Friday, July 31, 2009
Here’s Crystal standing beside a giant potted plant in a painted planter. The city is covered with these plants. It reminded us of the cow parade we enjoyed so much in Copenhagen.
I’m taking a chocolate and blogging break now to rest up for dinner. I’m not sure whether we’re resting up to walk to dinner or to be mentally up to chose a place. Last night we were somewhat put off by the prices at some restaurants, but we ended up finding a restaurant right on the river that was reasonably priced, delicious, and even had live music starting at 8:30. We enjoyed it all.
Zurich is a small, compact downtown. We were able to see everything on our list by 12:30 today, so we took a little cruise on Lake Zurich to relax. It was a lovely day for picture taking, and we took plenty of them. We had a slow start, as we had to find a bakery for breakfast. Things just didn’t get going till about noon here. We were able to find a stand with some rolls and juice, though. We ate them at a lovely park called the Lindhof. It was at the top of a small hill and had a view of the city. We had plenty of pigeons and small birds (finches?) hoping to enjoy our breakfast with us. Fortunately, a dog eventually chased them off.
The city is along the Limmat river, which is lovely and tree-lined. The Marriott Hotel is right on the banks of the river. There is plenty of shopping here, but it’s pretty expensive and high-fashion. They have some interesting local crafts, none of which were priced to tempt us, but we enjoyed looking.
The main churches here are the Fraumünster, Grossmünster, Wasserkirche and St. Peter’s. The Fraumünster had some really large and beautiful windows done by Marc Chagall. Sadly, most of the churches here don’t allow picture taking inside. We climbed the tower of Grossmünster cathedral for a beautiful view of the city. I’m glad I do a lot of stair climbing in my workout routine at the gym. It’s given me a very valuable skill for our trip.
We’ve been following the steps of Charlemagne here, as well as in Munich. I feel like this is part of our ancestral tour, as we trace one of our ancestors through him. The Grossmünster church has a statue of Charlemagne. It was one of two churches Charlemagne gave to his daughters here. He ordered Grossmünster to be built on the graves of the early martyrs, Regula and Felix, who were buried here.
We’re able to use our Euros here, but they give us change back in Swiss Francs. I can barely understand their German in Switzerland. Even sechs (six) sounds like sachs (sax?). I’m good at asking directions in German. Then, I just go along with the gesturing to figure out the answer. (Over that way, or over here!) Some times they throw in a few “nichts” (which sound like “nikts” here, which must mean it can’t be done. We’re getting on just great.
We’re also getting a lot of British culture here, as they have several British stations on TV. It’s mildly amusing, although I don’t always get what they’re talking about. Tomorrow is Swiss day. We’re leaving Zurich before the parade.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Here we are in the front side of Neuschwanstein (the side without the scaffolding)!
We’re in Zurich now, but we’re not sure we’re here legally. We just might be illegal immigrants! We stopped at the Austrian border to buy a “vignette.” for Austria. It was 2 Euros for one day. I used my German to ask a couple what to do. I asked the cashier if we could also buy one for Switzerland, while we were at it, but she only had 1 year passes for Switzerland. So, I decided to get it at the Swiss border, but when we got to the border there was no place to buy any permits, and the border guard just waved us in. We’ll have to try to keep our heads low while we’re here. We’ll be leaving the car in the parking garage for a day and a half, anyway.
We only drove through Austria for about a half an hour this afternoon, but Crystal said it wasn’t as clean as Germany. I’d have to agree. Switzerland looks very clean, however. Brenda (our GPS unit) did a good job of getting us across the border(s), despite the fact that the main freeway was closed for miles. We took some very romantic side roads. The girls had fun trying to take picturesque pictures from the back seat. Every time they set up a shot for a nice cathedral a tree would get in the way. Brittany got one shot where a fat tree trunk blocked the entire church tower.
We got up early this morning and enjoyed another scrumptious breakfast at the Hilton. We love eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit…. Too bad we don’t get the breakfast for dinner. We just don’t eat that much first thing in the morning. We were on the road by 8 a.m. to drive to Neuschwanstein. We arrived about 9:45, which was just perfect. We had time to look around for a while before our 11 a.m. castle tour. We got to the Marienbrucke (bridge) to take a picture and we were disappointed to find out the entire castle is scaffolded and under renovation. Just our luck! We took a family picture, anyway. That’s the way it is when you’re traveling in Europe. The first time we saw Notre Dame it was entirely covered in scaffolding! Now, we’ll have to come back!
The day has been cloudy and cool. It feels nice, but also diminishes our pictures somewhat. They don’t allow picture taking inside the castle, so we have a day full of outdoor, cloudy pictures. We rode the bus up to the castle, but walked back down. It’s a pretty steep walk, and worth it to ride up. Inside the castle we had an “English-speaking” tour guide. We didn’t get everything she was saying, but we got the general idea. The castle is a monument to Richard Wagner. King Ludwig II was obsessed with Wagner and his operas. Each room was about a different opera. Amanda correctly identified each opera BEFORE the tour guide told us which one it was. We were very proud of her.
So, King Ludwig II died under mysterious circumstances before the castle was finished. Maybe he was knocked off in an attempt to curb his outrageous spending. The castle is owned by the government today. The tour was only 35 minutes long. It would have been longer, but the upstairs was never finished. I guess the Wittelsbachs left most of their really cool stuff back in Munich. We saw most of that yesterday. What Neuschwanstein really has above all other castles is location! You just can’t beat it.
We had some pretzels for lunch, and are going to go look for a restaurant here in Zurich for dinner. Ed is taking a nap. It was a long drive for him. The girls napped in the car. I have some very unattractive pictures of them to prove it!
We have a nice, corner room here at the Marriott, and the girls have an adjoining room for the first time on the trip. That’s nice.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A beautiful day like today seems to have brought the Germans out to the park in droves. The
We wondered if anyone in
All the churches are open to the public. We did pay to climb St. Peter’s tower, which was a nice climb and worth a few Euros each. We wanted to climb up so we could get a picture of the New Rathaus, but it was so big that even at the top of the church tower we still couldn’t get it all in. The fun was accentuated by the fact that it was a one way climb and we had to squish ourselves into corners of the landings to let people pass (both on the way up and the way down). If two fat people tried to climb it they could have permanently wedged themselves in when they tried to pass! It was very narrow. Fortunately, it was cool in the tower, and we enjoyed a lovely breeze at the top.
We were at the foot of the Rathaus just in time to hear the Carillon bells at 11. They have a clock that has some figures go around like a cuckoo clock. There are two jousting figures that fight, and the Bavarian prince wins. Then, some coopers dance on the second level. It was very festive, and we were in the Marienplatz with thousands of our best friends to witness it.
We walked a lot today. We started at 9 and got home at We started and ended with walking through the park. It didn’t seem so bad till the last half hour. Then it seemed bad. I made the family stop for an ice cream break about 15 minutes short of the hotel. That pepped me up a little.
The Wittelsbach residence was our main tourist attraction today. It was where the Kings of Bavaria lived till they were kicked out in 1918. They ruled
We had audio tours, which came with our entrance to the palace. We soon realized if we listened to every word on the audio tour we’d be there for days. We learned how to pace ourselves a little better, and only occasionally listened to the tour. You could input numbers in different rooms and it would explain the room. There must have been 200 rooms. With about 10 minutes per room, you can see we had a problem!
We ate lunch downtown. Our waitress was very sweet and had a Bavarian outfit on. She spoke mostly German. Ed and I both ordered Tortellini. She came back and told us there was only one order left, so I switched to baked Camenbert, which was like a cheese Frenchie without the bread. It was interesting, but I might not try that again soon. It came with some great rye bread with sunflower seeds in it. It reminded me of Danish bread.
My eye is getting slightly better each day. I’m grateful for that. I still see spots, but they’re getting smaller and smaller. The big worm in my eye has moved entirely out of the front of the eye, and is much smaller. Isn’t that great? I feel very confident that I won’t be making another visit to the eye doctor here.
We went for a dip in the Hilton pool when we got home. That was refreshing. We had a sauna and the girls even tried the lemon, wet sauna. They smell fresh and their skin is soft! We’re going to bed early tonight, as we need to be up early to get to Neuschwanstein by for our castle tour. Then, we drive to
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
This picture of us is at the gate to Dachau. It says “Work makes free,” which, ironically, didn’t prove to be true for those who were brought here during WWII. We all have sad faces, except Ed, who didn’t get the message. Can you really say you had a good day when you spent the major part of it at a concentration camp? Since the day ended on an upbeat, I guess you can. Our most difficult part of the day was getting our car out of a very tight parking spot in our hotel in Rothenburg. With both Crystal and I guiding (yelling at) Ed from outside the car, we finally managed to wiggle it free and we were on our merry way. We followed the Romantic way, which wasn’t very romantic, but we saw a lot of country roads and a few castles along the way. I don’t think we lost any time by driving on the back roads. Some Dutch tourists told us the freeway to Munich was full of construction and the going was very slow. We had no construction on the Romantic Road, but several accidental detours when the road wasn’t well marked. We had to tell Brenda (our GPS unit) to shut up for a while, as she didn’t understand that we didn’t want to take the shortest and most efficient route to Dachau.
So, can you believe Dachau is free? I wonder who pays to maintain it? We did have to pay 3 Euro to park, but that was all. We took the reading tour, rather than the audio tour, which was about 3 Euro each. It wasn’t the money so much, as the inconvenience of having to listen to everything on the audio tour. We like to go at our own speed, which was a little inconsistent and we lost Brittany and Amanda each for a short time. The camp had a lot of history to read about. They talked about how it was created in 1933, how it became a place for forced labor as well as a place to process people and send them to work camps all over the country. It wasn’t a place of mass executions, but many people died here from starvation, disease, overwork, and a variety of other reasons. They cremated many people, as well as buried many in mass graves when the crematoriums didn’t work. You ask yourself, how could people be so cruel to other people? There is also a lot about the drive to rebuild the camp as a memorial to those who died here, and a reminder of what happened. I don’t think I’d want to visit another concentration camp. One was enough. The parking lot was full of buses. Most of them seemed to be German school kids on field trips. The camp was gigantic, though, and the crowds didn’t seem large. We got hungry by the end of the tour, but I can see how people might not like to see lemonade stands on the grounds.
I’ve had lots of opportunities to try out my German here, except when people approach Amanda first and she tells them she doesn’t speak any German. I want to say, “Ask me, I’ll give it a try!” When I say I only speak a little German the people always repeat themselves very slowly. It works great for me. I tried my charm on the Dutch tourists at breakfast, only to get blank stares. I was relieved to know the problem wasn’t so much my German, as the fact that they spoke better English than German.
Everywhere we go we run into bees. Crystal, especially hates bugs, but when it comes to bees we’re all a little anxious. They are with us at every meal (indoors and out), especially if that meal includs jam or soft drinks. Ed has become adept at catching bees in empty glasses.
The Hilton Park Munich is right on the English Garden. Someone told me it’s the largest city garden in the world. You’d have to believe it! We walked a lot of it tonight, but I think we only did the tip of the iceberg. It was full of joggers, walkers and cyclists. It has a lovely little lake, which rents boats. We decided to take a boat ride in a paddle boat, but were shocked to see it was 70 Euros for half an hour for 5 persons. We didn’t realize the Germans write their 1’s like a 7. We were so happy to find out it was just 10 Euros. Amanda and Crystal, who did all the paddling by themselves, were glad we only got ½ hour. Brittany had the job of steering, and Ed and I relaxed in the rear of the boat. It was great! We ate dinner by the lake—bratwurst and potatoes, followed by crepes for dessert. It was perfect weather, and fun to be outside. We are now happy to be back at the hotel and resting our weary bones. Tomorrow is going to be a lot of walking—all over Munich!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Rothenburg is just as charming as we remembered it. I was hoping this picture would come out clearer, but look who is bestween Brittany and Amanda! It's flat Oma and flat Opa (Grandma and Grandpa). We wanted you to be with us, so we took a picture with us, right across the street from our hotel!
We got some ice cream and the girls went home to rest while Ed and I went for a little walk. We ended up bringing a couple of small pizzas back to the hotel for a snack. We’re going to get to bed on time tonight. Tomorrow we’re going to Dachau. I hear it’s depressing. I can’t imagine how it could be any more depressing than the Criminal Museum we visited today. It had so many examples of torture! I never knew what a thumb screw was, and I think I wish I didn’t know. I was very uncomfortable finding out the most efficient way to break every bone in a man’s body.
We’re in Rothenburg this morning, and I was happy to be able to post my first few blogs last night. They have internet access in the Breakfast room. We sat outside the room last night to connect. By the time I had posted the first few days, it was late and we went to bed.
Rothenburg is the cutest city, and we have the greatest location for our hotel, right on the Plönlein, which is the street that Vees out in two directions with a fountain and a house in the middle. We walked a little bit of the wall last night. It was beautiful, about 7 p.m., and the sunlight was still strong and creating sharp shadows.
We started the day with a quick trip to Limburg, not the cheese town, which is in Belgium, I think, but the one close to Bad Schwalbach. It has a beautiful medieval cathedral that is white and orange on the outside. It stands on a bluff along the river Lahn, and the view from the bridge is spectacular. We were lucky to be able go into the cathedral at the end of mass (Catholic). The organist did a postlude that lasted 10 or 15 minutes. He was incredible. It was big and beautiful. It was so great at the end that those who stayed for the entire thing clapped! It was dissonant and very Phantom of the opera-ish. We were amazed that a small town with a small cathedral could have an organist of his caliber.
Limburg also had very windy streets with lots of cobblestones and half-timbered houses. Brittany remarked that it was strange that we find such beauty in non-symetry. Usually we like faces to be symmetric to be beautiful. I guess it doesn’t apply to houses. We had some ice cream for lunch, then went off to church in Wiesbaden. Church was fun. We didn’t get to sing, as the Primary and the ward choir both sang. Sue Patchell was sad about that. She invited us to her house for dinner next week. We’ll be able to drive over from our Castle. It’s probably only 45 minutes away. She lives in Idstein. I sat by my Peruvian friend, Susanna. She was happy to see me. I gave her another Whistling Prairie CD from this year, and some pictures from last year, when I sat with her at the opera. She’s learning German, and loving it. She says it has helped her English, as it makes English seem easy. I can totally understand that!
One of the highlights of the trip from Wiesbaden to Rothenburg was the girls singing in the back of the car. This was a new art form! They tried to sing Primary Songs with dissonant harmonies. They did one in minor thirds. It actually sounded pretty cool—sort of like the organ in Limburg. By favorite was the Song of the Pasture, which they made up. It included some new aging humming with sounds of animals in the background. We thought we were hearing the song over again when we got to the Garden Gate here. Down in the valley we heard hundreds of sheep bawling. And I mean BAWLING. Are sheep supposed to be that loud? We’ve never heard anything like it. Did someone make them mad? The were milling on the grassy hillsides and in the trees. It was a sound we had never heard before!
We finished off the day by having dinner in a beer garden. The food was great, but I had sticker shock over the drinks. The waiter told us tap water was only for “hunden,” dogs, so we shelled out 4 Euros apieece for sodas. We might bring our own water next time we eat out.
After dinner we ate some Schneeballs, snowballs, which are fried dough in the shape of a ball. They’re beautiful, but a little dry. We could have used a glass of milk with them!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
After our visit to the park I noticed my eye was shaded and had a curtain of little black spots over the entire field of vision. That made me nervous enough that I felt we had to find an eye doctor. It turned out the best place to go was an eye clininc in Wiesbaden, about 20 minutes away. Brenda, Ed’s navigation unit, got us there with no problem. The nurse was very helpful to translate my problem to the doctor. So, I went through the same eye exam I had in Broomfield on Thursday, but this time in German. I was glad I new enough German to respond appropriately to the doctor (look up, look down, etc.). The nurse abandoned us after that, but I understood the doctor just fine when she told me the retina was still just fine, and the Glaskorper was detached. Ed dropped the girls off downtown, where they got the whirlwind tour of Wiesbaden from Amanda. They also picked up some curry wurst for themselves and a sandwich for Ed and me.
Then, we were off to the opera in Dreieichenhain. Amanda did a great job. When she hit the high note on the solo it almost took your breath away. She was onstage for about half the opera, so we got to look at her a lot. She played a bitter old woman. We were shocked in the end she had to let Mr. Wilson kiss her (on the cheek). She never shares the good stuff with us in advance. We enjoyed seeing the ruins at Dreieichenhain. It has a great castle wall, as well as lots of half-timbered houses. At the end of the second half of the opera it started to rain. Really rain! We took a break, and the establishment handed out free ponchos. They were just glorified plastic bags, but they did the trick. They even handed out chamoises to wipe our seats down after the rain stopped. We stood in a covered area for about half an hour, but then sat down for the next two acts. It started to rain again, but the actors soldiered on. They were pretty funny. It was dramatic holding up a piece ofsoggy paper as proof of some plot line. At once point one of the UNC boys came out with a giant umbrella (I think from the beer garden) to shelter the two leads. They just kept singing in the rain! It was great fun, and very memorable.
We got home at 1 p.m., and dropped Amanda off to party with her friends for the last time. I wonder what time she went to bed. We’re a little tired this morning, but we’re all dressed for church! Hopefully, I can post this when we get to Rothenburg this evening.
We’re always so grateful to be safely ensconced in our hotel each day, but let’s start with the airplane trip, which, as always is a trial to be endured. Oh, to travel first class! We had sufficient leg room in our Lurthansa flight, but the teenage girl in front of me laid her chair back the moment we pushed off. I watched two movies with a screen about a foot from my nose. Fortunately, by the third movie I was sleeping most of the time, so it didn’t matter so much.
After arriving in Frankfurt, we got a VW mini-van, which looked to be untenable for us and our luggage until we found out how to stand the rear seats on their ends. We think we’ll be able to fit Amanda and her luggage in, after all. Brittany sat in the front on the way to Bad Schwalbach to help Ed navigate. It is only about a 45 minute drive from the Frankfurt airport, but we added about 10 minutes right off the bat by returning to the airport at the very beginning. Even with Ed’s Garmin GPS, we weren’t sure which exit to take as we left the airport. Now we know.
Driving in to Bad Schwalbach, who should we run into, but Amanda herself, standing on the sidewalk and flagging us down. It was great to see her! She took us straight to our hotel, which at first was reminiscent of the Bates hotel. It was empty and locked, but we roused someone on the intercom who buzzed us in. We wandered around 5 floors of deserted (and open) doors without finding a soul. Finally, we ran into a little old (emphaisis on the OLD) lady laboring down the stairs. She has a heart condition and can only take about one stair per minute. She showed us two rooms and told us to take the keys out of the locks and make ourselves at home. No checking in, or anything! I wonder if we can find someone to pay when we leave! It is an old hotel and furnished in a very old fashioned way, but we like it. Our rooms are comfortable and have nice terraces. They have German air-conditioning (open windows). It is very cool and refreshing here.
Amanda showed us her very commodious apartment with kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and bath. She also has a terrace. She fed us leftovers from the other day when she fed the boys in the opera. It was pasta and wurst and was very delicious. Afterwards we walked through downtown Bad Schwalbach and got ice cream cones. Sitting around eating ice cream reminded us of Italy, except for the fact that it wasn’t blazing hot like Rome was.
Then, Amanda took us to meet Detlef, Spencer’s host in Germany. Three boys live with him, and he doesn’t speak much Enlgish, so I enjoyed having a little conversation with him. I don’t catch everything, but I can get the gist of it. Amanda was impressed at how much better my German was than last year. That made me feel good, because Ed was thinking he’d wasted a lot of money on all my German lessons this past year. It takes a while to master a language! I’m having fun reading signs and listening to people. The girls sang two songs for Detlef and Angelica (his friend). Then, Amanda went off to a Wine-Tasting with the students. She was going to have grape juice. We were invited to go, but opted to sleep instead. They were driving to a town about 35 minutes from here (Rudesheim). We are pretty tired. Ed fell asleep in 3 different chairs while he waited for Amanda to cook dinner. Every time we tried to take his picture he startled himself awake again.
Brittany is amazed that the signs are all written in German here. She keeps saying, “Who reads this language, anyway.” It does seem like a waste to print all those signs in a language only a few million understand. Crystal seems to be grateful she’ll be learning Spanish instead of German.
We took a walk around the Kurpark before bed tonight. It is a lovely, green park, and was quite refreshing. It was fun to show Ed, Crystal and Brittany where I jogged last year. I’m sad I won’t be able to jog this year (eye doctor’s orders). My eye seems stable, thankfully. The floaters are most noticeable in bright light. In the dark you don’t notice them much.
Guten Nacht! I’m going to bed!
So, when Ed and I got back from the eye doctor, Crystal had optimistically already packed the car. We’re now safely ensconced at our gate with an hour left before we board! That was a little excitement we didn’t need!