Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gorgeous Germany, Beautiful Brussels

What could be better than leaving on a 10 day trip to visit a lot of Germany, as well as Brussels, Belgium?

Maybe even better if two days before you leave a your boss called you in to let the HR person tell you your corporate position (you've had for 18 years in a Fortune 160 company) has been eliminated!  Although this sounds dire, for this writer personally this was the best vacations in over 25 years. Because there was no reading emails at 4:00 AM, no conference calls in the middle of the day, no memos to complete before midnight. It was a vacation.

The trip had an auspicious start in that the Delta connection was not going to make it, so we were changed to a later flight. This meant that some of Frankfurt would be missed because we would arrive in probably by 4 PM. This did give the added benefit of free "economy plus" which is much nicer seat as you may guess; if you are a man over 6 feet, the "boys" can actually breathe. The later flight on 7/20 was without any hitch. 

In fact, was able to grab that elusive photo proving that in -40 degrees F equals -40 degrees C.

The next issue was the delay in flying from Antwerp to Brussels, so that by the time we got the car and drove to Frankfurt we arrived about 9 PM, instead of the planned 2 PM. 

The driving part of most of the trip was on the autobahn, in a nice big Mercedes wagon (free upgrade), so speeds of 90- 95 MPH were not uncommon and she was safe.

After 23 hours with 2 hours sleep; got to the hotel on 7/21. It was nice and clean and inexpensive, but a mistake was made in that there is the "city hotel Frankfurt," and the "hotel city of Frankfurt" or something like that. This hotel was near what one would characterize as "whore alley." 

Across the street was a transvestite strip club, as well as various and sundry shops selling sexual aids etc. etc.

However there was slight redemption in that the restaurant and brewery of 12 Apostles had what was agreed unanimously as the best food of the trip. 

Not that any of the other food during vacation was bad, and maybe due to fatigue and jet lag and just raw hunger, but the food was spectacular. There was pretty good beer as well.
12 Apostles 12 - Schmucker Dunkel - Lager, German Dark, Dunkel [6.5]
Bitburger - Licher Hefeweizen - Ale, Wheat, Hefeweizen  [8.0]

Was also nice as the weather cooperated slightly, meaning a massive thunderstorm about 1 AM drove everyone on the streets inside just as the rats into the gutters; so there was no loud noises, no screaming and yelling; a very restful sleep.

The next morning, 7/22, we did venture out into the Old Town square, Frankfurt where we went to have breakfast, 

walk around to different shops; had a great time. As this happens with a lot of people it is worth mentioning that many pictures of churches do not indicate the people are religious nuts; 

but it's just that most church architecture is really, really amazing.

Later that morning was a drive to a very rural place called Barbarossa Cave near a gypsum mining area. Very interesting in that the gypsum does not form normal stalactites what you expect it peels off in sheets from the ceiling. 

Had a snack at the restaurant next to the cave shop/museum/entrance. 
Köstritzer - Edel Pils - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  4.8% [6.0] 

Also a note to say this is the first major trip where a Narrative Clip was used to take photos. For those who don't know it a Narrative Clip is, it's a small camera that records your location via GPS as well as takes two pictures a minute, also takes a picture when you tap it twice.

As you might expect, many of the pictures are absolute crap; however some pictures are spectacular spur-of-the-moment shots, something could never catch with a camera. Any picture taken with the Narrative Clip be marked as such to indicate it. These "life logging camera" as they are called are nascent technology, however they will become smaller and higher-resolution in the future.

A small sad bit of beer news, there was a special "Barbarossa Cave beer" available in bottles at the small restaurant, but they closed before we could purchase one.

Later in the day we went to Wittenberg Germany; ER for to check off a "bucket list" item of going over 100 on the autobahn. Yes, that's "101" in the photo (and not km/hr) at Autobahn A38.

We stayed at the Brauhaus in Wittenberg which is brewery/hotel/restaurant. 

What was great in that the rooms had a theme, like the leopard room, and the zebra room.

Food was as one might guess quite good,  and the beers were quite delicious. 
Wittenberg Brauhaus - Wittenburger Dark - Lager, German Dark, Dunkel  4.5%  [7.5]  {#5,200}

Wittenberg Brauhaus - Wittenberg Weisse - Ale, Wheat, Hefeweizen  [7.0]
Wittenberg Brauhaus - Wittenberg Original - Ale, Pale  [7.0] 
Wittenberg Brauhaus - Spezial - Ale, Amber  [8.0]
Meninger - Fläminger Pilsner - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  5%            [6.5]

Also some very good apple strudel for dessert.

One of those "oh crap" moments occurred we got home and realize of the three glasses purchased as a souvenir of the brewery only two have the logo on them!

That next morning, 7/23, we walked around town and saw where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle church

The church is undergoing renovation and the tour was totally in Germany, but still very nice. The center of the town was very beautiful; old buildings restored to their original glory. 

There really was no one speaking English, maybe some of the shops but certainly not at the brewery.

By the way great app to have the iPhone some called Word Lens; it's now free because Google owns it. You look through the camera on the phone and it magically changes menu items or signs from the original language to the language of your choice!

The next two days were spent in Berlin. When we got there everyone was kind of tired so we napped in the afternoon and relaxed. At Oléo Pazzo had 
Franziskaner - Franziskaner Kristallklar - Ale, Wheat, Kristallklar  5%  [5.5]

For dinner we walked to a relatively new spot called Das Meisterstück, what a very nice restaurant with over a hundred beers available. 

They even bring over small sample of beer gratis when you sit down. The food was good and again excellent dessert. 

Had and shared the following:
Riegele Braumanufaktur - Simcoe 3 - Ale, IPA, American  5%  [7.5]
Landbrauerei Schönram - Imperial Stout - Ale, Stout, Imperial  9.5%  [10.0]
Berliner Kindl Schultheiss - Kindl Weisse Red - Ale, Sour   3%  [8.0]
Trumer - Imperial Pilsner - Lager, Pilsner, Imperial  6.8%  [8.0]
Hopfenstopfer - Incredible Pale Ale - Ale, Pale, American   6.1%  [8.5]
Radberger Braufactum - Braufactum Arrique 2012 - Ale, Barleywine  13.5%  [10.5] 
bottle #437 of 660 - love the wooden plaque

Berliner Brewbaker - Berliner Art Double IPA - Ale, IPA, Double   9%  [8.5]

On 7/24 after a breakfast near Checkpoint Charlie, including Cognac,

went to the typical items like part of the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg gate etc. 

Spent a lot of time walking according to Fitbit was almost 8 miles. 

One supposes it would have been in bad taste to say that room in the Checkpoint Charlie souvenir store was as "hot as an oven."

Over by the Potsdamer Platz shopping area. 

Ich bin ein Bier Mutter; at lunch tried a
Lindenbräu - Hopfinger Naturtrüb - Lager, Helles  [7.0]

Did get to stop at the Deutsches Currywurst museum, to sample of Berlin's most delectable delicacies. The classic Berliner Weiss with woodruff/apple syrup was spectacular.

Berliner Kindl Schultheiss  - Kindl Weisse Green - Ale, Sour  3%   [6.0]

Went to a gourmet restaurant in the evening - the Rotisserie Weingrün. 

Sadly, for a restaurant in a country with a beer law, it was surprisingly devoid of beer. It was more of a German wine restaurant there were literally hundreds and for wines but only one or two different beers.
Unertl Haag - Weissbier Bock - Ale, Wheat, Dunkelweizen  6.7%  [6.5]

On the morning of 7/25, left Berlin after a sumptuous breakfast, 

heading to Hamburg. Stopped on the way to see Schwerin Palace which is a classic castle on the small island.

Went to lunch at the Zum Stadtkrug, Wismarsche Straße 126, in Schwerin. 

Tried something unusual which was the sour pork; 

essentially pork is fermented slightly like one would do with sauerkraut.
Mahn & Ohlerich - Pils M&O die Legende Lebt - Lager, German Pils  4.9%  [7.0]
Schweriner - Altstadtbrau Helles - Lager, Helles  [7.5]
Schweriner - Altstadtbrau Dunkel - Ale, German Dunkel [7.0]

After arriving in Hamburg had a very nice dinner at Pappenheimer Wirtschaft

Delicious food and amazing Franconian (southern Germany) beer selection, surprising for Hamburg.
Meister - Feistbier - Lager, Märzen [9.0]
Krug-Braü - Pilsener - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  5%  [10.0]
Neder Brauerai  - Schwarze Anna - Lager, German Dark, Schwarzbier  4.7%  [7.0]
Gutmann - Hefeweizen - Ale, Wheat, Hefeweizen  5.2%  [7.5]

The next morning 7/26 after the classic hearty Germanic morning repast, 

we went to the Salt Museum in Luneburg. This area has produced salt for over thousand years. 

Plans were to go do a small brewpub for lunch, however they appeared to be closed that day.

After returning to Hamburg, walked around and saw the city, including the train station, 

one of the "Super Mario brothers," and St. Michael's Church - actually saw a wedding. Had a snack at the Rathausmarkt, at Rügi Bistro with local delicacy "Hawaiian toast."

St. Michael's church, photos were allowed but this was a Narrative Clip

Went to Hamburg-Mitte, and enjoyed a
Holsten - Holsten Pils - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  [5.0]
Holsten - Astra Urtyp - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  4%  [5.0]

And then had dinner at the Joseph Albrecht brewhouse inHamburg

Joh. Albrecht - Messing - Lager, Helles  [5.0]
Joh. Albrecht - Kupfer - Ale, German Dunkel  7%  [5.0]
Joh. Albrecht - Weizenbier - Ale, Wheat, Hefeweizen  7%  [6.0]
Joh. Albrecht - Sommertraum Abrupt Summer - Lager, Helles  4.3%  [6.5]
Jever - Pilsener - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  [5.5]

Here is a really good tip to keep your hotel Wi-Fi costs down when traveling. Just connect your laptop to the Wi-Fi network, and then plug in a small Wi-Fi router to your laptop's USB port. 

Share your single Wi-Fi network connection through your Ethernet port to the small Wi-Fi router. Assuming you have set it up properly (and use a password of course) anyone traveling with you can connect to your "network" and be surfing on the same single correction; for quite a savings!

After checking out from the hotel the morning of 7/27, stopped at a well-stocked beer shop in Hamburg: Bierland.

The beer selections amazing, even found a German barleywine to take home. ER suggested getting two bottles because you will want to age one. Was a bit humbled in that in speaking with one of the owners about the number of beers MR has kept track of she asked "oh how many 10, or 20 thousand?"  "No only about 5,300."

After leaving Hamburg it was on to Cologne or Köln, Germany. The hotel is nice although it had a weird parking arrangement where was only one lane to go down to the garage. 

 Who has the green light? Maybe he was color blind, or not...

Of course a driver from Italy came up when he had the red light, so MR had to back up to get out of the idiot's way. But what's a European vacation without at least one Italian idiot?

Don't know if you know, but Köln has their own style of beer called Kölsch. This was a chance to try various styles; they ranged from good to excellent. Actually got to try five different Kölsch beers.

For lunch lunch it was the Früh Cölner Hofbräu, where there was their star beer on
Früh Cölner Hofbräu - Früh Kölsch - Kölsch  4.8%  [8.5] 
First Kölsch in Köln (Cologne) and it was a gravity-fed cask

 Proper beer etiquette (above) shot with a Narrative Clip

We were very near the center - churches and shops - so walked around a bit. What was sad was there was an Impressionist exhibit museum was closed. Ended up going down by the Rhine to have dinner. 

Several nice shops along the way including a small shop that sold wooden craft such as nutcrackers. Had the following exchange:
   Wife: do you take plastic

   Shop owner: ja, we take Visa und Masterkarte

   MR: (pantomime of me crying)

   Shop owner: fräulein let me show you the most expensive item in the store.

   MR: bravo, well played

   All: laughter

We were drawn inexorably to a place called the Beer Museum. 

It is not really a museum, just a name for the place. And frankly there are negative reviews on-line, but we found service quick, the bartender friendly, and the beer quite good.

Kulmbacher-Eisbock - Lager, Bock, Eisbock  9.2%   [10.0]
Sion Radeberger - Kölsch -Kölsch  4.8%  [7.5]
Gemünder Brauerai - Krones Eifeler Landbier - Lager, Keller  [8.5]

Also stopped in at the Bierhaus Am Rhein; because one can never get enough Kölsch.

Päffgen - Kölsch - Kölsch [7.0]   from a barrel
Pfaffen Brauerei - Pfaffen Weizen Saison - Ale, Wheat, Hefeweizen Saison  4.7%  [9.0]
Pfaffen Brauerei - Original Pfaffen - Kölsch   4.7%  [7.0]

At Die Ex Vertretung had a local delicacy for an appetizer: raw spiced ground pork, which many people have commented as crazy, but it was delicious. 

For dinner tried tried the sauerbraten (sour beef) which was amazing, as well as the dessert. 

Also enjoyed the
Privatbrauerei Gaffel Becker – Kölsch – Kölsch  [8.0]
Bitburger – Pils - Lager, Pilsner, German Pils  4.8%  [7.0]

Of course like any beer nerd (knerd?) brought along a host of gadgets such as a non-contact infrared thermometer camera and a SensordroneIR sensor to measure beer temperature, as well as the Breathometer – no one drove intoxicated!

The next morning 7/28 the plan was drive to Brussels, check in to the hotel and then drop off the car at the airport. 

Hotel was spectacular (Metropole Hotel) a five-star hotel old world style, and due to the use of airline points cost whopping $35 a night per room! Sort of made up for the 1st hotel's location. In dropping the car off at the airport (after driving 2,106 miles) was glad to have purchased the extra insurance because they go over it with a fine toothed comb.

EDIT - Imagine my surprise to find out my late uncle stayed at the selfsame Metropole hotel, albeit several decades earlier, and under far less pleasant circumstances, during WWII! 
But even back then, during wartime, it was a haven.

After getting back to the hotel, and relaxing, went for a short walk to a place called Moeder Lambic Fontainas, Place Fontainas 8, Brussels. 

If you want Lambic beers or sour beers or Gueuze or things like that this the place to go.
Cantillon - Lambic Cantillon Cask - Ale, Belgian Lambic  5%  [9.0]
Cantillon - Kriek - Ale, Belgian Kriek Lambic  5%  [9.5]

Talk about Cantillon overload!
Cantillon - Lou Pepe Framboise - Ale, Belgian Framboise Lambic  5%  [9.5]
Val Dieu - Grand Cru - Ale, Belgian Quadrupel  10.5%  [7.5]

La Paradis - Moeder F*cker V  6%  [10.0]
(note no "*" in beer name, see picture above; possibly one of the best Belgian IPAs)
Cantillon - Faro - Ale, Belgian Faro Lambic  5%  [9.0]

That evening the boys want to Delirium Café - Impasse de la Fidélité 4a, Brussels - which was quite amazing and the sheer volume of beers on tap. And the sheer volume of people at the bar.

Delerium menu - amazing detail and updated at least daily -  Narrative Clip photo

The servers here are the hardest-working we have ever seen - Narrative Clip

Also the proper way where the foam is cut with a spatula so it's razor flat, then the glasses dipped into and water almost up to the rim to clean it. Thoroughly enjoyed some:
Huyghe Brewery - Abbaye Averbode  7.5%  [8.0]
Huyghe Brewery - Delirium Red Cherry - Ale, Belgian Fruit  8.5%  [7.0]
Millevertus, Brasserie Artisanale - Mere Vertus - Ale, Belgian Abbey Tripel  9%  [9.0]
Beryllium Erbium - Piña Colad'IPA - Ale, Belgian Fruit  [8.0]
D'Achouffe - Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel - Ale, Belg. Trappist Tripel IPA 10% [8.5] 
Oud Beersel - Bersalis Tripel - Ale, Belgian Tripel  9.5%  [8.0]
Martin & Timmermans - Burgoyne des Flanders - Ale, Belg. Flanders Red 5% [9.0]
Mort Subite - Kriek Xtrème - Ale, Belgian Framboise  4.3%  [7.5]

The dinner back at the hotel Metropole was really delicious (raw beef tartare) 

 Everyone is happy at the Metropole (shot with a Narrative Clip)

and the three guys were able to enjoy a Cuban cigar after dinner.
Senne, Brasserie de la - Zinnebir Brussel's People Ale - Ale, Pale, Belgian  6%  [9.0]
Ranke, de - Noir de Dottignies - Ale, Belgian Dark  9%  [8.5]
Val-Dieu, Brassiere de L'Abbeye du - Val Dieu Trippel - Ale, Belgian Abbey Tripel  9%  [8.0]

The day, 7/29, began with a nice breakfast including rhubarb pie and beer at the EXKi.

Bocq, Brasserie du - Ambachtelijk Ramée - Ale, Belgian Tripel  7.5%  [8.5]

We walked around a lot of Brussels, including the Comic Book museum and saw various sites, churches, mixed architecture etc.

Walking in Brussels, caught by a Narrative Clip

At the city center went to the Brewery Museum, and enjoyed a
Hofbrouwerijke, 't  - Donker Buurtje Abbey Tripel - Ale, Belgian Abbey Brown  [7.5] 

 Belgian Beer Museum - complete with Italian tourists who kept walking into the shot

Also chatted up a bloke - Tom - from Alabama USA, who was enjoying the Belgian ales as well.

Went walking and shopping, saw the "mannekin pis" statue, although apparently is now customary to dress it in clothing from different countries. 

And as we were near it, had to stop in again at the Delerium Café again.  What a difference, as there were less people it was so calm and quiet.

 Belgian beer - good to the last drop - Narrative Clip shot

NovaBirra - Le P'tite Gayôule - Ale, Belgian Saison  5.5%  [8.0]
Kerkom - Bink Bloesem / Bloesembink - Ale, Belgian Fruit  7.1%  [8.5]

Went and had lunch at a very small café - Muntpunt Grand Café - which had a very good beer selection which might seem surprising but it is not surprising because this is Brussels.
Oud Beersel - Oud Kriek Vieille - Ale, Belgian Kriek Lambic  6.5%  [6.5]

Lunch at Muntpunt Grand Café caught with a Narrative Clip

Also shopped for chocolates and beer, of course!

 Belgian beer shop - Narrative Clip shot

One last stop to the Moeder Lambic, because the place is just beer-tastic.
Kerkom - Adelardus Tripel - Ale, Belgian Tripel  9%  [8.5]
Jandrain-Jandrenouille - Teddy Bear - Ale, Belgian Saison Farmhouse  [6.5]
Ranke, de - XXX Bitter  - Ale, Belgian IPA  [8.0]
Ranke, de - Kriek de Ranke - Ale, Belgian Kriek Lambic  7% [8.5]

Also did order a special aged Lambic.
Cam, Geuze-Stekerij De - Oude Lambiek 2009 - Ale, Belgian Lambic (blended)  5%  [10.0]

Oude Lambic shot with Narrative Clip
As is proper when tasting something as rare and precious as this, you do offer a taste to your server. The young gentleman was quite pleased and thanked us profusely, he was also quite impressed at list of beers MR has sampled, and shook his hand.

In heading back to the hotel area for dinner, was accosted by a man selling drugs. 

 Drug dealer in Brussels, captured (figuratively) by a Narrative Clip

Knowing another language is great - when someone tries to sell drugs you can loudly say "qu'est-ce que F*CK que c'est?!"

Had dinner at the Brussels Grille. Everyone tried Stofles which is a Belgian (Flemish) farmers beef stew - quite delicious.
Gouden Boom, Brouwerij de - Blanche de Bruges - Ale, Belgian Witbier 6.6%  [7.5]
Mort Subite - Kriek - Ale, Belgian Kriek Lambic  4.5%  [7.0]

Also tried the barman secret Brussels special drink in a strange kind of strong a good way to end the trip.

Barman's secret drink - sweet 'n' boozy - shot with Narrative Clip

Last beer in Brussels was the very appropriate "Manneken Pils" sort of a takeoff on "mannekin pis", the famed Brussels statue of the micturating midget.
Lefebvre - Manneken Pils - Lager, Pilsner, Bohemian  5%  [7.0]

The next morning leaving was almost a screwup, as it was a Delta connection from Brussels to Amsterdam, however it wasn't the Delta airline but KLM! We did make it, and because of the rush the attendant did not charge extra for the overweight bags, which were full of beer. 

Beer brought back for personal consumption only.

So a grand total of:
           3 countries;
           7 cities/towns;
           6 hotels;
           9 dinners;
         17 churches;
   9,422 miles, which includes

                2,272 driving miles (counting to and from Boston/Logan); 
                7,100 air miles; and about 
                     50 walking miles,
and of course;
        74 beers.

A great way to cap a career!