A middle age visit to Europe By: Scott Sitner Winter 2016

I am writing this for lots of reasons and no reasons.  I have not been to Europe since the Christmas season of 1986, when  was a high school senior going to visit my girlfriend, someday to become wife in Belgium.  It is a little sad but not a lot that our prevailing memory of that is asking for waffles in Brussels on the street, something I can still taste, and the fresh fish in dover, caught feet from where we sat.  Made all the more amusing as we had just enduring a frightful trip on the water from Antwerp, so many nationalities, so many people violetly ill.

Flash forward 30 years, almost to the day.  No longer married but we have a son in Bonn Germany and  daughter about to graduate high school, so what better way to spend Xmas(with apologies to parents in Florida) than to run to Europe for the traditional family trip.  Mom, her husband, dad, and kids.  Thankfully we are all on the same page and get along so no issues.  We even got permission form our son to come visit and he does not even seem annoyed.  I am going to spend the first three days with just hm, then a a few days together, the I get three days alone in paris, kids join me then we will all finish in Berlin where a truck just drive through a market.  That hit home.

This is being written for family and friends and anyone who is over 45 or 50 and who has not been to Europe ever or in decades.  This is not designed to set your budget, or some crazy tales of things that only happen in Las Vegas,but just normal tales, hints, suggestions and whatever comes to mind.  It’s not high literature, but hopefully not low brown either.

Pictures can be seen at https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0gJtdOXmG6fdoB

Day One-The Flight

I don’t check bags, I mean, why?  I had to check a bag.  70 people inline, three people checking in, thanks Delta.  just under an hour, no issue at security time to buy snacks.  Smart.  Yes Delta serves dinner and a “breakfast” on the plane. No I am still not sure what I was given was chicken.  Surprisingly the three piece shrimp cocktail was true bien.  as was the brownie.  Thanks to Zingermans for the tomatoe and mozzarella sandwich.  Flight was easy, nice skinny man next to me, funny middle aged guy from Hanover in front of me so we chatted.  Flight was 75 minutes early.  Amsterdam airport very cool, even at 5 am.  I went through customs for what I guess is all of Europe at the airport. No sure he even looked at my passport.

A 25 minute flight to Dusseldorf.  No one hear naturally speaks english, what’s up with that?  Doesn’t anyone know who we elected as President?  What was disconcerting was simple stuff.  How do you use a machine to buy a train ticket when the machine peaks only german?  WTF?  Thankfully a nice lady saw my ignorance and bought my ticket.  I got on the right train, hailed a taxi, who drive me easily to my hotel in Bonn.  No one told me that a tip is small here.  No wonder he seems so grateful for three euros.  Saying at Bonn Hilton.  yes it is charmless.  However it is user friendly and I am tired.  they speak english, the rooms are big and I don’t feel stupid.

My son Alex wanders over at 4.  he looks older, which I guess technically he is.  haven’t seen him in 4 months and only one Skype call.  I think he has grown.  We go wander Bonn which is charming.  It feels like I am in a foreign country which I guess I am.  he buildings are old and not huge and have character.  The streets are brick and cobblestone.  There are century old churches in the middle of the town.   Everything feels authentic, which it rarely does at home, even it can be charming or pretty.  We eat at a bar he likes, I had fried pork.  I know its weinerschneitzel.  But really, it’s breaded and fried pork.  Alex ordered and drank a beer.  He’s not 21.  Oh well.  We wandered the City, it really is very cool,  save for the pizza hut the mcdonalds and the few stores that I go to at Somerset.  We walk along the Rhein which is outside the hotel and I sent him home, at some point three hours of sleep in 48 hours will catch up.

Day 2.

I slept. Stayed awake until 11, up at 630  Like being at home.  I cannot for the life of me figure out the room thermostat.  TV is fine, but except for CNN, no real english tv, it’s all news. Dubai tv is fascinating, I think.  Unless they are calling for my death, in which case, never mind.

I ate breakfast.  Except for the chocolate chip granola, it was breakfast.  They had a butter machine. how cool is that.  Of course I was sitting at a table overlooking the Rhein, which is better than sitting at home eating Lucky Charms.  The time difference is odd, I keep looking at e mail for work until I realize that it is 3 am and most people are not working.  Took a walk, then rested some until Alex came.  We then marked on a walk.

Observation:  no one is overweight.  I mean some, maybe a little, but really no one.  I don’t mean to shame but it i a huge change from home.  Everyone seems heathy, everyone  is walking, riding bikes, smoking too, which is odd.  But Alex just says he walks everywhere.  we did a few mils though the City, saw the University’s botanical gardens, some very cool, homes and areas where you can feel the history.  If you look at pics you will see a church form 1670.  Beat that Virginia and DC.   There are also no free refills on drinks and I have not seen anyone walking around with a 32 ounce coke you know has been refilled 4 times that day.

Pizza for lunch.  Big pizza. For one. Alex ate all of his, I am old, I ate half.  I can order but he still has to ask for the check.  Maybe he can pay one day.

I went to TJ Maxx.  I needed shorts for sleeping.  My debit card worked.  Not sure why that fascinates me so much.  It does.  The Xmas market was not as impressive the third time.  Lots of crap, some cute, nothing that better than art fairs at home.  Still, a fun festive atmosphere.  even with the smoke.  We walked for a bit, I had to acquire for someone a Bonn starbucks mug, done.  Some german dummies from the Hairbo store, one place everyone speaks english.  Now home. resting.  jet lag not so bad, but tired, more worn then sleepy.

The sun rose at 8:32 today, it is setting now, at 4:30, short short day.  wow.

Dinner his choice, looks like Indian.  Cure