A visit to Trier, Germany

The day started with a slight panic… I stared at my phone in disbelief, feeling betrayed by my most used gadget. It showed 05:10 as the time, 40 minutes past when I was supposed to wake up. Apparently all the alarms I had set did not go off since the phone was in “do not disturb” mode. Despite this, or perhaps because I had planned to make a quick dash out the door with everything already packed even breakfast.

I made the train with a few minutes to spare.

Voss train station at the god awful time of 0545

So with an hour and some minutes to waste on the first of many trains I ruffled though my many options for entertainment and after a considerable amount of indecision I started listening to the Good Omens audiobook with a full cast production. I have read that book so many times and it manages to make me laugh. The audiobook seemed to continue that trend.

After arriving in Bergen I decided that I should have a second breakfast and some coffee so I would be capable of more than one word responses to people. I made my way to a Starbucks, feeling a bit guilty cheating on my usual caffeine dealer and fav’ coffee spot. It was however too far away and I had a bus to the airport to catch and by virtue of proximity Starbucks was the only choice.

A latte  and a napolitano later and I was on the bus to the airport, another 40 minutes of listening to the audiobook and chuckling and laughing while ignoring the strange looks from fellow passengers, arriving at the airport and now feeling awake and the reality of going on a vacation now sank in after the caffeine forced my brain to acknowledge the fact that it was indeed awake and this was happening.

Tickets scanned and luggage checked in with the magic of checking in on the flight on my phone and getting the luggage tag printed at a kiosk, I headed for the security checkpoint. There was nothing else to do on the other side anyway as anything I bought here would have been either been necessary to eat on the spot or throw away at the aforementioned checkpoint. Security check went smoothly, I checked my boarding pass and tried to find the gate. I had apparently mixed up some details in my head, I had a direct flight to Berlin. This was a good thing of course but it caused me some initial confusion when trying to locate the gate.. I was in the domestic flight hall and followed the signs and it lead me to the international departure section. Double checking my boarding pass I realised my mistake and went though passing the tax-free shop. Sitting down at the gate I listened to Crowley and Aziraphale finally figure out that they had been watching and teaching the wrong kid.

Boarding began and I had the luxury of extra leg space courtesy of the front row, flight went without any troubles. Landed at Berlin Schönefeld and made my way to the train station. The signs were easy to follow the same however could not be said for the ticket machines. They were easy enough to understand BUT they did not accept 50€ notes nor Visa cards (even Visa debit.) Now at a train station in the city I could understand, but at an international airport such things are unforgivable. I backtracked until I found an ATM and got a 20€ note and lined up in the queue again, which was massive. Finally got a train ticket, what I will say about it is that it was really cheap compared to travelling to and from airports in Norway, and the train was quite nice and after one change I was at Berlin Hauptbahnhof.


I had 2 hours to wait until my train would be ready to depart so I wandered outside and saw the signs pointing to the various places I might want to see like Brandenburger Tor etc. I decided that it was to far to walk with a full bag and backpack when having a severe lack of sleep. Instead I went hunting for food and in the depths of the train station I found somewhere I could get something to eat, not exactly food but it had to do. So I went up to the counter and ordered a whopper cheese with bacon and extra fries w/ mayo. I sat down and scarfed the burger down, chugged the Fanta and then attacked the fries. The whole thing was over in minutes it seemed and with that my hunger dissipated.

I found a spot to sit down and relax and kill time until my train arrived, eventually it did. I made my way to it, found my seat without any problems and sat down next to a nice German girl who kindly asked if I wanted the window seat so I could get a better look at the scenery. Normally I would jump at such an opportunity, however my brain was fully occupied with basic tasks such as breathing and not falling into a coma and drool so the thought of getting up again to switch seats was not an appealing one so I politely declined.

As the train was jerking into motion eager to leave Berlin behind it man appeared next to my seat and seemed perplexed, someone was apparently sitting in his seat. The nice German girl asked if I had reserved the seat, I responded that indeed I had. She looked at my ticket and then became a bit flustered. She was in the wrong carriage and it was she who was in the wrong seat. Happens to the best of us and the odds on who would be in the wrong seat would favour me heavily but in this instance the long odds was indeed the one who would have paid off.


Arriving later in Köln (or Cologne for you silly people) with a few much-needed winks of sleep at 21:12 I had a few minutes to locate and board my next train… and by a few I mean exactly 9 minutes. As I walked towards and then later hopping down the stairs from the platform a saw a DB employee and asked him in my quite broken German where the train was leaving from.. he pointed left and said in perfect English platform 9… it was a good thing I asked because my ticket listed platform 7 for the train.

I managed to board the train with 2 minutes to spare, I was however apprehensive of the next connecting train, I would have even less time there. If this train was on schedule I would have 6 minutes to locate and board the next train…but no time to contemplate this. I located a seat and looked at the seat number out of curiosity, no reservation needed here, and the destination on the display was listed as Bonn… my heart sank.. a slow panic creeped in…I asked the people sitting around if they spoke English, they did, I asked where this train was headed. Bonn, was the answer, they also mentioned a few stations that it would stop at… seconds seemed like minutes.. until one of them as an afterthought mentioned that it would also stop in Koblenz. Which was my stop, panic subsided and I sank into the seat and relaxed for now it was one hour until the next and last change of trains. I checked the schedule and if I missed my connection there was another one after it. When I discovered this I relaxed even more.

I texted Nicole on my progress and experience with Deutsche Bahn so far…

Everything went smooth after this, the next change went without a single problem…


I was getting close to Trier after what would be 19 hours of travelling in a single day when I arrived, and when I did arrive I was met by Nicole and Marc smiles, hugs, handshakes and introductions went by in a flurry.

I was ecstatic to finally have arrived and getting to meet one of the friends I had made on the Camino again, the problem was I had indeed been traveling for 19 hours and only 4 hours of sleep before embarking on said travels. So I was not able to convey my ecstatic-ness any other way than in words… which does not have the same impact.

But I had arrived!

A short drive filled with as much conversation as was possible later and we were outside Nicole and Marc’s apartment well except for one little detail… 8 (I think it was 8) floors worth of stairs. Stairs would become a theme and the source of many episodes of manic laughter for all of us.

A shower and a few conversations later we called it a night. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I woke up at 7am-ish said Hi to Marc as he peeked his  headed out to work and then threw my head back on the pillow in defiance of my now fully awake brain… after a bit I started tidying up the pull out couch that was also a very comfy bed and by complete coincidence that also summoned Nicole. She set up breakfast at the table and we sat down and enjoyed a nice breakfast while we chatted and planned the activities for the day, the evening was already planned. They had made reservations at a pub that had something that was called a pizza salad (among other things) we will come back to this in a bit.

We decided to visit a few of the many Roman ruins and the remaining old city gate. We checked that we had everything and headed out. as the door closed behind us Nicole said “I think we have forgotten something” but neither of us could think of what it was… so we just continued and  I bought some strawberries on the way to the old city gate. It had an interesting history and had stairs which was detailed in a small info pamphlet and on various plaques on walls with some additions from Nicole, we admired the craftsmanship and determination that it must have required to build something like this with all the tools we take for granted today. It is easy to become blasé when looking at an old structure like this in a modern world it becomes something of a disconnect in our understanding of it perhaps. Like trying to imagine the scale of the solar system… there is possibly a much better analogy here but one escapes me at the time of writing this.


Oh I should mention that Nicole had booked something else too, I forget what it was, however after having looked closely at what it was she had (like me) discovered that the thing, whatever it was, was in German. Now I would be happy to test out my understanding of German in most circumstances, however we came to the conclusion that it might be best to cancel it and spend the time on something else. So Nicole stopped by the ticket office while I stood outside watching the tourists as much as the old city gate, which incidentally is named Porta Nigra, while munching strawberries that were both sweet and tart.

Nicole emerged from the ticket office triumphantly and informed me that they were quite happy that she had let them know since apparently they had problems with no-shows for this particular thing.  We started heading to the thermal baths and suddenly the sun came out in force.. it came to me as I sensed heat on my skin. The thing that we forgot earlier, sunscreen. I told Nicole, she contemplated on risking it, knowing that she gets more easily burned than me and it doesn’t take much for me to resemble a boiled lobster, after a brief debate we both agreed it would be a good thing to go back and get. So we turned around and headed back to her apartment, I however waited by the door I did not want to walk up 8 floors and down again. There is a limit to my chivalry it seems.

Sunscreen retrieved and applied we once again started making tracks towards the thermal baths, which we both thought would be completely boring but we didn’t say anything until after we had been and discovered that it was actually awesome. I thoroughly recommend going there if you should find yourself in Trier. The surface of the baths was deceptively plain however the various service tunnels and waterways that you could walk underneath was cool, in both senses of the word. We joked that it would be an awesome place to have a Halloween party there the tunnels were dark and damp and illuminated by small light boxes that let sunlight down and some modern lights so that it no one would get lost.

Eventually we had explored all the tunnels and seen all there was to see there except for the multimedia presentation but that was in a small room that all glass walls and roof so it was like a greenhouse with the accompanying temperature now that the sun had been out in full force for a while.

We walked to the next planned destination which was the old roman amphitheatre, and whereas the thermal baths had surprised us by being interesting the amphitheatre surprised us by being less so. Still it was impressive for the structures to still be there and the history of it was interesting. However little of it was preserved during Trier’s history, much of the stone and other material had been removed to be used in other constructions.

Even so, I did try to imagine all the spectators that would sit around here the heat and noise that the place would have generated. However even it would probably fall short of the reality of the events that actually happened here. So however dull the place might appear to us now the history of it will never be.

During our visit here we were subjected to a short burst of rainfall, just enough so that we put on our rain gear for all of 15 minutes or so. We removed our rain gear and left the amphitheatre heading back to the center of town figuring out what to get for lunch since it now was getting close to 17:00 before that however I thought we might grab a coffee on the way and after walking for a bit… Nicole saw this..

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A camino marker, picture taken we walked on and I looked around at the various houses and sculptures that we passed. Nicole jokingly asked if I was looking for more camino markers, we both snorted out a short laugh and then we continued talking as we walked. I asked if there were any good cafes around. None that Nicole knew of since she really wasn’t a coffee person.. but then she stopped mid-sentence, apparently there was a place she had wanted to try for some time. So since it was more or less on the way back to the apartment which we had decided was the perfect place for lunch, we made our way there. Only to discover the place was closed and by the look of it quite permanently as well. Nicole lamented at the missed opportunity and we talked about things that we seemingly had forever to do only to miss the opportunity to do it for good for one reason or another.

We went grocery shopping for the few items we needed to make lunch happen and with that done began the climb up the stairs.

Lunch was a simple yet scrumptious thing which was devoured quickly and then we started getting ready for the reservation we had at the pub. Showering off the sweat and grime of the days exploring left me feeling almost like a new person. While all this was going on Marc also arrived home and we organised ourselves and then headed out into the evening.

The pub was a laid back yet classy affair with background music just at the right level so that you could actually talk without shouting in order for people to hear you. The menus arrived and since I had heard so much talk of this pizza salad I had to try it, however I had been forewarned that the portion sizes here happened to be quite large. With that in mind I ordered a medium-sized chicken pizza salad. Drinks arrived and by the end of the night I would find that I had tried a selection of very tasty beers, including Löwenbräu and BitBurger in between the beers a few shots of liquor found their way as well. The food arrived as well and it was good, a thin crust pizza served as a base for an amazing chicken salad. So the pizza basically served as the bread you get with salad but with cheese, and cheese is good.. food and beer mixed with light-hearted conversation and laughter. Then somehow the topic of Jägerbombs came up and I was unaware that it now referred to a Red bull and Jägermeister combo. So I explained what the classic version was to Marc, 1 shot of Jäger dropped into a pint of beer… Marc seemed intrigued so we ordered two. Nicole wisely bowed out of this foolishness. The beer and shots of Jäger appeared and after taking a few sips of the beer to make room for the Jäger we made ready … bombs away… I finished mine in one as you are supposed to (the wisdom of this is of course questionable.) I had left this part out of the instructions and Marc was caught on the back foot when he saw me do it and had to leave it half-finished and then go back for a second run at it.

Despite what conventional wisdom says about Jägerbombs we did not order more of them after that  and the night quietly wound down and we started to head home. It had been an eventful day. And tomorrow we had planned a day hike so rest was needed before we set out on another day of adventure..

Saturday, the day of the hike.

We got up at a reasonable hour and suffered no ill effects from the evening before, breakfast was had and shopping for supplies commenced shortly after and then with all that done we packed and set off. I double checked that I packed the sunscreen.

Backpacks thrown into the boot of the car we set off to find the trailhead. About halfway there we passed from sunny to heavy rain, the kind of thing were it seems that there is some kind of border separating the two different kinds of weather. A sharp clear line on the road, dry on one side and soaking wet on the other.

 

We had all packed rain gear so it would not be an issue as such, however it is always nicer to hike in good weather despite any norwegian proverbs regarding if good quality clothing negates bad weather. It was quite heavy rain but we continued on and guessed that it would clear before we reached the trailhead. As it turned out we were right in doing so.

The planned hike was about 16km covering the U-turn of the Saar river, it took us up through a town and then it gave way to forest and it had that fresh rain smell that seems to invigorate you.

The river was a deep brown colour due to the floods in the area caused by heavy rain, the hike was fantastic. When we had gotten a bit into it we started speculating how long it would take us to complete the route and Nicole half jokingly asked if the pace was to slow for me, since I was the mad Norwegian on the camino… but this time it was just perfect since it was never flat always up or down… and frankly I had prior to this not been quite as active as I probably should have been (a nice way of saying I’ve been a couch potato for more than a few months) but in all of this hilly terrain we had a guest appearance of our favourite thing, stairs. See stairs is becoming a thing..

We passed by some ruins which we peeked in on and walked past, and after walking up the hills, crossing a stream or two and climbing the stairs we made it to the viewpoint where the entire U-bend of the river was visible. We sat down for a picnic lunch and I picked up a bottle of peach liqueur and one of apple cider from a local vendor. After the total for both came to 20€ and that was what I had with be in notes, so it was clearly meant to be.

We relaxed, ate talked some more and Marc took a group picture and then we decided it was time to get moving again, this may or may not have been prompted by the fact that we heard thunder in the distance.

We headed down, up, across and around and over a few more streams before we found ourselves closing in on the town again having completed the hike. Most funny thing on the hike apart from a sudden rain shower was the fact that we had to summon the ferry for crossing the river by ringing a bell… it seemed quaint but effective. It was also on the small ferry that a sudden and fierce rain shower happened. It lasted just long enough for us to put our rain gear on and then it disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived.

As we found our way back to the car we also did some calculations on our average speed, not that it was an important thing but we were curious. We did about 3.5 km/h which we all agreed was not bad at all.

On the way back, we stopped to get some groceries for dinner and then planned dinner for the next day as well since it would be a Sunday, also it would need to be a quick dinner since I was leaving in the evening and we had planned a day trip to Luxembourg.

So as we stopped by a bigger Lidl shop that seemed to have a sheep convention happening outside, me and Marc did a quick supply run for the food and then dashed back to the car.

When we arrived back at the apartment after having climbed the stairs of doom we unpacked, showered, made food and then ate food. We plonked down into the couch and Nicole suggested what we all wanted to do, just sit and watch a movie before heading to bed. After a brief search on their netflix queue we landed on “The Illusionist,” a great movie. We enjoyed it while drinking some beer and apple cider, when the movie ended we yawned looked at each other and found ourselves in silent agreement that it was time go to bed and get some rest before we set out on our last day of adventure together for this visit.

After a good night of sleep we woke up and did a brief check to see that everyone’s legs still functioned while we had breakfast and checked details on what we had planned for today. We had planned a day trip to Luxembourg and to get back again in time to have dinner before I had to get on my train back to Berlin. I packed everything not needed for the day trip while we organised things for the drive to Luxembourg so that I could basically just grab my backpack and be off to the train station leaving a few more minutes to be spent with Nicole and Marc.

We walked towards where the car was parked and suddenly Marc and Nicole almost in unison asked if I had my ID with me.. I rummaged around my bag and found my documents folder that also had my passport in it. We immediately held a “who has the worst ID / Passport photo” competition. No one won that one.

The car was located and headed on towards Luxembourg listening to music and chatting about things and before long found ourselves in Luxembourg, the nation. A petrol refill later (cheaper in Luxembourg I was told) and Nicole getting a bit confused and then un-confused by some heavy detour signage we arrived in Luxembourg, the city.

We had done some research of what we wanted to see and do while there in an attempt to see the most things possible for the time we had to spend there. Google maps and free international roaming made things easy in the beginning, we tried to find one thing (Bock Casemates) we quickly got sidetracked when we spotted other things along the way that we also wanted to see. Combined by me getting a bit confused as well and leading us a bit astray we ended up seeing most things we wanted to see before we ended up Bock Casemates.

At this point I need to clarify that Luxembourg is a rather hilly city so there was a bit of walking up and down… and when we walked along a section of the old city wall.. there was *drum roll* stairs.

After a while we finally made our way to the entrance of Bock Casemates, which is the underground fortifications that remain from the old fortress.. underground tunnels and gun positions and stairs. 450 steps worth of stairs, narrow old fortress stairs, which became something of a running joke which reached its punchline when we made a wrong turn and had to walk back up and down a large set of stairs. When we discovered that all three of us buckled over in laughter.

 

As we walked out of Bock Casemates and headed down(!) into the city center again Marc proclaimed “I like flat cities more” … a sentiment that I think both me and Nicole silently agreed to right there and then, however Marc had it a bit worse than both of us since he also had squat and hunch down in a lot of the tunnels on account of his tall-ness.

We got down and Marc spotted a camino marker and made fun of me and Nicole for being the one that spotted it. Me and Nicole immediately posed for a picture under it and then found our way to a very decent pub.. wanting to sit down for a bit before having to head back to the car.

I ordered me and Marc a pint of Strongbow and Nicole a coke (she was the designated driver) upon wanting to pay the barkeeper answered “No cards at all” very diplomatically when I asked if he accepted Visa. He gave me very accurate directions to the nearest ATM, not 3 minutes away. Cash in hand I headed back and payed him for the drinks that already had been served to the table.

We sat down and enjoyed our drinks, remenicing about all the stairs and their evil steps… and then headed back to the car and drove back to Trier.

Dinner was made, filled bell peppers and we made too much filling.. first time I tried the recipe so something was bound to be a big whacky. But it tasted scrumptious and Marc said he would happily have the rest for lunch on monday, since all the options around his workplace had thoroughly been explored and become somewhat routine…

Dinner done and time passing mercilessly it was time for me to leave, I said goodbye to Marc and thanked him profusely for being a great host and great company.. I grabbed my backpack and shoulder bag and walked out the door with Nicole who I had taken up on her offer to drive me to the train station. I was glad that I did, it was further than I remembered from when I arrived. Nicole knew this as she had experience with driving friends to the train station previously and they had apparently also thought it was not too far and spent more time getting out to the car than Nicole had calculated leaving her in a state of mild subdued panic of not getting there on time, something that her friends also started sharing as time went by as they drove and not getting there when they had imagined. They had barely made the train. This time she made sure her guest got there with time to spare.

We located the track and made our way while chatting and me thanking her for everything, time had really flown by and in very good company… the train arrived and a goodbye hug later I was on the train headed to Mannheim and then a change (with plenty of time to find the next train this time) for the train to Berlin.

Trier was a really nice city but with the company of Nicole and Marc I am sure it would have been a brilliant time regardless of where we would have found  ourselves.

So Nicole and Marc if you are reading this, again THANK YOU! we’ll meet up again I am certain. You are awesome people.

To the rest of whomever might read this, Trier is worth a visit if you happen to be around it, Luxembourg is close by so it can be combined into a thing.

But now I was heading to Berlin for a 3 day stay there, which also had a few memorable adventures.

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Camino de Santiago: Day 19

Villavante to Astorga

It was a brilliant day, my feet showed no sign of pain nor discomfort, this would mark the end of the saga of the troubled right foot. All the issues I had with my feet was due to my right foot. I only ever got one blister on my left and that was on the heel of it which is sort of standard when you start walking long distances for multiple days, after a while the skin hardens and it doesn’t become an issue any longer. Which was also the case for me, my left foot almost deserves a shrine

I also got a reminder from Audible that I had a new credit to spend so I downloaded a new audiobook “the Jinn and the Golem” a very good book that kept me entertained and well worth the chunk of data quota it required to download.

I ran, well walked really but hey, into the Danish Boys and Anita and Pezi on and off for the day. I would walk by myself for a period and then either one of them would either pass me or I pass them and I would take a break from listening to the audiobook and enjoy their company.

On my lunch break I was also pleased to see that Nicole was doing well, she had sent me an email detailing her experiences on the Camino and the people she had met, including Geert which had mentioned a crazy Norwegian carrying a sloth plushie by the name Donut … I’d met him on and off a few times early on and later as well.

 Suffice to say I laughed I bit when I read that, Nicole was also still ahead, but we stayed in touch as we both walked along the Camino… 

As I approached Astorga there was a street musician playing I threw a few coins in his guitar case and he stopped playing and asked if I was stopping in Astorga for the day, I told that indeed that was my plan. When he heard this he informed me that there was a festival in Astogra that I needed to check out. It was the Astures y Romanos Festival and it was brilliant, alltough I get a head of myself, I was still on the outskirts of the city. I had looked up an albergue in my guide that seemed like a nice place and in searching for it I somehow also walked out of the city (on the opposite side) I was listening to The Jinn & the Golem and it was in the middle of a very riveting part of the story so I might not have payed as much attention as I should. I was still on the Camino so I could just have continued if I had wanted to. However I came upon an albergue and poked my head in and it looked  desolate, had it not been for the fact that it was still bright daylight out this place would look like a nice place to film a horror movie… it had that kind of vibe to it.  

However my feet felt fine and I was in good spirits so I decided to backtrack the entire way to the city which would be about an hours walk from where I currently was.

I then found an very nice albergue which I of course had walked straight past earlier, I had not even noticed it. I checked in and was shown to my assigned room … soon after I was joined by Madeleine and Thomas which came from Austria and if my memory is not completely blown I think they were from Wien. 

Which leads well in to another story that I can’t remember when happened, but I met Madeleine and Thomas in a super market and I was just walking around browsing for stuff and trying to come up with an idea as to what I should make that evening for dinner. As I browsed the produce section we ran into each other again and started chatting a bit. During which the subject of the price of things came up and Thomas mentioned that most things seemed cheap and before I could even respond Madeleine quipped “He is from Norway, for him, everything here is cheap” My only response to that was trying not to buckle over from laughing because it was both very true and just what I was going to say. 

But then back to Astorga, during the day there was people running and walking around in costumes and having mock battles it was awesome. Between being a spectator at those I did some sightseeing and spotted more than one souvenir that would have made awesome gag gifts. But since I still had quite a way to go on the Camino and anything I bought I would have to carry with me I quickly put any shopping out of my mind, instead I started thinking about what I wanted my next adventure to be. Not even done with the current one and I started the next, most that was the Camino will end up suffering from the post-camino-blues .. I had read about it on the forums that I browsed and read in preparation for my own camino. So this was my strategy in dealing with it, having a new adventure ready to plan when I got home. As it happened what I came up with the then did not become my current plans. 

My current plan for this years adventure is another Camino, I will be doing the Camino Primitivo this year. However I digress. 

I found a grocery store and bought stuff to make myself a salat with cheese, ham and fresh bread.. and then found my way to the terrace and sat down to eat… as I did so this was my view

  
The view was of the houses and buildings outside the city wall, facing the direction you walked in from … After enjoying some fresh bread with my salad, which incidentally restored my faith in Spanish bakeries since up until this point I had only had dry bocadillos from cafés when it came to bread. 

You will get sick of bread on the Camino … I don’t care how much you love bread.. you will get sick of it. I was told this as well and thought it was just exaggerated, a tale told to would be pilgrims to warn them off perhaps. No, that was not the case.

After this I ventured out and sat down at a cafe and just took in the city and the festival, I decided not take pictures of since I felt that I would then try and get a good picture rather than to experience the festival.

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