Monday, August 1, 2022

Eurotrip 2022 - Days 3-9 (7/25-31/2022) - Zürich, Quelkhorn, Kiel, Hamburg

Most of the motivation for us going to Zürich on this trip was so that I could spend a day at the Google office there with a few of my colleagues. We checked out of the hotel and made it to the office around 9:30a. I took both of our luggage up while Fran had a day spend in the city; she ended up biking around the lake and doing a bit of shopping. My time at the office was good overall - it was nice to meet a few colleagues in person, check out the office, and sample the office food for breakfast and lunch (I think the NYC office easily has better food). Fran came back to the office a bit after 3:30p, and she was able to come in and change before we headed over to the train station. We took a train to the airport, where we caught our Swiss Air flight to Hamburg.

In the airport at Hamburg we were greeted by Fran's aunt, Brigitte, and her husband, Jens - we were staying at their house for the next few days. They took us out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in the outskirts of Hamburg (which was pretty good, though I didn't get the name), and then we made the rest of the drive back to their house in Quelkhorn.

Fran had been looking forward to introducing me to her extended family in the Ottersberg area, and it was great to meet all the people that I had heard so much about. We stayed in Brigitte and Jens' beautiful home, which had modern decor that nicely contrasted the surrounding farmland. Christoph, Fran's uncle, and his wife Beate live right next door in another lovely home. Both houses had recent extensions that nicely showcased a German style that I have quickly become a fan of. And both couples were ultra kind and welcoming of me into their homes and the family.

The next few days were not too exciting in terms of adventure, as I was still working. They joked that Google had established a new office in Quelkhorn. Despite putting in some working hours, I still had a good time during my stay there. I met Christoph and Beate the next morning (Tuesday, 7/26) after we arrived. Christoph, Fran, and I had breakfast together in his house, and then he introduced us to a great game called Sjoelbak, which is like a Dutch version of shuffleboard. It was even more enjoyable since I somehow managed to beat both Fran and him. For dinner that night he and Fran made us the Indonesian dish Gado Gado.

Fran, Brigitte, Jens, and Louie in front of a sunflower field

On Wednesday Jens brought his son Ole's dog, Louie, home from work. After I was done with work, we (Jens, Brigitte, Fran, Me) took a long walk over to Ole and Laura's apartment to return Louie, and then to a restaurant called BergWerk in Quelkhorn for dinner. Christoph met up with us there. Jens' sister and her husband also happened to be there that night, so we all ate together at a table. We all had pizza, which turned out to be better than I expected given the thinness of the crust; I had the four-cheese (vier sorten käse) variety.

Thursday's dinner was Christoph's special käse (cheese) fondue - my first time ever having it. We also dipped banana slices and grapes in addition to the standard bread. I was mostly able to keep pace with Christoph's voracious appetite, but ran out of steam right at the end. After the meal Beate (who doesn't eat the fondue) came over for an hour or so.

Fran and Christoph play Sjoelbak

Friday (7/29) was my first non-working weekday of the trip, and also the day we were to make our way into Hamburg and then to Kiel. After saying goodbye to Brigitte and Jens (who were off to work and then a weekend on their boat), we had breakfast with Christoph and then played one final match of Sjoelbak - I held on to my title of weltmeister with a record-breaking (for us) last round. After that Christoph took us to the Ottersberg train station, where we caught the late morning train to Hamburg.

In Hamburg we had lunch with another of Fran's aunt's, Gabriela, her partner Ülle, and their daughter Leoni. The highlight of the meal was probably the nectarine and burrata salad to start, though the risotto was also quite good. After the meal, Gabriela took Fran and me for a walk along the Außenalster (a lake along the Alster river). Ülle, who had picked us up from the train station, then dropped us off at a U-Bahn station so we could take it out of the city center to meet up with Fran's friend Tjorven.

Tjorven and Benedict's backyard

Tjorven picked us up at the Barmbek station, and then drove us to their home in Kiel. The time spent with them didn't get off to the best of starts when their daughter Tabea wailed loudly for most of the hour-plus ride up to Kiel because of the two new strangers in the car; but she was more than comfortable with us by the time we parted ways. We spent a couple of nights with the family (Tjorven, husband Benedict, son Klaas, daughter Tabea) in their house. Highlights during the stay included hanging out and having all our meals out in their spacious backyard, many of said meals including fresh vegetables from their garden, a walk along some neighborhood trails, and a visit to the forest and beach at Steilküste Stohl.

Fran helps Klaas take a picture of Tjorven and Tabea

We had a morning flight on Monday (8/1), so Tjorven and Fran decided that the best plan was for Tjorven to drive us (and the kids) to her parents' house in Hamburg where we would all spend the night; this also gave Tjorven a chance to return her mother's car, which she had used to pick us up. Her parents fed us a delicious dinner that evening, and we capped off the night watching the women's Euro 2022 football final.


Full pictures for the trip here:

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