen Light Festival was on, presumably after dark. There was a clown making balloon animals.
Giant globe, part of the Essen Light Festival
Partway along the mall was the Essen Dom, a smallish cathedral which had an interesting entrance, through open stone doorways into a small enclosed courtyard open to the sky above, and then from there through doors into the interior of the cathedral proper.
Inside we saw the Golden Madonna of Essen, the oldest known sculpture of Mary and Jesus. The cathedral also had an attached cloister garden with a covered arched walkway around it.
Cloister garden of Essen Dom
We continued along the mall, which branched and extended quite a distance in a couple of directions. Following the side branch we found ourselves at Limbecker Platz, which is a giant indoor shopping centre, with multiple levels built around a square walkway connecting four giant circular atria. We walked a circuit at the ground level, looking down to the level below and up to multiple levels above. After one circuit we returned to the outdoor mall and returned past more rustic styled stalls.
We were looking for any decent looking restaurants to try for dinner, but most of the food places seemed to be fast food. We did find a couple of Italian places and a Mexican place that looked like they might be okay, we thought it would be better if we could find a German restaurant.
Back at the hotel we had showers to finally clean off the day and a bit of travel, and freshen up before dinner. I searched using Google Maps for nearby restaurants and found one that looked promising, called SeitenBlick. The website menu had several vegetarian dishes, including one with spätzle and lentils that M. liked the sound of, as well as other very German sounding dishes.
After relaxing for a bit we headed over to SeitenBlick at 18:00. It turned out to be very popular, with the inside almost full, and the only empty tables reserved. A waiter said our only option was to sit outside, so we chose one of the ten or so tables out on the mall, close to the restaurant windows so the cold wind wouldn't affect us too much. Only one other outdoor table was occupied when we arrived, but they began to fill up as other diners appeared and sat down.
"Spätzle with lentils", SeitenBlick
M. ordered the spätzle, while I wanted to try one of the seasonal items which was hazelnut spätzle with mushrooms and quiche, but the waiter said they were out of that, so I chose the "feasting platter" of veal with mushrooms, spätzle, and fried bread dumplings. We also got the selection of three vegan dips and bread to start off. To drink I wanted a Duckstein dark beer, but they were out of that too, so I got a Carlsberg, while I talked M. into a wine tasting sampler of four red wines.
"Feasting platter", SeitenBlick
The dips were very interesting, one white which I thought probably had cauliflower in it and maybe potato, a green one that was very tangy, and an orange one that was a bit sweet and probably had carrots in it. The bread was house made, a moderately dense rye that was delicious.
M.'s spätzle came with grated vegetables mixed through but no sign of lentils, and I surmised that perhaps the English menu had been poorly translated, using "lentils" instead of "vegetables". My veal and mushroom dish was good, but a bit dry. I'd been expecting a creamy mushroom sauce over the spätzle and fried bread, but there wasn't any. Lucky I had the beer and some of M.'s wine taster to wash it down!
Full from the tasty food, we headed back to the hotel via the market mall again to pick up a couple of apples for in case we wake up too early to get breakfast and want something to eat. And then back at the hotel I wrote this up before hopping into bed at 21:00 for what is hopefully a good night's sleep.
The globe lit up
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