Our plan was to get as close to the Neanderthal (Neander Valley) as we could on the day of our arrival in Frankfurt from San Francisco, in order to see where the old bones of a branch of ancient man were first discovered. Our plans began to unravel before we even left San francisco, flight delayed by an hour because someone forgot to refuel the plane. Then we forgot what one piece of our luggage looked like and it went round and round on the carousel until most all other luggage had been claimed and we finally took a look at it. The overhead lighting really changed the appearance of the color from blue to purple, and the size seemed much too small. It was rather tiny compared to other people’s bags.

Then we missed the subway which left the station as we tried to figure out which line we needed. Then later, we found out that our rental car office had moved half a mile from where we thought it should be (we were notified by email that morning but we had not checked our mail while at the airport, and unlike most modern homo sapiens, we do not have a cell phone).

So, all in all, we arrived late in Hilden. Navi did get us right to the front door of our hotel, but now we had new problems. Where in the heck do we park the car? There were no parking spaces anywhere in sight. Finally we found a place half a km away, but not until we had illegally driven down a bus lane and were sternly corrected by a cab driver. Whew, a long day already, not to mention the two hour drive up the Autobahn, which was continually under reconstruction, resulting in so many slowdowns and narrowed lanes, and whizzing cars and lumbering trucks everywhere.

So, we got the car parked and walked to our hotel, only to find no entrance anywhere. We asked a shopkeeper who directed us through a passageway, by some garbage cans and around a couple of bends in an alley to the modest entry tucked in back of the building that contained our hotel. There was even a small parking lot, available for a modest €3 per night rental. We took it!

Our fine, little hotel with friendly, helpful staff

Our fine, little hotel with friendly, helpful staff

The front of the hotel with no entrance. The door leads only to the hotel bar.

The front of the hotel with no entrance. The door leads only to the hotel bar.

Having had no lunch, and the sun setting in the west, we settled in briefly in our modest room, then set out in search of dinner. We hardly had crossed the street before we knew we were in a really neat little town, not some rundown rust-belt of a place in the industrial heartland of Germany, the Ruhrgebiet. This was a lovely little town on the edge of Düsseldorf, quite worthy of exploration. It was quite too late for dinner so we settled on a Turkish platter of falafels and a wonderful salad.

After a 12 hour sleep, we enjoyed the first of the German breakfast buffets we so eagerly look forward to having.

We early birds got the best choices at the breakfast bar.

We early birds got the best choices at the breakfast bar.

The hotel bar adjoined the breakfast room.

The hotel bar adjoined the breakfast room.

At last we hit the streets, did a little shopping for essentials, and wandered around taking in the sights and sounds of a vibrant urban scene. We wanted to stay longer but our to-do list was beckoning.

Across our street flowed a clear, swift stream nicely tree-lined. What a fine entry into the heart of town, only a couple of short blocks away.

Urban stream flows through the old part of town.

Urban stream flows through the old part of town.

A colorful corner in someones front yard

A colorful corner in someones front yard

Downtown is vibrant with shoppers.

Downtown is vibrant with shoppers.

A farm market is located right along the main pedestrian mall.

A farm market is located right along the main pedestrian mall.

White asparagus are in season. Get them while you can. They cannot be sold after mid June by law.

White asparagus are in season. Get them while you can. They cannot be sold after mid June by law.

We entered a small well-lighted bookstore looking for a road atlas. It was such an inviting place, with plenty of useful signs, and a generous place for reading, connecting to the internet, and enjoying good coffee from a machine.

Bookstore with coffee lounge and internet

Bookstore with coffee lounge and internet

Finally we set out to find the Neanderthal, but poor Navi did us no good. In desperation, we pulled off on a side road out in the countryside and began reading the Navi instruction book, in German, of course. A fine young man passed by and offered his help. Even he was puzzled by this wretched device. Time was running short. We gave up and ditched our plan to visit old bones. We headed to Holland, our next place to overnight. We even gave up seeing Charlemagne’s throne in nearby Aachen. Oh well, another time, perhaps.

This time Navi got us right to our lovely inn, nestled among sandstone cliffs in the highlands of The Netherlands. The next post will take you there.

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