In our original plans, this was the day to finish the drive to Vienna. We’re behind that schedule though, with a somewhat lazy morning in Amsterdam. After checking out of our hotel, we headed back downtown for a Dutch pancake breakfast. Instead of the tram, we tried the metro system. That train dropped us off at the main station right near the breakfast spot. We wandered just a little bit more before making our way back to the car south of town, and started driving.
Missed the beginning of the trip? Start here.
First Stop: Kinderdijk
With our late start and spending a good part of the day still in Amsterdam, we had to hustle a bit to be able to take in an engineering marvel. The windmill network at Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the famous windmills, but also the system of dykes, reservoirs, sluices, and administrative buildings that have together kept Dutch farmers’ feet dry.
It’s pretty impressive to think of the level of civil engineering and new governance required in the 14th century. The two reservoirs at Kinderdijk haven’t changed since construction in the 1360s. Nineteen of the twenty windmills built in the 1730s are still standing, kept operational in the event of power failure. We got there in time to explore the one open for tours, seeing the living quarters and moving parts up close.
We looked up a food spot relatively close by, and arrived to find a sign on the door announcing a closure for a nice vacation. Ok, we can relate. But fast food didn’t sound good, and we had a good bit of driving ahead of us.
After leaving Kinderdijk and striking out on dinner locally (everything close was either closed, closing, or fast food), we pointed the car toward Austria. Andrew searched for a place to eat, but between rural cell coverage and trying to figure out what sounded good, we ended up parking at a gas station for a few minutes on the outskirts of s’-Hertogenbosch to figure out a plan.
Andrew settled on Restaurant ff Swanjéé, near the center of town. It was kind of an upscale, modern restaurant, with outdoor seating perfect for enjoying the nice weather. I drove in that direction while he navigated, found a parking spot along the main thoroughfare, and fed the meter. We walked a block or so to get to the restaurant.
I can remember now that the food was good, if a little pricey, but don’t remember what I had. I do remember the atmosphere. Busy, yet cozy and relaxed. And right across from a cathedral. While eating, we read a little about the place, which (unsurprisingly) has a long history. The building’s roots as the diocesan cathedral date to 1559, with the Gothic structure finished in 1525. We didn’t have the time to visit (it was getting pretty late in the day), but would enjoy coming back.
After dinner, we headed towards the car, but stopped for gelato along the way. We hadn’t picked out a stopping point for the night, but knew we weren’t getting to Vienna.
Getting back on the road, we were about an hour’s drive to the German border, and started to look at Cologne as an overnight stop. We would drive about 180km (112mi), so not much more than an hour. Keep in mind that the standard limit in the Netherlands is 130 km/h (81 mph), higher than all but one road in the United States. Once we crossed into Germany, speed was only restricted by the rental car.
Arriving in Cologne
We found a cheap hotel near downtown using HotelsTonight while driving. We knew we’d be getting in just before midnight, and leaving the next morning. Or so we thought.
Our $68 hotel reservation was in a part of town with narrow streets and little parking. There was no place to stop to check in, and we ended up parking in a large underground garage a couple of blocks away on the west bank of the Rhine.
The slight hassle of parking was well worth it though. The hotel was a really neat mix of old and new–a 19th century convent house turned into a hotel with ultra modern accommodations. Since a lot of the room’s furnishings might have appeal to RVers, it’ll get its own post later on.
Tired from a long day, we quickly went to sleep.