My first European road trip consisted of driving through "Thielenland", Germany, and Switzerland.
I began on Friday morning of March 29 in Liège, Belgium, where I've been living for the last 2 months. I have had a curiosity about the origins of my surname, Thielen, since I met some Germans in Sonoma more than 10 years ago. They indicated my name comes from the western part of German near Belgium. This has been top of my list to do while living here in Belgium.
As I approached the first German town of Winterspelt, the snow was falling creating a dusting to a full out covering of snow on the rolling landscape.
The drive revealed beautiful rolling hills of farmland, trees, and small towns dotted between. I drove through places where the population was probably less than 500 people, like the town of Arzfeld.
I had a sense of connected to these towns. Maybe I projected this upon myself because I knew other Thielens lived here or maybe it was innate in who I am. I was comforted by this countryside, small towns and the beauty of the landscape. On Good Friday, the entire southern part of German has the day off. I stopped here to pee. I'm suddenly faced with learning the German language quickly. Two doors labeled 'Herren' and 'Frauen'. I guessed correctly, Herren. Phew. One word down.
I had a true German lunch in Bitberg. This town was the largest one so far with a population of 12,000. I had the Louis Müller special of boiled ham, smoked ham, 2 difference sausages, and sauerkraut mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were surprising awesome.
This landscape continued most of the way until I hit the border of France. The hills became less dominate. I stopped in Selèstat for my first gas fill up. Half a tank of gas cost me 50 Euros for 30 liters of disel. Damn. Put in US terms, $65 for 8 gallons. Now I know why people take trains and planes everywhere.
This is my second border crossing since my arrival in Europe. My first was the week before going into England. On a side note, I learned the difference between the UK and England. My Americaness definitely showed it's face on my ignorance of these. To fill you in starting with the city of London. London is in the country of England. England is a part of the UK, which comprises of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Yes, Northern Ireland too. For a quick explaination beyond this, check out The United Kingdom Explained.
Back to the road trip, crossing into Switzerland. The first thing I noticed after driving minutes in the country is the multitude of tunnels. Long ones too. I entered near Basel proceeding to Zurich. This is where I met Marina, who was gracious to provide me with a great home cooked meal and a couch to sleep upon. In spirit of Good Friday, she made scallops and sword fish we believe. So yummy. Thank you Marina!
A short 30 minute drive north from Zurich we accidentally found the Monastery. How accidentally with GPS running the show? The GPS took us to the wrong place that looked like the place from The Shining. Scary. Just as we were about to give up, Marina said go back the way we came to the right. Well, this placed us smack dab in front of this amazing place. And no, this wasn't the way we came. Which is a good thing.
This was one of the most beautiful churches inside I have seen in Europe. The pictures I have are poor lighting. We ended up staying for the Easter mass. The lights were turned off and then 50 monks, priests, and others came in by candle light. Very cool. The mass ended close to 3 hours later. Not cool. However, this was a first time I have ever gone on a first date to an Easter mass by accident. We both felt like we made up for loss time.
Porsche Museum - Stuttgart
The very first Porsche 356 Number 1. I had an amazing time. I loved finding out about the history of Porsche and to hear about his passion for making great cars. The museum is a modern, well laid out building for all these cars.
Road Trip Route
Here is my entire 1560 km travel for your viewing pleasure.