Monday, July 30, 2012

Tag Sechs - Rollen auf dem Fluss (Day Six - Rolling on the River)

We departed Heidelberg for Rudesheim after a slight delay. The majestic Rhine River was our destination. We found a cruise departing within 45 minutes from nearby Bingen. While we waited Josh walked across the street into town and found the most excellent pastries and collasal juice boxes for the boys. Later John & Lisa ventured over to the same bakery, and my brother emerged with one of the most delightful treats of the trip. It was some sort of flaky crust topped with a cream layer and topped with a strawberry gelatin-like top. It was sampled and enjoyed by all.

Because of a recent boat accident that was apparently blocking a portion of the river we were only able to cruise about half as far as we had originall planned. We still enjoyed some pretty spectacular views along the Rhine River valley, which is filled with castle ruins, beautiful villages, and many, many vineyards.

We deboarded for a few hours in Bacharach and enjoyed another streetside cafe style lunch. We spent some time walking around and more time river watching by the dock. A charming village, but not much in the way of shops, and certainly not as much people watching as our previous day. While we waited for our ride, Jack asked to do some photography of his own. Here is some of his work.

We boarded our return vessel to find a slide on the top deck. The boys were in heaven sliding away as we cruised back upstream. We had worried about some forecasted showers when we planned our day, and they finally caught up with us on that return cruise. We dashed down to the enclosed deck for the last hour or so of the ride.

After we returned, we took the ferry across the river to Rudesheim for shopping and dinner. A much more active area, most of our group split up to enjoy window shopping, wine tasting and tour the cobblestone streets. We met back up for dinner. We chose a restaurant with an enclosed outdoor area not considering the threat of more showers. About halfway through dinner, we began to feel sprinkles. Before we realized it, a retractable roof had closed above us...if only it could have followed us as we left the restaurant.

Since we had promised the boys a sweet treat in exchange for good dinner and pleasant dinner behavior, we stopped at an ice cream bar. I again chose the erdbeer eis (strawberry gelatto). The boys both had these adorable mouse like ice cream treats. Josh had a shake. It was a perfect ending to a beautiful day on the river.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tag funf - Tag der Unabhängigkeit in Deutschland (Day 5 - Independence Day in Germany)

So, the fourth day of July arrived as it does every year, and we found ourselves celebrating in Germany. As you may have imagined, it was a typical summer day in Germany. On the base, however, preparations were underway for a massive Independence Day celebration.

We began our morning by letting the boys sleep in since we had not returned from our Legoland/dinner in Stuttgart until after midnight. They finally stirred around 9:45, and we decided to join some of my sister & brother-in-law's friends for a brief exploration of the Heidelberg Castle. The walk up was a bit steep, but we survived and the views of Heidelberg below were quite charming.

A university town, Heidelberg was bustling with activity. So, after the castle we walked through old town, which is filled with dozens of shops and sidewalk cafes. It was a warm and sunny day, but a slight breeze and walking on the shady side of the street kept us all comfortable.

We stopped and had lunch at a Mediterranean cafe, dining street side. Good food and great people watching, folks. Afterwards, the boys were eager to find a sweet treat. We found a strange new delicacy to fit the bill...a schneeball (snowball in English). Layers for pastry and cream shaped into a giant ball and coated in chocolate, powdered sugar, nuts, etc. made for a delicious, but messy treat. It was a great distraction for Sam, who was a bit unhappy with being in the stroller with so much fun to be explored.

Later, we headed back to the base and let the boys catch a nap. A few other folks might have indulged in a snooze too. Emily & mom went over to celebration central to snag a spot for the festivities. After the necessary rest, we joined them. The boys had a grand time riding the carnival rides and launching themselves recklessly around the inflatables.

In an unfortunate (for a four-year-old) turn of events, Jack decided he wanted his face painted after the volunteers had packed up the supplies. We jokingly offered a lipstick face painting. Aunt Lisa (my brother's wife) mentioned she had some, and Jack said, "okay!"

I suggested stars on his face thinking it would appear patriotic and it would be simple artwork. Jack declined, explaining that he'd prefer a helicopter on one cheek and Batman on the other. When Lisa told him it might embarrass him if she tried to paint Batman on his cheek, they began brainstorming things she felt like her artistic skills and a tube of tinted gloss could handle. Jack settled on a square. Of course, once Sam saw the painting session, he had to have it too. He went with the stars though.

The boys really enjoyed playing on the adjacent skate ramps, using them as slides. About 10 p.m., Josh & I decided we probably better get the ticking time bombs home. It still wasn't dark there and it didn't seem close enough to wait it out. Jack was a little disappointed about missing the fireworks, but didn't fight the walk back too much. They were too exhausted to object. I managed to catch a few of the fireworks from the back window of my sister's place around 10:45. Thankfully, the boys were snoozing away by then.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tag Vier - Lego Meine Eggo (Day Four - Lego My Eggo)

Up and at 'em, we checked out of our hotel in Munich and spent a good little while in traffic. Once we finally escaped the city, we found a Burger King. I expected it to be a different experience, but wasn't sure how. No biscuits or croissants, instead there were muffins, doughnuts and a breakfast burger. Yes, a hamburger patty with egg, cheese & bacon on a bun. And, yes, it was quite delicious and certainly had us geared up for our busy day.

I can't believe my parents are making me go somewhere fun!
A little while later, we arrived at Legoland Deutschland. Jack was beyond excited. We had told him we were going somewhere fun with rides, but I hadn't said where. I didn't want him to be too bummed if we got rained out. Instead the overcast sky kept the temperatures mild. In fact it was a bit chilly when we first arrived, and I made Sam wear his jacket...much to his dismay. He also wasn't happy that no one would carry him.

We didn't waste any time starting in on the rides. Jack wanted to ride everything and so did little brother, Sam. Only trouble, Sam was only tall enough for about half the rides. We took turns occupying him on the numerous playgrounds throughout the park when he was unable to join us on a ride. We suffered through a brief shower that began while we were riding a roller coaster with Jack. By the time we finished lunch, the clouds had parted. We squeezed in a bit more fun before Sam collapsed on Mema. He had been a real trooper. We each grabbed a quick snack before hitting the road back to our home for the week, Heidelberg.

On the journey home, we stopped in Stuttgart for a wonderful dinner at an Italian place in town. Again the boys were rock stars with minimal whining. Our leisurely dinner did result in a late arrival home, but we can sleep later, right? How often are you in Germany??

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tag drei - Dias, Salz und die landschaft (Day 3 - Slides, Salt & Scenery)

Rise and shine at the hotel in Munich. After finding our required gas station and grabbing a quick breakfast we hit the road again. This time the destination was the Salzburg and Berchtesgaden areas. A few of us got a little cat nap in on the journey and everyone was ready to roll when we arrived to tour the Salzbergwerk Salt Mine. We donned our coveralls and prepared to journey underground to see just how salt is mined.

I was a little unsure how entertained the little guys would be, but the tour didn't disappoint. We began with a train ride down into the mine. Of course, Sam and Jack loved the train. They did mention the chill, as the temperature hovers around 54 degrees. Almost immediately after getting off the train, we were treated to a trip down a wooden slide. We piled together and took an exciting ride. It was great.

Later we were treated to a boat ride across Mirror Lake with an entertaining light and music show. Sam even wanted to go for a swim. Thankfully, Josh was able to prevent that from taking place. After our fun and chilly tour, we enjoyed lunch at an outdoor restaurant riverside. Jack was thrilled they had chicken nuggets and Sam tried the schnitzel. It was a combination of wraps and burgers between the rest of us.

Next, we loaded up and headed for Berchtesgaden to view Kehlsteinhaus or Eagle's Nest, one of Hitler's private residences. Kehlsteinhaus is a chalet-style structure erected on a subpeak of the Hoher Göll known as the Kehlstein. It was intended as a 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler to serve as a retreat, and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries. Word is he visited there fewer than a dozen times and never for longer than an hour. It's been determined because of this somewhat loose association, the building was saved from demolition unlike the remainder of Hitler's residences.

After a winding bus ride with spectacular views and a number of tunnels, we reached our stop. The last 407 feet up to the Kehlsteinhaus are reached by an elevator bored straight down through the mountain and linked via a tunnel through the granite below that is also 407 feet long. The inside of the large elevator car is surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors and green leather. Once up top, the views were quite incredible.

We finished our day with dinner in Salzburg at the Guesthaus and more German cuisine. Soon enough it was time to begin our journey back to the hotel in Munich.