Riley had a few days off from class, and since we were so close to Germany during Oktoberfest season we decided to venture into Germany, settling on Münster and Düsseldorf. I had originally opposed Münster declaring that it wasn’t really one of my favorite cheeses, only to find out later that Munster cheese as Americans know it is an entirely American product. There is also a completely different French Muenster cheese, similar-looking to brie, but regardless the Münster in Germany has nothing to do with either. [Riley: I got this completely mixed up when I was talking to my parents. I have no idea what they believe now.]
Despite the cheese misgivings, after a little research it seemed like an appealing town, so we hopped on a train in the morning and were in Münster by lunch. We rented bikes at the train station and navigated in a roundabout way to our accommodation [Riley: had a lil’ trouble with the maps] which turned out to be in a spare dorm of local practical college. Odd - but why not? We stopped by the highly recommended Balkan Hutte for lunch (turns out there are a lot of Balkan transplants in Münster) and were promptly reminded of our translation ignorance when Riley unknowingly ordered liver. [Riley: I like most foods; liver is not one of them. One bite…bleh.] Luckily my plate of sausages and grilled pork was more than enough for both of us. We enjoyed two 45-minute loops cycling around scenic Lake Aasee before finding the Schlossgarten botanical gardens. When we finally biked into the city center to see the St Paulus Dom cathedral, we discovered is was the 750th anniversary of the cathedral! The whole town was festooned with banners for the occasion and party tents were set up all over. We just missed the festivities but Münster was abuzz with excitement. While having a drink on the plaza we decided there was a large number of very posh shops for an otherwise small town. We ended the day with a cozy traditional dinner and local beers [Riley: no liver this time, so happy], topped off with tasty beers at a neighboring brewery before heading home. On to Düsseldorf!
Düsseldorf had its own buzz with a waterfront Oktoberfest festival and busy shopping streets in the city center. Plenty of breweries claimed their local altbier was the best. We tried several but rendered no judgment. We had a fantastic vegetarian lunch at a packed spot before wandering to their newly redeveloped waterfront, including a spacey new office building and a space needle copycat, the Rheinturm, at the top of which we relaxed with refreshing beverages. We walked along the waterfront and grabbed an early dinner before attending the Düsseldorf symphony performance in re-purposed planetarium. Riley MAY have had a snooze or two. [Riley: at least three snoozes and 2 twitches.] We realized we should have saved energy for late-night partying because we passed by endless clubs pumping house music on our walk home through the Old City. Drunk Germans everywhere. We took a day trip to Koln the next day to visit the Dom cathedral and enjoy some waterfront kolsch. The riverfront was as lively and vibrant as I remembered it. I suggested Riley take notes for his future planning work on my idea of an ideal waterfront. We drank more than our fair share of beer by the liter back at Düsseldorf’s Oktoberfest that night. [Riley: Prost.]
It was a sluggish trip to Maastricht the next morning but a lovely day for wandering the streets. We had a cozy lunch (mustard soup for Riley!) and climbed around the city’s old walls and gates. A tour of the old basilica, ice cream samples, a church-turned-coffeeshop-and-bookstore, and finally, a relaxing glass of wine with which to watch the world go by. Next was a concert by the Four Aces classical guitar quartet. I loved this group. They ended their regular set with what turned out to be my favorite of their pieces, Hungarian Rhapsody #2, and Riley particularly enjoyed their more contemporary stuff, especially pieces with traditional Spanish guitar bits. The venue was a teeny old chapel that fit about 30-40 people. We couldn’t understand a single word of the host’s introduction or what the group leader said between pieces. Oh well. Everyone else chuckled quite a few times. My restaurant selection for dinner missed the mark a little but we had a wonderful night and got to relish these fun opportunities we’re so lucky to have.