We are so not used to life in the city and apartment living!!! So a few days ago we thought we would check out the surrounding countryside and attempt to get away from the street sounds and tourists. We can see from our balcony that there are fields in the distance so off we went for a new kind of adventure…
It was interesting being up on the plateau with a 360 degree view. Here we are looking southwest and one can see the mountains in the distance where we will be hiking in the next few days once we leave the city.
Then it was back to busy streets where students and tourists enjoy some local Art…
We are quite enjoying our short break from hotels, restaurants and packing up every day to move on! Nonetheless, it is time to get organized for our next road trip via car which we will pick up on Monday and start making our way south to Andalucia. Our research indicates that there is much to see and do along the way….
The dichotomy of Salamanca….the oldest University in Spain and the youngest population, surrounded by twenty year old students and sandstone buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years, around every corner is an incredible architectural masterpiece and another photo opportunity. Salamanca, in northwestern Spain, is the capital of the Castile and León region. Ruled successively by the Celts, Romans, Muslims and Spanish, it’s known for its ornate sandstone architecture and for the Universidad de Salamanca. Founded in the 1100s and an important intellectual center in the 15th-16th centuries, the university continues to contribute to the city’s vibrancy with its international student population.
It is Tuesday, October 20 and we awoke to the big news of the Liberals winning a majority in Canada! A new era has begun (????)…. Let’s hope so!
A few photos from Cologne….
It has been a few days since I have had time to write, what with all the visiting and partying with Toni’s family and then the travelling by car, airplane, bus, taxi and train to get here to Salamanca from Madrid. It was very very fun to meet so many members of Toni’s family and to speak with them as so many spoke perfect English! His Mother, Hildegard, had her 75th birthday party at a castle (complete with surrounding moat) in Gladbeck. It was a grand affair with a delicious and interesting meal and poems and songs performed by the youngsters. The party continued Sunday morning with a huge breakfast buffet provided by Toni and Lisa. Toni was kind enough (again!) to take us to the Dusseldorf airport where we caught our flight to Madrid.
As we were sitting on the Airport express bus riding into Madrid, there came a huge black cloud which literally dumped torrential rains into the city streets turning them into rivers! Of course our rain gear was packed at the bottom of our bags, not that it would have kept us dry in such a deluge. The miracle of it all was that when we got off at the Atocha station, the rain completely stopped! However the streets were still flooded and if you dare step off the curb you were over the ankles in water! The city work crews were out in full force and cleaning the storm sewers so that the water quickly subsided and we were able to walk to our hotel without getting our feet too wet.
We had such a short time in Madrid we were only able to see a few of the wondrous buildings and monuments. What we noticed was that everything seemed to be built on a very grand scale…extremely wide streets with green boulevards, huge decorative buildings, and every roundabout had a beautiful sculpted fountain. Lots of traffic and hundreds, I might even guess, thousands of taxis!
Monday afternoon we caught a train to Salamanca…a word of warning to anyone wanting to get a ticket at the station….get there a few hours in advance because there was a huge queue and not many ticket sellers! The train ride through the ‘mountains’ and across the plateau provided some interesting scenery…. everything from Canadian Sheild-like rock formations, to pine forests, dry stone walls, roman ruins, walled cities, huge monasteries, and very dry looking fields of tilled rocks with little soil… Not to forget the sheep and cows along the way.
Finding our way from the train station to our apartment was easy, as Maria, the owner, had sent us a very good little map. The apartment is in the ‘ suburbs’ about a 10 minute walk to the Old City, with lots of little fruit/vegetable shops, bakeries and butcher stores lining the streets of the neighbourhood of mostly low rise housing. We are on the 5th floor with a balcony overlooking the rooftops to the fields beyond the town. We have all the amenities including a washing machine! (A load of laundry was first on my list of things to do when we got here!!!)
We are very thankful that we can take our bicycles on the trains here! The temperature this morning is a very damp 2C….went for a ‘before breakfast walk’ and was wearing many layers! The good thing about that is the panniers are half empty! The National Hotel where we are staying has to be the quietest hotel room of all time, very clean, good breakfast and about a 5 minute walk to the train station.
Last night we discovered 2 more very interesting fountains….
Schangelbrunnen is a spitting boy statue located in the courtyard near the Rathaus(city hall). It is a must-see statue when one visits Koblenz as it is a very historical and well-known statue in this city and is a stop on every guided tour. Watch out for the wet spot on the ground and avoid standing there when admiring the statue because every now and then just when you least expect it, “little John” will spit and the unsuspecting admirers will get soaking wet! Lucky for me I was wearing my raincoat!
The train ride to Köln was a comfortable, warm, dry 90 minute ride along the Rhine. We stepped out of the train station into the cold wet drizzle, a fantastic sight of the Cathedral which is right beside the train station and wheeled our bikes the few blocks to our hotel, locked them in the basement and settled into our new room. Top floor with a balcony and view of the spires of the Dom as the Cathedral is called here. After a snack and warm up we headed out for a closer look at this magnificent structure….
Construction of Cologne Cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880. It is 144.5 metres (474 ft) long, 86.25 m (283.0 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires (after Ulm Minster.) Its two huge spires give it the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church. Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” and “a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe”. (Wikipedia)
The interior is fantastical (is that a word?)… One could spend days ( maybe weeks!) studying the stained glass, each window telling its own story, the mosaic floor, ditto, all the side altars, statues, crypts, the paintings, the murals, the wood carvings, the statues….it is totally mesmerizing! It is definitely up there among the great cathedrals/basilicas like St. Peter’s in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris and the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul! (Oh yes, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, although it is not actually finished yet!) I feel extremely fortunate to have seen these great and wonderful masterpieces of art and architecture!
Walking in the rain tonight we wandered over to the Cathedral…all lit up! Gorgeous! Then we discovered it was still open to the public! Went in for another look around…there were only a few people around…soooo cool to have the place to ourselves!
This morning we awaken to the sounds of the market being set up in the square so before breakfast we take a quick stroll to check it out and discover it is very cold!!!! The temperature is hovering at about 2C and even though it is sunny, it is still very chilly! We decide to head back to the Rhine as there is also some precipitation headed our way.
We have a lovely ride back to Bingen but are quite chilled when we arrive and anxious to find a warm hotel room. We find one near the river and crank up the heater! Over coffee we decide to take the boat from Bingen to Koblenz tomorrow as it has started to rain and predictions are for more of the same. The terminal is across the road from the hotel and it is easy to buy our tickets for the 9:30 am sailing. We even get the seniors discount! It’s the Romantic Rhine River Cruise Economy Style!
The clouds have turned to rain today and the temperature has dropped considerably! Good decision on deciding to take the boat…it could be our cycling days are over for this trip! But it is an easy decision as the KD Rhine boat dock is just outside our hotel…we wheel our bikes with panniers right onto the boat at 9:30 am and we are now on a river cruise!!! It really is fantastic to be able to see the scenery from the river….a whole new view of the castles, the pretty towns with their timber framed buildings and the vineyards, which you just don’t get to see from the seat of a bicycle.