Living in Ukraine has presented us with many opportunities that we would not have in the States. One of those opportunities has been travel. Where else can you ask yourself, "Self, we have nothing to do this weekend, what do you want to do? Well, how about fly into Germany, rent a car and just go were the wind takes us?" This is what Adam and I decided to do over his birthday weekend, June 18, 2010. It is rare that we have a weekend without anything to do; no youth group to lead, gathering to attend, pot luck to bake for, or school extracurricular activity to oversee. We saw an open window of opportunity and decided to make the most of it. We looked online for cheap airfare to anywhere. We stumbled on $100 round trip tickets to Dortmund Germany.
To make the most of our time we decided to make no plans at all. Let's just fly into Dortmund, rent a car and see what happens. No hotels booked, maps printed, or wish list of activities. Plus.... where's Dortmund?
Once we arrived to Dortmund we picked up our car rental. We had reserved a basic economy car and were upgraded to a brand new, top of the line BMW with all the bells and whistles. This car could practically drive it self. Now that we were traveling in style we headed out in one direction to see what awaited us on this spontaneous journey. First thing's first.... find a Starbucks and quench my coffee craving that I patiently endure for months and months. After inserting 'Starbucks' into our friendly British English speaking navigation system, Dorty (that's what we named her) lead us to the center of down town Dortmund. Getting out of the car we were pleasantly surprised by all the noise. The streets were filled with laughter, cheering, shouting, horns, people shouting "Deutschland" over and over, and colorful banners of black, red and yellow adorned cars, people, and even... dogs.
We had planned our trip unintentionally around the World Cup. All the cheering led us to believe that Germany won their game. In search of a good meal and the USA game, we soon found ourselves at Bum Bar, a small pub/cafe. We quickly became the center of attention, as we learned Dortmund is not a hot spot for tourists. Unlike many other cities we had traveled to in the European Union, English was not a widely known language. We sat down and asked for a menu. The waitress signaled for us to wait a minute. She dug through the cupboards above the bar, and reaching far into the bottom and the back pulled out an English menu. She blew the inch thick of settled dust off the cover and handed us the menus. The owner of the Bum approached us and said, "2007. Price changed food same." A man sitting next to us, who had obviously enjoyed his time in the bar previously before we joined him, took great interest in these English speaking foreigners. We tried our best to chat. We congratulated him on his country's win in their World Cup soccer game. He looked at us surprised and informed us that they had lost. Wow, if only we could have that kind of passion and pride in our country that we would cheer like that, even in a loss of an important game. How cool!
After eating a delicious meal and watching part of the USA game, I decided it was time for a change in scenery. While Adam stayed back in the bar, I made my way to the mall. I spent an hour exploring the mall and down town. When I returned to the bar Adam had made friends with everyone in there. Not surprising I know. He had a crowd around him, talking and laughing. One guy even left and bought candy for Adam, as a souvenir. When the man heard we were from Colorado, he left to buy Adam the famous German gummy candy Haribo. They have a version of gummy candy called Colorado.
Originally we thought we would fly into Dortmund and drive west to Amsterdam that night. Little did we know we would find so much to do and be so warmly welcomed by this small town. We found a hotel for the night and tuned in to watch the next World Cup game. Before getting too cozy for the night Adam made mention of cake for his birthday. I quickly made it my duty to find my husband chocolate cake on his birthday. Thinking this would be a fast and easy outing, I set out on foot. I was reminded of how small a town Dortmund was when every store and restaurant I came to was closed or closing, and it was only 9:30pm, on a Friday night! I was determined. I went restaurant to restaurant, bar to bar, cafe to cafe, and grocery store to grocery store. Nothing. I was about to go back to the hotel defeated, but thought I'd stop into one last restaurant along the way. I asked for chocolate cake and the gentleman who greeted me said there was no more cake. I must have looked very disappointed and sad because this waiter asked me why I wanted it so badly. I told him, "It's my husband's birthday and I have been searching for cake for over 2 hours. He's probably worried about me now, but I just don't want to go back empty handed." My family jokes about anywhere you travel there is always that guy who offers... "Amigo, amigo.... you want fishing boat, I get you fishing boat." "Amigo, amigo. You want tour I get you tour." "Mon amie, mon amie, you want Eiffel Tower, I get you Eiffel Tower." Well, this was no exception. The server looked at me and said, "You want chocolate cake? I get you chocolate cake!" He sped off and within 15 minutes returned with a beautiful large piece of chocolate cake with raspberry filling. He even gave me candles and matches! The man walked me to the door and said, "A piece of chocolate cake like this is only for true love!" I returned to the hotel and Adam and I enjoyed an excellent piece of real German chocolate cake.
The next morning we set out in our fancy BMW reaching speeds of 180 on the Audubon toward Amsterdam, Netherlands. Don't get too excited, that is 180 km/hour. The drive to Holland was beautiful with classic traditional windmills, beautiful green fields, and impressive farmhouses. Once again, we made it just in time for the games. We went to a bar/cafe to watch the Netherland game on the big screen, in an ocean of orange. Every cafe was packed with little room for air. Don't even think of moving around once you've found a spot. People watched the games from doorways of restaurants because it was so full. Adam and I looked like quite the outcasts as we were the only people in all of Amsterdam not dressed in orange and painted faces. The owner of the establishment pulled two orange shirts from his cafe van and told us we are obligated to wear orange. We were happy to accept the gift and blend in with the crowd. Holland won.