By Craig Stoehr Special to Published Jul 26, 2007 at 1:13 PM

COLOGNE, Germany -- The last few days of my summer trip to Europe began in London and ended in Berlin, with a stop in The Netherlands, along with a visit to the Formula 1 European Grand Prix near Cologne, Germany.  

In London, we stayed at The Hempel, a stylish hotel located on the north side of Hyde Park, near the Notting Hill area. We were only there for an evening, as it offered a convenient connection from Kiev to Germany, and on Thursday we flew to Cologne, located near the famous Nurburgring motor speedway, where we would be attending the Formula 1 European Grand Prix.

On Thursday evening, we attended a business dinner hosted by WIGE, a top European sports media and entertainment company, at the Phantasiapark, a German Disney-style theme park located outside Cologne. We ate in the Chinese pavilion, where we were entertained by Chinese acrobats, singers and musicians.

On Friday, I rented an Audi TT sports car from Sixt (the top European rental car agency) to drive to Eindhoven in The Netherlands (I had never set foot in The Netherlands and, being so close, needed to collect the country point!). Eindhoven was one of the cities taken back from the Germans by Allied Forces during World War II, and its Old City was nice to wander around in.

The highlight of the day, however, was driving on the Autobahn in Germany, where I reached a top speed of 155.3 mph (yes, believe it), and was most often able to drive at between 100mph and 120mph! If you're looking at a sports car purchase, I would highly recommend taking a look at the Audi TT, although unless you're driving it at The Mile, you will never be able to drive it in the States how it's meant to be driven.

On Saturday, I met a good friend and mentor from my days in New York, Markus Rohrbasser, for lunch in Cologne, then took in its famous Cathedral. The Cologne Cathedral is under the administration of the Roman Catholic Church; construction began in 1248 and, with interruptions, was completed in 1880. Its church spires are the second highest in the world, and it is a famous architectural and United Nations World Heritage site.

After visiting the Cathedral, I walked through the Altstadt (Old City) and stopped for a few beers along the Rhine River, afterward opting for a late afternoon river cruise. If you find yourself nearby, Cologne is one of the nicest cities in Germany, located in a picturesque setting with lots of cultural activities and friendly people.

On Sunday, we went to the Formula 1 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, one of Europe's most famous motor speedways. During the year, the Nurburgring is open to the public, and you can drive your car or motorcycle around the track as fast as you dare. At the Grand Prix, I wandered the Paddock with Kolja (involved in Formula 1 for over 10 years) and Nina, getting up close and personal with the drivers and various German celebrities, even meeting the legendary Michael Schumacher.

After sharing our last dinner together Sunday evening, I bade farewell to Kolja and Nina, driving on the Autobahn to Berlin, from where I would fly back to Milwaukee. All in all, it was a great if albeit hectic trip, and Kolja, Nina and I had the opportunity to plan our return to Africa later this year to pick up Kolja's Range Rover in Mali and continue on through West Africa.

Next Up: A visit to Napa Valley.

Craig Stoehr Special to
Oconomowoc native Craig Stoehr is the Chairman of the Milwaukee Mile and is involved in several other business ventures locally, national and internationally. He is an avid traveler who has visited about 70 countries and will recount some of his experiences abroad with OMC readers.