Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Not your average highway motels

Although we did see a Holiday Inn Express in Baden-Baden, we were happy that it was an anomaly! If our experiences are any indication, small family-run businesses are thriving in Germany. At both hotels, we worked directly with the people who owned it, and in both cases one of the owners was also the chef in the hotel restaurant.

In Cochem, at Zur Schoenen Aussicht, roughly "With a Lovely View," a husband and wife greeted us by name when we arrived. When was the last time you checked into a hotel and someone said, "Oh you must be...! We've been expecting you." She led us up the narrow old staircase to our third-floor rooms. The doors had counted cross-stitch decor with the room number and bunches of grapes and I would have bet anything that she made them. And our rooms did have lovely views looking out at the river!

The next morning when we went down for breakfast, the resident dog was hanging out in the dining room. He was clearly a veteran, as he barely noticed our comings and goings. I have noticed that dogs here have many more freedoms than in the U.S.- it is common to see them in restaurants and shopping centers. And they are astonishingly well-behaved! Perhaps they know that bad dogs wait in cars or on sidewalks.

Breakfast was different- an assortment of sliced deli meats and cheeses, with a huge basket of bread and rolls. It think we would call this lunch! But, they also had Nutella, marmalade (homemade by the lady of the house), muesli, and yogurt. Whatever you call it, it was tasty and a good start to our days.

In Baden-Baden we stayed in Rathausgloeckel, Town Hall Bells- located right next to the town hall, of course. It is a 16th century building and they used to bring prisoners there for their last meals. We saw the iron rings where they chained them up to eat! Luckily for us, we got to eat dinner in the dining room instead and it was one of the best meals we ate (though by no means did we suffer through our other meals)! Two men owned this hotel, which has just nine rooms in addition to its well-known restaurant.

Beds are different in Europe too! Aaron and I don't experience this at home since we brought our bed with us. They are almost always platform beds, so no box springs and they tend to be low. For bedding, there is a fitted sheet but no top sheet. Each side of the bed has its own down comforter in a duvet cover and a big square down pillow. That's it! Harder to snuggle up with your honey under the covers but much simpler to make the bed in the morning- just fold up your comforter.

Staying in these places was so different from staying in a standard American-style hotel. The hosts knew who you were and you had the feeling that they would help you however they could. They served fresh-cooked meals and were proud of their businesses, their livelihoods. It was refreshing and gave us a better understanding of the areas that we visited.

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