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Travel Misadventures in Germany: The Real Version

I planned a short trip to Germany as a reward for working really long hours from July 2017 to August 2018 because my office was understaffed. Planning began during the summer after I learned that one of my favorite German singer-songwriters, JORIS, was going to be on tour this fall. I bought tickets to back-to-back concerts that would allow me to visit two new German cities – Dortmund and Bremen. After that, I lined up flights for a solo long weekend in Germany (72 hours on the ground!).

The trip started with a 3-hour delay in Atlanta for one of the odder reasons I’ve heard for a delay -- the catering staff had inadvertently knocked a part/knob off a wall of the plane that controlled cabin light dimming. For me, no big deal. I had no connecting flights once in Düsseldorf, and I had not bought a train ticket to Dortmund yet.

Arrival in Düsseldorf was easy. I liked the super cool suspended “Sky Train” that went from the airport terminal to the train station!

On arrival in Dortmund, I stored my carryon and headed out the back entrance of the train station to see the Resistance and Persecution Museum that is located in a former city police station/prison built in 1928 and later used by the Nazis to interrogate and torture political prisoners in the western part of Germany before the prisoners’ sham trials. The exhibition at the museum is excellent. Instead of rehashing Nazi history, it tells the story of how National Socialism played out at the local level, specifically in Dortmund. Nearly all of the exhibition is in German, but there is a very good English guide available at the front desk.

After the museum, I caught the U to my brand spanking new hotel – Hampton by Hilton (no “Inn” in the name!). It was really nice and perfect for a one-night stay. The first night’s music venue was about a 15-minute walk from the hotel, passing the U station between the two. I figured I would encounter some fellow concert goers on the sidewalks once I reached the U station.
As I walked, though, I noticed a funny thing… there were no walkers other than me after passing the U station. That seemed weird. I kept going but when I got to the venue the lights were off and no one was there. I wondered if I was there on the wrong night.

Then I remembered an e-mail that informed me of a time change. I opened up the e-mail and re-read it. I had missed the part about the venue changing, too! It was moved to a place called FZW. When I read the e-mail originally, I kind of glossed over that. I thought FZW was just another one of those German 3-letter abbreviations that perhaps in this case explained why the time was changed. Whoops!

The former venue was in an old manufacturing district, so it was a little creepy to be there alone. I walked around the corner and found a restaurant with people in it. That made me feel a little more secure (hard to shake my American nervousness in dark, peopleless places). Happily, I had downloaded the MyTaxi app on my phone earlier that day at the hotel. I used it to hail a taxi, and it worked beautifully.

I got to the correct venue in time to see the main act. Well, “see” is a strong word. The only room left was on a flat platform at the back of the balcony. I’m 5’7”. Germans are tall! So, I heard Joris more than I saw him. He did make a trip into the balcony to sing a song. As he neared the balcony steps to head back to the stage, I was standing by the stair railing. Yes, there were German kids who came running toward me, but I stepped out of their way (they didn’t push me!) because they seemed a lot more excited about what was happening than I was. It was indeed a GREAT show – even with the limitations!

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A quick U ride got me back to the hotel. A little sleep. A shower the next morning. Lathered my face to shave – no razor! I forgot to pack it. I wiped off the shaving cream and went downstairs to eat an amazing breakfast (while thinking that Americans should rise up and demand that US Hampton Inns serve decent food), walked around the hotel area a little to see it in daylight, and then came back and bought a razor from the front desk. Sadly, I was out of time to shave and needed to check out. I packed everything up and used MyTaxi again, this time to catch a ride to the train station.

The train ride to Bremen was uneventful. I did work stuff! Silly American. On arrival in Bremen, I walked about 15 minutes to the Motel One and was intrigued enough by a German Tex-Mex restaurant to eat there. I got a chicken quesadilla that had a lot of chicken and vegetables and a little cheese (much better than the typical US version). The salsa fresca was a lot like ketchup with some fresh tomatoes, onions, and spices in it; much worse than the typical US version.

Then, it was off to JORIS concert #2. I arrived early and waited with the other early birds for the doors to open; no back of the house for me at the general admission concert this time! After we were allowed to enter, I claimed a spot a couple of rows deep from the stage, stood there about 15 minutes, decided I was old and creeped out by people being that close to me (the feeling may have been mutual?), and started wandering around the venue. I ended up at the back of the venue again for the concert, but the stage was higher, and I had a great view. It was a lot of fun.

I headed back to the Motel One, got a late-night snack and went to bed for 8 hours of sleep (after 3 and 5 the previous two nights). I woke up with blurry vision. Left eye worked great – right eye not so much. I knew a headache was coming. This often happens when I get a good night’s sleep after a few nights of limited sleep. I grabbed breakfast (another wonderful breakfast – I love the Motel One breakfast!) and a Red Bull to try to head off the headache. It helped some, but I ended up going back to my room to sleep it off.

I woke up around 2:30 and decided to shave and shower. I pulled out the razor from the Hampton. The razor cost 2 euro but was one of those that is in a 5 pack that can be bought for a dollar at the dollar store. I looked at it and told myself, “Remember, you’re using a cheap razor.” I was careful and slow… things we’re going great until I started daydreaming (short attention span!) and switched to “automatic mode” for shaving (which is fast!). The 2-euro razor took about a 5-euro hunk of flesh out of my upper cheek. Ouch! I finally got the bleeding stopped, showered, and decided to go see a bit of Bremen.

It was only a 5- to 10-minute walk down to the cathedral. The architecture of the cathedral and the surrounding area is stunning. And… there was some sort of festival/market going on. Street musicians. Lots of food stalls. Merchandise. A special artisan/handcraft market in one of the old buildings. Rides for the kids (like a double-decker merry-go-round and a Ferris Wheel, which always reminds me of my dad). I loved every bit of it.

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The smell of food is always so good at these outdoor German events. I grabbed a few items:

  • A grilled Bratwurst.

  • Schmalzkuchen. I saw kids getting really excited about eating small
    pieces of something with powdered sugar on top. I found them at a
    food stall and tried them. They were delicious… kind of like little
    pieces of warm yeast donut with a little lemon flavor and powdered
    sugar. (When I got back to the hotel, I looked up Schmalz; it
    means lard; “lard cakes;” doesn’t sound delicious at all!).

  • Kartoffelpuffer. Another new one for me. Basically, it’s a cross
    between hash browns and a potato cake. There were jugs of
    applesauce hanging from the hut to squirt on your plate for
    dipping. I tried it – who would have known – applesauce on a hash
    brown is pretty good.

I returned to my hotel, checked the Rick Steves forum, saw a thread about first time posters sharing their “scam” stories, mentioned I was thinking about doing two versions of a trip report, was encouraged to do so by SharYn, and couldn’t go to sleep because it stayed on my mind. I stayed up far too late typing out trip reports instead of sleeping like I should. I crawled out of bed a few hours later to catch a taxi to the airport.

Oh yeah, my KLM transatlantic flight home did indeed get canceled 24 hours before departure, but I called Delta immediately when Delta sent me a text message saying they would be in touch soon to reschedule (whatever that means). The phone agent moved me to a Delta flight that left an hour or two later after the canceled flight.

What did I think about this trip? IT WAS AWESOME! The two concerts were great. The little festival/market was a wonderful surprise and made the trip extra special. Were there some misadventures? Yeah. But they’re little more than things to chuckle about because, in reality, they were nearly all my fault!

Morals for you from my misadventures? Don’t be stupid like me and (1) fail to read closely a follow up e-mail for something you schedule, (2) forget to pack a razor, (3) lose focus while shaving with a cheap razor, and (4) get inadequate sleep during your trip.

Posted by
3332 posts

Your two posts are a good reminder to us all that it's usually the traveler's attitude that determines whether the trip is awful or awesome. I say "usually" because illness or injury could make the trip objectively "awful".

Posted by
7302 posts

Great. I was in Bremen last April for something music related great time there great audience Can't wait to go back

https://jazzahead.de/en/festival-en/

I do the same thing editing photos and writing my friends and reading this travel forum when I should be sleeping.

Posted by
5219 posts

Thanks, Dave, I was a little discomfited when I read the "Angry" version; this makes it all right.

Posted by
2095 posts

Thanks for posting the 'other side of the story' Dave. Even though short, it sounds as if your trip was gratifying, ultimately successful and a lot of fun. You definitely have the right attitude about how to go with the flow when traveling. At least all these things were happening to you while you were in Germany and not while you were at home! This was a fun read, too.

Posted by
1052 posts

Dave, thanks for the “rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would have said. It’s truly a story of the difference a positive outlook and a bit of resourcefulness make in turning potential problems into adventures.

Posted by
3612 posts

Thoroughly enjoyed both versions of your trip. Was especially happy to see "Joris!" Love his indie style music. So impressed with your great travel attitude. It's all about not sweating the small stuff, having a great sense of humor and expecting the unexpected!

Posted by
8541 posts

I, too, really enjoyed both of your trip reports. Your angry one was brilliant!!
So, losing valuable sleep was not in vain... : )

I get migraines too and will send you a PM with a recommendation.

Posted by
13221 posts

Thanks for an interesting report on Dortmund and Bremen. I know Dortmund much better than Bremen. Is the Tex-Mex eatery you went to in Bremen close by the train station area? I might have seen that.

I know you didn't have the time but in the outskirts of Dortmund is a district called Dortmund-Hohensyburg, which everyone thinks of its Spielcasino. True, that too. Historically, there is a big monument statues of Bismarck and the Emperor William 1, the Kaiser Wilhelm Denkmal, saw last in 2007., changed quite a bit since 1987, my first time there.

Great view from that spot. There is also a WW1 memorial plaque (in the woods) as you walk towards the K W statue from the Dortmund-Hohensyburg bus stop.

Posted by
7866 posts

I love it!! and I love the creative muscles you exercised in writing both versions. I'm glad you treated yourself to this trip and got to see a favorite artist perform. I'd love to see Bremen.

Posted by
28474 posts

I absolutely loved both stories.

Thanks for exercising the brain. That cheapo razer should have had a built in styptic stick

Posted by
13875 posts

Way to roll with a few punches, Dave!
Enjoyed the heck out of both reports, and hope your face is mending nicely. :O)

Posted by
3222 posts

Thanks, all, for the kind comments. I have to admit it was pretty fun to write the angry piece. Where I work, the buck stopped with me for 4 years until a month ago (handed that role off to someone else), so I got to deal with complaints. Honestly, that gives me a bit of a bias against complainers. Certainly, some complaints are legitimate, but some are crazy.

@Jazz... The jazz event in Bremen looks great. Chris Barber was in Bremen my final night, but I didn't think I could take in the show and get up really early to catch a 6 am flight. I was a little sad to miss it (though wandering around festival/market made up for it).

@Patricia... Paul Harvey. I really liked him. I also like God and German children, just for the record.

@jls... Glad you liked Joris. I'm going to see Revolverheld in March.

@Fred... The Tex-Mex place is not around the Hbf. It is close to the river. From the little I saw of Dortmund, it seemed rich in history. I would like to go back some time and explore further, including the sites you mentioned. For Bremen, I'll be back in March for a longer amount time, so I'll get a better chance to explore there. I may take a day trip to Hamburg, too.

Posted by
2184 posts

Enjoyed both reports, Dave! It seems you as a traveler tend to concentrate on Germany- I think that’s great because you are learning a lot about a country you are interested in and enjoy. I make this observation simply to compare myself as a traveler who is very restless and feels I have to keep moving on and not repeat myself too much. Other than certain cities, London,Paris and Rome. Once I have seen the places on my bucket list, I plan to go back to certain countries and explore in more depth. England and Germany are on my radar.
In any case, Atlanta area has a travel group meeting, the next one is Saturday Dec. 15th. I invite you to come, Spartanburg is not that far from here. Come on down! Two of us have lived in Germany so you will meet like-minded people and find lots to share and discuss.

Posted by
5926 posts

Nice report (and nice contrast with the other version). I enjoyed them both. Thanks!

Posted by
3037 posts

Great trip report, Dave! I also loved the trip "rant". Brilliant!!
Thanks for taking the time to write both.

Posted by
13221 posts

@ Dave ...Thanks for the info. From LAX there is a flight direct to Düsseldorf, ie Düsseldorf is one of the cities in Germany reachable non-stop from the west coast aside from Munich and Frankfurt.

On Dortmund....I always remember a conversation I had with a German woman who helped me in the Dortmund Hbf in 1973 who told me that city was 90% plastered by 1945. ("neunzig Prozent flatt," she said.) At the time I thought she was exaggerating a bit to emphasize a point. Later on my readings confirmed that, she was historically accurate.

On Bremen...I suggest seeing the famous Bremener Rathaus, maybe enjoy lunch there too. There is also a Bismarck statue close by same as in Düsseldorf up from the Hbf to the Altstadt.

Posted by
3612 posts

Ok Dave, I watched Revolverheld. He rivals Joris! 👍

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3222 posts

@Judy B: Yes, I like Germany (and Austria) quite a bit. My first trip to Europe was to Salzburg. I heard teenagers/young adults talking and thought, "That's cool. I want to be able to talk like that." So, I started working on learning German. Trips to Germany help me practice my German! I also live about 15 minutes from the world's largest BMW plant, so there are a lot of Germans in my area of the US. Thanks for the invite to the Atlanta meeting. I'll take a rain check this time. I'll be in Manteo, NC, that weekend, hopefully meeting Gail Halvorsen, the "candy bomber" from the Berlin Airlift, who is now 98 years old. I'll keep an eye out for future Atlanta area meetings!

@jls: I saw Revolverheld in Berlin in May for their "lounge tour." I lucked upon 2 of the 500 tickets for that show, and it was great. In March, they are doing their arena tour. I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by
13221 posts

Hi,

Hopefully in Dortmund you had time enough for a beer, the famous Dortmunder Biere...all different sorts, one of the very best in Germany.

Posted by
2184 posts

Dave,
How interesting that you are going to meet Gail Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber”. I hope you will come to a meeting and share your experience with us after talking with Mrs. Halvorsen.

I do post meeting notices on the forum so hopefully you will see them and come when you can.
Happy travels!

Posted by
1349 posts

"share your experience with us after talking with Mrs. Halvorsen."

Sorry, Gail Halvorsen is a man, It is Mr Hlavorsen. At that time all Air Force Pilots were men. (I know there were women transport pilots during WWII that flew bombers from the US to Europe/Africa.)

Posted by
527 posts

Loved both reports! Thanks for sharing!
Re kartoffelpuffer: potato pancakes, always eaten with applesauce. My mother made the best! (I have her recipe, but mine never turn out as good)
Re return trip to Bremen: suggest day trip to Bremerhaven to see the Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Museum).

Posted by
1178 posts

I'm so sorry to be responsible for your lack of sleep but love the result!
Thanks for both posts, and happy trails going forward!
SharYn

Posted by
3222 posts

Thanks again, everyone, for the kind comments regarding both of my trip reports. Since the two posts will get separated over time, here is the link for later readers who may want to read the angry trip report.