March 2008, Germany, Holland and Belgium

We flew into Frankfurt, rented a mini van and drove directly to my hometown
of Soest. Christopher on the Marktplatz (Market square) in the center of old town
Soest. Our hotel "Im Wilden Mann" is the middle building on the left of the little street.

Looking south on the Markt

View towards the "Dom" or cathedral Patrokli Kirche


Chris and Kristina eating marzipan from the Fromme cafe behind them on the right.

Brüderstrasse is the main shopping district in Soest.

Looking up Rathaus Strasse to the Patrokli Kirche built in 964. The red building is City Hall.

Front of the Rathaus (city hall) with St. Patrolius, patron saint of Soest, at the top

Doors leading into the Rathaus

Estella at the Rathaus

This is where you where born Dad?...... Yup.

Typical downtown street, one way only as the streets are too narrow.

Half-timbered houses are the norm and date back to the 13th century.

Building detail

TaxTaxis in the middle of town

Half-timbered houses from the 13th century

Chris is ready for breakfast

Heading for St Patrokli Kirche

The Petri Kirche which sits right next to the Patrokli Kirche was built in
954 on top of older church ruins dating to the 8th century

Interior of the Patrokli Kirche. As a young boy we would attend mass
here every sunday.

Filzen Strasse

Walking doWalking down Kolk Strasse, Estella, Kristina and Naiwn Kolk Strasse

The last gate of 10 that is still standing, the Osthofentor built by the
Bishop of Cologne Phillip von Heinsberg in the 12th century.

Estella ready for a walk along the remaining original town wall

Two-thirds of the original town wall that encircled Soest still exists and is
a favorite for joggers and walkers. This view is along the top of the
wall where long ago trees have been planted.

Along the wall with the steeple of the Reform Kirche visible through the trees

Appreciating the history of this area

Situated right next to the wall is Wall Strasse (Wall Street) with this nice red half-timbered house.

Old cobblestone streets and alleys, I remember walking along these as a kid.
This one is called Auf Der Klufe.

Kristina and mom Auf Kristina and mom Auf Der Klufe, too narrow for cars.Der Klufe. Too narrow

Alt St Thöma Kirche or Reform church was built in 1270. The steeple leans
as some of the old support rafters have rotted.

The city had an outer and inner wall, the tops of both visible in this picture,
with a deep dry moat in between that has long been filled in to the top of the walls.

This defensive tower is the last one standing and is called the Kattenturm.

With the top of the outer wall in the foreground spring is blooming in late March in Soest.

Along the inner wall.

Pilgrim Haus Hotel first opened in 1304

Brunstein Kappelle (chapel) was built in 1225 and is now a local
artist studio. Riding by is the mail carrier.

Chris walking the old town where a lot of the stone buildings were
constructed with unique green limestone.

Estella taking a break on the steps of the Brunstein Kappelle.

In a coffee shop enjoying a leasurely lunch

Saturday night was the local music festival where 32 bands played in
27 clubs, restaurants and bars. To attend you simply paid 9 euros
for access to all venues to see all the bands. The town was
packed with fans and buzzing until 3am.

In our hotel the bar and restaurant area was transformed into a club
and was at max capacity. Outside was a line to get in. The band played
german and american music until 2am. The beer, of course, flowed freely.

Nai and Estella on their way to the Hohnekirche.

Along Rathausstrasse towards Patrokli Kirche

Street vendors sold candy, licorice and bratwurst.

Am Seel with half-timbered houses.

Grosser Teich, or Large Pond in the center of old town never freezes,
as it is fed by 6 warm and somewhat salty springs directly underneath it.

Blossoms and the Soest Tourist Information office.

Hohe Gasse, or High Alley walkway.

Ratting out a hide-and-seek player is just not fair.

Inside St Maria's or Hohnekirche, built in 1230

The pipe organ and painted ceiling are unique to the Hohnekirche.

Hohnekirche features a round cross.

Entrance to the Wiesenkirche

Exterior of the Hohnekirche made from green limestone as the other 7 churches in town.

Kristina checking out a small B-200 Mercedes

This was my grandmas house, the last one on the left, where I spent a lot of time.
This used to be at the very outskirts of town even though it is only a few blocks
outside the town wall. Behind the house was a Belgian army camp and
they would run maneuvers once a month. Me and my aunt who was
only 2 years older would run out to watch the tanks go by and the Belgian
soldiers would stop, get out of their tanks and give us good Belgian chocolate.
The camp is now a school.

This was where I lived growing up. It was about 2 or 3 blocks from the town
wall and just a few blocks from my grandmas house.

A small farm on the way to Münster

A farmhouse on the way to Münster.

Bicycle friendly with their own bike lanes.Aing

Entrance to castle Nordkirchen

It rained the entire time we were at Nordkirchen

Estella at Nordkirchen

Nordkirchen was built on the site of an older fortress built by the Plettenburg
dynasty of prince-bishops in 1703. Today it operates as a finance
college for primarily government employees from EU countries.

Sandstone sphinx statues 400 years old are situated around the property

The Baum's at Nordkirchen.

Known as the Versailles of the north, Nordkirchen was modeled after the French palace.

Nordkirchen is also surrounded by a water moat.

Nordkirchen gardens

Walls and ceilings inside featured very detailed art and sculptures.

One of the finance school classrooms

Our next stop was castle Lembeck built in 1390 and expanded in 1692

From this angle you cannot see the water moat at all.

This part of Europe has mostly water moats surrounding castles.

Castle Lembeck tourist group

Mr and Mrs at Castle Lembeck.

St Martin Ludgeri Church in Münster

Münsters main Markt with St Lamberti church built in 965

Mango ice cream at a shop in Münster

Original wood carving on the outside of our Soest hotel. When first
built in 1360 it was a brewery. Later it became a guesthaus and a hotel.

Entrance to Castle Sababurg, the original inspiration for the
Brothers Grimm story of Sleeping Beauty

Chris and mom at Dornröschenschloss Sababurg as it is
known in Germany. The Grimm Brothers wrote Sleeping Beauty
here in the early 1800's while the brothers were in their
twenties and working as librarians in nearby Kassel.

Rose detail on gate to inner courtyard

We ate lunch at Sababurg with a spectacular view of the Weserbergland
and the Reinhardswald, a nature preserve.

View from our table.

At Sababurg restaurant, everyone was offered a complimentary brandy to start.

The linguine had local vegetables and tiny rosebuds in the olive oil sauce.

Our next destination was Parkhotel Wasserschloss Anholt just a couple
of kilometers from the Holland border. The castle was first built by
William I, prince-bishop of Utrecht in 1169. It was expanded in 1645 by
the Prince of Salm-Salm. The older building is on the left while
the newer building on the right has been turned into a world-class hotel.

Wasserschloss Anholt has a drawbridge for its only entrance. We drove
over it to register at the hotel and then parked our vehicle outside the moat.

While the right side has been converted into a world-class 5 star hotel,
the older building on the left has been turned into a museum featuring
extensive art collections by Dutch Masters and fine
17th century porcelain from China.

Food was excellent and served with class.

The five-star restaurant is situated in the back of the castle and sits
in the moat with a spectacular view of the moat and gardens beyond.

We had rooms on the top floor. Our room was situated between original
support beams running through both ends of the room. Another beam
ran through our bathroom shower.

A view of the moat from our window in the morning

Chris and Kristina at breakfast, Wasserschloss Anholt.

The nearby village of Anholt had two windmills. This one had been
converted into a private residence.

Next we went to Xanten, the northernmost outpost of the Roman
Empire in what is now Germany. Romans established a base here
in 12 B.C. and the town was founded by Emperor Traianus in 98 A.D.
It was the largest Roman outpost after Cologne. Situated along the
Rhine river, it housed up to 40,000 soldiers.

Colonia Ulpia Traiana (CUT) was preserved as it was the only Roman
town not built over with other towns. Preserved under centuries of
fields and pasture it was excavated in the late 1800's. This is
one of two temples in CUT.

It was sunny but only 3 degrees Celcius.

Roman gravestone markers at CUT

An arena and just beyond the original town walls.

The Amsterdam opera house

We ate lunch at a restaurant across the street from the opera house.

Typical Amsterdan canal scene with tall and narrow buildings that appear
to be tipping in all directions.

Shopping in Amsterdam

Retail sales people looking for customers.

Strolling through Amsterdam

Statue of Rembrandt, (1606-1669) considered one of the greatest visual artists in the
history of art. He was a very prolific painter across a variety of styles and subjects. While
very succesful as a painter, he lived well beyond his means and died a poor man.

Downtown Amsterdam

It was Tulip season

Eating at a restaurant in Amsterdam

Utrecht, Netherlands

One of the original town gates into Utrecht.

The preferred method of transportation in Utrecht.

Bicycles and canals typify Utrecht

Domkerk from the year 1254, also known as St. Martin

Brussels, Belgium, Basilica of Koekelberg, Estella with umbrella.

Interior of Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Koekelberg) built in 1905 by
King Leopold in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of Belgian independence.

At the opera house in Liege Belgium.

Liege is the home of Belgian waffles

Waffles come in a variety of flavors but we liked the chocolate covered the best.

Downtown Liege

Exploring old Liege, Estella, Nai, Chris and Kristina.

Estella at the Dom Platz, Cologne Germany. Behind her is the train station.

And the Dom (Cathedral) is behind us.

Cologne Dom Cathedral door detail.

Inside the Cathedral with St. Hubert

Christopher with the statue of St. Christopher

The vast interior of the cathedral

One of the many stained glass windows


Where to now?

The cathedral was built atop a 4th century Roman temple. Started in 1248,
it took 600 years to complete. It suffered 14 bomb hits in WWII but did
not collapse. It is Germany's greatest Gothic cathedral. Its greatest
treasure is in the basement with a golden chalice with the remains
of the Three Magi who brought presents to baby Jesus in the manger.
At one time the cathedral was the tallest building in the world.

Cologne is the origin of --- Cologne water, the original 4711 Cologne.

Fresh breads, rolls and cookies were at little bakeries on almost every block.

Estella at the old Rathaus (city hall) in Cologne still used by city officials.

Kristina on the cobbles in Cologne.

Delivering the mail with Deutsche Post

At the Rhine river in Cologne.

At the Rhine in Cologne.

Estella found some very nice and comfortable shoes at the Kämpgen
shoe store. Only problem they did not have them in her size. She then
made a friend and sold a pair of shoes to a nice german woman. "Everyone
needs a good pair of red shoes!" Estella told her. The woman purchased
the shoes and called them her "Estella shoes". The two exchanged
emails and planned to stay in touch.

Disappointed in her own shoe finding quest it was back out to see
what else we could find.

Mmmmmm, not quite the same.

Lunch this day was at "Oma's Küche" (grandma's kitchen) restaurant
just off of the Schildergasse.

Shopping for unique bargains in Cologne.

The U-Bahn was fast and convenient transportation around town.

These sweet sugar coated bunnies during Easter week were a hot item on Neumarkt.

A nightclub in Cologne.

One of Cologne's original rebuilt gates built by the Romans 2000 years ago

Pouring beer at the Früh brewery and restaurant in Cologne.

My dinner at Früh, oxtail soup with pumpernickel roll.

Nai's dinner, a traditional sauerbraten with dumpling and apple.

We left Cologne early in the morning to begin our Rhine river castle drive.
We stopped in Koblenz for breakfast and this restaurant was the
only one open. At night it was the hot spot in town with live bands and DJ's.

The restaurant had this carving of a river siren on the bar.

Koblenz is situated on the Rhine at the confluence with the Moselle river.

This store in Koblenz sold medieval armor and vestments.

The first castle we saw along the Rhine was Stolzenfels. It is a 13th century
castle built to impose tolls on boats travelling up and down the river Rhine.
It was rebuilt in 1836 and refurbished by the King of Prussia,

View of the Rhine from Stolzenfels.

Marksburg castle above the town of Braubach.

Castles Sterrenberg and Liebenstein.

Castle Maus,(Burg Maus).

Castle Rheinfels, once the largest of all castles along the Rhine.

As soon as we arrived at any castle th weather would get worse. At Rheinfels
it rained and the snowed while we were touring the castle. A true fortress,
built in 1245, it withstood a siege by 28,000 french troops for 18 months
in 1692. The French revolutionary army then returned in 1797 and
destroyed the castle.

At Rheinfels in the snow.

Tours of the castle are all self-guides with no maps. Your only clueis
"Don't get lost" after you pay to enter. Passages would dead-end, turn into
very steep staircases with no handrails, and other paths go on endlessly
into underground tunnels. During the middle ages Rheinfels had 4000 inhabitants.


The restaurant had nice views to the river....

....however, due to the weather we opted to eat inside,

Burg Katz overlooks St, Goarshausen and is now a boarding school.

Burg Pfalz, built in 1327, sits right in the Rhine and was erected to collect tolls
from passing boats.

Römerberg in the old city of Frankfurt. During WWII this entire area was
reduced to rubble and then was completely restored to the exact
original specs and drawings

LastLast day in Germany, on the Rhine in Frankfurt.