Europe 2010: Charlotte - Kiel - Amsterdam


First Stage: Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5

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Day 1 - August 3: Charlotte - Frankfurt, Germany (Tuesday)

Weather: About 90F
Via: US 704: 4:20 pm - 7:00 am (8/4); Airbus 330-300; Seats 29G, 29H (window/aisle)
Breakfast: At Home Lunch:  Red Lobster (Charlotte) Dinner: On USAir

Comments: We got the airport early, about 1:30 - they say you should be there 3 hours before an international flight. No line at check-in and only a short line for security. USAir gave us the boarding passes for our Lufthansa connection in Frankfurt - window seats in row 12 and 21. I don't know who came up with that, but nobody in Charlotte could fix this.

We waited in the USAir Lounge until it was time for the flight. I have a lifetime membership in the Continental Club and since CO last year switched to the Star Alliance, which USAir and Lufthansa are also members, we can use all the clubs in the Star Alliance airlines.

Bought 2 bottles of water since I have no idea what kind of service we will get. And it did come in handy since they didn't serve anything until we were well underway. That's not a complaint - it is just the way it is.

Flight left on time and was 15 min. early into Frankfurt. I thought USAir did a good job. We got dinner (chicken or pasta). I had the chicken - nothing to write home about. Jeanne had the pasta and if she doesn't have to cook it's great, so she was happy. They came around with drinks before and after dinner, and we had a danish, coffee, etc. about an hour before we landed. The flight attendants were very friendly - we had no complaints.

I used my allowance to buy a headphone for Jeanne so she could watch movies (they had screens for each seat) but they never got hers to work - so we got our money back, and she kept it! Mine was working fine, but I don't watch movies.

Click to see a larger Picture

- - Charlotte - -        
Our Plane USAir Club        

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Day 2 - August 4: Frankfurt - Hamburg - Kiel (Wednesday)

Weather: 72F in the afternoon in Kiel, partially cloudy - nice day
Via: LH 8: 8:15 am - 9:15 am; Airbus 321; Seats 12A, 12B (Window/Middle)
  Bus: 10:20 am - 11:50 am Hamburg Airport - Kiel; Taxi to hotel

Hotel: Nordic Hotel Astor

Breakfast: With USAir Lunch: Skipped it Dinner: In Shopping Center

Comments: Our USAir flight parked near the terminal in Frankfurt and we had to walk down the stairs from the plane and take a bus to the terminal. I have done this many times at Frankfurt, they don't have enough gates, but I really thought USAir had more "pull" at the airport. We had our passport checked (slow line) and then had to walk quite a bit through the airport to Terminal A for our Lufthansa flight.

All this took us out of the secure area and we had to go through security again and failed because we had the water bottles - they were confiscated!  After another long walk we finally got to Gate 18. The whole thing took half an hour - glad we didn't have a close connection. It wasn't much fun considering we were half asleep.

On the plus side, Lufthansa had a middle seat next to the window in Row 12, so that got straightened out. The flight to Hamburg was right on time and our bus to Kiel was waiting for us when we got out of the airport. I thought we would have to take a train, but after some research on the internet I learned that they now have an airport bus to Kiel which leaves every hour. You could get a fare which included a taxi in Kiel so we did that, even though the hotel was not far - but we had all our luggage. Kiel is about 60 miles north-east of Hamburg and by noon we were at the hotel.

The hotel is right in the middle of town, only two blocks from the train/bus station. Even though check-in is at 2:30 pm they had a room for us - not always the case in Europe. After a quick nap we took a look around town, had a light meal at a shopping center and then took another nap. Now we are ready for bed. In other words we are all mixed up with the time change and lack of sleep.

Click to see a larger Picture

-- Hamburg Airport -- On the way Our Hotel   - - View our from our Room - -
Not for Us - Shopping without Cars - - - At the Train Station - -  
Mall Quick Supper        

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Day 3 - August 5: Kiel (Thursday)

See a map of Kiel

Weather: 74F, mostly cloudy, some rain showers - typical weather for Kiel

Hotel: Nordic Hotel Astor

Breakfast: at Hotel Lunch: Skipped it Dinner: "New California" at Train Station

Comments: We were up about 4 am (it takes a while to adjust, I hardly slept at all), and at 6:15 we were ready for breakfast when they opened. We decided to see where we used to live and 7 we started, mostly uphill for 30 minutes. The apartment building is still there but I'm not sure what it was being used for. I don't think people were living in it. 

We had enough walking for a while so we got on a bus, bought a day pass and went to where my grandparents lived most of the time I was growing up - I used to spend every week-end with them. They lived on the other side of the harbor, then. Not much to see. They lived a block from each other, but one street was not there anymore - they built office buildings on the site, and the other house was torn down and is now a parking lot. An identical house (with apartments) was next door and it was still there. By the early seventies both sets of grandparents had moved to other apartments, so I didn't expect to find much. The whole area was not well taken care of, I was surprised at that. Back on the bus, time for a nap at the hotel.

Nap finished we decided to take a bus to the Kiel Canal. This canal connects the North Sea (near Hamburg) to the Baltic Sea and is quite popular because the ships don't have to go around Denmark, saves lots of time. Some of the smaller cruise ships also use the canal. We found a passenger ferry at the canal so we made a quick round trip and got a good look at the locks. Back on the bus to downtown and some ice cream to make up for lunch we skipped. Then shopped for some little stuff we needed and time for another nap.

The buses are quite popular all day long. They are fast and run often - really convenient. The operate on the honor system - you never have to show a ticket. I'm sure they make spot checks to be sure people have paid but we never saw an inspector. I think almost all the public transportation system in Europe are like that. In Charlotte we have a light rail line which also does this. They used to have street cars in Kiel, but in the 80's they discontinued them.  Most cities in Germany still have them.

We finally got a little hungry and found the "New California" restaurant at the train station and had excellent salads. Then took a little walk around the harbor and took the bus back to the hotel. I think we got our moneys worth for the bus pass!


A few words about the hotel. We like it very much. It has three things that are very important to me - breakfast and internet included in the price and the room has a comfortable place to sit.

Breakfast included is pretty common in Europe (except for the big chains like Hilton, Marriott, etc.), but internet tends to be a profit center.  They have Wi-Fi and it works good, except when it doesn't work like last night and this morning. Once they rebooted the system it has been fine today.

I knew that they have some rooms with sofas and requested one when I made the reservation. It's sort of a third bed/sofa combo, there are cushions that can be removed. It's OK, and we also have a fairly comfortable chair.  We tend to spend some time in the room other than to sleep and I don't like sitting on the bed or some uncomfortable chair. If I owned a hotel every room would be furnished with a couch!

There is no a/c - but it doesn't get hot here much, especially at night - there aren't too many hotels in Kiel which have a/c - and the windows can be opened and stay open during the night. We are on the 8th Floor, breakfast is on the 10th. The TV has German stations only so it stays off - we are not missing it at all. The floor is hardwood, no carpets here. There is also a mini-bar with enough room left over for some of our own drinks, etc.

In the lobby they have fruit every day and coffee, tea, etc. The people working here are very friendly.

Click to see a larger Picture (except Coat of Arms)

Coat of Arms
- - - - - - - - - -  Breakfast at the Hotel - - - - - - - - -  
Kiel from the 10th Floor Our Apartment My Grandfather's The Canal Ferry
- - - - -  Locks in the Canal - - - - - Buses Waiting Yes, they have one  
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  At the Train Station - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Harbor 
Services Dinner Local Train Shopping Center Harbor Side  
- - - - - - - - Our Room at the Hotel - - - - - - - -    

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Day 4 - August 6: Kiel (Friday)

Weather: Beautiful weather, about 75F, mostly sunny, no rain

Hotel: Nordic Hotel Astor

Breakfast: at Hotel Lunch: Skipped it Dinner: Bought a snack to eat in room

Comments: As you can see our appetite is not yet back to normal, but it's getting there. Today's adventure was to ride the ferry to Laboe. It's close to an hour, making several stops along the way at small towns.

We caught the ferry near the train station - at just the right time (8:40 am). The Stena ferry from Sweden (Gothenburg) was just arriving for it's daily visit and the Color Line ferry from Norway (Oslo) was also just entering the harbor for it's daily visit. To call these ferries gives the wrong impression - they are really cruise ships which also take cars. There was also a cruise ship in port, the AidaCarra.

Kiel has become the most popular German port for cruises, several cruise lines have a weekly schedule and some use it for a stop. This Sunday there will be 3 cruise ships here.

Laboe is known for it's beaches, but we didn't see anybody our there. Maybe it was too early in the day.

We had thought about taking the ferry back, but it would have meant a long wait so we opted for the bus, and it took us right back to the hotel, just in time for a nap.

We spent the afternoon doing a little shopping, etc. This will be our last night here. We did everything we wanted to do, the weather cooperated - what more could you ask for? I just wore a T-shirt every day, no jacket and today I wore shorts.

Several observations:

  • Everybody we came in contact with in stores, restaurants, hotel, etc was able to speak English and didn't hesitate to use it.
  • There is virtually no jaywalking here. Although I never saw a policeman, it is self-policing. The cars will not stop and you jaywalk once and you will die, no doubt about it. So look for the LGM's, they are on all the corners.
  • Most of the sidewalks have a bike lane. Do not get in the way - they will not stop either and they go by real fast.

Click to see a larger Picture

Rush Hour Ferry Trip The Ferry Stena Dock - - -  Stena Ferry  - - -
Aidacarra Shipyard Another Ferry - - -  Town Stop  - - -  
The Canal Jeanne Color Line - - - - - - -  Laboe  - - - - - -
No Bathers Thatched House Bus Waiting      
- - - -  Last Look  - - - - Our Room      

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Day 5 - August 7: Kiel - Amsterdam (Saturday)

Weather: Sunny and warm in Germany; raining and cool in Amsterdam

Via Train: ICE 73 Kiel - Hanover (7:12 am - 9:38 am);
                 IC 148 Hanover - Amsterdam Airport (10:40 am - 3:09 pm)

Hotel: Amsterdam Airport Hilton.

Breakfast: at Hotel (Kiel) Lunch: Sandwich on Train Dinner: At the Airport

Comments: We had to get up early today to get the train, but then we are always up early, so that was no problem. We surprised the girls at breakfast by showing up about 10 min. before they opened, but once I explained why they were glad to have us.

The hotel clerk called for a taxi and we were there in 2 minutes - you could walk in 10 min. but of course we had the luggage.  The first class cars are in the front of the train and Jeanne said she felt like she was walking to Hamburg - it's a long train - it ended up in Zurich at 5 pm.

The ICE is the fastest train in Germany, but the Kiel - Hamburg line is not built for speed so you just get the benefit of the equipment. And between Hamburg and Hanover is just a little faster i.e. 100 mph to Hamburg and 125 mph to Hanover. There are faster segments further south. I was not really that impressed with the train. They have built various version of the ICE and this was the first one. I was in a much nicer train 15 years ago with movies at each seat - this didn't have it. Still - it was a good train, it's just that they have better ones.

We had a 1 hour layover in Hanover - which came in handy. We had to take care of some mail and had a snack at a cafe. They do have food on the train and in first class they take orders if you want service at your seat.  And since we had lots of luggage I was glad we did not have a tight connection, which many of them are.

In the first train we were in an 'open car' - I call it airline seating. In the old days they only had compartments and the second train (which was not an ICE) had only one first class car and it had compartments. I actually like that better - but maybe it was because the train was not full and we had the compartment to ourselves.

I found that the time went by fast and it was a lot more pleasant than taking an 8 hour plane trip.

You might be asking what are we doing at the airport if we are taking a cruise which starts in Amsterdam. Good question!

The train ended at the airport without going through the main station in Amsterdam. There are good shuttles available from the airport to the hotel which the cruise line is using as a meeting point. I used points to pay for the hotel and they give us a free breakfast and free internet. In other words, how can you beat that?

We took a walk through the airport tonight. They have huge shopping area; we saw the most customers at Burger King.  I didn't see a McDonald's.

In the meantime it is raining! All we have to do tomorrow is meet up with the cruise people in the afternoon and then get on the cruise. Maybe we can sleep late.

Click to see a larger Picture

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -   ICE 73 Kiel - Hanover   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -  IC 148 Hanover - Amsterdam Airport  - - - - - - - - - -  
- - Changing Engines at the Dutch Border - - Hilton    
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -  Airport Shopping Center  - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  

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