Sam & Schotti’s European Adventure
Hello everyone! Sam here.
Schotti and I were both delighted by your response to our Cheekynauts launch last month and we are looking forward to sharing our progress with you in new and exciting ways!
Sometimes there isn’t much progress to report, but we still want to share our journey with you, so I hope you’ll enjoy my summary of the two-week adventure we just had together in Europe. Welcome aboard the acornship, destined for one action-packed European experience. Please mind the gap.
Before we begin, it should be said that Schotti and I have known and worked with each other for 1 1/2 years and have been partners for 6 months, but had not yet met in person. Meeting for the first time in person to go on a two-week whirlwind of activity may seem like a nutty first date, but that’s just the Cheekynaut way. It worked out great for us, but don’t try this at home, kids!
Our first stop is in Dusseldorf, Germany, a beautiful city with a lively atmosphere by the Rhine river, where we spent much of our time. One key feature is the Rhine Tower, which displays the time with a vertical sequence of lights while an observation deck and restaurant revolves above. We didn’t go to the top this time, but it was a beautiful sight to see the tower light up the night sky and reflect in the river below while local musicians played along the promenade.
A short walk will take you into the old city, where crowds of people are making merry and enjoying a beer at one of the many bars and restaurants spilling out into both sides of the cobblestone streets. We both preferred the quiet of a Sunday night walk through the city, when the only place people would meet for drinks were the little convenience stores, known as “Späti”, scattered about. Most shops are closed on Sundays, after all.
While in Dusseldorf, Schotti introduced me to Brotzeit which translates into “bread time” and is a common meal to have in the morning, featuring delicious bread and a selection of meat, cheese, jam and Nutella to choose from as toppings. It brought me back to breakfasts with my Oma. I was happy to find the gluten-free options quite tasty compared to the selection I am used to.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an authentic experience without trying mett. In Germany, it is actually safe to consume raw pork when it is fresh and prepared properly, and it is quite popular to do so! With just a bit of salt and pepper, I spread a modest portion of the raw minced meat on some bread, and found it a bit strange and similar to a mild salami in flavor. It wasn’t my favorite thing ever, but I would consider trying it again. Apparently you can also get a version with raw egg mixed in! Yum yum!
We also made sure to check out Isabella Glutenfreie Pâtisserie in the more expensive area of the city, and while the treats we got were beautiful and delicious, I was more impressed by the selection of gluten-free snacks available at the supermarkets, which were also much cheaper to buy from than I am used to.
While staying in Dusseldorf, we visited friends in Bergisch Gladbach, which is a town in a mountainous region with many big trees. Just like all locations we would visit on our trip, there were plenty of historic sights and fascinating architecture to see. After exploring the town, we hiked back to our friends’ lovely home to enjoy some grilled meats and cheeses as well as an amazing salad featuring red beet, pear, brie cheese and maple syrup dressing. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
The next day we did probably the most insane thing I’ve ever done: a daytrip to London. We needed to get up at 3 am in order to get to the airport on time to catch our flight, so after having barely slept, we rushed to the train station. In Germany there are motorized e-scooters you pay for which can be found all over big cities. My first experience riding one was clinging to Schotti’s back while teetering on one foot (in heeled wedge sandals, because my new Vans were giving me trouble) and I was so scared of falling off that when we realized we would be late for the earlier train anyway, we decided to walk the rest of the way. We still managed to catch our flight in time, and a few hours later we were in London! Of course, we couldn’t really see it until we got off the 1 1/2 hour underground train ride, which left us so scarred that we opted to take London on foot. We got this! … right?
Once we reached King’s Cross Station, where we had hoped to take a picture with the trolley at Platform 9 3/4s, we were turned off by the long queue and the production being made of it. In hindsight, we might have gotten more out of this daytrip if we had stayed there, but we went on with nothing but Google Maps to guide us to the sites of London.
Things started off fine with a hearty English Breakfast in one of many small restaurants tucked into the wall of old buildings lining the busy streets. After that we found ourselves overwhelmed by the distance we would go as our path twisted and turned through the masses of pedestrians and noisy traffic.
By the time we would reach a noteworthy site, we were too overcome with exhaustion and a sense of urgency to fully appreciate it, but we could have most enjoyed St. Paul’s Cathedral and Borough Market if we did.
After that, we drank some gluten-free ale in a tiny bar while waiting out a heavy thunderstorm.
When the rain had subsided, we made our way to Big Ben, which — like many important buildings in the area — was covered by scaffolding. By then we were ready to take the train early and spend the rest of our time at the airport resting our feet.
We were so sleep-deprived and delirious from the whole experience, that I hoped I wasn’t dreaming we caught our flight back to Dusseldorf. When we returned to homebase, we had walked over 20km in the 24 hours since we started the trip.
The moral of the story? A daytrip to London from Germany is as insane as it sounds, but if you’re gonna do it, maybe look into a tour bus… or get in line for the dang trolley and be a wizard! Just don’t do what we did.
After some much needed sleep, we spent a chill day in Dusseldorf before going into Cologne to meet some friends. Cheeky rodents that we are, Schotti and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy a European cheese-tasting! I decided to do a little review to best share the experience, and while I do love cheese, I am by no means a connoisseur, so I hope this isn’t too full of holes…
Cheese #1: Alta Badia is a semi-hard cheese from the alps of Italy with a smooth and slightly sweet, yet sharp and smokey flavor. Imagine an aged cheddar-gouda combination, if you’re like me an don’t know a lot of cheeses. It was delicious and one of my favorites.
Cheese #2: Payrigoux is a soft cheese from France with a sharp, slightly smokey and somewhat bitter taste and a dense but creamy consistency. Like a rich cream cheese, I think it would go nicely with salsa, antipasto, red pepper jelly, or other savory spreads.
Cheese #3: Corsu Vecchiu is a Mediterranean semi-firm sheeps milk cheese from Corsica, France with a sharp taste and slightly crumbly consistency, as if cheddar and feta had a really delicious Babybel that grew up into a real contender in the battle of best cheeses.
Cheese #4: Juramorbier is a softer-firm cheese originating from Jura, France with a milder, nutty flavor and a layer of black vegetable ash in the middle which is said to contribute to its unique fruity taste, but I didn’t really notice it.
Cheese #5: Camenbert di Bufala is an Italian twist on a French cheese and is made of buffalo milk. Very soft and melty in consistency and mildly bitter in flavor, it isn’t the most interesting cheese to enjoy on its own, but very nice when paired with jam.
Writing this segment is making me hungry, so let’s move on…
Our first visit to Cologne was the evening we met our friends from Radical Fish Games, Umaiki Games, and Fabraz for dinner the night before Schotti and I would join them at Gamescom. Funny coincidence: we ran into our friends from Bergisch Gladbach, who happened to be dining at the same place that night! It was a fun night full of laughter and stories and getting hyped for the convention, and it was really great to meet a lot of people I admire in person and to get to know everyone better.
The next two days we spent more time with our friends at the Skellboy and Crosscode booths and exploring all that Gamescom had to offer. I had never been to such a big convention before, and the seas of people we would push our way through normally would overwhelm me, but I didn’t mind so much because it was such a fun time. We mostly played games by indie developers, as well as Trials of Mana, because I’m excited for it. A few we quite enjoyed were:
The best part was spending time with our friends, and we were sad to say goodbye (and even sadder to not get to say goodbye to some) when we had to leave on the second day to visit the House of 4711 to pick up the original cologne for my dad, who takes an interest in fragrance. It was quite fascinating to go there and see the museum displays, and my dad was very happy to add the historic cologne to his collection.
After that we met up with an incredible musician and indie dev friend, Blake Inc. for drinks and inspiring conversation along the Rhine promenade of Cologne. We parted ways after admiring the iconic Kölner Dom, Cologne’s breathtaking gothic cathedral.
The next day we traveled to the Czech Republic, where night had fallen by the time we reached the historic city of Prague. Emerging from the underground station was like stepping out of a time machine, and the lively yet relaxed night scene made it even more magical.
With few streets dedicated to vehicles, pedestrians filled the cobblestone streets winding through the ornate architecture of the old city, where barrels of oversized candy, displays of glittering jewelry and authentic bohemian crystal light up the shops at every turn, alternating with outdoor restaurants and chimney cake ice cream vendors.
I could barely wipe the drool from my mouth before I was taken by the spectacular sight of the St. Vitus Cathedral from the incredible Charles Bridge, conveniently located close to our hotel and filled with beautifully preserved statues, shining brightly where countless people have touched them to make a wish.
We spent three nights in this amazing place and each day was full with activity, but the highlights for us were as follows:
Visiting the St. Vitus Cathedral was of course one of the most awe-inspiring experiences. The high ceilings, the vibrant stained glass, masterfully carved statues, and incredible architecture were out of this world. No wonder it took over 600 years to build!
Going up the Prague Astronomical Clock tower was surprisingly quick, easy and very fascinating to see the workings behind the hourly event of statues rotating past windows that open while the bell tolls each hour. Seeing the city from above is also very cool.
Eating at Švejk Restaurant U Karla was heaven for me, because they serve a full gluten-free menu of Czech dishes, so we got to enjoy a very hearty meal of bacon-wrapped camembert, beef goulash and dumplings, and honey glazed ribs with mustard sauce with our gluten-free beer. Amazing!
Winding down at the AghaRTA Jazz Club was the perfect ending to a long day on our feet, where we sipped cocktails to some great live music.
Walking through Letná Park and enjoying a picnic lunch was a nice way to take a break from the busyness of the city and appreciate nature.
Taking a boat tour on the Vltava River at night was another pleasant way to cool down from a hot and eventful day.
Three days was an appropriate amount of time to appreciate what Prague has to offer, so we were ready to go when it was time to check out and travel to our next destination.
While we didn’t stay long, we did stop in Dresden to take in a few cool sights and grab some lunch on the way to Berlin, and I was very impressed by the Zwinger Palace and the Frauenkirche. I also had a tasty hazelnut gelato on the way to Vapiano, a popular Italian restaurant which has gluten-free options!
Driving through and finding parking in Berlin was a harrowing experience, but once we were settled in our hotel, Schotti and I had a pretty relaxed time there! We stayed two nights, and here are the highlights:
Starting off with Simply Keto, a chill place we stopped in for some gluten-free breakfast, was a great way to fuel up for another long day of walking, and it also felt like a nice place one could do some sketching, if one had more time.
The East Side Gallery was a really cool thing to see, where 105 murals by artists all over the world were painted on remnants of the Berlin Wall as a monument to its fall in 1990.
Charlie’s Beach was an unexpectedly sandy spot hidden near Checkpoint Charlie, where we refreshed ourselves with cold drinks and relaxed for a bit. We felt right at home with these Cabana Club vibes!
Stopping in an Art Supply Store where I lost track of time picking out some drool-worthy tools for concept art sketching. Schotti was very patient with me.
Checking out the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain neighborhood was a great way to see the gritty yet creative side of Berlin, and we enjoyed some pretty great Asian fusion food at a cute little place called Nora’s Garden. The “Red Sun” drink was so tasty, as was the “Curry, Spice and Everything nice” I had for dinner.
We saw many impressive sights, such as the Victory Column, the TV Tower, the Neptune Fountain, the Cathedral Church, the World Clock, and the Reichstag Building to name a few. But two sights offered a sobering perspective unlike anything I had seen throughout the trip so far. The Neue Wache Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial were both uniquely chilling to see in person. The closer we looked, the more overwhelming it became, but I was grateful for the experience.
As the day came to a close, we stopped at the Brandenburg Gate to enjoy a local musician playing one of our favorite Pink Floyd songs, “Wish You Were Here” while drinking Fritz-kola. This was a touching reminder that this trip is our first time meeting each other in person, though it didn’t feel that way, and that it would soon be months until the next time we would be together again. Long distance is hard, my friends!
Speaking of friends, our next stop was visiting our friends Kaia and Jan and checking out Bremen!
After a warm welcome and some delicious giggle-pea pasta with our lovely hosts, we woke up to a breezy day in the city known for its role in maritime trade and the popular fairy tale of the Town Musicians of Bremen.
Although the St. Peter’s Cathedral and nearby statues and architecture were impressive to see, we didn’t spend much time in the old city, but we really enjoyed the charm of the Schnoor Quarter, where we found many adorable artisan shops.
After that, we took a walk along the Weser River to enjoy some pancakes aboard the Pannekoekschip Admiral Nelson. My gluten-free pancake with blueberries and powdered sugar wasn’t as sweet as I expected, but maybe that’s because the breeze blew much of the sugar onto me and my friends. Sitting below deck would have prevented this, but it was nice to see the river and enjoy the sunlight.
Once we finished eating, it was time to say goodbye to Kaia and Jan so we could make it back to Dusseldorf by night. Traffic on the autobahn was pretty crazy that day, but we did make it.
Final Days in D-Dorf
After seeing and walking so much in all the places we had been, Schotti and I slowed down to get some much needed rest in Dusseldorf, which only made the time fly faster. We cooked a nice meal together and I tried out my new art supplies and relaxed by the Rhine once again. Just as I was starting to feel at home, it was time to return to Canada.
Since leaving Germany, I’ve been processing those two weeks, and how we could have done so much is beyond me, especially after spending an entire day writing this summary. It’s really amazing what you can do and how time can stretch when you’re having the adventure of a lifetime with friends and loved ones. I can’t wait until my next trip across the pond to see them all again!
Of course, I am also very happy to snuggle Biggs and Wedge again and to share the German snacks I brought back with my family! By the way, for those of you who were concerned about Biggs’ health issues, he seems to have recovered and is enjoying his new healthy diet.
You made it to the end! I hope you enjoyed joining Schotti and me on our first round of Cheekynaut Travels!
We are eager to get back into working on our games and other cool ways to share our stories with you all. Thanks for all the support and for sticking with us during the much-needed downtime.
Bun & Squirrel