For the past week, Bill and I have been engaged in an epic road trip. What started out as just plans for a long weekend in Leipzig over the Independence Day holiday, eventually turned into a car buying odyssey in Sweden, with stops in Copenhagen, Denmark and Rostock, Germany. Our road trip will end on Sunday, but since this is going to be a long story with lots of pictures, I’ve decided to start writing about it today.
If you’ve been following my blogs, you may know that over the past couple of years, Bill and I have been attending a lot of concerts. Although I really love music, it’s not that often that I go to concerts. I don’t like crowds, spending lots of money for uncomfortable seats, or having people’s armpits in my face. However, even though I don’t enjoy being in huge crowds, I also realize that a lot of my favorite musicians are getting old. A few have already died before I ever got the chance to see them live.
I didn’t have a lot of money or generous boyfriends when I was younger and more tolerant of crowds, so I missed a lot of my best concert going years. Likewise, for Bill, it’s only been recently that we’ve been able to afford to get tickets for good seats. I don’t like paying a premium for seats in the nosebleed section. I can just as easily listen to a live album at home.
In any case, 2018 and 2019 have been unusually active concert going years for us. Since a year ago, we’ve seen The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Roger Hodgson (of Supertramp), Scottish Music Parade, The Irish Folk Music Festival, Elton John, The Eagles, and tonight, Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits). In 2017, we saw Sting, and in 2016, we saw Van Morrison… or, at least I think it was 2016. I can’t keep the dates straight anymore. In 2015, we saw Diana Krall, and in 2009, we saw Lyle Lovett.
I like going to concerts in Europe. People tend to be more considerate here, for the most part. Also, they don’t seem to have as many rules. At American concerts, it costs an arm and a leg to buy a beer. People lose their shit and have less regard for people around them. Although I may be proven wrong tonight, I’ve found that people aren’t like that so much on this side of the pond.
I bought the tickets for Mark Knopfler last fall, as we were preparing to leave the Stuttgart area. I decided to get them for the Leipzig show, even though Knopfler is playing in Mannheim tomorrow, and Mannheim is much closer to where we live now. I chose Leipzig because I’d been wanting to visit there. Also, the date for Knopfler’s show in Leipzig seemed to make better use of the long weekend. Originally, I had just planned for a three night break. I was excited about this show, especially, because I’ve been wanting to see Mark Knopfler for years. I missed him when he came to Germany in 2015. His music means a lot to me for a lot of reasons.
Bill booked our dogs at the Tierpension Birkenhof in Darmstadt, and I got us a nice room at the Grand Hotel Steigenberger, which is one of Leipzig’s nicest hotels. Had we not been able to book the dogs, we planned to find a self catering place where they could hang out while we went to the show. Fortunately, the dog sitting situation is less severe in Wiesbaden than it is in Stuttgart. We had no issues getting them a place at their new boarding facility.
For months, we waited for our trip to Leipzig, planning for just the three nights. Then, in the spring, Bill decided he was ready to get a new car. Our thirteen year old Toyota RAV 4, which was an excellent vehicle that served us very well in many countries, was beginning to need costly repairs. It was time for a new car. Bill wanted a luxury SUV.
In late April, we visited Capitol Motors Volvo in Kaiserslautern, as well as the BMW dealership, to see what kind of wheels we were going to buy. Volvo won, so we ordered a beautiful 2020 XC 60 SUV in denim blue. It’s a T6 Inscription, which is the top of the line trim. Our dealer told us the car would be ready to pick up on July 1st. Realizing that it had been way too long since our last proper vacation, I proposed to Bill the idea of flying to Gothenburg, Sweden, picking up the car at the factory, then driving it back to Germany.
Some readers may be aware that U.S. based Volvo dealers offer a great program for people who want to fly to Sweden, pick up their new cars, enjoy a European vacation, then fly home and have the car shipped to them. Well… over here in Europe, Volvo buyers, even through military sales, don’t get the same love. If you are reading this from the United States and are thinking of having a Volvo sponsored European vacation, I recommend that you read this guy’s blog about it. It’s not that I don’t want you to read my account, too. It’s just that because we purchased our car in Germany, our experience was somewhat different. However, we did get a very nice military discount. I think Bill said we got our new Volvo for about $8,000 less than we would have paid if we hadn’t bought from military sales.
Since the car was going to be ready so close to when our Leipzig concert was planned, I proposed turning our car delivery into an epic trip. Since Volvo was not going to be paying for our flight to Sweden and would only put us up for one night in a Gothenburg hotel, we decided to just come up to Sweden on our own, spend two nights in Gothenburg’s best five star spa hotel, pick up the car, and make our way to Leipzig. I did some research and determined our itinerary.
We’d spend two nights in Sweden, since our only other visit there was at the end of a four night Baltic cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas. We ended in Stockholm, and Bill had to fly right back to Germany to go to a meeting in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Consequently, we really didn’t see more than the port and the airport in Sweden. I wanted to do better than that in Gothenburg, which is on the west coast of the country.
Next, we’d spent a night in Copenhagen. We were able to see Copenhagen on that same Baltic cruise. I would have liked to have done more than one night there, but we had to make our travel plans fit so that we’d be in Leipzig by July 4th. After Copenhagen, we’d take the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Rostock. I had wanted to visit a former East German prison museum there. Since it looked like a cool town near the beach, we’d stay two nights in Rostock. Then, we’d make our way to Leipzig for the three nights I planned there months prior to our decision to buy the car.
It’s all worked out seamlessly, so far.
As usual, I’m going to write a blow by blow account of this adventure and will include lots of pictures and TMI commentary. I hope you’ll follow along, if I manage to capture your interest. Otherwise, this will just serve as a diary of one of our more interesting trips as a married couple.
Somewhere over Gothenburg, just as we’re about to land…