Cologne, and getting there....

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August 21st 2011
Published: August 22nd 2011
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“How far north can you get us today?”
This was the question I asked the woman in the bus ticket booth in Split. At 8.30am she was clearly not a morning person. She responded directly, asking exactly where I wanted to go. She clearly did not share our random sense of adventure as we took a chance to see where we might end up.

After our boat ride to the mainland which had involved a beautiful sun rise over the Adriatic we arrived in Split. After much deliberation we had decided that Croatia was just too sapping of a small budget for our adventures ad we would head to the bus station and just see exactly where we might end up if we headed north, and closer to our final destination; Amsterdam.

Eventually the joyful ticket lady started to enjoy the playful early morning travel game and by 9.15am we were booked on a 21hr bus route through Slovenia and Austria to Frankfurt in Germany, leaving at 10am that day.
In the company of two 19 year old Croatian/German party twins on their way home we sped up the beautiful Croatian coast. It got greener and greener as we headed north, resolving Michelles and my desire to come back here off-season and explore properly, preferably on two wheels.

As afternoon moved to evening we stopped in Slovenia and drank an ice-cold Laskovo beer – dirt cheap and really tasty – and got a chance to take a proper look at the stunning Slovenian countryside. All of the rural countryside we saw as we stopped, and drove through Slovenia, defined the word Alpine. Steep pine tree clad hills plunged down to meet fresh green valleys with clear fast flowing rivers at the bottom. Intertwined in this picturesque landscape are some of the best grey snake roads I’ve ever seen. The road planner in Slovenian Civil Engineering HQ is definitely a biker, and they’ve done a sterling job. Another place added to the list of must-see, and preferably ride through destinations.

At 7.30am we arrived in Frankfurt station and were immediately surrounded by the unfortunate people who call the floors of the station their home. As sleep deprived as we were it all felt very surreal. Luckily our good friend Rijke responded immediately to a hastily sent email from our Starbucks safe-haven and insisted we were welcomed for a spontaneous visit to her home town, Cologne. At 4.30pm we arrived on another coach in Cologne and by 5pm we were exhaustedly ensconced in her apartment feeling proud of our spontaneous decision to travel for 35 hours non-stop.

Cologne is a hidden gem of a city. It has a brilliantly friendly and open atmosphere, shown by the local custom to congregate with Kiosk bought bottles of beer in public, meeting areas such as squares and gardens of an evening, rather than just in bars and pubs. Following our outdoor drinking escapades in a number of park locations Rijke treated us to an amazing meal of 3 different local dishes to share – one of them translates as “heaven and earth”, it is a blood sausage much like our own black pudding, served atop creamy mash with caramelised onions and apple sauce. The second dish was various meats and pickles and the third was Salted Pork with Saurkraut – delicious. All of it washed down with the local beer, Kursch. It was a lovely evening with a wonderful host who we were eternally grateful to for being so kind and generous. Our night wound up in a real bed, a total luxury we adored like it was our first time in such a soft and cosy environment.

Saturday was spent eating more typically German food – Currywurst Mit Pommes and Pretzels, and walking around a city not immediately beautiful on the eye, but with real charm and a bubbling sense of fun. That evening we headed to an archway under the railway station and listened to three bands heavily influenced by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rock their hearts out. The three bands appeared to belong to one school of fashion, black. Every single band member and most of the male audience wore skinny black jeans, black boots and a black t-shirt. Artistic individuality knows no bounds. It was another great evening though and two of the bands sounded amazing! The venue was very cool and also involved an exhibition in the venue of a local photographer – it was all very arty, and good craic.

We lovingly slept in a bed again and then as a thank you cooked Rijke her favourite thing from her time in England, a good ol’ fry up. Cologne was a great place to visit, made so I am sure by Rijke’s amazing hospitality. On Sunday afternoon we boarded a bus bound for Amsterdam.

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8th September 2011

What a Journey!
Hey you guys. I\'ve just been catching up on your blogs and its great to read! Croatia sounds like it was beautiful, Dubrovnik is soo expensive but stunning. The 35 hour bus journey sounds like a mission but brilliant. i love that feeling of just hopping on a bus and arriving in somewhere unexpected. I hope all is well with you both and Lewi and I are looking forward to a skype chat soon. Let us know when you are free to chat. Lots of love Han xx

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