When I added the U.S. Open to this list last year, I had no idea that I would not only get to attend the legendary tournament, but also sit court side, meet a pro tennis player, and travel to Germany! This amazing journey all started last summer with a bottle of sparkling mineral water that I found in my parent’s refrigerator in New Jersey. I had never heard the brand, Gerolsteiner, before Walter and I both tried it, and loved it. I was curious about the company, so after a quick web search, I stumbled upon their Facebook page. I read about the brand history, flipped through some pictures, and noticed a very interesting contest page. It said Gerolsteiner was looking for a “water courier” to travel to the Eiffel region of Germany to taste the mineral water at its source and deliver a case of it back to New York to Andrea Petkovic, a tennis star and Gerolsteiner brand ambassador. Due to my Austrian affiliation, I posted a picture of myself in my dirndl along with an essay on why I should be the Gerolsteiner courier and anxiously waited to hear the winner announcement. A few weeks later, I received an email stating that I was picked as the winner and I would be traveling to Europe in just a few days!!!! Since, I was able to bring a guest, Walter was thrilled to tag along and make his first return trip to Germany. We left NYC very late at night and arrived in a.m. After getting our bags, we spotted a friendly gentleman, Hubert, waiting to pick us up in – what else – a Mercedes. After an hour drive, Hubert dropped us off at our amazing digs for the night, Hotel im Wasserturm in Cologne. Wasserturm means water tower in English, and this hotel couldn’t have been more of a literal translation. The behemoth circular stone building served as a (what else) water tower before being converted into a posh (and surprisingly modern) hotel. Our room had balcony access, so we could freely walk around the outside of the tower, and gaze at the gorgeous view of the city. I immediately walked around the tower, and picked up my pace but due to its shape, it was a little alarming to wander too far, fearing I might lose sight of our room.
After my frightening little adventure, a shower, and quick perusal of the guidemap
we I decided to we needed to pay a visit to the Chocolate Museum (obviously). Perhaps due to my Francophile nature, (and pure coincidence) I’m usually appointed translator on our vacations abroad, but I was thrilled to sit back and rely on Walter’s German language sills. The museum had exhibits featuring German chocolatier creations, the history of chocolate in Germany, and how chocolate is sourced and made. My favorite exhibit was the rainforest room and the sweet chocolate biscuit sample on our way out. Next, we walked along the Rhine River waterfront to the city square to tour the Romanesque Dom cathedral. Cologne was founded in the first century under Roman rule so many of the buildings resemble the Gothic aesthetic. The Dom was 600 years in the making! Building began in 1248, halted from 1473 to the beginning of the 19th century, and was finally completed in 1880. Even though it was still under construction, it was still an incredible sight to see, and such a clear reminder of how young our country is.
Cologne is also famous for its namesake. Eau de Cologne, now a generic term for men’s scents in the U.S., is a light, unisex perfume (think ck one) created by an Italian perfumer living in Cologne. Now named 4711, the original perfumery is located right in the city square, and has found its way into pop culture. John F. Kennedy’s cologne of choice was 4711, as was the Breakfast at Tiffany’s character, Holly Golightly who uses the scent in the book. After smelling several different perfumes, we ventured out of the square, and stopped for a traditional German lunch and a Kölsch – Cologne’s specialty beer. In the guidebook Gerolsteiner sent me, it said that beer is cheaper than coffee and I’m happy to report this is indeed true. Feeling a bit jet lagged, we headed back to our hotel for a nap – which turned into quite a few hours. When we finally awoke around 9pm, went down stairs for a drink at the hotel bar. I ordered a Pimms Cup with Gerolsteiner, of course, and since the kitchen was closed, we ordered room service and called it an early night. After a good night’s sleep, we enjoyed a deliciously fancy breakfast buffet with champagne, cheese, and cold fish at the hotel, and boarded a train to Gerolstein!
Upon our arrival, two Gerolsteiner employees, Leonie and Angela were there to greet us. They were extremely friendly, spoke perfect English, and we genuinely enjoyed their company.
We were welcomed into the Gerolsteiner family by dining in the cafeteria with our hosts and watching a video about the brand’s history. Next, we were instructed to put on our official factory uniforms (hairnets!) and introduced to our guide, Roland Schlösser.
Roland is extremely knowledgeable and so passionate about his work, it was truly a pleasure to see the factory through his point of view. Walter and I learned so much about the high quality standards that Gerolsteiner upholds for its products, and the extremely admirable recycling program instituted in all of Germany that is nearly waste free. After the factory tour, we got to sample all of the different water varieties Gerolsteiner produces, and as the water courier, my official duties began with the water exchange (below).
Check back for part 2 of my adventure and tour of the Eifel region! Prost!