As if to taunt us the weather was beautiful this morning as we left Amsterdam; the sky was clear and blue, the sun shone brightly, the air was calm and not too cold. Our train route started out from Amsterdam to Cologne. The Dutch and Germans have just introduced brand new ICE trains on this route; the trains weren't supposed to change until Sunday, but for some reason the new trains were in use today. Possibly these were trains that had been purchased in connection with Expo 2000 in Hannover and, now that the fair was over, were being given over to other routes.
Whatever the reason, the train manager announced, in Dutch, German, and English, that we should take any seats we wanted. As it happened, we had the entire first class car to ourselves! Actually, another passenger boarded in Utrecht, and still another in Arnhem, but they sat many rows away. So we enjoyed our brand new cars. There were photographers in various stations taking pictures of the new equipment. We told Cuddles they had come to photograph her, but she didn't believe it.
So we whisked into Cologne, where we saw the huge cathedral right next to the station. We were going to buy a snack, but we only had Dutch money, so we had to make do with chocolates. Fortunately, we had bought cappucinos on the train, too.
In Cologne the skies were cloudy. The train for Luxembourg was fifteen minutes late. One nice lady from Cologne made sure we didn't board the train on the platform, which was going to Basel, but waited for the train to Luxembourg.
Waiting along with us was a group of six or eight women, traveling together. They were in their thirties or forties, looked like they had been around, were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, and were laughing and joking on the platform. They got on the first class coach, too, which kind of surprised us, and rode the train to Cochem, about an hour and a half. All the way they played music (it sounded like German country music to us) and sang along, and laughed a lot. A young policeman entered their car. Soon a male voice joined the chorus, and in a few minutes his buddy had found his way back, as well.
We never found out why they were so happy. Was it a weekend away from their husbands? A bowling tournament? Did they all work in the same office? Were they going to watch a ball game? We didn't have a clue, but it was certainly Girls' Day Out.
The route from Cologne goes up the Rhine and then follows the Mosel to Luxembourg. We remembered the Mosel valley, with steep banks covered with vineyards; but the clouds grew heavier, and it was raining by the time we got to Luxembourg. Good thing the hotel was just across the street. We got settled in and had a delicious dinner in the hotel, and then to bed as Bob has come down with a cold.
We knew that Luxembourg accepted Belgian Francs as freely as their own currency, and we had a stash of Belgian money from our last trip to Belgium, several years ago.
UNFORTUNATELY, this was old Belgian money. Boy, have we been learning our lessons about European money. Don't keep it -- it gets old and nobody will accept it.
So our first order of business today (after breakfast) was to straighten out the money. We had the address of a bank that was open Saturday morning. We changed a little money at the hotel, so we could buy bus tickets. But the Luxembourg Card, which covers transportation and museum admissions throughout the country, is only valid until 31 October; sorry, come back next tourist season! None of this bothered us much, as we weren't expecting to see the summer attractions, anyway. We purchased a strip of bus tickets instead.
With tickets and map in hand, we rode into the city. We had a big X on the map showing us where the bank was.
Well, every building on that block in Luxembourg was a bank, so we made a few false starts before we found the one that was really open, and not just the ATM. We got directed to foreign exchange, where the lady looked at the old Belgian money as if it were poison. She said she'd take the money only if we had an account there. Of course we didn't, so she proceeded to tell us three or four times she had absolutely no idea where to take the Belgian money on Monday. We kept thanking her (for nothing) -- wow!
We rode the bus back to the hotel, and decided to attack the next problem. This was the fact that the computer modem was all broken and we couldn't call out and hook up to the internet, our lifeline. We've had problems before, each one teaching us how to manage a different error message. This one, however, was the dreaded The Modem Is Not Responding, and sure enough, it didn't seem to be dialing when told to. It told us to Reset the Modem, so we knew we needed big-time help!
We had the address of the Apple place, out at the end of the bus line, and so we bundled the computer up, said goodbye to Cuddles, and went down for the bus. When we got to the Apple place, it was in one of those new industrial-type centers, and of course was closed for the weekend.
So we went back to the hotel.
Errand three was a supermarket, which we found a block away, downstairs in an arcade. Very nice. While we were walking over we realized we had not seen any bicycles. We checked. Not one bike. Everybody in Luxembourg drives cars. The streets are big and wide, the sidewalks, too, there are no bike lanes, and no bikes. Little kids here have new scooters, reminding us that we saw no scooters in Amsterdam. Wow! What a difference from Amsterdam! Luxembourg, by contrast, reminds us of the U.S. Yet it's a very old city, too, built at an old Roman crossroads.
We got back to the hotel, unloaded our stuff, ate lunch, and tried to figure out what to do with our broken computer. Probably have to bury it in an unmarked European grave. We kept trying new ways of dialing, but the computer told us the modem needed to be reset. So we decided to give up on that (both of us silently wondering what we'd be doing with six weeks of Europe reports stacking up un-mailed. And was this the beginning of an Apple Collapse? and How do you reset a modem anyway? and should we buy an external modem? How? Where? It was depressing).
To distract us, we decided to make the next hotel reservations. But when we tried to use the phone, guess what? The PHONE WAS NOT RESPONDING!
We went to the hotel desk and acted out the sounds of the phone: bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip. The desk clerk agreed that it was "not normal" (either a reaction to the phone or the acting ability) and we could change rooms.
With the new room key in hand, we entered the new room and tried to make a phone call. Hah! Bip-bip-bip-bip-bip-bip.
The desk clerk came up, tried it, agreed with us and called The Guys Who Fix The Phone. An hour later all was well.
So anyhow, we got the modem to work most of the time, although the line is dirty and there's a lot of noise so sometimes it doesn't work and it never works fast no matter where we call, but we apologized to our computer for thinking it was sick and praised it a lot just in case its feelings were hurt! And so we can send out this report.