December 3 - Ninth Time Is The Charm

We landed at Frankfurt around 07:30.  The airport was quite a bit busier than when we were in Frankfurt in May, and way busier than when Justin went through Frankfurt in January.  Aside from the masks everywhere, it seemed about the same as we’d seen throughout 2018 and 2019.  We’d been to Frankfurt close to ten times, and today would be the first time we’d actually be leaving the airport, rather than connecting.  Neither of us had ever been outside an airport anywhere in Germany, for that matter.

Before we got too far in the terminal, we replaced our masks with N95 masks, as we’d read that masks like N95 or FFP2 were required on public transport in Germany.  We were not fans of the N95 masks at all, as they were really tight on the back of our head.  As soon as we cleared immigration, which was a non-issue, we found an uncrowded area and changed into FFP2 masks.  These were “better” than the N95, but they were really uncomfortable as well.  These also had two straps behind the head.  We hadn’t paid too much attention to the masks, other than ordering them.  We should’ve looked for ones that had elastic behind the ears, rather than behind the head.

Once we walked down the stairs from the airport to the train station, we found some train ticket machines, but they were a pain to use, and we gave up and just went into the travel center.  Crystal got to practice her German, and we had two tickets to Trier in short order, with a transfer in Koblenz, just as we expected might be the case.  We had roughly an hour to wait, so we walked around and found a place where we could get some food and drink.  We got some strudel, Crystal got some tea, and Justin got a Coke Zero.  We sat downstairs and waited for our train to arrive.

We departed for Koblenz at 09:24.  On the way out of Frankfurt, Justin noticed a building sign for Aptiv, a company he did quite a bit of work for during 2019.  At Mainz, we had to bolt for the front of the train.  Crystal heard something giving her an inclination that they were going to split the train, and we saw most everyone else getting up as well, so we followed suit.  We weren’t expecting to have to be this awake and alert, but we’re glad Crystal was.  A little after Mainz the ticket agent came through, and asked to see our Covid vaccination paperwork.  We had whatever she was looking for.  We’d coincidentally just received our booster shots on Monday, just a few days prior.  Germany didn’t require any sort of negative test for us to fly in, so comparatively, Germany was fairly easy to travel to.  We noticed that the ticket agent was wearing a fairly basic mask, as were the other patrons, so we changed back into something more comfortable.

Around Mainz, the scenery changed, as we were next to the Rhine River.  The tracks were down by the river, and the scenery was old castles, small towns hemmed in by hills, and the river itself.  We had read that the train west from Frankfurt was pretty scenic, but we weren’t expecting it to be quite this nice.  We arrived in Koblenz at 10:50.  We had fifteen minutes to make our connection, and used a good chunk of that time figuring out whether to get on the front or the back of the train, as it was another one of those “split train” things that has given us some headaches here and there.

From Koblenz, going out to Trier we were along a different river, the Moselle River.  As with the boats we saw on the Rhine, the boats were extremely low and extremely long.  We could only imagine that there were low bridges and not too deep water in both rivers.  About halfway along the ride, we went through a long tunnel, and afterwards the scenery was more boring until we arrived in Trier.  Both of us were pretty tired and hungry by this point, just wanting the ride to end.  As we went further west, the skies got progressively more gray.  

Once we got off the train, it was very cold, and we were out of practice at being cold.  We never really had a winter in 2021, as we moved to Tenerife before the coldest parts of winter in San Diego came.  It was only a 15 minute walk from the train station to the Airbnb, but we were freezing by the time we arrived.  The Airbnb was a nice enough place, but with a little bit of an odd layout and it was pretty sparsely furnished.  For example, there was no shampoo or conditioner, and we hadn’t brought any, so we made a note to just pick some up at the store.

After we got changed into some warmer clothes, we went out to explore the city.  All we knew about Trier was that it had a charming Old Town with a nice Christmas Market, and some ancient Roman ruins in a couple spots around town.  Interestingly, there were lots of pride flags in abundance as we walked towards the Old Town.  As we passed by the Dom (Saint Peter’s Cathedral), we saw an open Christmas Market, and gave each other a high five.  No matter what else might transpire on the rest of the trip, we’d at least get to enjoy one Christmas Market in Europe.

All that being said, the first market was very small, and frankly kind of sad.  There was security checking for vaccinations in order to enter the market, and the market was fenced around the perimeter.  But once inside, there were only a dozen or so chalets, and maybe because it was mid-day, almost no patrons.  None of the food or drink jumped out at us, so we decided to see what else was around.  Just a block or so away there was a larger market, albeit still a small one compared to what we were used to from Vienna, Prague, Budapest, etc.  But we did get some sausages and fries, and tried to scarf them down before the cold air turned the food cold.  It was right around 0 celsius (32 Fahrenheit), and every time we had to take our gloves off, our hands got very cold, very fast.

After leaving the second market, we walked around the city center, and north up to Porta Nigra.  The Porta Nigra is a really old, really big gate from when the Romans were in the area.  According to Wikipedia, the Porta Nigra is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps.  It was constructed in the second century, around 170 AD.  It was one of four city gates built in Trier, the one on the north side, and is the only one of the four still in existence.  Seeing it today, it was quite impressive, but at the same time it was odd just seeing it freestanding around other, newer buildings.  

Outdoor lights started to come on at 15:00.  We knew it was going to get dark early, but this was even earlier than expected.  Sunset was supposed to be right around 16:00.  Justin was having issues with his gloves, using them with the cameras, etc. - again, he was out of practice.  Neither one of us was wearing our long underwear, and we quickly regretted that.  The Old Town was quite small, and it didn’t take very long for us to walk from one side to the other.  At some of the travel agencies around town, we saw trips to Puerto de la Cruz advertised, which was a bit surprising.  Yes, there were numerous German tourists and expats in Puerto, but we didn’t consider where in Germany they might be coming from.  Crystal also saw a potato-themed restaurant with a sizable menu (Kartoffel Kiste), which we kept in mind for later.

We went back to the Airbnb to put on proper clothes, as it was going to get only colder with the sun down.  Crystal had a Hungarian class at 17:00, and was having a hard time staying awake until then.  Whilst she took her class, Justin checked out restaurants, things to do, the possibility of going to Luxembourg for a day trip (which we could now do if we wanted, go figure), etc.  He found a restaurant that looked interesting (Wirsthaus Zur Glocke), and we decided to go there for dinner.  He also decided to cut the right index-finger fingertip from his gloves, so that he could keep the gloves on but still be able to feel the buttons on the camera with at least one finger.  Sure, that finger would be freezing, but better one fingertip than a whole hand.

With our proper clothing, and with Justin’s glove missing a finger, we went out again.  We were quite a bit warmer, but still cold.  Wirsthaus Zur Glocke was full for dinner tonight, but Crystal was able to make us a reservation for tomorrow.  So now without any semblance of a plan, we just meandered around the Old Town, seeing if anything caught our attention.  There was a very light mist.  The city center looked better with all the lights on, and the markets looked charming, even if we weren’t fans of what they were selling.  

After it was all said and done, we ended up deciding to eat at Kartoffel Kiste.  The host told Justin he needed a better mask, which Crystal thankfully had in her purse.  Justin put that on, we walked to our seat, and then once seated we took our masks off completely.  Whatever.  Crystal ordered a sparkling wine, and Justin got a 0.5L Hefeweizen.  Crystal ordered a roast pork dish (Trierer Spiessbraten), and Justin ordered a meatball wrapped in potato and covered in cheese (Trierer Gef├╝llte).  About halfway through, we ordered a second round, red wine for Crystal, and another Hef for Justin.  After we were done eating, Crystal ordered us some potato schnapps, which tasted like Vodka - go figure.  When we left the restaurant, Crystal thought she lost her hat.  Once back at the house, however, she realized she had not lost her hat, but it was camouflaged at the bottom of her purse.  Somehow we’d made it to 22:00, and we were pretty happy with that, hoping it would help with jet lag.  We crashed almost immediately once back in the Airbnb.

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