I think I’ve found that part of the world that makes the Dutch think the Netherlands are so beautiful. We fled to Germany over Easter, specifically Cologne and that section of the Rhine immediantly west of it, hoping to escape a forecast weekend of grey-drizzle in Amsterdam without having to subject Jacob to yet more airports, queues and muzak. I had visions of a pastoral idyll on the Rhine with day trips to Cologne, conveniently forgetting a couple of centuries of dense human-population, the Industrial Revolution and McDonalds.
Considering our complete lack of planning and preparation for the trip, (Ron was given a choice Saturday morning, “Get me out of here or ……”)we didn’t do too badly but it seems no matter how long I live in Europe this sort of industrial countryside is something I just can’t get used to. We ended up planting ourselves at Benrath in a small hotel with a terrace overlooking the Rhine. If you sat facing Cologne you couldn’t see the chimney stacks further up the river, if you squinted you couldn’t see the caravan park on the other side, if you drank enough weisse weijn the thronging day-trippers greyed-themselves out.
Behind the hotel was the Schloss Benrath accessorised with forest, gardens, lakes, playground, swans, acorns and a woodpecker. Not bad!
In Cologne itself we limited our visit to the Cathedral and a walk along the river to the outdoor Antique market. It was a shame to miss out on the museums some of which I was really keen to see but we wanted to make sure it was an enjoyable holiday for Jacob as well so every morning and afternoon was spent wandering through the forest and exploring the castle grounds. Even better was the weather. We had three days of mostly-sun and quite mild temperatures. Jacob was in his element chasing field mice across the forest-floor, dragging enormous sticks back to the hotel and screaming “ccak cak” at everything with wings.
Because we were staying in a hotel and not an apartment we were able to do that rare-thing, eat dinner without Jacob. The hotel gave us a room close to the restaurant from which our baby-mobile would work and after feeding Jacob and putting him to bed we would sneek out to the restaurant and let loose. We took hours to eat dinner and sat over a glass of wine till all hours of the night (what hey! EVEN 9.00pm some nights!)
What did suprise us was the cost of food in Germany. It was so cheap! Three of us eating and drinking in a decent restaurant left us double-checking the bill and giggling with guilt as we walked away.
Jacob as usual charmed the pants of everyone and even made a little german friend, Lars, in the grounds of the castle. The stuffed animals in the hotel restaurant were a bit challenging but the many water features were the stuff of an 18 month’s old dreams. The staff proved to be very child friendly and happily filled his bottle with milk, heated up his meals and made special cheese sandwhiches all at no charge.
We were both a bit surprised by how relaxing even this short holiday was and very very very glad we did it when shortly after crossing the border back into the Netherlands we ran into a mist which grew closer and thicker the nearere we got to Amsterdam. By the time we ran into our first traffic jam the wet grey sky was back down around our ears where it belongs.