European Travel

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mother and Daddy's First Visit to Germany


November 2009

As the weather begins to turn colder here in Germany, we've begun revisiting some of our summer hikes. This hike takes you to Bismarkturm providing you with a commanding view of the city of Landstuhl. When our family members arrive, we try to help them adjust to the time change by keeping them moving during the daytime. A favorite destination for a first time visitor is to Burg Nanstein (our local castle) and Bismarkturm. They each have a lovely hike through fairy filled forest with lovely mossy stones in the shadow of the huge fir trees. The kids race ahead giving the adults some time to just chat and catch up on the family news.
After the hike, we treat our jet lagged visitors to some local fare at the castle's resturant!

This week the boys have a swim meet in Heidelberg so we decide to do a little exploring around the city. Heidelberg Castle sits atop the hill overlooking the city below. There is a very nice walk from the streets below up to the castle, but after the sauna of a swim meet, we all opted for driving up to the top and walking down to the castle. This all sounds so easy, but navigating a Honda minivan through narrow passage ways of ancient towns is quite a feat. I starting the drive towards the top of the castle, but nearing the top I had to move over for Joe to finish the climb. I just don't have the guts to attempt the small entrances, sharp turns, and low overhangs...not to mention, I don't want to be the ONE who does jack the car up! I'll leave that stuff to Joe.... Night is falling as we walk towards the castle, so we'll have to settle for a shorten tour. It's just as well, because after a long day, Colin has had it. It through a royal tantrum in the courtyard of the castle. We all try patiently to calm him, but sometimes nothing works! He's very upset about missing an exhibit because it was closed. The unfortunate part is that his brothers and I made it in before the doors shut. He is so crazy made that he didn't get to do something his brothers got to do. Colin proclaims (in a very loud voice) that all Germans are stupid, and he hates this stupid place. Ahhh I am so proud. Before it gets much more outta hand, we exit the castle and drive home. Sometimes traveling with kids is a bit more of a hassle than an adventure.

The weekend finds us free to travel to another close by city, Speyer. Speyer's Dom (cathedral) is lovely. Inside the boys are impressed with the crypt and alcoves, many of which have wonderful ornate sculptures. This leads to our next unnecessary comment from Colin. Let me give you some background first. Colin and I watch a movie describing the events of the protestant reformation in German. During this time, some defiant prodies disfigured many Catholic Church sumptuary and relics. They did this by axing off the heads of main saints. Colin is completely outraged!! So when he sees this disfigured sculpture (see below) he announces that "those stupid Germans" did it again, referring to the beheaded sculptures. Of course, voices carry inside church crypts, so many onlookers look to see who has made such a statement. First many eyes look at Colin (who doesn't much look like a 6 year old, but more like 10) and then his awful mother. We leave quickly after this (thank God there we're any anger protestant villagers here today).

After the Dom, we eat lunch a at nice little restaurant in Dom Square and then head to the History Museum. As many of the areas in the Rhineland Pflatz, Speyer has a mixed ancient past. First the Celts lived here and then the Romans. The area museum therefore, has a large array of artifacts from both cultures. So in homage to the Romans, here are my angry little Roman Gladiators. Can't you just hear Colin giving the thumbs down to any German Christian? Oh of course, I am only kidding, but he really likes the sword in the costume. After that we head to the "Hex" exhibit. It is a cool nod to many Harry Potter fans. Full of mystic and magic, just like the Celtic culture I mentioned earlier. The rotating exhibits are very well done. This museum gets often over looked because Speyer houses, a transportation museum and an aquarium to boot. We'll see those on another visit.
Christmas in Germany means Christmas Markets!! This is a lovely and captivating customs the Germans have each season. The pageantry and delicious foods are enough to cheer even the deepest Bam Humbugger. So favorites of the kids are the waffles and the cookies. I really enjoy the Gluh Vein (warm spiced wine). This is a stroll we took Sunday after church in Bernkastel-Kues. Unfortunately, the Market isn't open today :(. We do get to meet Krampus  who is Santa’s sidekick; he’s his evil twin, if you will. He stalks the streets hitting people with switches. If a child is bad, Krampus will take the child’s gifts away. If the child is awake Christmas Eve night, Krampus will take the child away!. He's the anti-Santa Claus who stuffs "bad" little boys and girls into his sack. He is a very scary dude, who makes quite an impression on our young Colin bear. He is terrified that his recent behavior will lead to is doom. If you ask Colin what is so scary, it isn't the being stuffed into a sack that terrifies him, but the absence of toys from his Christmas!! Anyway, it doesn't really help in our attempts to remove bad words from Colin's vocabulary.
Next on to Paris!!! 
To accommodate our two families comfortably, we decide to stay outside Paris in the Marriot Villages. This lets us take the train in to the city each day we tour.
Our first stop is Norte Dame. A beautiful sunny winter days walk leads us to the cathedral. As we emerge from the Paris Subway/Train Station, we are meet by street arts one of which has this silly little puppet show. This is the stuff the kids remember. The stand next to one of the most famous cathedrals in the entire world in Paris, France nonetheless, and their attention falls on the puppet singing Beautiful by Marc Anthony!
Okay, so we do go up into the bell tower to be amongst the haunts of Quasimodo and his gargoyle friends, but it's a 30 minute wait! So Joe (my sweet man) goes to get us all some food. He comes back with super yummy crepes (also super stick and all over his $$$ Dale Sweater).   Next we visit the loveliest part of Paris -- Basilique du Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre.


You ascend the stairs tops the “sacred heart of the city” as the sun is setting and you walk onto a live movie set. Lovers everywhere embrace, have their photos taken with the milky sky line of Paris with her Eifel Tower, kiss one another HOLD ON A MINUTE – “no, I don’t have anything left for you to eat, I know you’re hungry, can’t you wait a little bit longer?” Oh yeah, I forgot I am here with my kids!!! That’s okay though, it’s still one of the most beautiful places on the earth.   Then we do go eat and have a fun filled two hours of drinks and food.  No worries, we'll catch the next train home.

And after such a lovely trip, we must still visit the Eifel! We briskly walk under her at night with her silhouette a glow. Then on to the perfect vantage point to view her at Trocadero.

Once we make it back to the hotel, Colin writes his letter (confession!) to Santa, telling him, "I don't say bad words".  We'll still keep an eye out for Krampus!  Merry Christmas!

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