In Sinzig, Germany
(it's the heart of Europe! Really!)
So, you are thinking of coming to visit us. How wonderful!
Here is all of the basic information you need to plan your trip:
HOW MUCH TO BRING
Absolutely do NOT bring more bags than you yourself can carry up and down 15 steps and a couple of blocks entirely by yourself. I really can't stress this enough. Yes, I will try to travel with you once you land, or on your way to the airport, but I cannot guarantee it! You may have to get on a train by yourself -- or, worse, transfer from one train or bus to another by yourself -- and you cannot do it if you have too much luggage, or if your bags are crazy heavy. No one will help you as you struggle with your bags -- trust me on this. And if you get on a train and have more bags than you can handle, other passengers will NOT be nice to you.
Remember to budget space in your luggage for things you want to buy -- clothes, ceramics, wine, beer...
WHAT TO BRING
A visit to any online weather site, such as Yahoo will tell you what the weather is like here. Look up the weather in Bonn -- that's close enough to where we are to be accurate. Stefan and I are rather warm-natured, and tend to underestimate how cold it is for guests, so online weather sites will give you much better information than we can.
It rains a lot here, so the jacket your bring should be waterproof. Forget the frilly shoes -- bring sensible shoes that stay comfortable while doing a lot of walking, and can survive rain should it happen. Museums all have coat checks, so don't worry about having to lug your coat around such (they wouldn't let you anyway).
Unless you come in January or February and are planning on hiking a lot, don't worry about dressing for snow. Even then, it probably won't snow -- we live in a river valley. Also don't bring an umbrella if you are staying with us -- we have plenty.
Don't pack a hair dryer if you are staying with us -- we have two, and mine has a diffuser.
We've got plenty of towels and linens -- unless you need such for another point in your trip, don't pack any.
Bring a small day-trip bag, something for your wallet, a bottle of water, your camera, an umbrella, etc. You might consider buying a small lock, and locking the zippers of the bag while you are walking around or riding a train. But do NOT lock your luggage or carry-ons before you leave! (because airport security will break them open).
We have a washing machine, but no clothes dryer. You are welcomed to do laundry while you are with us, but don't do it on your last day, or you will be packing wet clothes!
If you need special dietary stuff -- vegan, vegetarian, kosher, soy, whatever -- just let me know and I'll either buy it for you before you arrive or take you to a store where you can buy it.
We have two computers and a wireless network. If your email is web-based, you will have no problem checking it from either computer. However, please note that our computers are quite old -- they are very slow when surfing the Internet, and cannot run Skype. You are welcomed to bring your laptop and go onto our wireless network, but remember: don't bring more luggage than you can carry yourself up and down a flight of stairs, and for at least a few city blocks.
I have lots more packing advice here.
Security: Security practices can change suddenly, even from the time you leave your front door to the time you arrive at the airport. When a sudden clamp down occurs, an airport can decide that NO hand luggage/carry ons (I mean it -- none, and that includes a woman's purse, an unopened bottle of water, an iPod, a cell phone, a book, a laptop, etc.). So make sure your hand luggage could survive if it had to be checked, because there's always a slight possibility that it might have to be. As these sudden security changes happen primarily in the UK, my advice: if flying through the UK means saving just a few hundred dollars, forget it and fly to somewhere on the European mainland. And if you find out about such a sudden security clamp down well before your flight, consider paying the penalty fee and moving your flight to a later day.
In Germany, ALL stores are closed on Sundays, and most close quite early on Saturdays -- keep that in mind!
Also in Germany, most tourist sites and restaurants are closed on Mondays.
There are three German airports for you to choose from to get to us (and these are all easy to get to from airports elsewhere in Europe):
Düsseldorf This is also easy, and you can take just one train (the RE) from the airport to here in Sinzig, no transfers needed. After you arrive at the airport, you take the hanging tram to the train station (the tram is just one way, so you can't go wrong, and signage is excellent; also, everyone speaks English). If you take the RE train from the airport, the whole trip will take about two hours from the time you leave the gate to the time you arrive in Sinzig. If you spend a few Euro more and take the much quicker IC or ICE trains, you need to stop in Remagen, and then we will pick you up from there. It's so easy that you probably won't need me to meet you at the airport (but I will if I can). I'll send you much more details if you chose this airport.
Frankfurt This airport is easy to get to from just about anywhere in the world... but then you have to get on a train, and then transfer at least once to another train, probably two other trains, to get to me in Sinzig. It's a challenge you probably won't be able to do by yourself, unless you have spent a lot of time in Europe before and know how to navigate train stations and read train schedules, deal with train delays and missed trains, etc. It takes about three hours total from the time you leave customs to the time you arrive at our home. You will need to give me an idea of your budget if you are coming in via Frankfurt, as there is a significant difference in train prices, depending on the speed of the trains you want to take. I will do my best to meet you at this airport and shepherd you to our home.
You can also look into flying to Paris or London or Brussels and then from there either flying into Cologne or Dusseldorf. Berlin is more than five hours away by train, FYI (Paris is closer).
If you want to take a train from elsewhere in Europe to Germany, Deutsche Bahn has a search page in English. It's very easy to use. Be sure to uncheck the "prefer fast connections" box, and remember that dates are day/month/year, not month/day/year. Also, try to book plenty of time between the time a train arrives and the time a connecting train departs, because it's a miserable experience to run from one platform to another. When booking, look for trains going to Koblenz (or even Bonn, if you can find an IC or ICE with two or less transfers and that won't take much longer than Koblenz). From Koblenz or Bonn, you'll take an RE (faster) or an RB to Sinzig, no reservations required. They come every 30 minutes. If I know your arrival time in Koblenz or Bonn, I'll probably meet you there and ride the RE or RB with you.
If you are flying in from elsewhere in Germany, then be aware that Bonn/Cologne is very easy to get to by German Wings (cheap airline) from a variety of European cities. The web site is in English and really easy to use. There's also Hapag-Lloyd, another very cheap airline that flies to and from Germany from several major European cities.
Give yourself plenty of time for plane transfers -- not just time for you to go for one plane to another, but your luggage as well!
FYI, I think a train ride from here to Berlin is about six hours; from Paris, around five; from Brussels, four hours to Koblenz, then another 30 on the local train to here.
If you need advice on areas/countries to see before or after you visit us, just let me know.
Once you decide on your airport, let me know, and I will give you much more details on getting to us -- or me getting to you. In most circumstances, I can meet you at the Cologne, Dusseldorf or Frankfurt airport.
WHERE TO STAY
We have a comfy air mattress and a comfy couch for you to sleep on, your choice! Otherwise, we recommend these nearby hotels:
There is a LOT to see and do around our home, and I can give you many more details on these, if you like, either before you leave the states or after you arrive.
Be aware that museums and most tourist sites are closed on Mondays (which makes it a good day to hike or shop).
Here are many (but not all) of the things to do that are all easy, quick walks or train rides from our house. No way you can do all of these things unless you move in with us. And, ofcourse, I welcome your own ideas for things to do:
Here are more sites (but certainly not all) that can be visited from our home, if you have a car:
If you haven't traveled much, or, if you have never traveled outside the USA, have a look my page of general travel advice. Part of it is geared especially for women.
See you soon!
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The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.