Saturday, April 12, 2008

Our Germany Journey!

I can’t believe Germany has come and gone. We have been home for a few days now, trying to get back into the swing of real life. Jetlag – not so fun!

First off, a super THANKS!! to Dave and Teresa, and Mason of course. Teresa braved through morning sickness and tiredness every day to drive us around the country. Dave lived without his wife and child. And Mason was a little trooper stuck in his car seat as we drove and drove. The poor kid was told ‘No!’ and ‘Danger’ at least 1,000 times every day.

Here is a recap of the trip, day by day (Beware - it's long):

Day 1: Fly, fly and fly some more. A day on an airplane sucks big. 3 hours to Chicago. 7 hours to Frankfurt. We left Tuesday April 1st at 10:30 am and arrived in Frankfurt Wednesday, April 2nd at 7:00 am. Lufthansa was a great airline, for a totally packed, no air conditioning flight. Free booze! Too bad we don’t drink. But the drinkers on the plane were fun to watch.

Day 2: After arrival we drove to Mannheim to pick up Teresa and Mason. We had to pass security to be allowed on the Army Base and had a great id made with a sexy picture of jetlag hair.

After the glamour shot it was off to Strasburg, France. I slept through most of the 2 hour drive. I hear the Auto Bon was a super drive. Our hotel was a little silly. In the middle of a tiny street, the only Euro-Asian place in town. Our room was the “honeymoon suite”. A scantly clad bride being nibbled by her new husband adorned our wall above the bed. The room also had a crib, just in case. The rooms were up 100 stairs. Mom and dad were on the 2nd floor, us on the 3rd, and Teresa was on the very, tippy-top floor.

We walked to the closest café for lunch. That was an adventure. No one spoke English, or would not admit to it. And my middle school French was terrible. The waitress went around the restaurant grabbing other people’s plates and bringing them to us to decide from. We had a tasty tomato and caper salad with a soft boiled egg. (Thanks to Dad for eating a little of everyone’s so we could pretend to like it.) The main course was hopefully beef in mushroom gravy. With an entire bag of French fries on the side.

We walked around the city for the rest of the afternoon. It was so pretty and old. A river runs around through the whole town. We stopped in a few cathedrals, saw some crazy people and chased Mason around.

About 5:30 pm we had had enough. We decided to rest for an hour or so before dinner. Everyone fell asleep and at 9:30 pm mom and Teresa were the only one’s willing to brave the night and find a McDonald’s where Mason (2) groped a French teenager standing in line.

Day 3: We had a great little breakfast of yogurt, croissants, French cheeses and a meat tray. Then off to Triburg, Germany (Triberg Im Schwarzwald). Along the way we found a little castle and took a journey up the winding road for a look-see. It was so old, and so pretty. I forgot the name though.

Triburg, Germany started with a stop at the ‘House of 1,000 Clocks”, which is actually a chain of stores in the area with non-stop Coo Coo clocks. We checked in to our hotel. This time there was an elevator. Christopher was very scared for the elevator though. Two people with a bag each was about all it would hold. The sign said “5 Persons Max.” But only if they are miniature people. Dinner at the Pinocchio Pizza Parlor was so yummy. Our waiter was so friendly and told us all about how terrible the French are. We had a good laugh.

We then drove to Freiberg. After a miss calculation with the navigation device (who knew that Germany had more than one of every city name?) we made it to Freiberg. Again, another cathedral with tiny streets. We roamed the streets and chased Mason, who chased the pigeons.

Back to Triburg for dinner. Our first real German dinner was of spätzle and schnitzel and more mushroom gravy. It was good. Even though we ate in a room with walls covered in paintings of nude women. Then off to bed.

Day 4: We woke to another breakfast of yogurt, croissants, cheeses and a meat tray.
We took a hike up the longest waterfall in Germany. We bought peanuts to toss to the squirrels, which were M.I.A., so Mason and I tossed them at my parents.

And then. . .another drive. This time we stopped at Lake Constance / Lake Bodensee and saw, yes, another cathedral. It was so beautifully painted and bright. Cameras were prohibited, but my law abiding husband snapped a few anyway after I yelled at him to turn off the flash. The cutest little grandpa was praying inside. I wanted to squeeze him.

Finally we made it to Dinkelsbühl. It was like we stepped into medieval times. Across the mote, through the gates and inside the city wall.

We checked in to the ‘Golden Lamm’ and ate a great dinner of schnitzel and potato dumplings – or sticky balls as Dave calls them.

We walked around the town. The doors were all marked with chalk writing, showing they had been blessed by the local priest. The town was so well taken care of and clean.

We went on a ‘Night Watchman’s Tour’ after dark. We didn’t know beforehand that it was a wine tour. But it was fun anyway. We met the Night Watchman, who was dressed in the full costume, who took us to 15 different taverns for a drink. He would tap on the door, blow his horn and sing a little song. He told us that in the old times, the job of the Night Watchman was to shut down the taverns at cerfew, walk around and keep the tower guards on their toes and wake up the bakers and butchers in the morning. It was cool. The other’s in the group made fun of us for not drinking the wine. But the most laughs came when we refuesed the “Great German Beer” at the ‘Wildman Tavern’. I guess we could have had the attitude that “What happens in Germany stays in Germany”, but I was fine watching the drinking. One guy in the group was always the last to guzzle, and guzzle he did!

The Watchman told us about the history of Dinkelsbühl. That it was run down and abandoned until ‘King Ludwig I issued a decree prohibiting the destruction of the town walls and towers, thereby contributing to the preservation of the historic old town’.

You could see the pulley systems on the houses that they used during the plague to haul their food up to the attics. Old wells and fountains were all over. We were told that the reason the houses are all stucco was that when the wealthier residences started building their houses out of brick, those that had built their houses out of wood felt bad, so they covered them in stucco. A few houses were being restored so you could see the old woodwork. As the daughter of a carpenter, that is always cool to notice.

We also learned that nearly every town had a tavern/hotel just outside the gate called the “Wildman”, or something close to that, because the word or stranger and Wildman were similar. Also, strangers to the towns were not allowed to stay inside the gates at night.

It was a great experience. We paid 3 Euros ($5) a piece for the tour. It was well worth it.

This was the best night’s sleep we had. Maybe it was walking all over the city so late at night that helped!

Day 5: We again had a breakfast of yogurt, croissants, cheeses and a meat tray. The owners of the hotel were so great. If you ever get to Dinkelsbühl, stay and eat at the ‘Golden Lamm’. It has been in the family for 4 generations. It was nice, clean and cozy.

We were off again on the “Romantic Road” up to Rothenburg (Rothenburg ob der Tauber). We arrived just in time for the town clock to chime and see the beer drinkers in the windows. Cool. It was freezing, so we quickly went in to the cute town shops.

The town reminded me of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ as we walked the streets. I just learned that they filmed parts of the movie here. Cool.

We found the best pastry shop with the best treat. It was a croissant filled with vanilla cream and rolled in suger. Christopher loved it and he is not a dessert person. He even made Teresa go back to the bakery for more, but they were all gone. The rest of our vacation was spent trying to find a shop with his new favorite treat. Sorry Topher!

After a great lunch at the Red Hen, the men went to the Crime Museum and looked at all sorts of torture devices and punishment devices. And the women, and Mason, continued to shop.

After we had seen all we could see, and spent all of our money, it was back on to the “Romantic Road” toward Mannheim.

Dinner was at Winger’s on the Army Base. It was nice to have a tall glass of water with free refills. Water in Germany was a little bit crazy. It is out of a bottle and it is gassy. Asking for regular water leads to crazy stares and questions.

We all shared a night in Dave & Teresa’s two bedroom apartment playing fetch with Tucker.

Day 6: Dave fixed breakfast. A quick drive to the Burger King on base and he had us a nice meals of egg croissants and tater tots.

Dave was able to go with us this time. We were going to make a long journey to Belgium, but ended up on a day trip to Trier, the oldest city in Germany (so they say). It was a nice drive, through a total blizzard. By the time we got to Trier, it was nice and sunny.

We toured the ruins of the Roman baths, went to more cathedrals, and saw the skulls of Martyrs of Trier. We stopped at the Porta Nigra in another sudden snow storm. This storm let us know it was time to move on in our journey.

We followed the Mosel River to a cute little town of Bernkastel. We ate at a cute riverside café. More schnitzel and crouquettens. Pork of course. They eat pork, pork and more pork. Beef is an expensive treat here. No room for cows when they countryside is dedicated to wine vinyards. Oh, and hopps for the great German beer.

The café had measurements on the wall showing different years where the rivers flooding hit the walls. A few years show the café as being flooded near the roof.

It was Sunday so the town was pretty much shut down. We walked around a little bit and saw Teresa’s favorite house. It was the skinniest, narrowest building in the town. I would be scared to wake up one morning and find my house tipped over. Good thing the buildings are so close it would just lean up against the neighbors.

Christopher, my parents and I took a journey to the town’s castle. It was so neat to look out over the whole valley. Beautiful!

Then another night on the couch, playing fetch with Tucker.

Day 7: Breakfast of baked goods from the local bakery. Off to Nürnberg. This was where the Hitler rallied his followers and the Nuremberg Military Tribunals were held after the war. The town was totally flattened during WWII and rebuilt. You would never know. If it were not for the pictures on display, I would not believe it.

The center of town was a major shopping area. It was snowy, but we walked around all day anyway. We bought the best grapes from a sidewalk stand. Our hotel was in the “Red Light District” next to an all night club and a few sex shops. Pigeons were EVERYWHERE! Mason chased pigeons all day.

The owners of the hotel were so sweet. They were this tiny little German couple. The floor we stayed on was up 81 stairs, I counted. Christopher made it up the stairs before the little lady saw us. All of the sudden Christopher yells: “Get out of the way!” and the lady comes running up the stairs with Teresa’s bag, her husband not far behind with my parents. We nicknamed them the ‘Mountain Goat People’.

Day 8: Same breakfast of yogurt, croissants, cheeses and a meat tray. Add in the spiked o.j. and soft boiled eggs. I passed on the egg and the little lady was so saddened. Christopher said I made her cry. She told me the egg would make me Strong. But the jelly ooze was not tempting enough. I asked for water, tap water, and was asked if I was sick and needed to take a tablet. I just wanted a drink of regular old water.

We went to the Handworkerhof Haus, the tiny little area where the glassblower, pewter artist and pottery maker had shops. We watched the pottery artist make little eggs so fast. Teresa made deals with the glass shop owner. We saved on our glass blown chicken purchases.

We then made our way to the Imperial castle. We walked and walked around. While my parents and Teresa took a tour of the palace, Christopher and I walked down into the marketplace. One food vender gave us a sample of this horrible cheese mixture. We could not get the taste out of our mouths. Luckily we found an ice cream shop near by with yummy pistachio and maple walnut.

When we met up with the folks, we ate lunch at a cute beer house. We ate the famous Nürnberg Sausages with pretzels and mustard. They were yummy. The German potato salad wasn’t bad either.

After lunch we traveled back to Teresa’s. The Auto Bon was jammed, so the Navigation System sent us on a ‘Detour’. But the ‘Detour’ ended up needing a ‘Detour’. We winded through 2 little towns, looping under and over the Auto bon, sending us back on the highway maybe 1 mile from where we had exited a half hour before. Fun times.

When we returned to the Base, Christopher and I had to get our stuff ready to go home. Teresa took my mom and me to the store, Real – like the soccer team sponsor – their version of Wal-Mart. I stocked up on chocolate for the kids and coworkers.

Day 9: Off to the airport. We tried to check in on the kiosk, but there was an error message on my ticket. We should have known it would be a sign for the rest of the day.

The flight was uneventful. A smaller Lufthansa plane with the bathrooms down a flight of stairs. This time we had our own video screens in front of us and could watch a variety of different shows on our own. Again with the free booze. And no sleep, as the flight was in the daylight the entire way.

We arrived in Denver, along with a few planes from Mexico. Customs was packed. So we missed our connection. Plus our flight itinerary said we were on a US Airways flight and it was really a United flight. The lady at United was so nice. Nancy Swingle. She helped us get on the next available flight. Only 4 hours after our missed flight. We were on another flight as stand-by, but it was too full. I was happy to see that two girls that were on our flight home from Germany had missed the same flight we had.

Finally home at 10:45 pm. Well, in Salt Lake. April picked us up – Thanks April – and took us to our truck. After a pit stop at the parents, the final leg of our journey home. 2 hours of driving. I was in a coma, and poor Topher was semi-conscious too. We had to pull off in Park City and Christopher took a power nap. The rest of the trip was a blur.

Home in bed and cuddled with Ryann, we hardly slept. That fun Jet-lag again. We are still trying to recover.

The best part of the trip – seeing so many neat places. And being with Teresa, Dave and Mason of course! Oh, and my parents.

The worst part of the trip – missing my babies. Rylie, Dylann and Kendall stayed at home with Laura and my neighbors, Tyler & Bridget Pugmire. It was great to know they were well taken care of and didn’t have to miss school. Ryann got to be loved at Aunt Liz and Uncle Jeff’s. She played with the boys and came home potty trained. Liz has the touch.

When I called and talked to Ryann while we were waiting in Denver, she said, “I home now mommy. You come home now too.” I felt so loved. Now when Christopher calls home from work Ryann asks him if he is in Germany. She grew very independent while we were gone. She has to do everything all by herself.

I hope you enjoyed the recap of our trip. I t was more for me to remember the fun we had.

If you ever get the chance to take an adventure, I hope you go for it!! Just remember, water is a gift - be prepared for crazy tasting beverages.


Ronda said...

Shelly, i hate to admit this... but I haven't read all of this yet! I was just gonna tease you for how long it is, and i wanted you to know that I am glad you are back at work with us again! I'll read it soon!

Sherydon said...

WOW!! I braved it and read the WHOLE POST!! How fun!!! I love to travel!! I can't wait to be rich so i can travel all i want!! i love chitty chitty bang bang, one of my favs. I love how you describe certain things!! You made me giggle!! Im so picky when it comes to eat and drink, i think id starve to death!! I hate jet lag, its the worst.