We chose to start our German adventure in Cologne for one reason - it was by far the cheapest flight to Germany out of Bergamo, discovered by Hirsh after multiple intense sessions with Google Flights and Skyscanner.com. Fortunately for us, it is also home to the Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site. Dating back to 1248, this cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany, and it is the tallest twin spired church in the world. Obviously we had to visit. Cologne was rainy when we arrived the night before and rainy this morning, as well, but that just added to the drama and majesty of this place.
After a quick visit to the cathedral, we bid adieu to our youth hostel (our first experience with a hostel on this trip!) and hopped on the subway to the airport to pick up our rental car.
Back when we were in Norway, we were impressed by the efficiency of the Norwegian public transit system. Our Airbnb host at that time, Inge, told us to just wait until we got to Germany. Well, he was right! German culture is nothing if not strict and efficient. Even riding the clean, modern, punctual subway is a pleasure.
We had an equally pleasurable experience picking up our rental car: having booked a compact car, we were upgraded to an SUV with GPS by a lovely rental agent who smiled more than we thought possible for a German. Once we hit The Autobahn, we had both quickly fallen in love with Germany. It's like a more orderly, more efficient, more modern, better version of America with all the rules and consequences Sarah loves, and the disregard for speed limits that Hirsh enjoys. The only downside is, worse food. If we could overcome the food hurdle, we could live here. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
We drove to Burg Eltz ("Eltz Castle"), a Medieval castle dating back to the 12th Century. It has been owned by the same family for 33 generations! It is also Rick Steves' favorite German castle.
We enjoyed an outstanding guided tour and got some drizzly pictures outside. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but it's truly worth a visit because it's filled with much of the original furniture and you get a real sense of what life was like here centuries ago.
We then drove to our accommodations for the night, located in the Rhine River valley town of Sankt Goar. When the Indian-German hotel owner saw Hirsh, his face lit up and he upgraded us to a top floor room with the best view.
We weren't quite ready to dive into traditional German cuisine, so we found the one Asian restaurant in this very quiet and tiny town. Owned and operated by a kind Asian gentleman and his somewhat more brusque wife, "Asia Kim" has about five reviews online, all of which are positive. The restaurant is tiny, and there were a total of three occupied tables when we were there.
We selected two dishes from the extensive menu that seemed familiar. When our food was presented to us, we started cutting at the meat and mixing it with the rice. Sarah had only made a couple of cuts and her plate was pretty neat, but Hirsh's plate was a hot mess by the time he was done mixing it up. This is when the real fun began. The wife quickly realized she'd served us the meals that the next table over had ordered. She was very upset and made a show of it. She tentatively picked up the plates and we thought she was going to take them back to the kitchen. You know, like a normal person. Much to our horror - and to our delight, let's be honest - she took the plates to the next table and presented them to their rightful owners. The young couple was shocked. Since we were sitting four feet away from each other, they had seen everything. Good natured as they were, they only hesitated for about a minute before digging in. We promised them we hadn't eaten any of it--fortunately, we looked like clean, normal, non-diseased people--and we all shared an uncomfortable laugh. We felt sorry for them but it was really funny!
Oh yeah, this restaurant exists in an underground bunker. Check out the emergency exit. It really was "special." But hey, the food hit the spot!