Monday, June 27, 2011

Consolation Prize

It was a Saturday afternoon.  The kids had already told us that they wanted to go see Kung Fu Panda 2 playing at the base theater.  We had no problems with that.  They spent a lot of the afternoon playing Wii downstairs.  Around 3:50 they come upstairs.  They're ready to go to the movie, which Riley reminds us starts at 4:00 (not 7:00 as we were thinking).

Crying ensues--the reality is we will not be able to make it in time (and later reports confirmed that they were long before that sold out of tickets).


Well, we could always drive to the beach and watch the USAF Thunderbirds perform.   They'd been parked for the past couple of days at our base, so it seemed like a good plan.

We found the beach just in time for the Thunderbirds.  They were not the main attraction here, but it was for us.  Luckily, we happened upon stage center for the show.

She spent more time playing in the sand than watching.

Not a bad alternative to the movies. 

We can always Netflix Kung Fu Panda. Thunderbirds on the Adriatic Sea not so much.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Well, it's been a couple of weeks now, and we're still not finished with Germany.  I'll try to wrap it up for you all today.

We found a Putt-Putt place in one of the towns, and the kids were excited to play.  Language barriers were a little tough, but they got their clubs and began playing.  The first thing they learned was that the clubs have these cool little suction cups on the end to pick up and hold the balls.  Check it out!

This turned out to be a pretty necessary tool, because we were quickly informed that we were not to walk on the "green" (which as you can see was white).  So you putted from the side

And then reached in for your ball.

On another note, it's very hard for the 2nd grader deep inside all of us to not be constantly tickled in Germany
As Larry the Cable Guy says, "I don't care who you are, that was funny."
We've already told you a little about the crazy hike we took at Partnach Gorge.  Since we're on the subject of signs, let me share a sign we encountered on the hike. 

At the time we weren't exactly sure what it was telling us, but 'verboten' was enough for us to know better.  You just know people see that field and want to run through it singing or calling "Ricolaaaaaaaaaa"

And a couple of quintessentially German sites from our van

There's much we have skipped over, but it's probably time to move on.  We enjoyed a great week in Germany!  

Monday, June 20, 2011


What's a vacation in Europe without going to a castle?  Incomplete.  Again, less than ideal weather conditions, made this trip a little cold and damp a time or two, and the pictures get drowned in the clouds, too.
Not bad weather, just bad clothes--some of the kids' jackets were still wet from our hike at Eibsee, so they were wearing Dad's coat and sweatshirts.
One of King Ludwig II multiple castles, it was, not surprisingly, beautiful and impressive.  It sits at the top of a mountain of sorts, and from one vantage points appears to rise right out of the rocks.  He kind of had a thing for swans--hence the name, and the many swans within.  Also, throughout the rooms were paintings honoring Wagner of opera fame.  Unfortunately, even after 17 years of construction, he died before it was finished, at which point all work was halted.  Nevertheless, it remains a popular tourist destination and was the inspiration for Cinderella's and Aurora's castles in the Disney movies of princess fame.  You might be able to see why from these photos.

We took the horse carriage ride up,

which we overheard from another American tourist later was what all the people who didn't read Rick Steve's book did.  Yep, that would be us.  Didn't read it.

Didn't seem to matter--still had fun!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A-Hiking We Will Go

In spite of less than stellar weather the week we were in Germany, we found our way to hikes and mountains and lakes in the vicinity.  We had varying degrees of success with each excursion.  This will take you in order chronologically
Our very first day we decided to head to Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak.  The ticket seller warned us that the visibility was not ideal, but also informed us that the rest of the days of the week didn't look much better, so we decided to give it a go.  Cogwheel Train up (hour ride) and a Gondola ride down (20 min ride) was our plan.  
The train stopped part-way up the mountain to access hiking trails.  I snapped this from inside the train car.

The train takes you to an initial stop, from which you can hang out, take pictures, write your names in the snow, and sled!  

The snow was beautiful.  The temp was high enough that the walk back with a sled made you sweat - so the kids quickly dressed down to short sleeves.

From there is a short gondola ride to the summit.  

Unfortunately there was zero visibility at the summit and one very grumpy German man.  Apparently, while looking at the souvenirs displayed, Lucy touched a keychain/toy which then broke.  I got an angry fussing at in German, and Ted bought a 5 Euros sheep... Lucy's souvenir now :)
I spy a blue gondola on its way up the mountain.

That kind of soured our moods, so we decided to go back down.  We found restrooms and then got on the gondola--only we got on the wrong one!  Eventually, we made our way to the right place, and got back down to the beginning.
We stopped at the red tower and a worker climbed out on the support beams.  Yikes.

From there we walked to Eibsee, a lake at the foot of the mountain. It's a large lake with a nice walking path around the perimeter.  

A small shower thwarts our plans to start hiking, so we shop at a tourist stall to stay dry.  Before long, the rain subsides and we decide to start around the lake.  At least one of the children is not thrilled with this plan, but we press on.  Mind you, as we're beginning our plod along the path, we are being passed right and left by multiple groups of men and women easily 10-20 years older  than we are, so truly it can't be too bad.  Then again, we've got Pokey.  

We walk, and walk, and walk.  We find snails, frogs and snakes (much to Ted's chagrin), and an hour and a half in we finally get to what seems the halfway point of the lake.  Fortunately, spirits are still up, and we are enjoying the views.  
Nice hat!

But then the rain comes.  And it comes harder.  And the lightning and thunder.  And Cory tells Ted something along the lines of "I don't think this is a very safe place to be anymore."  I have no pictures of the last 30 minutes of our hike, because we had the camera tucked away under our jacket to protect it from the rain.  We finally make it to the van, all dripping wet, when someone needs to use the facilities...which of course are not nearby.  

On another day, we headed towards the Olympic Skistadion, where the 1936 Winter Olympics were held.  Nearby is a hike through a gorge that we decide to take.  As we begin to follow other "hikers" one way, Ted wisely stops to ask one of them if this was the way to the Gorge.  Uh, no.  Good thing we asked.  So, now, headed in the right direction, we make our way to the gorge.  At the beginning is a pay booth, where we pay our entrance fees and begin the trek.  It's a beautiful gorge, if not sometimes a little scary with the little kids and the rushing water just a slip and a fall away.  

Postcards show the waterfalls cascading in the summer and frozen over in the winter.  

We made our way through to the other side and decide to take what we assume to be the higher path back to the beginning.  But you know what they say about assuming...Not sure exactly which of two different paths to take, we again stop someone to ask if they know.  They're not from the area, but pull up a map on their iphone, and in broken English, he and Ted look at it and make a judgment.  

So, we press on in what we hope is the right direction.  and on.  and on.  Eventually someone has to use the facilities again.  Convinced that we must be near the end, we encourage her to just hold on a little.  We find ourselves at a restaurant, where we stop for some refreshments and restrooms.  Initially, Ted suggests we just get some sodas and then be on our merry ways.  I advise that since it's noon we buy a small lunch first.  We share schnitzel, brats, potato salad and fries.  This place really was in the middle of no-where.  The decision to stay and eat really saved us an hour of crying by multiple starving/tired kids (and one low blood sugar wife).  

Then we start off again rested, recharged, and ready for more adventure.  

Suffice it to say, that we hike, and hike, and hike, up and up and up.  It's brutal, although the scenery was still beautiful.  
At one point the trail forked...and the path Ted chose said "for experienced hikers only, not recommended for kids."  I quickly pointed the sign out to him and we then took the other fork (uphill).

We finally arrive at a clearing, see a trail or two in different directions and ask someone where the trail they've come from started.  Back at the end of the gorge they tell us.  YIKES!   We've hiked for over an hour and we will end up at the same place we started (at the top of the gorge). 
What goes up...

As painful as it seemed, we headed back to the end of the gorge, knowing that no matter what, we could at least walk back through the gorge to the beginning.
We are all smiling because we know we will finally escape the gorge.

And that's exactly what we did!
Once again, we headed out to see some sights.  This day was one of the clearest we had seen since our arrival at Garmisch, so we decide to drive out to another lake in the area.  The write-up at the lodge said it was a 'beautiful emerald-green color, noteworthy for any traveler.'  We get to the parking area, and hope that the hike to the lake is not too long, but we're expecting pretty much anything at this point.  Wahoo!  Just a quick walk through a parking lot, and bam, we were there.  

Immediately, Riley noticed the trail around the lake and made it clear she did NOT want to go on any hikes.  We find some park benches and notice the giant fish and ducks.  Ted finds a food dispenser, and buys food for all the kids to feed the "wildlife."  
Cory wanted to fish.  And he eventually crafted a pole and string from broken limbs and grass.

They have a lot of fun with that, and soon we find a momma duck and three little ducklings!  

The water was, indeed, a lovely color.  And the path looked so inviting.  Eventually we decided that we needed to walk around the lake.  We even pointed out to all the kids how much smaller this lake was, that we could pretty much see the entire path from where we sat, and that it wouldn't rain on us.  

It was a lovely little walk, with walking sticks to be found and everything.  

The momma and her ducklings swam over to the other side to see us, too.
Thankfully, the third time's the charm.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where Did We Leave Off?

Ahh, yes, we finished our weekend at Legoland, and our family headed off towards a week on our own in southern Germany.  On our way there, we stopped in a city called Ulm.  A friend mentioned that Ulm has the highest steeple of any church in the world, and that it made for an interesting stop.  While doing some research in a vacation guide book that a fabulous friend sent us after her family's couple of years abroad (thanks Katie), I saw it mentioned as well, so we added it to our list of destinations.

We mostly winged it getting there--following signs to Ulm, which we didn't know would actually lead where we wanted to go (wouldn't you know, that for the life of me I could not find it mentioned in the guide book while we were heading there needing some concrete information?), but I figured if we were going to the tallest steeple in the world, that perhaps it would kind of, you know, stick out/up.  And it did, so we began exiting and turning down streets that seemed to be leading us closer to the destination.

The kids at this point, realizing that we're not zooming straight down the interstate during whatever movie they're watching, begin to whine and complain in the back seats.  They do NOT want to go on this adventure.  They are perfectly content to go straight to Garmisch (which they've heard from countless people they will LOVE).

Scoff, we say, and find a parking garage.  Again, I have not found in my little book the reference I remembered reading, so we wing it...look for the tall steeple kids.  We bribe them by stopping at a bakery stand and getting something yummy with apples in it, which worked for 75% of the crew.

Once at the church, we walk in and look around, and cast lots for who will go to the top.  Some 768 steps (530 ft) to the top, as I recall. 

Mary and Cory are in, Lucy and Riley opt out.  So, Ted pays for tickets, and up they go...however, I stick close in the gift shop (perhaps a misnomer, however they had gifts, and I shopped, so I guess not) in case someone changes his mind.  Which he does. (No, I'm not talking about Ted).

Now it's Ted and Mary heading up the steps.  The other kids and I wander around outside the church.  We hear the bells toll at noon and comment how fun it must be to be going up the steps while the bells are ringing.

Eventually we head back to the large square in front of the church and hang around outside a tourist bureau--and look for them.  After a while Riley announces that she can see them, so we all wave.  And we watch them come down through the little windows.  There's Mary!  There's Daddy!  There's Mary again!  And there's Daddy!  And Mary!  And Daddy!

Finally, they emerged from the front doors and made their way to us.  We asked questions, took pictures, and before long Ted says, "I need to sit down, my knees are shaking."  We went in the tourist building to find restrooms and then stopped to watch a short video about the church.  Interestingly, during World War II over 70% of the city of Ulm was destroyed.  The church, however, remained standing.  Wow.

Their climb afforded them great views of the city, and Ted encouraged us to walk towards the river.  So we headed that way, found a restaurant to have some lunch, and then strolled along a wall alongside the river that appeared to have remnants of an old city wall.

In the end I think the kids thought it was a pretty okay detour.
But they made sure we knew they didn't want to make anymore extra stops.