Sunday, April 29, 2012

burg E L T Z

We woke up this morning to rain. Last week, it rained every single day- it may have even been more than a week. It was grey. It was cold. It was depressing.
Thankfully, yesterday was glorious. A perfect 80* day in Deutschland.
It was the first feeling of warmth and light of the season. We all needed it. Especially me.
Plus, we had a day trip planned. Now that the weather is nice, I plan on having our family out seeing the sights every open day we have.
I'm pretty sure there are more opions for day trips from our house than we have days in Germany.

We've already learned in our short time here to get out and see what there is to see. Experience it.

This weekend: Burg Eltz.

I thought it would take a while to get the boys to another castle after the last two during Spring Break.

But, we did it and they didn't even complain.
We've heard from several friends this one is a favorite. Just under two hours from our house- it made for a beautiful {winding} drive along the Mosel River.
Around for more than 800 years- it didn't disappoint and might be my new favorite as well.

I LOVED it.

This was up toward the top of the hill on our way back to the car
Accessible only by foot, we parked and walked down the hill to the castle.

Burg Eltz is one of the few castles that was built down low in a valley. Surrounded by forest, you walk down at a pretty good decline before reaching the enormous structure.
Most castles are up on a hill for obvious reasons- you can see for miles and miles. Not here.

It's also one of the few that wasn't ruined during war times. I found it amazing- felt like we were in a page out of a fairytale.

It's that astounding.
The boys had a great time walking down the hill to get to it. Coming back up wasn't quite as fun.

Down below the castle is a nice stream that they took off their shoes and walked across. Next time, we'll pack a sack lunch and hang out for a while longer.
It was so, so hot! If you're German, you just drop your pants, or take off your shirt {even if you're a girl}.
Eighty degrees in Germany feels the same as the rare eighty-degree day in Alaska.
For some crazy reason, the rays feel much hotter here than in the midwest.
Are we really in fact closer to the sun? Anyone who wants to come see us... I'd be happy to repeat this trip.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

H I G H ropes course

The end of our time in the Black Forest had arrived.

After our rodelbahn run and dinner at the house, Jim and I packed up the little guys and headed home so he could catch his early-morning plane to London.

The boys and I were on our own for a few days.

Justin and Ty stayed behind with our friends for one last day of play at Europa Park- one of Europe's largest amusement parks.
While at one of the castles earlier in the week, we found a ropes course that the boys really wanted to do.

We passed not having the time or desire to entertain the littles for three hours so our big guys could climb.

There is a high-ropes course close to our house that I promised them we'd go as soon as we got back.

We had a couple days of Spring Break left- so we headed to the course.

I was pretty sure I was fine to watch, but after some pleading on Justin's part, I told him I would do it with them.

Knowing I have a fear of heights and a lack of upper-body strength, I was a bit terrified.

Unfortunately, Caden was too young to do the course, so I had to stay back with him.

Dang. Not, really.

Justin, Ty, Coleman and friend Drake were harnessed up and set to experience the adventure.
In spite of seeing the course and how high the ropes were- Coleman didn't seem phased at all.
He smiled through the briefing and seemed just fine hanging with the big guys. That was until he reached the top of the first climb.

The fear kicked in.
The climb itself was high and he wasn't even on the ropes yet.

My heart went out to him knowing I'd be equally {or more} frightened as he was.

With Justin at the top and Ty and Drake below he had great coaching to get him to make it.

It was a great chance for these big boys to show a softer, patient side and I loved watching them.

It was still a lot of coaxing, a few pushes and a few tears on his part to get him moving.

At one point, the German lady working offered to pull him down with a ladder.
I asked her to just hang on- I'd rather him make it than allow him to quit. Drake hung in there with him and helped him across.

He made it across the first course! There were probably five different segments with varying lengths and a variety of ways to get across.

One was just a single wire, another crooked slats of wood. They were varied and complicated.
He was done. Taking off his harness, he was happy to drink hot tea with Caden and I, then hit the cool play set with Caden.

Gentle play, of course- we're still trying to heal a fractured jaw.
Once down, Coleman was done. I was happy he didn't quit- hopefully, a self-esteem building moment for him. After patience and working to get Coleman through, the big guys headed off to the more difficult {higher} segments.

They did SO great. I stood in amazement of their strength and agility. Even as their mom- I was very impressed.
I can't believe these are our kids- love them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

sommer R O D E L B A H N S

Last year at a track meet, I met a mom from Naples. Still struggling with our transition to Germany, her upbeat personality and positive outlook on Europe were exactly what I needed at that time.

Her name was Mary. She said a few things that I won't forget.

The first piece of advice was to stay away from the toxic women here.

Those who never leave the base, hate the fact that they're living in Germany and let every conversation {short or long} come back to the fact that they're so unhappy.

Miserable, actually.

These {toxic} type miss drive-through banking, the convenience of fast food on every corner, Wal-mart and their garbage disposals.

None of the above happen to be here in Deutschland.
I've mentioned more than a dozen times {or more} how rough our first year was as we experienced culture shock and struggled to adjust to our new normal.

I can admit {to the world}, I was in a slump and struggled perhaps more than I have in my entire life to focus on the positive.

It was rough.

Declaring that aloud {even through the tears}, from the day we learned we were being moved- I wanted to fall in love with Germany.

I wanted to see what there  is over here and experience the adventure that awaited our little family.
It just took me a little time to figure it out.

As soon as I learned how to pay our bills, recycle using  different five garbage cans and memorized our home phone number things were looking up.

It's stuck with me to steer clear of those who are toxic and think it's wonderful advice for anyone transitioning to life abroad.

The other advice Mary passed onto me was- in our travels, whenever we passed a Sommerrodelbahn- STOP.
She said I'd be the mom of the year and the memories with the boys would never be forgotten. If we were on a schedule and drove past one- it didn't matter- STOP.

She was adamant.  She was right.

We found a couple last summer and tried to make a trip, but didn't. Until Spring Break this month.

After a full day of castles and tired boys, we plugged the Sommerrodelbahn address into the GPS- returning to the Black Forest, close to our rental house.

We made it back ten minutes before they closed- allowing for two runs down the mountain.

What is a Sommerrodelbahn?

Sommer, of course is summer. Sommerrodelbahns are exciting toboggan runs down a hillside on a rail system.

On the one we found, the lift system takes you on a 300 meter track to the mountain station, where it disengages from the bob and begins a fast-paced, varied descent.

Into the roundabout, over jumps and through tunnels is 1,150 meters {maybe, almost a mile} long- the tobogganing fun.

It was a BLAST- we laughed, laughed, and LAUGHED.

I screamed causing the boys and Jim to laugh even more.

Ty and Coleman way down below Jim and I on our second run down
I'm sure I was especially entertaining on the run with Jim as he was laughing too hard to remember to hold back on the brake.

We were flying. I'm not exaggerating one bit either.

Seriously, flying.

Justin and Caden went together both runs, of course. I volunteered to go with Coleman for our first run.

Neither of us is too fond of fast or high, both of which we had to endure for our little run.

You're able to control the speed, so I knew I could slow us down.

I was a little freaked out as we went to take off- the guy gave our quick directions in German.

German that I didn't catch or understand in my nervous state. I can admit, this freaked me more than a little. It would be one place I wouldn't mind the English translation be added to the sign.

Oh well, we were off- straight up the mountainside.

For the second run, I went with Jim. I was in front as he was behind the controls. All I could do was scream and he loved going fast.

Wow.

So much fun - I now get it.

We'll be stopping at each and every one we see along the road.

The castles were great.Obviously, not as great as a good run down a hillside.

This was definitely the highlight of the day. It's all about the memories, right?

Monday, April 23, 2012

1000 clocks

Everyone knows the Black Forest is known for their cuckoo clocks. Of course, we had to look for them. I've never had a huge desire for one, but Jim was thinking {seriously} about one.
I let him know- if he wanted to buy one, this was the place. Nothing like getting one while you're actually in the Black Forest, right?
Nothing big with deer antlers, just something simple. No toll painting either.

After looking through probably 1000 clocks, since it was The House of 1000 Clocks- we left empty handed. In spite of requests, I didn't even get one for my dad.
Honestly, I'm not heart broken.

We did have fun in the couple gift shops we went into. We saw. We heard. They're almost enough to drive you batty- especially 1000 going at the same time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

burg H O H E N Z O L L E R N

To get up to this castle, the flyer we read said you needed to be athletically inclined. It was an incline alright- one we weren't ready to battle the little guys to make. We took the shuttle to the top.

In order to even get into the courtyard, you had to pay for the tour. So, we took the tour as well.

At this point, Justin said, "I'm kind of thinking all of these castles are alike."

 Needless to say, their attention span was shot and the 45-minute German tour {not a word of English} didn't help matters.

They gave the little guys King's robes to wear and we all slipped around in huge slippers given to wear in order to protect the floor.

Each provided a little entertainment, but not enough to last the long, dry tour surrounded by stuffy Germans.
In an attempt to escape the boredom and get back outside, we {Stacey} found a lower-level door. Unfortunately, it was door locked.

Luckily, another tour guide let us out but it was questionable whether he was going to let us go or not.

We were out of there- back on the shuttle down the hill.

It was another gorgeous castle.

I didn't catch much of the history or background.

I think it was originally built in the 15th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Germany.

I don't think I'll get away with visiting another castle for a while- as crazy as that sounds!

Friday, April 20, 2012

lichtenstein C A S T L E

It was day three of our trip. Already, we had covered some distance and about to cover more in search of a couple castles to the east.

It was finally a beautiful, sunny day- the weather was delightful. Not super hot, but clear and beautiful for castle viewing and touring. No snow or rain was a plus. Sun was a bonus.

Up first: Lichtenstein Castle. Count Wilhelm of W├╝rttemberg had it built in 1840-42. We took the tour and were happy to have a guide give a little of it in English as well.

check out this view...

What a beautiful castle!
Most of them are, I suppose.

Also as with most of them, it is up on a hill overlooking a huge valley. The view went on for miles.

The boys loved the armour and weapons room.

I most enjoyed the view and the sun.
By the end of our tour, the boys were ready to get on with it. Little did they know we were heading to another castle after lunch.

Once again reminded of the lack of convenience in Germany, we struggled to find a place to sit down and eat a quick lunch.

We found a couple places open with prices of plates in the $30 range. Not in our budget.

Many places close down for lunch which was another problem. Fast food in these villages is non-existent.

We ended up hitting a small grocery store called a Netto and buying sandwich fixings. Perfect.

Out in the parking lot with the back door open, we ate picnic style: Edelsalami, turkey and white cheese on brotchen.

Everyone was happy!